Community champions from across Europe shared knowledge with their Norfolk counterparts during an innovative “living library” event at the Gressenhall Rural Life Museum.

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Visitors from Slovenia, Iceland, Portugal and the Netherlands travelled to the former workhouse near Dereham, where they were given the chance to borrow people, rather than books.

The event, part of an EU-funded project to build sustainable “smart” communities, was organised by the Norfolk Rural Community Council (NRCC), which set up a shelf of human books including parish councillors, social entrepreneurs and parish activists.

The topics included the environment, parish plans, affordable housing, village halls and renewable energy.

The foreign delegates found many similarities with the issues facing their own communities – but also took away some new ideas.

Kristin Arnadottir, a town councillor from Iceland who runs a community centre in her home village, said: “I love this idea of a living library.

“It is definitely an idea I will take home with me, but I might be able to use it in a different way. I am also involved in tourism, and I am always looking for ways to make our village more accessible to tourists. People want to meet and talk to local people, so maybe this could be a way to ‘rent a local’.”

Tom Vellinga, who works with a sustainable villages network based in the Dutch province of Friesland, said: “It was very interesting for me to see that things are similar here.

“Every village all over the world is facing the same problems, whether it is about climate change, peak oil or biodiversity. All these big items will have an impact on the daily lives people. You can try to do something against it on your own, but you are stronger when you are doing it together.

“I think it is important, not only to share information, but to build self esteem.”

Jon Clemo, chief executive of the NRCC, said: “One of the key aspects of this project is communities learning from each other about the types of activities that work. The feedback we get is that people really value that peer support. We are using the living library concept to bring together community champions in different areas and letting people from different European communities hear their stories. It is a great way to support that peer learning.”

The “books” available for loan included Yvonne Davy from Hempnall Village Hall, Barry Duffin, chairman of Ashwellthorpe and Fundenhall Parish Council, and Andrew Purdy, who galvanised community support to revitalise the Ryburgh Village Shop, near Fakenham.

Mr Purdy said: “The problems we face in our villages are not unique to this country. I have spoken to people from Holland who used to have 10 shops and now have none. They are trying to pull the village together.

“That is what we have achieved in Ryburgh, and the shop has been the catalyst for all sorts of other things. It is demonstrating that anything is possible, and inspiring people.

“I quite often get asked to go and talk to people where they say their pub has closed and nothing is happening. I try to enthuse them that something can be done, and this living library is doing that on an international level.”

8 comments

  • It is a great shame that this event has taken place, and that the EDP ran this story. The Living Library, or as it is known in the UK, the Human Library, is an international movement that challenges prejudice and discrimination. It was created in 2000 in Denmark, and has since spread across the world. Norfolk is the most active Human Library project in the world, with over 50 events having taken place since 2008, many under the name Living Library. This event makes no attempts to challenge prejudice and discrimination, but merely uses a successful methodology to suit the aims of another organisation. It undermines the work of Human Library UK, which is based in Norfolk, but more importantly, undermines the efforts of hundreds of volunteers from Norfolk who have given their time and energy to challenge prejudice and discrimination over the last four years. The NNRC should not have organised this event, and the EDP only had to look through their own archive to see that the Human Library, or indeed Living Library as it was formally known, is an innovation that Norfolk should be proud of, and that this event is not supporting the principles of the movement in any way. Human Library UK

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    nick

    Tuesday, February 12, 2013

  • Gosh, peak oil is back on the agenda along with mmgw...time to get out of the eu and stop all this scary rubbish....those sulfolk punches would end up in the knackers yard daisy, somewhere between France and Romania....dog food for humans,another new normal.

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    nrg

    Monday, February 11, 2013

  • OBN has replaced by the EU funded common purpose.

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    nrg

    Monday, February 11, 2013

  • Pity they did not get a living library of an old boy or two who still remembers how to look after Suffolk Punches and not have them drop like flies, or what a real Dereham area farm looked like in the 1920s instead of some right on silly fool ideas.

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    Daisy Roots

    Monday, February 11, 2013

  • The Norfolk Rural Community Council (NRCC) have tarnished their reputation here. It is not as if they misused the Human Library concept inadvertently. It was made perfectly clear to them in advance of this event that this would be an flagrant abuse of an internationally respected equalities tool. The idea that the 'stories' of parish councillors are 'books' equal to, say, a Holocaust survivor is a disgrace. HumanLiving Library books are people who have experienced prejudice - it is definitely not to be repackaged and appropriated as some sort of shallow promotional tool. Shame on the NRCC staff who deliberately sought to undermine the Human Library project in this way. I invite these decision makers to publically meet Human Library organisers and 'books' and justify their actions.

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    Colin Howey

    Wednesday, February 13, 2013

  • Daisy Roots, the Human Library is not "some right on silly fool idea". It is in fact a great way to bring people together to learn about each other and challenge ignorance and prejudice in a really constructive way

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    Colin Howey

    Wednesday, February 13, 2013

  • Ryburgh Village Shop is supporting green energy. Thanks to a generous grant from the Sheringham Shoal Community Fund an 8kW array of solar panels has been installed on the shop roof so they can generate their own electricity. The shop aims to halve the electricity they draw from the National Grid and hopes that by installing their own solar panels they can encourage others to do the same. It would be great if there was enough alternative energy generation in Great Ryburgh for the village to produce at least as much electricity that it currently consumes. Perhaps other like minded businesses, could consider exploring this.

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    ryburgh

    Thursday, February 14, 2013

  • Old boys or OBN?

    Report this comment

    Police Commissioner ???

    Monday, February 11, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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