Shaftesbury Library Offers Five Weekends Of Free Hobby Tasters

You’re being encouraged to discover new pastimes at Shaftesbury Library. Last year’s inaugural Hobbies Month has been expanded because staff understand how it helps to combat social isolation.

“It’s to do with loneliness, wellbeing, giving somebody something nice to look forward to and to come and try new things in a nice place. And it is all free,” said Shaftesbury Library manager, Carolyn Talbot. Her colleague, Caroline Elletson, first suggested this programme of activities.

“Caroline brought the idea to our Monday morning training one week,” explained Carolyn. “We thought, ‘Yes, let’s go for it’. She has really worked hard on it. She spends a lot of time thinking about who she would like to contact.”

Carolyn Talbot (right) and Caroline Elletson

And now the Shaftesbury initiative is being adopted across Dorset. “It is spreading. We had an email this morning from another library who wanted to know how we do it because they are interested. It is getting some interest,” Carolyn explained.

Programme instigator Caroline says she’s pleased with how well Hobbies Month has been received. “It was very successful, more successful than we thought it would be. It snowballed. This year, we are a lot more organised. Last year we realised that there are so many talented people in the area, both professional and amateurs, who were willing to share their crafts and beautiful objects with us and show us how to do them or make them. It’s a win-win situation. Demonstrators get to show what they can make, they can promote their classes, if they are offering classes and workshops, and the library gets more people through the door,” said Caroline.

The 2019 events included ham radio and patchwork quilting and those clubs attending were happy with the level of exposure they gained. “We had very good results from demonstrators last year. They’ve increased their numbers of members or they had people take up the hobby that they were demonstrating. Variety is what we are trying to achieve,” said Caroline, and with that in mind, this year the library is offering a greater choice of pastimes.

“We have an amazing willow basket maker who makes beautiful coffins and fantastic log baskets. All of her willow comes from a sustainable resource. We have got the Shaftesbury Jive Club coming in to demonstrate jiving. We have a Zen yoga person. People can participate in these activities if they want to. We have a Japanese lady coming in for origami. It is the year of the mouse, so she is hoping everybody will make an origami mouse and take it home with them. We have an embroiderer and needle felting ladies. Everybody will have the opportunity to make their own felt coaster to take home. Finally, Anna McDowell, the Dorset buttoner should be demonstrating how those buttons were made and talking about the history of the button factory in Shaftesbury.”

Carolyn says that the library is the perfect venue for these sessions because less confident people can observe from a distance, browsing the bookshelves, before they decide whether or not to join in with activities. “You can listen in the background for a little while if you want to. Then you can go across and talk to the people. It’s all very relaxed. There are no commitments of any sort,” she said.

As the events are being offered in a library, the staff have carefully curated a selection of books which complement the sessions. “We will have an array of books to borrow,” said Caroline, who explained that library users can order titles online from other libraries and then collect them from Shaftesbury Library on Bell Street. “There’s a huge amount of books out there that we have access to. Since we joined Libraries West, we have access to thousands of extra books, which is fantastic.”

One of the topics has presented a real challenge in sourcing reading material. “The jive,” nodded Caroline. “Hopefully, everybody will come along and watch it in practice. There are lots of books on dancing and how it is good for your mental health and how it reduces anxiety and helps with depression. It is exercise. It helps with your physical wellbeing as well as your mental wellbeing. We’ve had problems trying to get books and on jive specifically, but we have ordered books on dancing. The Jive Club meets on Wednesday nights at the Grosvenor Hotel and they’re putting on a performance here, which will hopefully show anybody who has an interest some simple moves.”

Shaftesbury Library

Caroline says that Hobbies Month is now an established library event. “We are hoping that this will happen every year and that people will actively approach us and ask if they can demonstrate in the library and talk to the public about it. It’s a really good platform for them to demonstrate what they do, advertise their class, what they’re offering and hopefully encourage people to join and take it up.”

Some members of our community might consider libraries to be quiet reflective places, but Carolyn says that’s changing. “They are more of a hub for the community. We do all sorts of things. We have the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, the reminiscence groups, the creative writing group. They all come in. Children from the sixth form at Shaftesbury School do their homework quietly. People don’t expect silence anymore. It’s just a nice, friendly and relaxing place to come to,” Carolyn said.

The sessions start with the knitting group, between 11 am and 12pm on Saturday, 11th January. Basket making will be offered on the following Saturday, 18th January, from 11am until 12pm. Andy and Samantha’s jive event takes place at the same time.

On Saturday, 25th January, you can discover the Japanese art of origami with Yuko Leece from 11am. Heidi Marke instructs in Zen yoga on Saturday, 25th January for one hour from 11 am.

There are embroidery sessions on Saturday, 1st February from 11am until 12 midday with Tricia Venn. Helen Winkworth will offer a separate needle felting class at the same time. Finally, Dorset button making with Anna McDowell rounds off the programme at 11am on 8th February.