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Initiatives and impact

Our arts programme: BLOC (Building Libraries on Creativity)

Suffolk Libraries Arts and Culture Programme, Building Libraries on Creativity (BLOC) is generously funded by Arts Council England. We were officially granted National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) status in April 2018 – the programme aims to develop libraries as accessible, creative community spaces

About BLOC

We see libraries as a vital stepping-stone for the public to access great art and culture in their communities.

Using creativity as a catalyst for social change, the programme aims to:

  • Support innovation and artistic development
  • Help young people to engage creatively with libraries
  • Provide library staff development to support engagement with their communities
  • Promote libraries as places where everyone can access great culture and the art

Since April 2018 the we have worked with over 5,000 young people between the ages of 11-25 in Suffolk across a variety of creative projects. We have provided training for 48 members of frontline staff and developed a strong residencies programme for local artists who live or work regularly in the county, championing artist-led practice in community settings

Our creative programme continues to grow and develop, and we are always open to new opportunities and cultural partnerships. If you would like more information about Suffolk Libraries arts and culture programme, please contact:


Build your creative skills with our BLOC LAB

We are inviting young artists aged 18-25 to get involved with a creative week-long mixed media residency. Develop your practice and build the skills you’ll need to navigate the cultural sector.

Find out how to get involved

A top-down view of some open paint cans.

Around Suffolk in 40 Stories

Suffolk Libraries have partnered with BBC Radio Suffolk to launch a new ‘human library’ of 40 different personal stories from across the county. Around Suffolk in 40 Stories is an audio project by Suffolk Libraries, led by and in collaboration with award-winning storyteller Glenys Newton.

The project aims to promote intercultural understanding, empathy, listening and relatability with a vision to build a society where we welcome difference, sparking dialogue between people from all walks of life, with the people of Suffolk, telling the stories of Suffolk.

Visit the Around Suffolk in 40 Stories website.

Stowmarket Library Garden project

Stowmarket Library have teamed up with Fox Yard Studio & Modece Architects to transform the library’s courtyard into a space for all the community to enjoy. Inspired by the binding of a book, the theme of the new garden will be called Stitching Stowe, weaving together the tales of the town which celebrate Stowmarket’s past, present and future.

We have collected stories from the local community and have commissioned some wonderful artists to infuse these stories into colourful murals around the new garden.

The project to create a brand-new garden space for the local community to enjoy is being funded by Arts Council England. The planning, design and building of the new space will now take place over the next few months with the aim of opening the space in the Autumn.

The project's aim is to breathe new life into an unused area of the library whilst also promoting learning around environmental responsibility. The new space will also function as a shared workshop space, hosting group activities and live events. When the garden isn’t being used for library activity, it will also provide a pleasant outdoor space for customers to read and relax.

‘Let’s Get Cultural and Creative’ directory

The ‘Let’s Get Cultural and Creative’ webpage is a new online resource which has been launched to make it easy for people to find high quality online arts and culture experiences during lockdown.

Hosted by Suffolk Libraries, the partnership celebrates libraries as a stepping step to the great cultural opportunities we have on our doorstep in Suffolk. Several local organisations have worked together to develop the project including Suffolk Libraries, Suffolk County Council, the Association for Suffolk Museums and the We are Ipswich partnership which includes DanceEast, Eastern Angles, Gecko, New Wolsey Theatre, Pacitti Company (SPILL Festival), Red Rose Chain, Ipswich Museums and Ipswich Borough Council theatres (Ipswich Regent Theatre and Corn Exchange).

Suffolk One Exhibition

In March 2019, as part of exploring how libraries can be used as exhibition space and inspiration for creativity, 33 art foundation students from Suffolk One were invited to exhibit their artwork at Ipswich library using the building as inspiration for their work. Since Suffolk One’s exhibition, picture rails have been installed in 5 libraries across Suffolk offering community spaces for artist to exhibit their artwork to the public.

First Light Festival immersive beach opera in collaboration with Snape Maltings

In June 2019 Suffolk Libraries and Britten Pears Arts (formerly Snape Maltings) collaborated on a community beach opera for the First Light Festival, inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s novel ‘The Old Man And The Sea’. Lowestoft Library worked with the local community and primary schools to create props for the performance including a shoal of colourful paper fish and a giant fish skeleton constructed by prop designer, Constance Villemont.

The Suffolk Libraries Podcast

Public libraries have a strong history as spaces which celebrate free learning and freedom of speech, housing millions of controversial uncensored adventures, tall tales and stories. ‘Free Speech’ is a podcast which celebrates people’s stories and provides a platform for open discussions about issues facing us in society today.

Listen to the podcast.

Creative Case for Diversity

Suffolk Libraries is dedicated to being an inclusive, representative and accessible organisation both for the public and for the people who work with us.

We are committed to championing the Arts Councils Creative Case for Diversity through the following actions:

  • Our artist development programme and activity recruit’s a wide representation of artists from all creative disciplines and backgrounds.
  • We understand our frontline staff have the most direct impact on our users experience of their libraries and we have funded a training programme to support our staff to understand how they can enable accessibility to all our projects - not just our creative programme.
  • We are working with Stagetext to add subtitling to our recorded digital content for users who identify as d/Deaf or who experience hearing loss.
  • We understand that there is always more to be done to be a truly open and accessible space for the public. Please do feedback any suggestions or reasonable adjustments you feel libraries could make to break down barriers to access.