From Thursday 14th July to Friday 9th September 2022, bespoke ‘BookBench’ sculptures will be exhibited on the streets of Salford, created in a unique collaboration between local school children and artists.
The Salford Literacy Trail is a partnership between the National Literacy Trust and the Bupa Foundation. To create the benches artists will work with primary school children across Salford to design a bench that captures how their favourite books inspire them and make them feel.
The BookBenches will then be placed at key locations across Salford, including near the Blue Peter Garden and around MediaCity, and Salford Cathedral, Salford Museum and Art Gallery, RHS Bridgewater and Salford Shopping Centre. It is a unique opportunity for families to explore their local area, discover the benefits and joys of reading and engage with stories together.
The Trail celebrates the local community, providing an opportunity for families to come together, connect with each other and their city, and raise awareness of the positive links between reading and mental wellbeing.
Research from the National Literacy Trust shows that children who are the most engaged with literacy are three times more likely to have higher levels of mental wellbeing than their least engaged peers. “We want to create an environment where every child in Salford has the opportunity to engage with stories and books that reflect their lives, offer them comfort, or an exciting escape,” says Mike Leyland, the National Literacy Trust’s Programme Manager for this project.
“We hope that the Salford Literacy Trail starts conversations in families, at schools and in communities about stories that have affected them, or that have shown them a different view on life, and encourages an even greater love of reading in everyone who takes part. Our research has shown that during lockdown, 3 in 5 children said that reading made them feel better, and 3 in 10 that reading helped them when they felt sad. We want all children to have access to that comfort and support.”
Author, illustrator and creator of The Happy News newspaper, Emily Coxhead, is one of the artists involved in the project, and is designing and painting a bench which will be placed in MediaCity. 5000 copies of Find Your Happy will be donated to schools in areas of disadvantage that work with the National Literacy Trust.
Each BookBench is individually sponsored by local businesses and these sponsorships, alongside the Book Bench auction in the autumn, will raise vital funds for the National Literacy Trust to champion reading with local disadvantaged children. School closures in Salford and across the UK caused by COVID-19 disproportionately impacted children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
As a result, the poverty attainment gap is expected to widen by as much as 75%, with disadvantaged children falling as far as 16 months behind their better-off peers. The National Literacy Trust’s programmes will allow these children to discover the joy of books, which will help them succeed at school, get a better job, and look after their health and wellbeing.
The BookBenches are being created by Wild in Art, a specialist organisation behind many other successful trails, such as Bee in the City, Elmer’s Great North Parade, and Walking with The Snowman.
Anna Russell, Director of the Bupa Foundation, commented: “We’re passionate about investing in positive ways to support children’s wellbeing and contributing to our local communities. So we’re delighted to partner with the National Literacy Trust and Wild in Art to encourage children in the area to get outdoors and be active, be creative and enjoy reading.”
Speaking of the health benefits, Dr Luke Powles, Clinical Director at Bupa Health Clinics, said: “Now, more than ever, it’s important that children participate in activities like the Salford Literacy Trail, enabling them to think, develop, learn and master new skills. These opportunities support their mental health now and allow them to progress through life as rounded, confident and healthy individuals in the future.”