INTERVIEW: KITTIWAKE TRUST MULTILINGUAL LIBRARY | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Having found a permanent home in Gateshead’s former Gloucester pub, Kittiwake Trust’s Multilingual Library is welcoming people from all over the world to be part of their community.

Rather than feeling incongruous, the old pub setting is very welcoming – the big wooden bar houses a friendly librarian and hot drinks, the banquette booths provide cosy private spaces for small group language lessons or just a comfortable place to read. There are over 20,000 books in 120 languages and the library is not only multilingual, but also multifaith, multicultural and multifunctional.

Forthcoming events include clandestine performance piece Manual, part of GIFT Festival (2nd-4th May), a day of celebration and information about Roma culture (16th May), and games, poetry and music during The Late Shows (18th May).

Q&A with Amina Marix Evans, founder of Kittiwake Trust

Can you briefly explain the purpose of the library and who it’s aimed at?

Every time I try to explain about the library I come back to saying I just want to make people happy. You’ve no idea how gratifying it is when people come in, look around and tell us how much they feel at home. And the thrill people feel when they see their language on the shelf – sometimes after years without seeing their language in print – is a joy to behold. We’ve also seen people over the moon to see musical instruments from their country in our collection, bringing home to people is wonderful. It’s aimed at everyone with an interest in books, languages, reading, tea, friends, acceptance and biscuits.

Aside from being a lending library, what else can people enjoy in the space?

People can just sit and read and have a cup of tea, or chat with friends old and new. They can play chess, draughts, Go or dominoes with people who speak a different language as these are games played around the world. Our jigsaw collection is fun too, and there’s a music space with a collection of instruments people are free to play. We’ve had some wonderful piano players visiting as well as guitarists and others. We will also be able to offer quiet study space for students with exams coming up in the summer. For the children there is a collection of soft toys and dolls with a variety of skin tones – some that can also be changed from girls to boys. There’s Lego (for the children who know not to put the pieces in their ears or up their noses), jigsaws of world maps and flags and of course plenty of seating so that adults and big brothers and sisters can read books to the younger ones.

Why do you think it’s so important to have a space like this in the region?

It would be important in any region. David Crystal, our Patron, tells us that ours is the only multilingual library in the UK. Certainly the only one with such a huge variety of languages with books for both adults and children and open to the general public. In Gateshead there are more and more people coming from different countries around the world who need a place of sanctuary, a place where they can relax, knowing that no-one will berate them for speaking their own language – on the contrary, we are likely to recruit them as volunteers to help with the cataloguing of languages we don’t know!  We do our best to encourage other projects up and down the country to follow our example and offer books in the languages of their next door neighbours and would encourage them to visit us in Gateshead to collect duplicates of books already in our catalogue.

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