New Popular Library Commission

New Popular

Award of up to £10,000 to create a new piece of theatre for libraries

We think libraries are great. And we’re not alone, over 200 million visits are made to a library in the UK in a usual year.

Libraries are also essential services and during lockdowns they stepped up for their local communities. Buildings and staff were redeployed to support shielding operations, deliver food and prescriptions, and make over 130,000 calls to the vulnerable. In 2021 staff have supported the roll out of rapid testing and vaccinations. Libraries have been identified as key to the recovery, providing safe and open access to the internet and resources for those seeking employment and those in education. They are vital ways to combat loneliness and isolation. Increasingly they are seen as a cultural hub for local communities and supported by Arts Council England. They are no longer a place where you’re told to ‘shush’.

Farnham Maltings and NRTF are inviting proposals from those who want to create theatre for libraries. We are looking for ideas that are enticing and relevant and that might not look like theatre; it might be based in variety, comedy, or escape rooms. The work should be able to happen within the library space and alongside other library services. It should feel disruptive without disrupting. It might incorporate digital or live performance or both. It might be for one person at a time or for many. It should feel most at home experienced within the library space and usual opening hours.

The work should appeal to the diverse range of library users and be enjoyed by anyone aged 7+ It might be a new idea, already in development or an existing piece that needs time and funds to adapt it fully to a library setting.

The work will be developed in partnership with a library in Buckinghamshire and Surrey from Summer 2021 and be presented for audiences in those spaces in Autumn 2021. We hope there will be potential for this work to further tour to other libraries in both counties in Spring/Summer 2022.

How To Apply

Download and complete this proposal form and return with an outline budget to

We also welcome video applications, we just ask you ensure these address the questions and statements below and ensure these are no longer than 7 minutes.

Please also fill in this Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form prior to submission.

Closing date for submissions is 9am Wednesday 26 May 2021

Proposals will be shortlisted by a small curatorial panel, and we are looking for 1 project to take forward to work with a host library in Buckinghamshire and Surrey.

Decisions will be based on:

  • The creative idea and ambition
  • the approach to engaging and challenging audiences, both practically and authentically
  • the approach to working with the library service
  • Its suitability to tour to other libraries, in other locations.

Short listed applicants will be contacted by 11 June 2021.

Those short listed may be asked for further information at this stage, a small fee will be paid for your time to prepare and supply this detail if it is required.

Get in touch

If you would like to talk though your idea with us at any stage, we would welcome that conversation; contact Katy Potter, Producer on 07798 812548 Mon-Thurs (office hours) or Katy Snelling, Buckinghamshire and Library Producer

Our New Popular programme is a five year initiative supported by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation that tests and creates new theatre with the ambition of reaching broader audiences in new places with new experiences. Our work in Buckinghamshire is supported by a three year grant from Rothschild Foundation.

We are pleased to be offering this commission with support from The National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF), Touring Art in Libraries project, which looks to explore the challenges and potential of our nation’s libraries to expand their service offer and diversify audiences through a programme of touring arts.