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15 October 2019 | North West England

Stewart Parsons from Get It Loud in Libraries

Brilliant music scheme stages top quality live shows in libraries

She is one of the world’s biggest singing stars, who performed for millions of people on her last record-breaking world tour.

But Stewart Parsons fondly remembers the time he booked Adele to play in a local library for £2.50 a ticket.

Stewart is the founder of Get It Loud In Libraries, which stages live music performances in libraries after hours.

Recalling Adele’s appearance at Lancaster library when she was 16, Stewart says: “I try and go for new and emerging bands. And I have struck gold sometimes.

“One of the most memorable moments must be when Adele came and sang. She wasn’t even the main act, but supporting another singer. But she was just taking off and I had heard good things about her. We sold the tickets for just £2.50 each. I remember borrowing a bar stool from across the road for her to sit on.

“When she started singing, our jaws dropped and the hair stood up on the back of our necks.”

Stewart originally came up with the idea to help attract young people to libraries.  As a music librarian, he despaired that they could only rent out new CDs three months after they were released. But he knew that bringing music to the library could be a big attraction.

So he asked his boss if they could hold a gig there one night after the library closed. It was an immediate success and word soon spread.

Stewart eventually launched Get It Loud In Libraries - a project designed to give people who love music the chance to see artists in their local library for a fraction of the cost of a regular gig.

Since 2005, the project has delivered affordable high quality performances in libraries in towns and cities all over the UK, featuring breakthrough and established acts. As well as Adele, Jessie J, Plan B, Clean Bandit and Florence and the Machine have all performed. And while a new younger audience have been introduced to their local libraries, so have families and others who might not have visited before.

Stewart is based in Lancaster, but the gigs have taken place in libraries across Coventry,  Merseyside, Yorkshire, and Cumbria. They always take place in the evening and since he started the project, Stewart and his partner, wife Elizabeth, have delivered more than 300 gigs helped by Arts Council funding.

Stewart continues: “I just wanted to develop new audiences for the library while at the same time realising that the cost of going to see quality music was exorbitant. This seemed to me the perfect answer. And it feels good to offer the community this opportunity.

“Even if they don’t come back to the library we have given them a great experience and some brilliant memories.  Young people sometimes have the perception that a library is not for them - that it is out-dated and fuddy-duddy. Hopefully I have have turned that on its head in the areas where we work.”

Stewart encourages young people to participate, so they can get some hands-on experience and new digital skills. He holds workshops for youngsters to learn about sound engineering and stage lighting. Some are even given the chance to interview the artists.

Conor Giblin, 21, is the project’s Young Events Programmer. He says: “Each library tends to attract a different crowd. Over time you learn what works.  In Kendal we have more Radio 6 Music listeners. But in Coventry we tend to have more rock fans. The library turns into a mosh pit. The building used to be a nightclub so that helps - it’s gone full circle.

“I got involved after I went along to a gig, and was instantly hooked. So I started volunteering at shows and now work for them part-time. A lot of people love going to gigs but they can be expensive. But most of our gigs are around a tenner so it is open to so many more people. And it introduces them to the library at the same time.”

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