Libraries Newsletter

April 2022

Easter holiday closures

In addition to the usual weekly opening hours, please note that all libraries will be closed for the bank holidays on Friday 15th April (Good Friday) and Monday 18th April (Easter Monday).

Those libraries which open on Saturdays will be open as usual on Saturday 16th April, as this is not a bank holiday.

Service updates
Borough residents will benefit from longer library opening hours in response to public feedback and the Council’s renewed commitment to boosting community health and wellbeing and providing free access to WiFi, computers and digital resources.

From the week beginning 9th May, Blackburn Central Library will be extending opening times until 4 pm on Saturdays and Darwen Library will increase its Wednesday hours, open all day from 10 am to 5 pm.  The extended hours will allow for an enhanced programme of community activities for all ages.

Both libraries already offer a great range of activities from story and rhyme times to reminiscence sessions, book clubs, coffee mornings, digital support, holiday activities, IT learning courses and social drop-ins.

As mentioned last month, in addition to the existing wealth of eBooks, eAudio, eMagazines and online information services, library members can now also access an extended suite of digital offers free of charge, and from any internet-connected device, including free online newspapers and comics, a music download and streaming service (freegal), a language learning programme (Transparent Language), and for younger users, a revolutionary story telling experience (ivox).

Above: Learning, inclusion & development manager Verity Sharples demonstrates ivox to some of our younger customers

Library membership is free, and we have removed all overdue fines to encourage access to the thousands of book titles which support leisure and learning for all ages.

Both Blackburn and Darwen libraries are vibrant community hubs and the extension of opening hours will allow more people to access these welcoming and engaging environments, whether for education, leisure, to meet new friends or just to spend some ‘me time’ in a welcoming and safe space.

Residents who are unable to visit their local library can access the library’s Home Service and receive a fortnightly delivery of books and audio books to order.

Spot On arts festival comes to
Blackburn and Cherry Tree Libraries

What if the great and tragic story of King Lear were to be told through the eyes of his closest companion?

In this award-winning and dynamic one-woman tour-de-force, Susanna Hamnett plays the Fool (and every other character) to tell a very personal and poignant story that - with breathtaking hilarity and heartache - honours the beautiful language of Lear while taking a bit of poetic licence.

Created with Edith Tankus (Kneehigh Theatre, Shakespeare's Globe), 'Nearly Lear' is an exuberant blend of tragedy and humour that has toured internationally to critical and audience acclaim, including runs on Broadway at the New Victory Theater, the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and the Sydney Opera House, and on Friday 22nd April at 7 pm, Susanna will be bringing it to Blackburn Central Library.

Don't miss this opportunity to see the show locally.  Tickets are now available from Blackburn Library at £10 (£6 if under 18 years old), phone (01254) 661221, email or online at

Also as part of the Spot On festival, join classically trained fingerstyle guitarist Gus Glynn at Cherry Tree Library as he traces the development of the music we love today from its roots in traditional folk and blues, right through to contemporary classics and all-time favourites. 

Journey through classic songs of Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Carole King, Mark Knopfler and Lou Reed.  Visit modern favourites from artists such as Amy Winehouse and Arctic Monkeys, all with a selection of pit stops along the way as Gus showcases his own songs.

A music lover's must, complete with original fingerstyle guitar arrangements of John Lennon and Turlough O'Carolan, 'Routes to Classics' is not to be missed.

Again, tickets cost £10 (£6 if under 18 years old) available from Cherry Tree Library, phone (01254) 661221, email or online at

For details of the rest of this season's Spot On programme, why not take a look at their website:  There's lots of really good stuff on there.

School holiday activities for children

There's plenty going on for children at our libraries during the holidays.  You can make a suncatcher and other spring themed activities at the following times (please book your place in advance to avoid disappointment on the day):
  • Wed 6th April, 2 - 3 pm, Darwen Library
  • Mon 11th April, 10.30 - 11.30 am, Blackburn Central Library (limited space left)
  • Mon 11th April, 2.30 - 3.30 pm, Cherry Tree Library
  • Tue 12th April, 10 - 11 am, Roman Road Library
  • Tue 12th April, 1.30 - 2.30 pm, Mill Hill Library
We will also be offering a 'Where's Wally' themed activity in all of our junior libraries throughout the week 11th - 14th April (see below)...

...and as if all that isn't enough, at Darwen Library you can also:
  • Attend a story time and make your own bunny hat on Friday 8th April from 10.30 - 11.30 am.
  • Drop-in and get creative with the activities on offer at their creation station on Wednesday 13th April between 2 & 4 pm.
Come and meet Alice and her friends in the Blackburn BID's Easter Wonderland Adventure...

Blackburn BID is inviting you to meet Alice and her friends for an amazing Easter Wonderland Adventure!

On Saturday 2nd April, families will be able to meet Alice and her friends including the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts, as part of a live interactive trail between 10.30 am and 4 pm for a one-day only event.

Venues will include Mad Hatters Cupcakes & Tearooms on Town Hall St, Geek Retreat on Church St, Blackburn Market, The Mall, and Blackburn Cathedral.

Each of the characters will give visitors a fun interactive task to complete in exchange for receiving a word. 

By visiting each location and collecting all the words, you will be able to complete a phrase from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll. Once you’ve completed the phrase on the trail map, show it at The Mall’s Ask Me Point to receive an Easter Egg treat.

And there’s more!  From 2nd - 16th April, Blackburn businesses will be hosting an Easter Egg hunt around the town centre.

The mischievous White Rabbit has hidden Easter Eggs around the town centre and Blackburn BID is asking visitors to help find each of the eggs, decorated by children from local primary schools and children’s activity groups. 

A trail map, available from the Ask Me Point in The Mall, contains questions about each egg. Once completed, all entries handed back at the information desk will go into a prize draw to win £100 in High Street Vouchers.

Catherine Price, Blackburn BID Manager, said: “We are looking forward to this egg-citing Easter activity that all the family can enjoy.

“Children will be able to meet their favourite characters from Alice in Wonderland on 2nd April, and an egg hunt will run throughout the Easter holidays to provide a free, fun activity for families in Blackburn town centre.

“Blackburn town centre has a wealth of shops, cafes and leisure facilities for people to visit and enjoy.  We want activities like this to encourage people into the town centre and visit places they may not have been to before.”

Regular weekly activities by library
(for details of irregular activities - eg school holiday activities, see above)

Blackburn Central Library, tel: (01254) 661221
  • Mon, 2 - 4 pm, IT drop-in
  • Tue, 10.15 - 11.45 am, Tuesday Reading Group
  • Wed, 10 am - 12 pm, IT drop-in
  • Wed, 10.30 - 11 am, Read, Rhythm & Rhyme (term time only)
  • Wed, 1.30 - 3 pm, IT course (booking required, see schedule below)+
Darwen Library, tel: (01254) 706021
  • Mon, 10 am - 12 pm, Darwen Library Crafters
  • Mon, 5.45 - 6.45 pm, Darwen Library Reading Group (11/04 only)
  • Tue, 1.30 - 3 pm, Darwen Library Larks choir (from 19/4)*
  • Wed, 2 - 2.30 pm, Story & rhyme time (term time only)
  • Fri, 10 am - 12 pm, IT drop-in
  • Fri, 10.30 - 11 am, Story & rhyme time (term time only)
  • Fri, 2 - 3.30 pm, IT course (booking required, see schedule below)+
  • Sat, 11 - 11.30 am, Stories, colouring and puzzles
* Darwen Library Larks meets in Darwen Library Theatre, £5 entry charge

Cherry Tree Library, tel: (01254) 209442
  • Mon, 2 - 3 pm, Brew time
  • Mon, 2 - 4 pm, IT drop-in (04/04 only)
  • Tue, 1.30 - 2.30 pm, Seated Tai Chi (book via Age UK)
  • Wed, 10.30 - 11 am, Story time
  • Wed, 11 am - 12 pm, Brew time
  • Wed, 2 - 3 pm, Reminiscence session, post war Britain (06/04 only)
  • Fri, 2 - 4 pm, Knit & Natter
Mill Hill Library, tel: (01254) 266380
  • Tue, 2 pm, Brew time
  • Thu, 10 am - 12 pm, IT drop-in (07/04 only)
  • Thu, 11 - 11.30 am, Story time
  • Fri, 10.30 am - 12 pm, Craft & Chat
Roman Road Library, tel: (01254) 682347
  • Mon, 5 - 7 pm, Youth group
  • Wed, 12 - 2 pm, Craft group
  • Thu, 9.30 - 11.30 am, IT drop-in (28/04 only)
+ IT courses schedule (booking required)
  • Mouse & Keyboard, 08/04 (Darwen), 13/04 (Blackburn)
  • Introducing the Internet, 20/04 (Blackburn), 22/04 (Darwen)
  • GMail basics, 27/04 (Blackburn), 29/04 (Darwen)
Coming soon, Mr Pomfret's Puzzle...
Those of you who enjoyed 'Three Loud Knocks' last year will be pleased to know that it's central character, Mr Pomfret (the ghost of Darwen's first librarian) will be back in a new online adventure later this year.

Blackburn with Darwen Library & Information Services has teamed up with Beggars’ Belief Collective theatre group to bring you ‘Mr Pomfret’s Puzzle’ – an innovative online game in which children and families will solve riddles and clues while meeting fascinating characters and learning about artefacts from their town’s past, using Darwen’s historic Carnegie library as a backdrop.

Blackburn with Darwen libraries have collaborated with Beggars’ Belief Collective before, to produce ‘Three Loud Knocks’ – a series of charming and nostalgic children’s TV style episodes which also feature Mr Pomfret, and can be viewed online here:
Mr Pomfret’s Puzzle is funded by Arts Council England, and will be available very soon through the usual digital platforms.

Book review: 'Guard Your Heart' by Sue Divin

“The attitudes hadn’t changed, just the tools.  We fought with culture now, not guns.” (Iona)

The city of Derry/Londonderry in Northern Ireland has many claims to fame and notoriety, from 'Bloody Sunday', to Channel 4’s excellent comic drama ‘Derry Girls’ (which portrays a lighter side to life during 'The Troubles').  By way of contrast, Sue Divin’s Carnegie shortlisted first novel ‘Guard Your Heart’ shows a darker side to peace, as it sets out to explore the long shadows cast by decades of civil unrest on a generation that has now grown up since the conflict officially ended.  As someone who was born and raised in Northern Ireland during ‘The Troubles’, I confess it was the setting that attracted my attention to this young adult romance.  Not that ‘love across the barricades’ in Northern Ireland set fiction is new, but this novel is set in 2016 and both its main protagonists were born 18 years earlier on the very day that the Good Friday Agreement was signed.

Aidan Hennessy has just finished school, and lives in a Republican housing estate with his unemployed brother.  Their ‘Da’ was in the IRA, but they haven’t seen him since his arrest for a drink fuelled violent assault against their ‘Ma’, who died prematurely a few years later.  Aidan was clearly close to his ‘Ma’, and still struggles to come to terms with her loss.  Although nominally Catholic, he doesn’t really practice much religion of any description, but is desperate to follow in his sister's footsteps and get out of Derry to see more of the world.

Protestant Iona Scott lives with her mum and dad (a former police officer, retired early due to ill health), and her younger brother.  Her older brother has left home and followed their dad into the police.  She plans to head to University in Belfast in the autumn.

Ordinarily, Aidan and Iona would never meet, but their paths cross when Iona witnesses a brutal attack on Aidan in a public park by two of her younger brother’s friends.  Iona has the presence of mind to film the scene before fleeing and, consumed by guilt, decides to make contact with Aidan to offer him the footage as evidence and satisfy herself that he is still alive and alright.  One thing leads to another and, before long, Aidan and Iona are in love and trying to work out what sort of a future they can build together despite the expectations and constraints of their respective families and communities.

This novel (told in alternating chapters from Aidan’s and Iona’s viewpoints) is Sue Divin’s first.  I really enjoyed the story, the development of Aidan's and Iona's relationship felt plausible, and I found myself hoping that things would work out for them despite the seemingly insurmountable challenges.  There are perhaps a few too many themes vying for the reader's attention, for example a sub-plot about the radicalisation of Aidan’s brother feels a bit contrived given that the time span for the entire novel is just two months, and may have been better explored in its own book.  This also disrupts the balance between Aidan’s and Iona’s sides of the story at this point, as circumstances conspire to try and crush Aidan utterly, while Iona takes a bit of a 'back seat' for a while.

These things aside, it’s a hugely enjoyable page turner, and I would particularly recommend this book to anyone who wants an insight into some of the tensions that still lie beneath the surface in Northern Ireland’s parallel communities after 24 years of ‘peace’.  If Sue Divin has further novels up her sleeve, I would definitely consider reading them.

'Guard Your Heart' is available as an eBook to download free of charge on BorrowBox.  Review by Andrew Orr.

If you've read or listened to a good library book recently - why not drop us a line and let us know?  We're always happy to share readers' reviews in the newsletter.  Please send them to
New stock available now or coming soon...

April Spotlight titles from BorrowBox

Each month, BorrowBox lifts the borrowing limits on a selection of 'Spotlight' titles to enable many more people to borrow them at the same time than would usually be possible without waiting for reservations.  April's Spotlight titles are:
  • 'Summerwater' by Sarah Moss (eBook & eAudio)
  • 'The Third Twin' by Ken Follett (eBook & eAudio)
  • 'Service of All the Dead' by Colin Dexter (eBook & eAudio)
  • 'When I was Ten' by Fiona Cummins (eBook & eAudio)
  • 'Dark Truths' by A.J. Cross (eBook & eAudio)
  • 'My Name is Why' by Lemn Sissay (eBook & eAudio)
  • 'The Sound of Thunder' by Wilbur Smith (eBook & eAudio)
  • 'Eight Detectives' by Alex Pevesi (eAudio only)
  • 'A Spool of Blue Thread' by Anne Tyler (eAudio only)
  • 'The Knife of Never Letting Go' by Patrick Ness (eAudio only)
  • 'The Dictionary of Lost Words' by Pip Williams (eAudio only)
  • 'The Highland Falcon Thief' by M.G. Leonard & Sam Sedgman (Junior eBook & eAudio)
Exhibitions in libraries this month

We are excited to announce the group exhibition 'Between the Lines' at Darwen Library, coordinated by Andreya Platia, featuring works by Ribble Valley based Christine Potter and Finnish born Pendle artist Helvi Carruthers in response to this year's World Book Day theme 'Everyone's a Reader'.  All works featured relate to titles, stories and lines from books and reference materials within the Darwen Library collection.  The exhibition is only on until 9th April, so don't delay if you want to see the works on display for yourself.

Meanwhile, it gives Blackburn Central Library great pleasure to announce that Westbury Gardens Art & Craft Group has taken over the first floor exhibition space in the library along with the front entrance for the month of April.  The group has been working very hard over the last twelve months creating paintings, sculptures and a multitude of artistic endeavours.  The exhibition is available to view during normal library opening hours from April 1st.  Please come along and see this wonderful display of community based art work.
Westbury Gardens Art & Craft group meets on Monday mornings for 2 hours from 10.30 am.  All welcome.

Mystery History

Congratulations if you correctly identified last month's photo (above).  It was quite a tricky one, and shows Cumberland Street in c. 1963, looking towards St Joseph's RC Church and School.  The building at the far end of the street is Hart's rope works on Lambeth Street

You can see a view of roughly the same area on Google maps today here.  St Joseph's Church has now moved to a new site, the school is no more, and Hopwood Court and the Jaame Masjid mosque now lie between Cumberland Street and Lambeth Street.

This month's picture (below) is a seasonal scene showing the traditional Easter fun fair in Blackburn.  Does anyone remember visiting the fair in this location?  Of the buildings clearly visible in the background, only one survives to this day, but can you identify what and where it is?  As usual there are no prizes for guessing - it's just for fun!

World Book Night, 23rd April

You're invited to join The Reading Agency on World Book Night (23rd April) for a night of celebrating stories! They'll be live at the British Library with host Bobby Seagull and special guests Dr Alex George, Ayisha Malik, Lemn Sissay and Dreda Say Mitchell. They'll be talking about what inspires them to share their stories, and the stories that have shaped their lives. This is an evening you won't want to miss!

You can watch this hybrid event either in-person at the British Library or online from around the world. Find out more and get your ticket now (in-person tickets cost £10.00 full price, but online attendance is free of charge).
...and finally!
Henrietta Branford Writing Competition
The Henrietta Branford Writing Competition is now open for all children and young people living in the UK under the age of 19 years.  Entrants are invited to finish a story begun by last year’s Branford Boase Award winner, author of thrilling fantasy adventure Orphans of the Tide, Struan Murray.  The story can be up to 1,000 words (not including the starter paragraph).  There will be six winners, who will receive copies of all the books shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award.  The closing date for the competition is Sunday 22nd May 2022.
Details of how to enter can be found here:
Please note: Any opinions expressed in this newsletter are the contributor’s own and are not necessarily endorsed by Blackburn with Darwen Library and Information Services.

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