Libraries are places for books, free internet access and handy local info… but also, it turns out, exciting gig venues where world-class acts cut their teeth.
“We showcase artists we think will be future Grammy winners,” says Stewart Parsons, 54, the brains behind Get It Loud In Libraries (GILIL) – a National Lottery-supported programme that hosts breakthrough acts in libraries across the country to get young people through the doors.
Thanks to GILIL, The National Lottery and its players, those previously silent spaces have showcased brilliant up-and-coming artists – including megastars like Adele, Florence and the Machine, Plan B, Clean Bandit, Idles and Jessie J.
Adele was a 17-year-old unknown when she wowed the audience at Lancaster Library in January 2007. “She was still playing pubs at that point,” recalls Stewart, who booked her for the gig. “But she sat on a bar stool with her guitar, sang four tracks and blew the whole room away.
“No one had heard of her at the time – she just had a few tracks on Myspace.
“A guy who worked at the library got talking to Adele and asked her: ‘Are you excited about seeing the show?’ And she replied: ‘Nah mate, I’m playing!’
“Once she was on stage, though, you just knew she was a star. That performance really cemented the reputation we were developing. And when she finally appeared on television, people would come into the library saying: ‘You know Adele who was on Jools Holland – was that the girl who played here?’ Our posters for the night hadn’t mentioned her by name – it was just like a wonderful secret gig.”
As Chief Music Librarian at Lancaster Library, Stewart created GILIL when, in 2005, he realised that young music fans weren’t coming in. And looking around the room at the first gig, he saw that his plan to change that was working.
“It was fantastic,” Stewart says. “Suddenly we were seeing lots of 14 to 25-year-olds, who we had previously struggled to reach. I’ve always had a pretty clear belief this could be a force for good.”
GILIL has really grown, staging over 400 concerts for 38,000 people in 20 libraries from Liverpool to the Isle of Wight. And their continued success is all thanks to support from The National Lottery – it’s one of the many good causes benefiting from the £30million* you help raise every week by buying your ticket.
“We not only showcase the best emerging artists in local communities,” explains Stewart, “but the GILIL Academy supports careers in the arts and offers young people, who might not have had the opportunity, a chance to develop their skills.”
Despite disruption from Covid-19, Stewart is sure he and his team will continue bringing brilliant new music – albeit socially distanced – to towns that might miss out: “A library is open ‘nine to five’ for books, internet and learning. After that you can create a kind of club feel and bring in a whole new audience. We have a lot of fun.”
To find out how playing makes a difference, visit national-lottery.co.uk/news
*Based on figures from April 2019-March 2020. Players must be 16+.
- National Lottery
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