A Bestseller! Record BookBench Numbers

Over 140 schools, community groups and cultural venues have secured nearly 200 blank BookBench sculptures as part of The Big Read, in a drive to nurture a love of reading amongst the region’s young people.

Celebrating creativity and literacy development, The Big Read will see 180 decorated BookBenches – benches shaped as open books – forming mini indoor art trails across Birmingham and beyond during summer 2016. It will be the biggest BookBench display to date in the UK for organisers Wild in Art, who have also exhibited BookBenches in London and Loughborough.

Wild in Art welcomes specialist financial mutual Wesleyan to The Big Read as co-presenting partner alongside The Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham. Wesleyan joins the National Literacy Trust and Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity, who are also lending their support to the project.

Ben Reed, Development Director at Wild in Art, said: “The response has been phenomenal. We’re thrilled that so many schools and groups have joined the project and are keen to use the BookBench sculpture as a canvas for literacy-themed discussion, debate, research and application. We’re looking forward to seeing the designs by children and young people take shape over the next few months – and of course sharing their painted sculptures with everyone over the summer!”

Liz McKenzie, Chief Operating Officer at Wesleyan and chair of its Charity Advisory Committee, said: “Reading is one of the most rewarding things you can do. It can educate and entertain, ground you in reality or whisk you off into a fantastical adventure.

“We hope everyone in Birmingham, and, indeed, further afield, enjoys the BookBench Trail and takes a moment to sit down on one of them, pull out a book and enjoy the pleasure of reading, whether it’s an old favourite or a new discovery.

“There is also the opportunity for schools to win a BookBench for them to paint themselves and keep. We will be offering them the chance to pitch their ideas for designs to us. More information can be found at www.wesleyan.co.uk/bookbench.”

Miranda Williams, Public Fundraising Manager at Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity, added: “As well as being a wonderful celebration of literacy, art and creativity, The Big Read also gives schools the opportunity to make a real difference to the life of our hospital by raising much-needed funds. We look forward to seeing how schools will choose to fundraise for our Eye Believe Appeal alongside decorating their BookBenches.”

Denis Ramplin, Director of Marketing and Communications at The Schools of King Edward VI, concluded: “This year it’s 100 years since the birth of Roald Dahl, 150 years since Beatrix Potter was born and the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Bronte’s birth. It’s also 400 years since the death of playwright William Shakespeare. As Presenting Partner alongside Wesleyan, we’re looking forward to seeing if children and schools are inspired by these events in their BookBench projects – 2016 is clearly the year of the book!”

Over the coming months pupils and young people, inspired by their favourite books, comics, poems or literary characters, will decide on their designs and paint their BookBenches. The decorated sculptures will then be displayed over the summer holidays inside libraries, cultural hubs and shopping centres for everyone to enjoy before being returned to participants to keep as a lasting feature and memento of the project.

Exact display dates are yet to be announced although organisers are working towards exhibiting the BookBenches from mid-July. The displays will be complemented by activities that spark everybody’s interest in reading and writing, such as poetry slams, story-telling sessions, creative writing workshops, and comic book illustration.

Follow The Big Read on Twitter @The_Big_Read, using the hashtag #TheBigRead2016 and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/thebigread