Gladstone’s Library is a space where books matters, weather you are working on your own book, searching for new ideas or want to change your life. This place will offer all aspects to look into books again instead of your screens.
The literary festival Gladfest from September 7th– 9th might be a good opportunity to put this spot on your yearly bucket list. A chat with Amy Sumner, marketing Manager at Gladstone Library and a view other spots that invite you to bring books along.
IRMA: What can you learn and what do you get from spending time at Gladstone’s?
AMY SUMNER: The best thing about Gladstone’s Library is the atmosphere and the people that you meet. Our visitors are a really varied bunch of people – writers, theologians, academics – and then those who just want to be somewhere a little different. All are united, I would say, by their outlook on and interest in life. I’ve had conversations here that I will never forget, and I know that the majority of our visitors will have had some experience that will stay with them, be it a conversation, a finding in our collection, an evening spent by the fire…
IRMA: I heard that it is possible to stay overnight at your library…how does that work?
AMY SUMNER: Gladstone’s Library is, as far as we are aware, the only residential library in the world. You can come and stay with us like you would at any other B&B – the only difference is that there are 150,000 books and printed items below you. You don’t have to be a writer to stay with us (although we do offer scholarships, bursaries, residencies and discounts to various groups, including students) – we are open to all members of the public. Those staying with us have access to the books until 10pm each night and can take all, with the exception of those that belonged personally to William Gladstone, away with them to their bedroom.
IRMA: What is the history behind Gladstone’s Library?
AMY SUMNER: Gladstone’s Library is Britain’s only Prime Ministerial library and the national memorial to the great Victorian statesman and four times Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone. It is home to a unique collection of more than 150,000 printed items and offers a comfortable, sociable and stimulating environment together with resources for creative study including renowned collections of theological, historical, cultural and political materials.
The collection has grown to an outstanding resource of approximately 150,000 printed items on a wide range of subjects but specialising in the core subject areas of History and Politics, Religion and Theology, and Literature and Literary Culture. These three key areas dominated Gladstone’s life, thinking and values and now form the core of all the Library does.
IRMA: You also serve food and have lots of upcoming events…What is the one event that I shouldn’t miss this summer?
AMY SUMNER: I would always recommend Gladfest as it is the biggest date in the Library’s calendar. We welcome over 1,000 people through our doors over this weekend, as well as more than 30 of the best contemporary writers who talk about their writing and run practical writing workshops. We also have a wonderful space on the back lawn full of creativity and conversation. The authors all stay at the Library and there is the opportunity for some lucky members of the public to stay too. As we only have 26 bedrooms, we have also developed partnerships with nearby hotels and B&Bs so that we can accommodate all who want to stay. We get a lovely mix of people at these festivals – some local, some from further afield, and even some international visitors, so I would say if you’re considering a visit to the Library and you’re still feeling a little unsure about whether it’s for you – come to Gladfest – it’s a wonderful introduction. Ticketed events all start at under £10 and there are also a number of free, drop in activities programmed.
IRMA: What would you like people to say about your library when they talk to their friends?
AMY SUMNER: Gladstone’s Library, despite its recent attention, is still a bit of a hidden gem and it’s always word-of-mouth recommendations that bring the most interested people to us. We’d like to be known as an inspiring place, a meeting place dedicated to dialogue, debate and learning for open-minded individuals.
IRMA: Is reading books more important than ever?
AMY SUMNER: Absolutely – reading books and sharing ideas. And we have 150,000 to choose from, so you won’t be stuck for choice here!