Small Bells Ring

A floating library of short stories on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

“Fiction and poetry are doses, medicines. What they heal is the rupture reality makes on the imagination.” Jeanette Winterson

Small Bells Ring is a floating library of short stories on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Pennine Lancashire; an artwork created by Studio Morison, with Lancashire Library Service (LLS) and its communities in Hyndburn and Super Slow Way (SSW). It will provide a creative programme of short stories read, performed and discussed in the libraries and public spaces of Hyndburn and on BBC Radio Lancashire, starting in Spring 2020.

Small Bells Ring will house local objects and books (found and made) that are particular to the people of Lancashire; favourite stories, important local writers, folk-lore and legends collected and shared. Artists and writers will be invited to create new works within the space, in collaboration with the community, that will ultimately become part of the library collection and small bells will be cast to act as sculptural signs in public places and rung every time a short story is read.

The boat will visit set locations along at set times each month and visitors will be able to borrow books just as they do in a regular library. Visitors will also be able to stay on board and browse or read as the library moves between stops. It will also make specific day trips along the canal for pre-booked visitors and groups when an entire story will be read aloud by invited artists, actors and writers over a day. Small Bells Ring will also be available to local groups, schools, such as parent and youth groups, care homes and local businesses and offered as a special venue for small meetings, spilling out along the canal in good weather, with seating and canopy.

Co-created with the community of Hyndburn, the programme and the boat will be shaped during a process of engagement, working with librarians, library users and the communities who live and work alongside the library and canal. The aesthetic of Small Bells Ring is about attention to detail, the value of local natural materials and vernacular, employing local craftspeople, the intertwining of usefulness and beauty, the understanding of the effect that fine craftsmanship has upon the experience of a space.

The library collection will be curated by the artists, librarians and community members, with steer and advice from the academic community, to ensure it is credible, wide ranging and relevant. It will be the largest collection of short stories in the UK. The library will stock a Jeannette Winterson short story collection, whose own story and personal connection to Accrington library is well documented. A Small Bells Ring programme will be developed, with a poignant and relevant (to the people of Hyndburn) short story read and discussed by the writer, a librarian and local people. This will be become a podcast that can be downloaded. An Instagram page will list the books in the library, and keep people up to date with events, readings and new acquisitions to the library. Small Bells Ring hopes to be a catalyst for reinvigorating libraries through creative change.