Frequently Asked Questions


What is The Big Read?

It is a literacy-themed arts event for schools and community groups in the West Midlands.

Schools and groups have purchased and decorated BookBench sculptures – benches shaped as open books – which will be on display in museums, libraries, cultural and shopping centres from 16 July until 13 September 2016 for everybody to enjoy.

Creating a series of free mini indoor art trails*, the BookBench displays are complemented by a programme of activities to encourage reading and writing. These include poetry slams and story-telling sessions to creative writing workshops and comic book illustration.

At the end of the project, the BookBenches will be returned to the schools and groups that created them.

*Please note that there is no outdoor trail.

How much does it cost?

Participants can purchase the Paperback Package (just BookBenches) or the Hardback Package (BookBenches plus National Literacy Trust training for teachers).

***Please note orders for BookBenches are now closed***

The cost depends on what size and how many BookBenches are purchased.

The display of the decorated BookBenches in museums, libraries, cultural hubs and shopping centres will be FREE for everyone to enjoy.

Will there be an auction?

No – after the summer 2016 display, the BookBenches will be returned to the schools and groups that created them where they could become a lasting feature of a library, book corner or outdoor learning environment.

2015’s The Big Hoot saw giant owls sponsored by businesses and decorated by artists displayed around Birmingham during the summer. These were then auctioned off to raise money for Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

For The Big Read, instead of an auction, the team at Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity are encouraging Big Read participants to use the project as a means of fundraising for their Eye Believe appeal.

Who is behind it?

The Big Read is a Wild in Art creative education event brought to you by presenting partners The Schools of King Edward VI and Wesleyan, in association with the National Literacy Trust and Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity.

Wild in Art is the country’s top producer of mass appeal public art events and education events including The Big Hoot in Birmingham, and its education initiative, The Little Hoot.

The Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham is a charity whose roots have been in Birmingham since King Edward’s School was founded in 1552. It now supports two Independent Schools, five Grammar Schools and a sponsored Academy in the City.

Wesleyan is a financial mutual providing specialist products and services to doctors, dentists, lawyers and teachers. It was founded in Birmingham in 1841 and will be celebrating its 175th anniversary throughout 2016.

The National Literacy Trust is an independent charity that transforms lives through literacy. It is offering its high-quality Reading for Enjoyment training in Birmingham to teachers whose schools opt for the Hardback Package.

One of just four standalone children’s hospitals in the UK, Birmingham Children’s Hospital is a world leader in paediatric healthcare with over 270,000 patient visits every year. Birmingham Children’s Hospital hopes that everybody involved in The Big Read will also take the opportunity to help raise funds for important projects that will benefit the children and young people it cares for.

Is The Big Read a charity?

No – The Big Read is a literacy-themed education event produced by Wild in Art Limited.

Why is it in the West Midlands?

Following the unprecedented success of The Big Hoot and The Little Hoot education programme, we simply had to fill the void left by the hundreds of decorated owl and owlet sculptures, which brought smiles to everyone who flocked to Birmingham city centre and its districts throughout summer 2015.

According to a survey conducted by The National Literacy Trust called Teachers and Literacy: Their perceptions, understanding, confidence and awareness, 99.3% of teaching staff across subject areas in the West Midlands (compared to 95.2% nationally) said it is their job to teach and promote literacy. However half of teachers in the West Midlands (44.9% compared to

51.7% nationally) said they feel a lack of knowledge is a barrier to improving pupils’ literacy in their school and 16.9% of West Midlands teachers (compared to 23.9% nationally) said they do not feel confident teaching the literacy set out in the new National Curriculum.

Therefore, what better way to help teachers, parents and communities in the West Midlands to build upon the skills required to promote literacy – in a way that is fun, engaging and inclusive of all individuals – than an arts event using the BookBench sculpture.

What are the key dates?

  • Until end of January 2016: The Big Read Packages are available to schools and community groups on a first come first served basis. UPDATE: Deadline extended until midnight on Friday 12 February 2016.

***Please note orders for BookBenches are now closed***

  • February – April 2016: Training delivered by the National Literacy Trust. Sculptures delivered to participants.
  • By mid-June 2016: All BookBenches completed.
  • July – September 2016: Sculptures collected from participants and exhibited inside cultural, leisure and shopping venues* throughout Birmingham & West Midlands.
  • After September 2016: BookBenches returned to schools and community groups.

*Please note there will be no outdoor trail for The Big Read.

How is it different to The Big Hoot?

The Big Hoot saw giant owls sponsored by businesses and decorated by artists displayed around Birmingham during the summer. These were then auctioned off to raise money for Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

The Big Read is based on a different model. Participants can purchase blank BookBenches, which they then decorate. These will then be publicly displayed for everybody to see and enjoy on a series of free mini art trails. After the display, the BookBenches will be then returned to the schools and groups that decorated them where they could become a lasting feature of a library, book corner or outside learning environment.


Who can buy a BookBench?

The Big Read is a natural fit for schools and community groups in the West Midlands who want to use art to encourage literacy development. However, we realise that venues, businesses and arts organisations in the region may also want to purchase their own BookBench to decorate and display. If this is the case, please do get in touch with the team to discuss how we can work together.

Can nurseries and pre-schools take part?

Absolutely. The BookBenches come in two sizes, medium and large; the medium BookBench is suitable for children aged three years old and above.

How can my community group get involved?

We would love to see community groups coming together to purchase and decorate their very own BookBench(es).

Community organisations, from Scouts and Brownie groups, after-school clubs and creative writing groups, to poetry appreciation societies, adult learning groups, book clubs, faith groups, women’s groups and support groups, are invited to celebrate their members’ creativity and play a valuable role in a successfully proven art trail.

Read more about the Packages available and tips on how to help make the purchase of your BookBench possible.


What is a BookBench?

The Big Read features Wild in Art’s BookBench sculpture, which is a bench in the shape of an open book. It is designed by Chris Wilkinson, Wild in Art’s Creative Director.

The BookBenches are manufactured using a mixture of Class 2 fire retardant laminating resin and chopped roving fibreglass over an initial brushed-on layer of polyester gel coat. Each sculpture is finished with a primer and is ready to paint.

How much do BookBenches cost?

There are two BookBench sizes and they are both available in The Big Read Packages.

A medium is BookBench is £645 + VAT and a large BookBench is £995 + VAT.

Included in the price of the sculpture is:

  • Delivery and collection
  • Resource Pack to help participants harness the power of creativity in cross-curricular learning
  • Display of the decorated BookBench in a public location

It does not include:

  • Art materials and protective varnish
  • Commissioning of an artist

***Please note orders for BookBenches are now closed***

What are they made of?

They are made of lightweight fire resistant fibreglass.

What is the size and weight?

Large BookBench

  • H 920mm x L 1450mm x W 700mm
  • Seat height 460mm
  • Suitable for 3 years old – adults
  • Weight: 36kg

Medium BookBench

  • H 700mm x L 950mm x W 500mm
  • Seat height 350mm
  • Suitable for 3 – 11 years old
  • Weight: 20kg

Are they for outdoor or indoor use?

All of our sculptures are designed as a canvas for art. They are suitable for an outside trail for 10-12 weeks for light use; they are not a replacement for permanent seating. Although we hasten to add they are robust and the ones outside of Wild in Art’s office have survived three High Peak winters unscathed!

Please note that the medium BookBenches in particular are of a size that makes them quite portable and easy picking for thieves. Following the public display, if you decide to install them outside we would highly recommend they are kept in a secure/enclosed area.

All the BookBenches have brackets attached for fixing to either plinths or into the ground, so if these sculptures are installed outside we would also recommend some fixing solution.

What paint and materials can I use on it?

Details on the materials and tools for decorating BookBenches are provided in the Resource Pack, which comes with all orders.

Can I commission an artist to decorate a BookBench?

Yes – if you feel you would like an artist to be involved in the decoration of your BookBench, please feel free to arrange this directly with an artist.

We work with a lot of artists in and around the West Midlands, therefore, if you would like us to put you in touch with any, we would be happy to help. Please note you are responsible for any work that you do commission and payment arrangements with the artist.

How do I book my place at the Inspiration Session?

You can book your place online via our Eventbrite page. For more details and to book online please see article, RSVP for Inspiration!

I cannot attend the Inspiration Session on Tuesday 2 February, what should I do?

Don’t despair – we are looking to run a second inspiration session. UPDATE: The second inspiration session will take place on Tuesday 1 March.

Remember, you can also call Annie, The Big Read’s education coordinator, at any time to discuss your BookBench.

When will the decorated BookBenches be on public display?

They will be on display from 16 July – 13 September 2016.

Will there be a free trail map?

Absolutely! You can pick up a free map from venues or download one to help you plan your trips. The map will also include activities and puzzles to complete as you make your way around the series of mini indoor trails.

Will there be an app to help find the BookBenches?

No – instead we will be embracing the power of pen and paper! You will be able to use the trail and activities map to uncover some special Big Read prizes.


We can’t afford a BookBench, what should we do?

We understand that finding the money to purchase a BookBench can be difficult so we’d encourage you to explore funding opportunities through grants available to you. There are lots of ways to budget or fund the cost of the project – we’ve come up with a few suggestions, which you can read about here.

What is the difference between a Paperback and Hardback Package?

The only difference is that the Hardback Package includes National Literacy Trust training for teachers – in addition to the cost of your BookBench(es), it is an extra £250 + VAT per member of staff.

Does the cost include delivery and collection of my BookBench?

Yes – we will deliver the BookBench to you, pick it up when it is decorated so that it can be a part of The Big Read display during summer 2016, and return it to you after the display.

What is the last order date for BookBenches?

UPDATE: Please place your order by midnight on Friday 12 February 2016.

***Please note orders for BookBenches are now closed***

When will we have to pay for our BookBench(es)?

Upon receipt of your order form, you will be invoiced for the full amount. Payment terms are 30 days and the invoice must be paid before your BookBench is delivered to you.

Who can I contact about my order?

If you have a financial query about your order that is not addressed in these FAQs, such as information for new supplier forms, please contact Wild in Art’s Finance team on


Who is the training for?

The Hardback Package includes National Literacy Trust Reading for Enjoyment training, which contains content suitable for teachers of KS2 and KS3 (though weighted to upper KS2 and Y7 and Y8, rather than Y9).

What does the training include?

Training Aims

  • To increase teacher skills and knowledge around teaching whole texts
  • To increase teacher and pupil knowledge of children’s and young adult literature
  • To improve attainment in reading
  • To increase enjoyment of reading amongst pupils


  • Introduction: Aims and overview
  • Session 1: Reading for Enjoyment; unpicking and exploring the issues
  • Session 2: Reading for Enjoyment; using whole texts in the classroom
  • Session 3: Reading for Enjoyment; talking about texts

Follow-up Twilight Evaluation Session Agenda

  • Session 1: Feedback from schools
  • Session 2: Engaging the wider school community

In addition to the training, what else does the Hardback Package include?

Included in the cost of the package is a year’s membership of the National Literacy Trust network (worth £100), which gives access to a vast range of tools to support outstanding literacy in school. This includes a Guide to the latest policy, research and practice, plus a Review tool for a complete audit of literacy provision. Plus each teacher that takes part in the training will get membership logins for up to five people in their school.

How do I book the training?

The National Literacy Trust will be in touch directly with you to arrange your training.

I cannot attend the training day on Friday 12 February, what should I do?

We are looking to arrange a second training day. Please let us know if you’re unable to attend the February training day and we will keep you informed about the alternative date.

UPDATE: The National Literacy Trust has confirmed the dates for the training as follows:

Series 1: Friday 12 February. Follow up half day/twilight session Tuesday 22 March

Series 2: Friday 26 February. Follow up half day/twilight session Thursday 26 May

Series 3: Tuesday 15 March. Follow up half day/twilight session Thursday 26 May


I’m an artist, how can I get involved?

We will not be running a design competition for artists, however, you can get involved in other ways.

West Midlands schools and groups that purchase a BookBench may want the input of a local artist. Therefore, you could introduce yourself to your nearby school/community group and find out if they are taking part in The Big Read. We will also be publishing which schools and groups are taking part here shortly.

We are also asking participants if they would like to work with an artist as part of the project – if they are, we will be helping to put them in touch with artists in and around the West Midlands.

If you have not worked with Wild in Art before and you would be interested in being considered for a commission, please drop us a line.

Please note you are responsible for any work that is commissioned and payment arrangements with the school/group. You are also responsible for a DBS (previously CRB) check if you are working with children and young people.

Will there be any special commissions? 

We anticipate that there may be a handful of specially commissioned BookBenches that will need to be decorated by artists.

If Wild in Art is not already aware of your work, please drop us a line introducing yourself and your portfolio.


I’m interested in displaying the decorated BookBenches, what should I do?

If your organisation is interested in exhibiting BookBenches and supporting The Big Read with literacy-focussed activities we would love to hear from you. We want to encourage participation, collaborations and partnerships to develop a wider programme offer as part of The Big Read. Please say hello.


How can we help raise money for Birmingham Children’s Hospital?

The Big Read provides your organisation with the opportunity to make a real difference.

To help you with your fundraising, we’ve come up with three Big Read ideas that we think you’ll enjoy but we also know you’ll have lots more and we look forward to hearing all your fantastic fundraising stories. Call the hospital’s fundraising team on 0121 333 8506 to discuss your ideas and let them know what you’re planning.

Where will the money go?

Our eyesight is one of our most important senses, not least for helping us to read, so all of your Big Read fundraising will support our Eye Believe Appeal, which aims to raise £300,000 for our Eye Department.

Over 100 children visit this busy unit every day and at the moment it is hot, cramped and overcrowded with patients, parents and siblings often having to attend multiple appointments.

In urgent need of an overhaul, we want to double the size of the waiting room and add an exciting play area with an interactive floor and toys suitable for children with impaired vision.




If you can’t find the answer to your question here please drop us a line on or telephone 01663 308088.