BookBenches Take Centre Stage

Benches shaped as open books, decorated by thousands of young people in the West Midlands as part of The Big Read, are on display in Birmingham and beyond from 16 July until 13 September 2016.

On Thursday 14 July a preview event attended by schools and groups taking part in the literacy-themed arts project was enjoyed at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, where 24 benches are exhibited – the biggest display of Big Read BookBenches in the region.

BookBench_Preview_0006 © Daniel Graves

Visitors to Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery with BookBench no. 20, Paddington – a Bear in Birmingham.

Children and young people from more than 140 schools, nurseries, colleges and community groups, have decorated 175 BookBenches with designs inspired by their favourite novels, comics, poems and prose. Their BookBenches can be seen inside cultural venues on a series of free indoor trails for everyone to enjoy over the summer.

There is also a whole host of events and activities taking place around the displays to spark everybody’s interest in reading and writing. From poetry workshops, storytelling sessions, and illustration classes, to theatre productions and workshops about writing drama for radio, there’s something for everybody to take part in during the school holidays. See’s-on for details.

The Big Read aims to inspire literacy development in the West Midlands by celebrating young people and their creativity. It has been created by Wild in Art and co-presented by The Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham and Wesleyan, in association with the National Literacy Trust and Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity.

Sally-Ann Wilkinson, Director at Wild in Art, said: “With the help of our generous partners, supporters and venues, we are thrilled to be able to display so many wonderful designs by children and young people. Every decorated BookBench tells a special story and, together with a jam-packed summer of book-themed events and activities, we hope The Big Read encourages all generations to rekindle their passion for reading and writing.”

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is part of Birmingham Museums Trust, which includes heritage sites across the city. These include Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, Aston Hall, Blakesley Hall, Sarehole Mill and Soho House, and all are hosting BookBench displays.


BookBench no. 17, A Short Rest by King Edward’s School

Lynsey Rutter, Community Engagement Team Leader at Birmingham Museums Trust, said: “The Big Read is a wonderful way to reach children and adults from across the region and inspire a love of reading and writing. Reading is a vital skill which enriches children’s lives, so we are thrilled to be part of the trail in such a big way this summer.

“We have some beautiful BookBench designs on display across our Birmingham Museums sites and we look forward to welcoming families to complete the trail and take part in our Big Read events.”

Locations for the BookBench displays are widespread and include: Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, Library of Birmingham and community libraries, Grand Central, Millennium Point, Waterstones, John Lewis, The Core in Solihull, and Central Library in Coventry. To see the full list of BookBench display venues and where to pick up a free trail and activities map, please visit

The trail officially opens during CBBC’s jam-packed Awesome Authors weekend in Centenary Square on Saturday 16 July. Benches appearing at the event will be relocated to BBC Public Space at the Mailbox for the remainder of the trail.

The Big Read trail will conclude on Tuesday 13 September to coincide with Roald Dahl Day, the biggest ever-global celebration of Roald Dahl’s birthday. The BookBenches will then be returned to the schools and community groups that created them, to become a lasting feature of a library, book corner or outside learning environment.

Visit and follow The Big Read on Twitter @The_Big_Read, using the hashtag #TheBigRead2016 and on Facebook