Reading Champions

Scotland's very first Reading Champions have been announced as part of Book Week Scotland.

The four Reading Champions will work closely with Scottish libraries to stimulate and deliver innovative projects around reading with communities in Shetland, Thurso in the Highlands, Craigmillar in Edinburgh and Dalmuir in West Dunbartonshire.

The appointed champions will bring their creative practice to these communities to enthuse people about books and make reading a fun, visible part of the community.


Craigmillar: Claire Askew

Craigmillar Library and Claire Askew
Claire Askew, a poet, writer, creative writing teacher and groupwork facilitator living in Edinburgh, will be Reading Champion for Craigmillar.

Craigmillar Library is a community library located in East Edinburgh serving the Craigmillar, Niddrie and Bingham areas. As well as a wide range of books the library provides computer access, newspapers, and meeting rooms. The library also caters for children with a range of activities, including arts, crafts and various clubs to games consoles available.

The residency at Craigmillar Library will aim to connect with the local area, engage with the people who live here and the stories they have to tell. We hope to encourage people to explore the library and become a springboard for creativity and ideas as well as encouraging life-long learning in the community.

Claire said, "I am so pleased to have been selected and I'm especially pleased that I'll get to work alongside the brilliant team at Craigmillar Library. We're hoping to engage the teens who come into the library and create a huge, collaborative, story-based role playing game. We'll also be asking adults who live in and around Craigmillar to get involved in some interactive story-telling and creative writing activities. I can't wait to get started!"



Shetland: Jacqui Clark 

Jacqui Clark
Jacqui Clark will be Reading Champion for Shetland. Jacqueline is a Shetland-based writer who specialises in writing in her ‘midder’ tongue.  She was awarded the McLellan Award for plays written in Scots in 2007 and 2009 and was part of the creative team for the National Theatre of Scotland ‘Ignition Project’ as well as ‘Home Shetland’.  

She has worked for over twenty years in local community arts and most recently worked with a local mental health charity working to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing.

Her written work is often influenced by her passion for local culture and history. This is often interwoven with social exploration of the ongoing impact of large scale industry in her remote island home.

Jacqui said, "from reading over a carbonator to walks sharing favourite chapters to tea and stories in Scot-land's most northern islands to exploring some of the many works written in my midder tongue - I can't wait to start the Reading Champion journey." 



Thurso: Alex Patience

Alex Patience
Alex Patience, an accomplished interdisciplinary artist who uses storytelling as a central element within all the art-forms she creates, will be Reading Champion for Thurso and will take up her post in March 2016. Alex is based in the North Coast village of Portskerra.

Alex said, "I am so inspired by the investment by Highland Council and High Life Highland in the revisioned Thurso Library and Gallery and by Scottish Book Trust in supporting my year as an artist to create innovative programmes to encour-age readers. I am thinking of as many uses for this fabulous space as I can – and I am trusting my local community will also be inspired. I want to hear from people of all ages offering their ideas and see what we can do to make them happen.



West Dunbartonshire: Donny O'Rourke

Donny O'Rourke
Donny O'Rourke will be Reading Champion for Dalmuir, West Dunbartonshire.

Born and brought up in Renfrewshire, the author of nine poetry collections, Donny is a graduate of the Universities of Glasgow and Cambridge. Busiest and best known as a poet, he has had overlapping careers in television, journalism and higher education. Poetry has always been central to his conviction that the arts are essential for sane and balanced living.

Donny said, “from vellum to video-games, libraries have been providing knowledge, entertainment and social focus, forming and transforming lives along the way. They also offer support, solace and sanctuary to the marginalised and impoverished. What an exhilarating honour to have been chosen for this exciting role in West Dunbartonshire. I look forward to working with and learning from all the readers of Dalmuir, whatever they are reading, however they are reading. Our definition of reading will be welcomingly inclusive, taking in films, visual art, media and the broader culture. If problems are to be overcome, they must first be understood.

“Dalmuir means the big meadow. Its library will reveal pastures new, an imagination nourishing, expanse of poetry. We'll define poetry and the poetic, loosely and enablingly. From the lyrics of Wet Wet Wet, through scripts for River City and the plays, novels and verse of writers from here and hereabouts, we will show that lives can be authored too. By reading literature more alertly you can read the road, the runes and the writing on the wall, and the map that helps get us through some dauntingly difficult, social, economic and political terrain."