Lyn Brown MP – says why she loves libraries!

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Women’s Parliamentary Radio

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For immediate release

July  31st 2009

Lyn Brown MP – tells www.wpradio.co.uk what she’s reading this summer and why she loves  libraries!

Lyn Brown, the Labour MP for West Ham since 2005, is a passionate champion of the library movement. From the time her mother took her to a London library as a child she confesses to having “wolfed down” books of all kinds and to having been “radicalised” by them.

She is Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Libraries, which is due to publish a report on modernising the service in the autumn and an assistant Whip.

The novels which have changed Lyn’s life include: “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell, “To Kill a Mocking Bird” by Harper Lee, and now she’s poring over her summer holiday reading which will of course include “A view from the Foothills” by her colleague Chris Mullin.

Her mother worked as a packer in an icing sugar factory, but she taught Lyn that reading was the best way to “improve” yourself, and that’s just what she’s done, now as an MP in a neighbourhood near to where she grew up:

“On the very fist day I got here I was asked to Chair the APPG on Libraries. I have done libraries all of my political life and it really stems from when I was a very small child, my mum used to take me to a local library daily where I would wolf down the books that were offered to me. I loved that library, and when I became a councillor in Newham I wanted to give them a better service.

“My mum and dad were really keen that I would have new options open to me and they knew I needed to read and to embrace education. My mum worked on the icing sugar factory packing floor, and when she left school she was offered two careers; to cut hair or to become a seamstress and for my sister and me the library was part of our offer.”

The first books Lyn read were Enid Blyton:

“My mum brought for me 80 Enid Blyton books when I was young. My eureka moment was “Gone with the Wind” and it was the bit where Scarlett went home by herself and I realised Rhett Butler wasn’t going to take her home after all, so  I thought maybe I need to do this for myself.”

Asked  by Boni Sones, Executive Producer of Women’s Parliamentary Radio, if “To Kill a Mocking Bird”, influenced her to become and MP and stand up for people, Lyn replied: “I first read it when I was 16, the BNP was becoming very active in my area, and for me it told my story of how it should be for people like me and helped me to understand that standing up was one of the things I had to do. I was 16 in Lewisham, standing up and terrified.”

Lyn believes libraries are modern places: “The children I represent, many of them are very poor, and the library gives them the opportunity to understand there is something bigger than who they are and where they are and it gives them hope:

“The libraries I go to in my own constituency and elsewhere are social hubs, vibrant places, networking places, they are places where our children learn, they are places where adults learn, they are a hub, they are not the “hushed” society that they once were. Vibrancy is what is keeping the library movement alive.”

However, Lyn admitted that in the past libraries have been viewed as “dangerous” places: “They were seen to be places that fermented revolution; if you gave working people all this knowledge they might use it to challenge their social status in life. I think it is wonderful “go to your library and have a revolution”, I think it is fabulous.

“Libraries take working class kids and it gives them a direction, also adults, it gives them self improvement and opportunity, I still see libraries as radical places.”

Lyn talked of how libraries helped to integrate communities and were used by immigrants:

“Libraries are very safe places for people from communities across the world to come to. They can participate in a library without the paraphernalia of the state and wondering if they have the right to be there. It unlocks doors and makes people really comfortable. The libraries are gateways not only to these world’s outside of the world in which we live but also to our own world for visitors and guests.”

She admitted that libraries can also be “secret places” for people: “It is a secret place you can be with a book, and libraries are first steps for many people, and I am sure there are other MPs for whom the library was a central point of their education.”

Looking to the future of Libraries Lyn said they could very well be different things for different communities: “Libraries need to be central to communities, in my area in West Ham there will be people needing something different from elsewhere. People need quality materials and to have access to IT, as well as enjoying a welcoming experience to all who want to enter. A library catering for an older community may be different from one which has a younger community but the core values should be the same. It should be a learning opportunity and resource for all, that is what a library should be.”

Lyn said she had picked 8 books for her summer reading: “The life and death of Anne Boleyn”, by Eric Ives and “A View from the Foothills” by Chris Mullin, were two of the eight.

She believes that libraries should be careful not to stereotype the readers they serve and pointed to a personal illustration to prove the point:

“I passed my books when I did my literary degree to my mum who passed them round the icing sugar factory floor and what they loved was George Gissing. I opened up Gissing for them, the stereo-type of what the library was buying for them it  was just dreadful; Barbara Cartland and worse, but they loved Gissing, Dickens, the Brontes’, Austin.

“I also have a four-year-old niece and I have given her a library since she was born, I am careful  what I buy her my favourite is “Something Else” by Kathryn Cave. It is about an alien liking another alien and I still believe in the power of the books and the power of reading.”

Lyn says she still prefers books to the internet: “Books are really sexy things: I much prefer to open a book then read from the internet, but the content is what  takes us to the place that we need to be.”

Lyn’s interview can be listened to on www.wpradio.co.uk Home Page.

www.wpradio.co.uk is also showcasing the best content of the year so far with our “Pick of the Summer” listening:

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Anne Begg MP, Deputy Chair Speaker’s Conference.

Anne Begg, the Labour MP, for Aberdeen South, is Deputy Chair, of the specially convened “Speaker’s Conference”, which has just reported on how to improve the representation of women, minority ethnic people and disabled people in Parliament. Anne Begg is the first permanent wheelchair user MP in parliament. She is interviewed by Georgie Hemmingway.

Is Margaret Thatcher the “Mother of the Nation” or the “Monster from the Blue Lagoon”?

The Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury, London, featured work by Steve Bell, Gerald Scarfe, Trog and many others for newspapers and magazines across the political spectrum. The cartoons reflecting Margaret Thatcher’s  11 years in power, were chosen by Steve Bell of the Guardian and one of her former trusted ministers, Lord Baker of Dorking.

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As one of only two black women MPs in Westminster and the first black woman Minister, Dawn is at the forefront of championing equal rights in Britain.  In this special 30 minute documentary podcast, Boni Sones spent a day with Dawn and other Parliamentarians on the very day that Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America.

Jo Swinson MP Britain’s youngest MP

Britain’s youngest MP Jo Swinson interviews Malalai Joya, the youngest person in the Afghanistan Parliament.

Footnotes:

  1. Wpradio.co.uk is a web based broadcaster supported by all parties. It has over 70 interviews with women and male politicians of all parties which can be listened to online or downloaded as podcasts.
  1. wpradio.co.uk has generated 58,000 hits a month and our web stats show that our visitors are loyal, they return, tune in for some time and to more than one item.
  1. wpradio also carries international content and has interviews with women MEPs in Europe, and women politicians in Africa and the Middle East.
  1. Our supporters include Harriet Harman MP, Theresa May MP and Jo Swinson MP and many other female politicians listed on our site.
  1. The British Library archives all the interviews on wpradio.co.uk in its new web collection.
  1. For more information contact Boni Sones on 07703 716961.

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