Arts workshops in North Yorkshire Libraries

A fab time was had by all the children visiting Leyburn Library during this years Summer Reading Challenge – “The Big Friend Read”.  Vanessa Card a professional puppet maker and illustrator provided puppet, mask, shadow theatre activites to all ages.


Creative Writer, Irene Lofthouse and Mix Media artist, Sue Dewhurst joined the residents of Thornborough Hall Gardens in a reminiscence project called “This is Me”. Poetry, stories and icons were created by the artists from talking to the group about their memories. So much was learnt about their lives which made it such a wonderful valuble, rewarding experience.

Photographer Jonathan Turner came to Stokesley Library in the summer, to lead two workshops which explored ways of depicting Stokesley and Great Ayton, with two groups of amateur photographers. The groups took some stunning portraits of local people, went out and about in the surrounding area, and took photos of Stokesley ‘then and now’. Both groups, one of young mums and the other a bit older, had a wonderful time learning new photographic skills.

The photography workshops culminated in an exhibition of selected photos entitled ‘Through the Lens’, held at Stokesley Library in July 2016. Some of the photos are shown above.


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Think ‘quiet in the Library’ – think again! Stokesley Library has been reverberating to the sound of guitars, keyboards, drums and ukuleles for the past 4 weeks as Alex Cromarty has been working with a group of youngsters from Stokesley and a group of adults from local Yatton House, raising the roof and learning song-writing skills along the way.

We have had a brilliant time creating songs which Alex recorded for each member of the group. Themes ranged from ‘Hunger Games’ to love and loss, ‘what we like’, and the pleasure of simply making music. Alex was inspirational, creating lyrics and music that everyone could join in.

‘It’s better than the gym!’ one participant gasped after a drumming session.




 What do you get when you combine 2 amazing and dedicated artists,  4 year groups from a local school, a  group of veterans from a local supported housing scheme,  several members of a veterans’ art group,  assorted members of the public, and a fantastic library space?

See below for the answers! 

Irene Lofthouse, creative writer, and Sue Dewhurst, mixed media artist, worked together  with everyone involved to create icons, stories, mini-books and matchboxes of intrigue  all celebrating special people/pets in the lives of the participants,  or the lives of the participants themselves.

The results and the  process were pretty amazing.  Some made the whole journey, from planning to creating and exhibiting, others joined in at different stages, some at the library,  some on more familiar home ground.  Irene and Sue responded to all these differing needs with patience, skill and humour.   We all loved the buzz and colour that enhanced the library during the workshops and exhibition and look forward to the next stage of our Creative Residencies programme.

Gaynor Hemming


A number of camera owners keen to learn and improve their skills embarked on the Creative Photography workshops run by Jonathan Turner. During week one Jonathan sent us out into the local area with a long list of items to photograph. At first this seemed an impossible task; the area around our library is pleasant enough but a must go destination for photographers it is not. However, photographs were taken and the results were varied and often surprising. There was a snail crossing a road via a zebra crossing, a blackbird taking a bath, intricate patterns on manhole covers, people at work, reflections in puddles and a myriad of amazing shapes seen in the most mundane of objects.


Other sessions saw us in the beautiful Nidd Gorge where the photographic workshop almost became a nature walk and a history walk. Somehow we managed to accomplish all three and take some stunning shots.


On the subject of history, thanks to Bilton Historical Society, we were in possession of several old prints. The task was to try and find the exact spot where the original photographer had stood. It was easier said than done, but great fun. Afterwards, on the laptops in the library, Jonathan showed us how to edit, compare and present the photographs.


Jonathan is a keen portrait photographic and lost no time in sharing with us techniques to achieve good results. He sent us out into the local community to photograph as many people as we could persuade to pose for us. We photographed shopkeepers, dog walkers, each other and some willing models on the local allotment site where some of our group also learnt how to grow asparagus.


We all feel we have improved our skills and enjoyed the experience immensely. We are now looking forward to seeing the book Jonathan is compiling for us. To have gone on longer than the four weeks would have been great so we are now looking at the possibility of establishing a photography group at the library.

Our first Creative Residences artist was musician Alec Cromarty. He is a drummer but plays several instruments and is ace at song writing. He ran four weekly song writing workshops for adults and four for children – but it turned out to be much more than that. There were several different types of instrument for people to try, though quite a few of the participants brought their own.

Radio York found out about the workshops and wanted to do a live broadcast on their breakfast show. Our first part of the interview was over the phone. We told the listeners about the fabulous workshops and also about the other wonderful things that take place in our library.

When the reporter arrived she set Alec the challenge of writing a song in half an hour about the Breakfast Show. He rose to this magnificently. Radio York liked the song so much they played it several times during the show and it has been played since. If you hear it, it was recorded live in our library.


Most participants had some musical experience but not so the volunteers who helped facilitate the sessions. It was discovered that some of them could sing quite well and recordings have been made to prove it.

The library came alive to the sound of music. Unfortunately we had to run the sessions when the library was closed to the public because we only have a small space and loud music doesn’t mix too well with serious study and reading but, the sessions have given us ideas on what perhaps could be achieved in the future.

Now we are looking forward to our next opportunity to be creative – photography.

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