Thursday 18 February 2016

Unreal Tour / Real Spaces

Tonight, iOrganic's six-week residency comes to an end with the 'The Unreal Tour'. The interactive, site-specific performance is a mixture of the building's actual history, crowd-sourced stories, and brand new bespoke lies.

The tour is now sold out, which is unsurprising as iOrganic have proven to be exceptionally popular with Library guests and staff alike, and we are sorry to see them go.

After they leave us, and their invented lies and crowd-sourced half truths intertwine with the Library's actual history, we will of course still be open to the public as a Library and heritage attraction.

However, there are certain spaces in this 600-year old building which are almost never seen by members of the public.


Taken around the beginning of the twentieth century, these images show the 'Upper Fratery.' Where is this place? What is it used for now? Why is it off limits to most people? Who is the old man pictured? Have they managed to cram any more pictures on to the wall? Using iOrganic's unique take on our history as inspiration, we'll leave you to come up with some answers for yourselves...

Tuesday 16 February 2016

Fore-edge painting

What makes this unremarkable book by a forgotten poet one of the most interesting things in our collection?

Broadside Day Conference This Saturday

This Saturday, we are delighted to be hosting this year’s Broadside Day - an annual one-day conference for people interested in Street Literature in all its fascinating aspects. On show will be broadsides, chapbooks, songsters, woodcuts, engravings, last dying speeches, catchpennies, wonder-tales, almanacs, fortune-tellers, moral tracts, reading-made-easy alphabets, and all kinds of cheap printed material which was sold to ordinary people in city streets, at country fairs, and from pedlars' packs up and down the country in past centuries.

The Broadside Day is organised jointly by the English Folk Dance & Song Society (EFDSS) and the Traditional Song Forum (TSF). The Day consists of short papers, presentations, displays, discussions, performances, and so on, and is suitable for beginners and experts alike, who will all enjoy its lively and informal atmosphere.

Manchester was one of the most important centres for the production of street literature in the 19th century. In recognition of this, speakers who can present topics specifically related to the trade in the Northwest have been invited.

We'll be getting broadsides from or own collection to display, a number of which are pictured here.

Click here for more information and tickets.

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Tickets almost gone for "The Unreal Tour"

iOrganic's 6 week residency will come to a head on February 18th with an evening of interactive performance. A mixture of the building's actual history, crowd-sourced stories, and brand new bespoke lies, 'The Unreal Tour' is an interactive, site specific performance for a limited number of audience members at a time.

Blending spoken word, creative non-fiction, storytelling, and interactive games, this playful, immersive performance will investigate the slippery history of the Library and its old, long-lost cabinet of curiosities. Taking audiences on a fully participatory journey through hidden rooms, stacks upon stacks of books, and winding corridors, 'The Unreal Tour' will light-heartedly question the faith we put in experts' opinions and 'official' history when we think about the past.

iOrganic are a performance company founded by Harry Jelley and Lenni Sanders. They have performed their unusual, interactive pieces in theatres, museums and unexpected places. Previous shows have been described as 'a daft, gorgeous idea' (Exeunt Magazine).

Tickets are FREE but running out fast, and you need to book. Do it here.

Tuesday 9 February 2016

Chetham's Library now on Instagram

We're a little late to the party, but Chetham's Library is now on Instagram. Not really sure what else to add to that...except follow us for a behind-and-in-front-of-the-scenes look at the oldest public library in the English-speaking world, insights into our hundred-thousand strong collection and the occasional shot of our dedicated and exceptionally attractive team doing all manner of interesting activities.

We've already been quite busy, as you can see below.

It's @chethamslibrary by the way...

Wednesday 3 February 2016

The Unreal Tour: Crowdsourced Half-truths from iOrganic

For the last month, performing arts company iOrganic have been creating an ‘unofficial’ tour of the Library and medieval buildings, engaging with visitors to gather stories, real or imagined, about the history of the place. Last Saturday they hosted an open workshop to further identify historical myths, half-truths and unlikely realities from the past, in preparation for their one off performance on Thursday 18 February.

iOrganic Co-founder Lenni Sanders was kind enough to pen this guest blog about the day…

We really enjoyed our workshop on Saturday, and ended up with some interesting stories written by everyone and some fake artefacts and forgeries we're looking forward to using in our performance. The group was a fairly small, intimate bunch which ended up being quite nice in that it we could give equal attention to everybody.

The workshop started at 1:30 with a quick tour of the Library, taking everybody up into the Reading Room to look at a selection of our favourite documents and books including William Henry Ireland's Shakespeare forgeries. We told our workshop participants a bit about the Reading Room – about Marx and Engels' table, and about the chicken in the wall carving, to encourage inquisitive thinking about artefacts, history, and truth.

Then we returned to the Audit Room for everyone to get paper and pens, and gave everyone the first exercise – to select an item either in the Audit Room or one they had spotted elsewhere in the library, and to come up with answers for the following questions: “What is it for? Who made it? When? Who owned it 100 years later?” Harry and I both took part in every exercise as well, to foster a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.

We took a break after 10 minutes of writing to hear what everyone had written. We had varied, imaginative answers about a variety of objects in the library, from mysterious little ornaments to the imposing grandfather clock in the Reading Room.

After this, we asked everyone to go more in depth into one of their answers, fleshing out their story a bit. We went around the room sharing what we had all written again, and then moved onto the last writing exercise – to come up with a written piece of evidence for the story or to begin to decide what kind of document might support it.

The last half hour of the workshop was spent making this piece of evidence into an artefact or document. We supplied papyrus paper; rough yellowy “antique” paper; gold pens to mimic gold leaf detailing; black ink pens; ribbon; play dough to make seals; two old books to insert pages into; and for inspiration, some photographs of manuscripts in Chetham's collection, and a couple of fossils and semi precious stones. Participants made a variety of different kinds of documents.

 People seemed to appreciate the chance to play and use their imaginations. We had a nice piece of feedback which was that we made it accessible to people who don't write creatively much, making it an easy-going workshop in which we didn't do too much writing jargon. One of our participants, who said he didn't write creatively but was looking to get into it, told us afterwards that he'd enjoyed the afternoon and was keen to book a ticket for the Unreal Tour, which we were very happy about!


'The Unreal Tour' will light-heartedly question the faith we put in experts' opinions and 'official' history when we think about the past.

Running time for performance 20 minutes. Performances every half hour from 17.00 - 20.00 on Thursday 18 February.

Tickets are free and available from here.
Tickets are limited so please book ahead.