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Bringing ideas, imagination, creativity and knowledge to enrich lives and build thriving communities

Pop up library on Exeter high street

Posted on 08 Sep 2022

Installation in old GAP store brings art, activities and books.

A break-out initiative to bring library services and creativity directly to people on the high street is being pioneered by Libraries Unlimited in Exeter.

The former GAP store is being transformed into an art studio in which local sculptor James Lake will bring to life a life-size cardboard tree. The piece will take around six weeks to finish (Wednesday 21st September to Monday 30th October) and will eventually be installed in Barnstaple Library.

While the sculpture is being created, the shop will become an interactive public space, and passers-by will be invited to watch James at work and take part in a variety of drop-in workshops and exhibitions. There will also be a pop-up high street library for people to sign up to the library, browse and borrow books.

Rae Hoole, Creative Communities Producer at Libraries Unlimited said: “This is going to be a really exciting, eye-catching and unusual six weeks on Exeter High Street. There will be street performers outside, and inside a range of workshops including crafts, zine-making and storytelling. There will be a virtual reality facility, and, as it’s running across half term, plenty of family activities.”

“We’ll also install a mini library with a range of books, and visitors can find out more about our autumn programme of library events as well as join the library. And there will be free sessions with staff from our Exeter Business & IP Centre for people who are starting or growing their own businesses. We really hope it catches people’s attention, sparks new interests and above all is lots of  fun!”

The cardboard tree sculpture, once complete, will take its place at the heart of Barnstaple Library for people to see. People will be able to gather, meet, browse books and read beneath its canopy. Decorated to reflect the cyclical nature of the seasons, it will show the evolving role of the library as it becomes inhabited by different community groups.

Artist James Lake works primarily in cardboard, which he values for its immediacy and relatively low environmental impact, producing life-sized renditions of people, animals and sometimes furniture and other large objects. He developed his method as a teenager while confined to bed recovering from an operation to amputate his right leg after he developed cancer. James’ work is created in pieces and put together like a giant jigsaw puzzle, adding a problem-solving aspect to his work that, as a person with dyslexia, he enjoys.

The shop will also host Princesshay’s ‘We Can Do More’ sustainability campaign, and exhibits from other partner charities and organisations.

The shop will be open Monday to Saturday between 10am and 4pm.

Libraries Unlimited believes…

…in the unlimited potential of library services to make a positive difference to people’s lives and communities through a shared love of reading and access to high quality information and facilities.