TALKING to books wasn’t as crazy as it sounded at Thursday’s Living Library event in Manchester Central Library.

Rather than picking up a book at the library, attendees were treated to a real life conversation with a member of the community.

This project was run in tandem with Greater Manchester Hate Crime Awareness Week which has put on numerous community events to try and encourage community cohesion.

Thanks to the success of the event, however, the Living Library is planning on many more such occasions in the coming months.

Living Library
left to right: Josh Pearson, Phoebe Harris, Mohamad Farah, Anita Kanji, Adhil Dad, Josh Pearson (Photo Courtesy of Jon Purcell)

Suzan Gregory, Lead on Equality for Manchester City Council, has championed the project ever since she witnessed discrimination on public transport in Manchester and spoke to the victim to hear his story.

She said: “When I heard his story I was really touched and moved by it and I thought ‘they say you should never judge a book by its cover, and that’s where this has come from.

“Nobody has one story, or one label. People don’t just fit nicely into a box, people have multiple boxes or identities if you like, and that’s really what we wanted to get out of this event.”

The premise is quite simple: upon arrival visitors will be greeted to a wall of “books” with a simple title and a blurb, and will pick a person to talk to based on this information alone.

They then have an allocated time frame to converse with this person, hear their stories and share their own.

Kieran Barnes of the Council’s Equality Team said that this back and forth is what makes the Living Library concept so successful.

Living Library
Left to right: Viviana Scholtz, Roshni Govindji, and Betty Luckham

He said: “When you read a book, often what’s on the page is very interesting but it sparks other questions and it sparks other thoughts and you can’t follow up on it with a book but you can with a person.

“It tends to be a genuine two way thing.”

Attendees ranged from office workers on a lunch break, to library goers who stumbled upon the entrance.

[pullquote]“From acorns a tree can grow.”[/pullquote]

Amongst the visitors were a group of UCLan photography students who met with a group from Manchester Deaf Centre.

One of the students, Aaron Thomas, said: “The event has done this justice. We’re learning about the everyday in university and now I can understand their everyday. It puts things into perspective.

“If future events come up I know I can attend and learn more and more.”

The “books” also found it rewarding.

Ruth Emmerson, 61, says that it has rekindled her faith in community spirit.

She said: “I think in any type of voluntary work, you come together as a group, which you could call a community, and you make lifelong friends from doing it. I’ve found out that that really does happen.

“From acorns a tree can grow.”

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