Stories of loss and grief: Libraries Unlimited launches arts project to support people

Stories of loss and grief: Libraries Unlimited launches arts project to support people

Torbay residents going through grief and loss are being invited to gather together to talk about their feelings and have their stories captured in poignant music and words.

Following a successful Arts Council England funding bid, Libraries Unlimited is launching the Finding Connection Through Loss project across a number of its libraries. It’s hoped the initiative will connect people through shared experience of grief and loss. 

Emily Macaulay, Service Delivery Manager with Libraries Unlimited, who has been leading the project, said: “Library staff hear stories about loss from their users every week. Loss of family members, loss of connections with their community or neighbours, loss of employment opportunities, loss of support structures. These stories and experiences have only been amplified by Covid and the impact it is having on communities. 

“For example our libraries staff noticed an elderly man who went into Exeter Library and stood in the middle of the floor looking bewildered. When they approached him, he shared how coming to the library was something he had done every week with his wife of over 60 years.  She had recently died and this was his first visit back. Librarystaff took time to hear his story and support him in that moment, signposting him to support services and further community connection.

“This project takes all of these conversations that happen every day one step further. A chance for people to share their experiences with others going through the same thing, and having them made into something permanent and beautiful.”

The first Finding Connection Through Loss session will be held in the café at Paignton Library on Thursday 30th December between 10.30am and 12.30pm. It will be an open music session with a chance to join in playing, chat and laugh with musician Hugh Nankivell.

Charlotte Sumner, Team Leader at Paignton Library, said: “Christmas can be an incredibly challenging time of year anyway for those who are grieving. And these last two years have of course added in many losses from Covid, and the loneliness of isolation. 

“We want to show them there is a place where they can come together, and people who will listen and understand.”

Hugh Nankivell is an Association Musician with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and wrote the music for the opening ceremony for Milton Keynes’ Concrete Cows when he was a teenager. He’s composed for Opera North, Dartmoor National Park, UNESCO, the International Agatha Christie Festival and the National Theatre of Scotland, and has carried out projects to bring elderly people with dementia and children together to play music.

Hugh said: “Whether our guests can play an instrument or not, they can come along for some enjoyable social musical playing with other like-minded souls. They can bring their own instrument if they have one and if they don’t we will bring along some percussion to share and play and find a way to use the magic of music to connect us together.”

Further sessions with Hugh, in Paignton, will be held early in the new year. Sessions with artist Amy Shelton and Honeyscribe in Holsworthy and Okehampton libraries will launch in January and give participants a chance to enjoy creativity with flower pressing sessions. More information will be released early in the new year or you can contact the individual libraries if you would like to find out more about these sessions.

A network of 54 libraries in Devon and Torbay, and four Devon mobile libraries, are run by Libraries Unlimited, an independent staff and community owned charity. Join up for free by filling the online form Join the Library – Devon (devonlibraries.org.uk) or Torbay (torbaylibraries.org.uk). Follow Libraries Unlimited on Facebook. 

For further information and full contact details please visit our web page librariesunlimited.org.uk.

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