This week is National Storytelling Week.Across the country people are celebrating by listening to tales of all kinds, and letting them live and breathe by retelling them.So, here’s a little story I would like to re-tell to you this week, and I hope you will pass it on too, though sadly it doesn’t start with ‘Once upon a time in a far away land’!:
Once upon a time in…well…in this land here…certain kinds of storytellers were threatened with execution, such was the power of their words. In translating the Bible into English they made it possible for all people to hear and re-interpret stories such as the one where God creates one man and one woman, instead of, say, a feudal system of lifelong servitude. That’s the sort of story that struck fear into the hearts of lords and land-owners.
Once upon a time in…well…in the 1840s, three men from radically different backgrounds – an Oxford graduate MP, a textile-manufacturing church-leader, and a self-educated brick-layer – joined forces to campaign for a system of free public libraries. They understood the importance of enabling all people equal access to the knowledge and stories of the world, regardless of background or financial means. They were faced with vehement descent, especially from the Conservative Party. One opponent said “people have too much knowledge already… the more education people get the more difficult they are to manage.” This statement makes all the more clear why we must retain every single one of our libraries.
In 1850, the an act was at last passed to pave the way for our current incredible network of libraries, many of which are now in grave danger of eradication.
Once upon a time…well..just this week actually, poet Ian MacMillan was banned by Sheffield City Council from participating in a children’s workshop in Upperthorpe Library for fear he might make “political comments” about impending library closures. In my borough they are planning to close 6 of the existing 12. How many in yours? Even if you do not use your local library much, please consider the importance of these unassuming treasure troves on our High Streets.
Cuts may indeed need to be made, but if it’s thought that our economy may ever improve, then disposing of entire libraries is just foolish and wasteful.
The most important story is this one we are living in, and once more, those in power are threatening to cut off a resource that allows even the poorest of us to better know and participate in the living, breathing, continuous epic that is human society.
This is the story I am telling, which I ask you to re-tell. This is a story in which we are all playing a part. Active or passive. It’s that simple. It is up to us which role we choose in it, and up to us whether the tale told is one of tragedy or triumph.
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