imagination spaces


a year-long partnership with Surrey libraries to test the use of libraries as performance, workshop and exhibition spaces, extending the reach and accessibility of cultural engagement

We were thrilled to successfully secure lottery funding from Arts Council England and have great plans to bring a diverse range of high quality cultural opportunities to communities via libraries which are in the heart of communities.

There are three main strands to the programme: performance, exhibition and craft workshops.

In summer 2021, The Anarchist Mobile Library show delighted children around the county from Ash to Woking. The usually quiet post-Christmas period was a great time to test a new show, I am Bird by Marie Klimis. This was our bespoke Library Commission from New Popular, and reached new audiences in East Surrey: Redhill and Merstham. A measure of its success was sell-out one-off events at Cranleigh and Farnham libraries, as part of High street rejuvenation and Literary festivals. I am Bird will tour in Surrey in Autumn 2022. The final show in the Imagination Spaces programme is Book club for Super Spies, which has a short run in Esher, Dorking and Guildford in May, then returns in late summer to a further five Surrey libraries. This is a family performance with a community trail around the library, taking in local community centres, arts venues and businesses.

For the exhibition strand, Farnham Maltings and Surrey libraries have teamed up with Surrey Artists Open Studios to offer residencies in three libraries to five Artists between 18-30 years old. Surrey is an expensive area to run a studio and, with the libraries being repositioned as community hubs, they make great locations for the young artists to work and connect from the heart of the community. It’s a great opportunity for library members to see an artist at work, and maybe get involved in a workshop.

A different approach was taken for the craft strand of the programme. Surrey County Council is keen to involve residents in shaping the services offered in their libraries through a co-design process. A survey has been shared via poster, social media and our craft newsletter, anywhere craft-minded people might gather: virtually or in person. There has been an enthusiastic response, and while some libraries are still collating the results, others are forging ahead with offers from local U3A, WI and Men in Sheds (amongst others) to transfer skills in craft workshops with the loose theme of Make Do and Mend. There have been offers of sewing machine classes, darning and repurposing clothing. Watch this space!

Events brought to you with funding from: Arts Council England, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, National Rural Touring Forum, Arts Partnership Surrey, Rothschild Foundation, Surrey Arts and Surrey Artists Open Studios