Introduced by Emma Balch
Back in June 2012, I cycled on my white Raleigh down the hill from Clyro to the Hay Festival site to attend the inaugural Hay Library Lecture. Peter Florence, director of the festival, introduced Hay-on-Wye librarian Jayne Evans. She in turn introduced the speaker: Michael Morpurgo.
Atypically he read his talk, his script tucked inside a large, red hardback book. For just under hour he spoke on ‘Libraries and books: the oxygen of enlightenment’. It was impassioned, captivating, moving.
He read from his short book I Believe in Unicorns. We meet eight year old Tomas, who prefers adventuring in the mountains to going to school, and exploring the nooks and crannies of his village to reading books. Until he is taken the library and left there by his mum while she did her shopping. The librarian, known as the Unicorn Lady, tells stories, wild tales that him off to far off lands and introduces him to the world of imagination, a place of endless adventures. He’s hooked!
That’s just part of the story, part based on a true incident involving a library in Russia, that inspired Michael Morpurgo to write this book. As he said in his Hay lecture: ‘Libraries matter, because the people who work in them matter, because the people who discover reading in them matter … free access to books and encouragement in the habit of reading books is the first and necessary step in education.’
Michael Morpurgo’s reading from I Believe in Unicorns has stuck with me. It was a powerful and important plea for our country to remain committed to nurturing in our children a love of books and reading, regardless of their background.
This post is dedicated to librarians, who Michael Morpugo describes as ‘the unsung heroes of the book world’.
You can listen to the talk in full here: https://www.hayfestival.com/p-4532-michael-morpurgo.aspx
Click here to read an extract from Michael Morpurgo’s I Believe in Unicorns