Wigan man wins National Lottery award for unique library concert scheme

Stewart celebrates winning top award for bringing music to libraries
Stewart celebrates winning top award for bringing music to libraries

A Wigan man has been awarded a prestigious Local Legend Award as part of the 25th Birthday National Lottery Awards.

Get It Loud in Libraries founder, Stewart Parsons, 53, was awarded one of only 12 prestigious awards in the whole of the UK.

To celebrate his accolade, Stuart joined a host of stars from the world of stage and screen at the glittering 25th Birthday National Lottery Awards show which was filmed for BBC One at BBC Television Centre in London and will be aired on Tuesday November 19.

The 25th Birthday National Lottery Awards are the annual search for the UK’s favourite National Lottery funded people and projects and celebrate the inspirational stories of ordinary people who do extraordinary things with National Lottery support.

Since 2005, more than 400 Get it Loud in Libraries gigs have been staged in libraries up and down the UK. Big name artists including Adele, Jesse J and Florence Welch have performed in buildings ranging from contemporary glass-fronted boxes in Liverpool and Rochdale, to red brick Carnegie libraries in Kendal and Barrow.

Stewart said: “It’s a massive honour. It’s superb to get recognition for what is, of course, a big team effort. It acknowledges everyone who’s been there to open the doors in libraries, everyone who has supported us and the staff who have worked until midnight while the bands are on. It’s that core support that allows me to do what I do.”

It was a gig by Sheffield band The Long Blondes that really put Get It Loud on the map. They were the indie music press’ darlings at the time, and attracted a new wave of young users to the library. Going beyond the usual toddler groups and silver surfer clubs, the gig provided an opportunity for teenagers and young people to enjoy a space they had perhaps not visited for a while.

For Stewart, the concerts are “transformative” events that introduce libraries – “an incredible community asset” - to a new audience. They also bring live music to towns and cities that are often ignored by touring bands. “They have a real social impact and really strengthen the cultural capacity of a library,” he said. “A library is open from 9 to 5 for its core resource – books, internet, learning and information. After that you can create a kind of club feel and bring in a whole new audience.”

The enthusiastic support Get it Loud in Libraries has attracted from funders, libraries and young music lovers is gratifying, says Stewart, but it makes sense too. “They see something in the project and what it can do. Not all cities and towns have great live music provision for all. Get it Loud in Libraries allows us to deliver great music for all in venues that are for everybody.”

Delighted to receive the National Lottery’s Local Legend Award, Stewart said: “It’s a massive honour. It’s superb to get recognition for what is, of course, a big team effort. It acknowledges everyone who’s been there to open the doors in libraries, everyone who has supported us and the staff who have worked until midnight while the bands are on. It’s that core support that allows me to do what I do.”

Jonathan Tuchner, from The National Lottery, added: “It’s thanks to National Lottery players, who raise more than £30 million each week for good causes, that Local Legends like those awarded this year, are able to continue their work and inspire so many.