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Living Fantasies: Exploring the Magic of the British Library’s Exhibit


In November 2023, the Central Library unveiled a fresh exhibit delving into the vibrant tapestry of the fantasy genre. This captivating display is a proud addition to the British Library’s Living Knowledge Network.

Central Library is one of over 30 libraries across the UK highlighting how local folklore and fairy tales have inspired fantasy writers and the role of local libraries in introducing readers to the genre. The Living Knowledge Network is a UK-wide partnership of national and public libraries. From Arthurian legends to manga and live-action role-playing games there is a wealth of activities on offer across the network.

For centuries readers have escaped their everyday lives and journeyed into new worlds filled with magic and adventure, incredible mythical creatures, and heroes and villains that speak to our greatest dreams and fears. From ancient folk tales and fairy stories to gothic horror, and weird fiction, fantasy is a rich genre filled with magical worlds imagined by writers, artists and creators that has had an enduring, global impact.

Libraries play a special role in the canon of fantasy literature, providing portals to other realms, containing magical texts that help heroes on their quests and of course the librarians that help the characters navigate wondrous lands and the strange creatures they contain. At libraries in the Living Knowledge Network, readers will be able to discover special content that will help bring the iconic characters and worlds of the genre to life as their local library transforms into a fantastical realm of its own.

Community Libraries across the city will be hosting various events during the Fantasy – Realms of Imagination exhibition period. Contact your local library for details.

Portal – The Library is your Portal to new experiences. Fantasy-based events where the library becomes the Portal to new experiences.

Epic – Creating new worlds. Create your own Fantasy Map, venture into your own new world of characters and set them off on epic journeys.

Fairytales – Embedding a love of Fairytales from a young age. Some Storytime and Bookbug will have add-on craft sessions.

Fandom – Enhancing the Realms of Imagination. Participating libraries will have large cutout characters for your young ones to have a photoshoot with Prince and Princesses, Yoda and more.

Exhibition – Community Libraries will host a Unicorn craft activity.  Then in February 2024, all of the wonderful unicorn creations will be gathered and featured in “A Blessing of Unicorns” exhibition at Central Library.

‘We are delighted that Central Library will be welcoming readers to a fantastic new display in conjunction with the British Library. The fantasy genre is testament to the magic that books can create, offering an escape into imaginative worlds that captivate readers and spark imagination. This display offers an exciting opportunity to introduce readers to the thrill of the genre, but also highlights the vital role libraries play in bringing these new worlds and adventures to life.’

Councillor Val Walker, Culture and Communities Convener

‘Fantasy is a much beloved genre that is globally popular and yet draws on local legends and mythology in creating mythical worlds for readers to escape into. The displays in libraries in the Living Knowledge Network will explore these local connections with fantasy writers and creators while inspiring readers with the genre’s imaginative possibilities across literature, films, TV and gaming.’

Director of Library Partnerships at the British Library, Liz White

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