Author Ben Holden will host a new podcast which celebrates libraries and indie bookshops, and aims to campaign against library cuts, with Jacqueline Wilson, Melvyn Bragg and Val McDermid among the interviewees.
Ex Libris will launch on 6th November and will see Holden in conversation with Ken Follett in his childhood library Canton Library, Cardiff, with senior librarian Rhian Jones.
He said: “At the turn of the year, as 2019 dawned, I grew frustrated and disheartened by newspaper reports of library closures during 2018. This post-mortem round-up has become something of an annual tradition in the UK during the age of austerity and makes for really grim reading. I decided to do something about it, as best I could.
“We desperately all need to champion our libraries and protect them, for future generations. They are adapting to modern times as best they can. Libraries have always, since time immemorial, been beacons for our noblest and freest values as humans.”
The weekly series will also feature interviews with Jacqueline Wilson in Roehampton Library with Jacqueline’s friend and librarian Stuart Wynn; Costa Prize winner 2019 Bart Van Es in Summertown Library, Oxford, with Kate Macleod, assistant director of Cultural Services; and Oxford County Council and poet and filmmaker Imtiaz Dharker in Parisian independent bookshop Shakespeare and Company, Paris with owner Sylvia Whitman.
(Left-right) Ben Holden, Rhian Jones and Ken Follett
Melvyn Bragg will be in conversation with librarian Kathryn Lynn in his hometown of Wigton, Cumbria; The Dark Room (Vintage) novelist Rachel Seiffert will talk with London’s Wiener Holocaust Library’s head archivist Howard Falksohn; poet and writer Benjamin Zephaniah will talk to Newham Bookshop’s owner Vivian Archer in London; and Val McDermid will be at Toppings Bookshop in St Andrews, Fife. According to Ex Libris figures, nearly 130 public libraries closed in Britain during 2018 and more than 700 librarians also left or lost their jobs last year.
Bragg told the podcast: “It’s a disaster. A shocking development and ridiculous. The library has a flexibility to be more than just a place where knowledge is stored, it’s a place where knowledge is shared and developed – and in such areas of learning, association and companionship are essential. As a social, intellectual and cultural force, the library has always been fruitful and important. The great thing about a library is that the choice is yours.”
Holden co-edited anthologies Poems That Make Grown Men Cry and Poems That Make Grown Women Cry (published by Simon & Schuster in partnership with Amnesty International) with his father Anthony. His latest collection, My First Memory, was published by Scribner in partnership with The Refugee Council.
Ex Libris will launch on 6th November and episodes can be listened to via the website.