Journey to the Centre of Your Heart

A series of performances in an unexpected setting - the local library
A Journey to the Centre of Your Heart. Photo Electric Egg

Transported aims to get more people in Boston Borough and South Holland enjoying and participating in arts activities. It was keen to work in libraries as important community hubs in the area and developed a project strand called Open Book in partnership with Lincolnshire County Council Library Service.

The Project

Libraries offer an ideal location for rural communities to experience participatory arts activity and performance. Transported commissioned Eric MacLennan, an artist who had just completed a piece for Birmingham Library, to develop A Journey to the Centre of Your Heart, which would bring one-to-one arts experiences to library users for free. Eric's work was inspired by the philosophy of Xavier de Maistre - looking at the everyday so it’s extraordinary and new, and even tiny journeys, with the outlook of a great explorer, are filled with discovery and surprise!

The objectives of the project were to engage library users in the arts, bring new audiences into libraries through the arts and introduce the libraries as arts venues. The project also aimed to support library staff to carry on bringing more arts experiences  to libraries in the future.

Eric spent a week in the libraries researching and developing the project. Following that there were two weeks of performances in five libraries across two districts. Visitors were taken in a ‘warm and gentle way’ to observe the performances before they decided whether they wanted to participate.

There were three different pieces visitors could choose to experience:

  1. Suitcase - a chance for people to look at everyday objects chosen and/or offered by previous audience members

  2. Journey to the Centre of your Heart - a 14 yard journey across the library involving different encounters and experiences along the way

  3. A ‘spoof’ lecture - a short history of the fork inspired by the least borrowed book in Lincolnshire!

Library staff were particularly instrumental in supporting performances and in some cases also participating. Challenges included the logistical difficulties of touring the work to more than one library each day. In volunteer-led libraries it was sometimes difficult to find someone with the authority to make decisions. The art experience itself was challenging for some library users, but Transported wanted the work to be different and innovative.

What was the impact of the project?

The project offered the chance to connect for people, especially those who might feel out of sight, like some older people. The performances offered something quite innovative and experimental to people and from a library perspective it helped provide an alternative focus at a time when the library service itself was under strain. The performances were actively welcomed by the library staff and helped show that libraries can offer a wider service and support their users in different ways.

The project featured one-to-one pieces so the focus was on depth of experience rather than audience numbers. Nevertheless, the numbers were very positive: 508 people attended the performances. This included a wide spread of ages but the majority were aged between 54 and 65. For 80% of attendees this was a new activity; 83% said they would recommend it to others. 

The artist was commissioned (beyond Transported) to make an installation, A Voyage Around My Bedroom, as a result of this work. He has also taken the work that he developed for Transported to other audiences.

The Open Book partnership enabled Transported to commission high quality, innovative and engaging arts projects to tour  libraries, showcasing the libraries as key venues for the community and for arts activities. In 2014 Open Book produced over seventy events and engaged over 1500 people in the arts, through the mobile and static libraries. The projects included workshops, interactive performances, poetry writing and artist residencies.

In 2015 Open Book is focusing on creating sustainability, helping libraries to develop an infrastructure that can support future art events.

View a full picture gallery showcasing A Journey to the Centre of Your Heart 

A Journey to the Centre of Your Heart is featured in this Open Book film: