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World Book Night’s 10th Anniversary

World Book Night, the annual celebration of reading, will take place on Friday 23rd April 2021. This year’s theme, “Books To Make You Smile” is a response to the impact of Covid-19 on mental health, highlighting the proven power of reading and the benefits it brings to well-being. This also coincides with the launch of “Stories to Make You Smile” – a new collection of short stories compiled by The Reading Agency together with Specsavers.

To mark its 10th anniversary this year World Book Night will be hosting a number of virtual events, book giveaways, online activities, exclusive releases and promotions, calling for the whole nation to celebrate reading for pleasure. Over the last ten years, The Reading Agency has distributed over 2,800,000 books to help spread the joy of reading, with 245 titles by 205 authors distributed by over 90,000 volunteers and organisations across the UK. As lockdown gradually eases, The Reading Agency encourages everyone to share the pleasure of reading whether virtually or safely in person, as bookshops and libraries are due to re-open from Monday 12th April, and book clubs will be able to meet again outdoors.

Celebrations on World Book Night itself will be marked by a livestreamed event in partnership with The British Library, hosted by World Book Night Ambassador Sandi Toksvig and featuring best-selling authors David Nicholls and Bolu Babalola, and World Book Night founder and Canongate CEO Jamie Byng (8-9pm).

Prior to the event, The Reading Agency is inviting the whole nation to join the #ReadingHour (7-8pm), when everyone is encouraged to spend time with a good book, alone or with others, reading in any format they want and wherever they like. Last year, the estimated social media reach of #WorldBookNight and #ReadingHour was 14.3 million.

Celebrations on the night itself will also include a virtual event hosted by The British Library, featuring Nobel Prize-winner Kazuo Ishiguro in conversation with Kate Mosse, bestselling author of The City of Tears and founder of the Women’s Prize for Fiction (6-7pm). Ishiguro, who was a World Book Night author in 2012, will be discussing his new novel Klara and the Sun as well as the wider impact of his writing on readers.

Books To Make You Smile

Sandi Toksvig, World Book Night 2021 Ambassador, said:

“I am so excited to be the lead ambassador for The Reading Agency’s World Book Night 2021 campaign, bringing the nation together to celebrate the power of books and reading on Friday 23rd April. This year marks the campaign’s 10th anniversary, and it feels more important than ever to celebrate the power of reading to inspire, entertain and challenge. We all could do with some light relief from reality which is why this year’s theme “Books to Make You Smile” is so perfect. It’s great to have the support of Specsavers on this vital campaign, who have teamed up with The Reading Agency as they pursue their mission to improve lives through reading.”

Karen Napier, CEO of The Reading Agency, said:

“We’re hugely excited to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of World Book Night with such a fantastic array of events. Given the challenges of the past year, our theme feels particularly resonant, and we’re immensely grateful for the support from authors, publishers, bookshops and libraries to help spread the proven power of reading. We plan for this year’s World Book Night to be the biggest and best yet, and look forward to celebrating the Reading Hour with people across the country, ahead of what we’re sure will be a brilliant livestreamed event at The British Library – which is sure to make us all smile!”

As well as online activities, The Reading Agency has commissioned a new collection of short stories exclusively for World Book Night 2021, Stories to Make You Smile (published by Simon & Schuster). The commissioned book is edited by writer, former Costa Book Award judge and Quick Reads editor Fanny Blake, and featuring contributions from high-profile comedians and authors Richard Madeley, Jenny Éclair, Helen Lederer, Mark Watson, Eva Verde, Vaseem Khan and more.

Now available for pre-order in various formats, Stories to Make You Smile will be released on World Book Night, with 3,000 copies of the book being given out to customers through Specsavers competitions and giveaways, a free e-book version available to download on the day, and the audiobook narrated by Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey, Notting Hill), Adjoa Andoh (Bridgerton, Doctor Who) and Samantha Bond (Downton Abbey, James Bond) available for pre-order now ahead of release on World Book Night.

Dame Mary Perkins, Co-founder of Specsavers, said:

“Reading is such a popular past-time with so many people and is certainly a passion of mine. This year, more than ever, being able to escape with a good book has been a lifeline and having something to smile about, particularly during these challenging times, is essential. Which is why Specsavers is delighted to be working with The Reading Agency to help make that possible by bringing you, not only good vision, but Stories to Make You Smile.”

On World Book Night, The Reading Agency will be giving away 100,000 books in various formats – twice as many as last year. The Reading Agency’s mission is to spread the joy of reading to those who don’t regularly read for pleasure or have access to books, by distributing books to organisations such as prisons, hospitals, food banks, youth centres, care homes and mental health groups. Organisations receiving books this year include UNISON, Citizens Advice, Women’s Aid, Sanctuary Housing, Home-Start and many more. With a focus on well-being and mental health, the 2021 WBN booklist features Pam Ayres, Stephen King, Jack Monroe, Nina Stibbe, Jane Fallon, gal-dem, Kit de Waal, and many more. In addition to the booklist, The Reading Agency and Canongate will be distributing 10,000 copies of The Midnight Library, by international best-selling author and mental health advocate Matt Haig, to 10 library authorities. 

Prize Giveaways

In addition to print books, The Reading Agency is giving away 6,000 free audiobooks, as part of their efforts to make reading available to the widest possible audience. This year’s audiobooks include Emma by Jane Austen, narrated by Tanya Reynolds, BBC Audio’s Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, narrated by David Tennant and Samantha Spiro and Shahroo Izadi’s The Kindness Method. Anyone can apply online to receive an exclusive download code for an audiobook of their choice. 

For World Book Night, The Reading Agency is planning a Bookshop.org partnership, with authors sharing their reading recommendations for World Book Night (and beyond) on the online platform supporting independent bookshops. Waterstones will also be partnering up with The Reading Agency, supporting the #ReadingHour on social media and offering prize giveaways.

To find out how the Arts Council of Northern Ireland is celebrating World Book Night 2021, visit here. 

Belfast City

Spectacular Ogham Grove Opens Tonight In Cathedral Quarter

Cathedral Quarters Writers’ Square will tonight (September 17) be transformed into a spectacular installation from the creative team for CNB21 Presents: The Ogham Grove.

From 6pm tonight through until Sunday evening visitors can experience an interactive celebration of the ancient druidic language, with massive representations of trees, sounds and lighting weaving a path of learning about the language and the chance to win prizes.

Ogham Grove replaces the previous city centre based programme of street based activity and pop-up events.

Although the plans for this year are monumental in size, Culture Night Belfast and CQ Trust director Susan Picken said visitors should not expect the same on-street celebration as years gone by.

Prior to the pandemic, Culture Night had been one of Belfast’s largest free events, a cultural celebration that attracted almost 90,000 local, national and international visitors to the Cathedral Quarter and Belfast city centre. The impact of COVID has led to a major review of the event however.

Susan said: “Culture Night 2021 will be much smaller in scale and scope and will take the form of an on-site installation that people can drop into and enjoy over the course of the weekend – this different format will allow us to focus on safety as well as making sure everyone has a great time.”

The brains behind the concept include creative lead Gawain Morrison, artist and prop designer Dylan McCaughtry, designer Neil Beattie, lighting designer Tomás FitzGerald and drum loop producer Damian Mills.

Gawain Morrison said that the concept of The Ogham Grove “draws inspiration from the ancient Celtic Ogham Tree alphabet which dives deep into the era where nature and myths intertwined”. 

This year, as well as experiencing The Ogham Grove itself, visitors will be able to take part in an accompanying interactive experience that will lead them through the Cathedral Quarter, and also take them on a journey of personal discovery.

According to Gawain the immersive nature inspired trail and competition will mean visitors can take something special away from the experience.

“For somebody who will be coming to this, the several points of access means it is going to be a very experiential and sensory experience,” he explained. 

“I hope that as visitors walk around whether it’s in the day or night, that they will take something away from it.”

Across the Cathedral Quarter area, there will be five zones each representing one of the five families of the Ogham alphabet.

To be eligible to win a prize, participants must find and scan a QR code found on one of the trail’s bespoke wooden plaques and take note of the lines of poetry displayed.

Prizes to be won include vouchers for restaurants, gift tokens to purchase your own pieces of art and tickets to shows coming up in the Cathedral Quarter and will be announced at the end of the Culture Night weekend.

This year’s Culture Night Belfast is supported by Belfast City Council, Arts Council for Northern Ireland, Tourism NI, Belfast Harbour Commissioners and Translink.

To keep up to date with all the CNB Presents The Ogham Grove updates go to culturenightbelfast.com or follow #CNB21 on social media

Issued by Excalibur Press on behalf of CNB Presents: The Ogham Grove 

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The Arts

£5m Fund to Retain Skills in the Creative Sector

A £5million fund to prevent the loss of the talent and expertise of individuals and freelancers working in the creative sector has been launched by Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey.

The Creative Individuals Recovery Programme, which opens at noon today, will provide a grant of up to £2,000 per individual eligible application including DJs, artists, performers, sound and lighting technicians, writers, events managers and many other professionals who have been impacted as a result of the public health restrictions on the creative sector.

There is evidence that the creative sectors rely heavily on self-employed and freelance individuals and that many have already left the sectors because of the pandemic, with those remaining facing jobs vulnerability and unaffordable costs relating to re-establishing their creative practice.

Minister Hargey said: “I have listened to the recommendations of the Culture, Arts and Heritage Recovery Taskforce, and I have also engaged with the sector. As a result I am today launching a support scheme to provide grants to individuals to encourage them to remain in the creative arts sector.

“The culture, languages, arts and heritage sectors have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 restrictions as they rely heavily on people’s ability to get together which is why the Executive has provided £13million in 2021/2022 to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic.

“There is a risk that self-employed and freelance individuals may be forced to leave the creative sectors as a result of the pandemic. As the sectors rely heavily on individuals, this could destabilise the sector and the benefits it delivers including social, economic and wellbeing. This new £5m funding scheme aims to prevent loss of sectoral skills for self-employed and freelance individuals and safeguard the sector for the future.

“This fund will help with costs of reactivating, maintaining and enhancing their creative trade, vocation or profession. It is designed to prevent individuals, and their talent and expertise, from leaving the creative economy; and help them re-establish their contribution to the important benefits these sectors deliver.”

Welcoming the funding, chair of the Culture, Arts and Heritage Recovery Taskforce Rotha Johnston said:  “Freelancers and the self-employed are critical to the recovery and sustainability of the creative and cultural sectors as a result of the impacts of Covid-19. Many have been deprived the opportunity to use their skills, perform or practice their art in the last 18 months. The Taskforce is of the unanimous view that support for individuals is essential to protect the viability of the sectors going forward. The Taskforce’s findings and recommendations have been developed following extensive engagement with people from across the sectors and our conclusion is that this public investment in culture, arts and heritage will deliver significant benefits to individuals, society and the economy in the short, medium and long term”.

The fund, co-designed by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) with the Department for Communities, will be delivered by the Arts Council. For information on how to apply including eligibility criteria please visit http://artscouncil-ni.org/funding/for-individuals

D/deaf and disabled artists will be supported via a separate award via ACNI to the University of Atypical who regularly support this particular cohort, to ensure that artists with particular needs are appropriately supported through the application process.

The scheme is open until 12 noon, 6 October, 2021.

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