A Look Back at SPINE Festival 2015

As SPINE Festival comes to a close, we look back over a packed programme of more than 50 free arts and literature events that took place in libraries across London.

‘It can feel like society is signposting us — Do art here but not over here, that’s not an ‘ART’ space — but we live and breathe creativity wherever we are’ — Rachel Sambrooks, Hounslow Artist in Residence


Pop-Up Flashback with Joseph Coelho

This first ever pan-London libraries festival, brought communities together in 33 libraries across 11 London boroughs to celebrate literature and the arts through an array of art forms including music, poetry, storytelling, visual art, dance and drama. The 10 day festival saw hundreds of children, young people, and families from the boroughs of Bexley, Brent, Bromley, Croydon, Ealing, Harrow, Hounslow, Lewisham, Southwark, Sutton, Waltham Forest and surrounding communities get involved in this free festival of fun activities, performances, and creative workshops with top professional artists. For further insight, view the SPINE Festival film

Coinciding with World Book Day, SPINE Festival kickstarted its programme on Thursday 5 March with a busy day of activities in Brent and Lewisham libraries. Author and illustrator of Where’s Lenny?, Ken Wilson-Max, led a special Bookstart Story and Rhymetime session at Harlesden Library, and poet and storyteller Dorrie Burgess visited Sydenham Community Library for a great Story Time. On the same day, local school groups got to enjoy an amazing performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Splats Theatre Company.


Photo credit: Suzi Corker | www.suzicorker.com

‘A marvellous opportunity for nursery aged and school children, and families to enjoy and participate in a wide range of events from best selling authors to innovative drama and theatre performances, amazing poetry, and fascinating puppets’ — Sarah Smith, Brent Library Service


Photo credit: Suzi Corker  www.suzicorker.com

Over the course of the festival, Half Moon Theatre’s funny and heartwarming family show Pop-Up Flashback took the imaginative world of memories to Dulwich Library, Walthamstow Library and Central Library, Bexleyheath. Local communities delved into the magic of pop-up books and poetry with poet Joseph Coelho. An exclusive performance of Pop-Up Flashback was also delivered to schools at Wembley Library and Beaver’s Library in Hounslow.

After 6 weeks of Telling Tales workshops led by writer Simon Mole, young people aged 8-11 years completed their Arts Award by sharing their newly crafted stories with audience members at Downham Library in Lewisham. It was an honour to hear the creations of such imaginative young minds – a particular highlight was the tale of ‘Dave The Dog and The Monster Chef’!

The talented team of SPIN word wizards were on the road from Bromley to Waltham Forest to Ealing. Captivating storyteller Jan Blake joined forces with poets Francesca Beard and Joseph Coelho at Chislehurst Library, and the multi-talented John Hegley and rapper BREIS at North Chingford Library. Sally Pomme Clayton and Alex D Great teamed up with the brilliant Paul Lyalls to produce an exciting and playful session of words at Ealing Central library.


Photo credit: Suzi Corker | www.suzicorker.com

For the younger SPINE Festival attendees, Storycraft was the perfect creative fix with its mixture of fun craft activities and innovative storytelling. Whilst our older visitors got the chance to experiment with the spoken word world of open mic with writer Rachel Sambrooks at Library Live at Sutton Central Library, and at Spine Slam | Poetry Slam For Teens in Dulwich with stand-up poet Laurie Bolger and Young Poet Laureate for London Aisling Fahey.

‘I hope this has given you the confidence to carry on and know that you can express your words, go on an adventure and take on that creative mantle with you wherever you are’ — Rachel Sambrooks, Hounslow Artist in Residence

These are just a few of the great events that have taken place over the last couple of weeks, and just some of the amazing artists who have lent their talents to making SPINE festival one huge celebration of arts and literature within libraries, leaving a ripple of creative inspiration throughout local London communities. To see a selection of photographs from the festival, visit our photo gallery here



Literary Day, Sydenham Community Library

Five artists have each made one library their home for the duration of the festival, engaging visitors through additional and unique programmes of events and workshops as SPINE Festival Artists in Residence. To read blog posts from all of our Artists in Residence about their time working on SPINE Festival, visit the blog.

‘During this SPINE residency the air in this space has been filled with the most spectacular sound, that sound that I love so much. It’s the sparkling sound of speaking and laughter, of performing and questioning, wondering and discovering’ — Jared Louche, Brent Artist in Residence.


Brandon Library, Southwark

Jared Louche, poet, musician and visual artist, has been based at Harlesden Library in Brent where he’s been hiding messages amongst pages, inspiring young people with words to think about what books are, to write and build their own, and to have fun with rhymes.

Dance artist Gemma Coldicott has been resident at Brandon Library in Southwark, devising a unique series of dance workshops centring around a large solander box to be unpacked and repacked by participants. The workshops culminated in a day of What’s In The Box? performances, featuring opening and closing ceremony dances.

Based at Catford Library in Lewisham, spoken word artist Adam Kammerling ran Poetry and Storytelling workshops and got young people thinking about their local community and the stories and history they share. The final Saturday of the festival saw The Great Catford Write Off – a whole day of creative workshops and opportunities for families to get stuck into.

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Andy D’Cruz has been using his talents for site specific and sound installation art to bring the local communities into Circle Library, Sutton. Andy has focused his residency on the theme of ‘Home is…’ and really got people thinking and responding in poignant ways.

Over the course of the festival Hounslow Central Library have been playing host to writer and performer Rachel Sambrooks. Rachel put together a packed schedule of poetry, storytelling and drama workshops and concluded her residency with a great SPINE Festival Celebration day where Rachel herself performed alongside other professional artists, and young people had the chance to perform on the Paul Robeson Theatre stage.

‘It is really sad to see the end of this project, having worked with children who were so enthusiastic and so in need of these creative opportunities’ — Gemma Coldicott, Southwark Artist in Residence

SPINE Festival has been a fantastic project, full of encouragement and enthusiasm for exploring literature and the arts in libraries. A huge thank you to all of the library authorities we have worked with in Bexley, Brent, Bromley, Croydon, Ealing, Harrow, Hounslow, Lewisham, Southwark, Sutton, Waltham Forest and artists involved in making this a great project. 

SPINE Festival is produced by Apples and Snakes in partnership with library authorities across London as part of Apples and Snakes’ work as an Associate Bridge organisation. For more information visit the SPINE project page or follow #SpineFestival.