19 Sep 2009

'People on loan' in Gloucestershire?

The Living Library is an innovative method designed to promote dialogue, reduce prejudices and encourage understanding. I loved the idea!

In it’s initial form the Living Library is a sort of mobile library set up as a space for dialogue and interaction. Visitors to the Living Library are given the opportunity to speak informally with “people on loan”; this latter group being extremely varied in age, sex and cultural background.

The Living Library is about trying to break stereotypes by challenging the most common prejudices in a positive and humorous manner - a sort of “keep it simple”, “no-nonsense” contribution to social cohesion in multicultural societies. Some of the titles previously available at libraries include: Feminist / Muslim; Young Adult Gay Man / Survivor of a Brain Tumor; Ex Gang Member / Ex Prisoner / Ex Addict; Constable; Humanist / Altruist / Volunteer; Big and Beautiful Formerly Size 5 and Bulimic; Iraqi Refugee / Artist; Highly Sensitive Male / Father of a Gay Son / Jewish. See more at: http://living-library.org

When I asked whether Gloucestershire was doing this I learnt that the Councils Community Cohesion Group is piloting it and trying it out as part of the member induction programme, where they are arranging for 'living books' from among the clients of council services to be available for members to meet with them. Great stuff.

I do think listening to others is a very powerful way of creating change - indeed that was part of the philosophy behind the Coffee House discussions where people can meet and talk and listen - indeed we've had a huge range of topics including a chance to hear views that many don't in their everyday lives like 'freedom to wear the veil'. Next week we have all the political parties represented in the Green party-sponsored discussions on defence in The Space at 7.30pm.

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