There’s half term fun for children and families in Shaftesbury next week. And the library-based events won’t cost parents a single penny.
“Everything we do here is absolutely free,” said Shaftesbury Library Assistant Suzi Judd. Suzi and her colleagues are hosting four arts-based entertaining and educational events, set around a theme. “It’s generally autumn, fireworks, and magic,” Suzi enthused.
The activities have been arranged to increase awareness of the library service and what it can offer Shaftesbury residents. “We’re trying to get a lot more community engagement. We want people to come into the library. They are no longer stuffy places. We have loud events and we offer a variety of things for children and adults,” Suzi said.
The week’s events begin on Monday morning at 10.30am. Gareth Baker of Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue will offer a firework safety session for youngsters. “It’s designed to bring greater awareness of the dangers surrounding Bonfire Night,” Gareth explained. “Whether it’s the bonfire, fireworks or hands and sparklers, we’re looking to promote practices so each and everyone of us can enjoy bonfire night safely.”
Sometimes safety messages aren’t much fun but Gareth promises there will be enough to engage and interest youngsters during the morning. “The 45-minute session starts with a fun and interactive fireworks safety story that the children can get involved with. Then we have colouring, making things and Lego-based activities. We will take fire kit along for them to get changed into.”
On Thursday 25th October, from 10.30am to 11.30am, youngsters will receive expert tuition in creating a mythical creature or animal picture with Sarah Lovell. The Dorset-based artist has successfully developed her own, ever-growing range of greetings cards. “Now I have over a hundred different designs and I have learnt a lot about the industry along the way,” Sarah explained.
As a former teacher, Sarah says that she knows how to encourage young children to work creatively. “All my cards are illustrated and I love drawing animals and magical things like unicorns. I’ll be doing a workshop so the children can create their own animals. There will be animals for them to colour in, too. By creating a background with coloured materials I have found an effective way to make something really colourful and eye-catching and which isn’t too difficult. Children love it. It’ll be suitable for a five-year-old upwards.”
Sarah will provide all of the necessary materials and she assures parents that their kids won’t return home covered in paint or glue! “We won’t use anything other than Pritt stick, so it shouldn’t get too messy, but don’t wear your best clothes, just in case,” Sarah advised
On Friday 26th October at 1pm Julia Markus’ team from Skills and Learning have a Halloween-themed event but it’s more about sustainability than spooky stories. The children who attend will discover that all parts of a pumpkin can be used and not just its shell. It’s estimated that 18,000 tonnes of pumpkin flesh, equivalent to 1,500 double-decker buses, is binned in Britain each year.
“It’s an initiative that we’ve have developed from one that was happening in Oxfordshire called Pumpkin Rescue,” says Julia. The kids won’t be cutting up pumpkins, for obvious safety reasons. “We’re going to make pumpkin pictures from collage, paint, foam and other materials. We’re also going to look at recipes that you could follow to use up remaining bits of pumpkin so that you don’t waste any,” Julia said, adding that her event will appeal to children of many ages. “From 4 to 11-year-olds, primary age and the last year of preschool,” she said.
Anyone who wants to go will need to book ahead. “People can enrol by calling the library on 852256.” Shaftesbury Library is not a day-care provider, so there are some rules for parents to bear in mind. “If the children are over eight years old, then the parents don’t have to stay, but any children younger than that have to be accompanied at all times,” Suzi said.
She says that she is excited about offering these free, half term events. “We’re feeling enthusiastic about what we have to offer the children within the community,” she said.