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Recycled Books Find New Life Centre Stage

Recycled books

©Ian Tennant

Abigail McKern (cast), Paul Southern (stage manager), Giles Taylor (cast) and Paul Hemmings (Head of Archive, Heritage and Information Services)


Books from Birmingham's Central Library are being given a new lease of life on stage with Birmingham Repertory Theatre thanks to the creative thinking of librarians.

As Birmingham Central Library prepares for its move to the new Library of Birmingham, opening in 2013, staff at Birmingham Library and Archive Services are reviewing the books and periodicals in its collections to ensure only those needed in the new library will be moved. A challenge for staff from the neighbouring Birmingham Repertory Theatre provided a timely opportunity for librarians to offer some of these books that are no longer needed a new life in the limelight.

Staff from The REP were given the task of finding over 100 heavy bound periodicals and books to use in their latest productions, The Importance of Being Earnest and Travesties. Both plays are set in a library, and the books were required as part of the set design.

Paul Southern, Stage Manager at Birmingham Repertory Theatre said of the book search:

"It was really important to find exactly the right type of book for these productions. They had to be a particular size and colour to fit in with the overall design of the show.

“Given the quantity of books required to fill the shelves on set we've been really fortunate to have such a large amount donated by the library. They've added a real authenticity to the plays and the cast have even enjoyed having a brief read of them too, including titles such as Pig Rearing in the 1930s! And, once the plays have ended we'll keep the books in our props store for use in future productions."

Paul Hemmings, Head of Archives, Heritage and Information Services at Birmingham Central Library, said:

“We’re really pleased to be able to donate some of the books no longer needed from Birmingham Central Library’s collections to the REP, with them moving from our shelves to the bookcases of two new libraries on the sets for the REP’s latest shows.”

The Importance of Being Earnest and Travesties are being performed in repertoire until October 22 at The Old Rep Theatre as part of Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s off-site season whilst work on the joint REP and new Library of Birmingham development continues. Tickets available from 0121 236 4455 or www.birmingham-rep.co.uk