Reading, art & jobs advice

Hope you are all looking forward to Spring. It’s amazing how fast everything warms up each year – already the snowdrops are fading and the daffodils are pushing through!
In this post we mention: our most popular book; affordable art; the archives group; and the weekly careers service session.

Life, Death & Vanilla Slices

Many of us know Jenny Éclair from her appearances on television in ‘Grumpy Old Women’ and ‘Loose Women’. She can be laugh-out-loud funny in what she says.
But she is also a writer, with three successful books under her belt.

Jenny Eclair

Jenny Eclair

Her books certainly appeal to readers at Blythe Centre.
Her 2012 novel ‘Life, Death and Vanilla Slices’ is far-and-away the book that has been borrowed the most lately.

The interesting thing is that it is not a ‘funny’ book as such (though there are some very funny moments) but a dark, honest and heart-wrenching story about family secrets that are kept hidden (for a good reason).

The book review website GoodReads gives it an amazing 4.2 stars out of five, which just shows our readers know what they’re doing!

Art for everyone

The recent exhibition at the centre of paintings by local artist Pat Bradshaw has shown that good art is pretty much available to all.
It was a pleasure to spend an hour just studying Pat’s pictures; and then quite a surprise to realise how affordable they are – with prices starting as low as £30 and never being much more than £50.

Pat Bradshaw paintings

Pat Bradshaw paintings

The reason for the inexpensive prices is that many local artists – some of whom are very talented indeed – would rather that their works went to a good home than have an expensive price-tag attached to them and never get sold.

The centre’s art-wall is a very popular point of exposure for many local artists and crafters – so it gets booked up quite heavily, especially as it costs just £15 a month to hire. However, ask at the desk if you are interested in a slot too.

Advice for workers

It was quite a coup for us to get the The Careers Service to put on a monthly session at the centre. Not all libraries are so fortunate.

National Careers Service at Blythe posterHowever, the advisors can counsel visitors on more than just what vacancies are around.  In fact, most of the work they do is actually in supporting people.

They have specialist skills in supporting older people look for work (it’s not just for kids!); and for single parents too, with advice on how to get good child-care and still be able to work at the same time. Similarly for anyone with special educational needs or disability.
One area of need that seems to be cropping up more and more is support for those who are actually still in work but face the real possibility of redundancy. Advisors can show them how they can claim time to look for work…
Beyond that is the kind of help so many of us need: like, how to write a good CV.
And… do you feel you lack enough skills for the job market? Well, IT and digital training is another part of the service.

Whatever question you have will be dealt with sympathetically and in confidence – even those sensitive ones like ‘must I reveal any previous criminal convictions?’. Getting the answer right to simple questions like that can often be the key to getting and holding down a job.

The session is an open one and is held once a week on Friday mornings. If you want a private interview, just ask, and a room will be found.

Busy busy

If you ever come in on Monday evening (when we are open until 7pm), you’ll notice a busy group of people in one corner surrounded by storage boxes.
This is the ‘Blythe Colour Works Archive group’; and they are busy sifting through all the material left behind when the famous Blythe Colour Works finally closed down its Cresswell factory a number of years ago. They identify and label what they find.

Here at Blythe Centre, we agreed to store the archive – about thirty boxes worth of stuff, from enamels to documents – so that it could have a local home.

Blythe Centre Colours Archive

Blythe Centre Colours Archive is held in both filing cabinets and boxes

The group is led by Ivan Wozniak (many of us will know him through his work with the Cheadle History Group), who himself was employed at the Colour Works for many years. So he knows what he’s doing…!
One of those working alongside Ivan is our very own Gill Crowther, who volunteers at the library five hours a week. Gill also was employed at the Colour Works for many years.
If you want to help with the  – and you don’t have to know anything about colour processes! – just have a chat with Gill next time you see her.

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Santa’s little helpers

Guess who’s coming along?

Ready for Xmas? Well, we are; and Santa (who knows everything) will be paying us a visit cos we’ve been good!

Photo of Santa by bruce mars from Pexels.comYes, the Blythe Centre’s Christmas Fair (on Saturday December 8th) will feature the very Father Claus as our special guest, and you are all invited (especially children).
See you then, we hope.

On a serious note though… fairs at the centre, like this one, really do contribute, not just to the good feelings here, but to the centre’s very existence. The fact is that all proceeds from this Christmas Fair will go towards the running and long-term sustainability of operating the Library & Centre.
So… you will be welcome on Saturday in more ways than one…

Helen the radio star

One thing that Santa definitely is aware of is that this library-centre only exists because members of the local community not only want it to be here, and use it, but because they get involved to ensure it keeps running.
Blythe is a community-managed library, so it could not be here without residents’ positive support.

Helen Bickerton, who is the chairperson of the centre, was recently on BBC Radio Stoke to champion libraries and their potential. And it seems it have worked – as, apparently, some people who heard the broadcast were so enthused by what they heard that they decided to ‘step over the threshold’ and see what their local library had to offer.
Well done Helen…

Never be afraid of your computer again…

And – just to prove the point – welcome to community member Steve Hanley, who has offered to run a monthly session to help beginners cope with their computers.
Steve works for the National Careers Service, and he knows from his experience of that work that anyone who wants to get on in modern life needs to be confident with computers.

Photo by bruce mars on of woman using her laptop

Steve is offering to support people’s efforts with IT – his first session will be in January (see our Events Page for dates), but … places will be limited, so please put your name down with library reception staff to say you are coming along.

Incidentally, Steve’s methodology follows an accredited learning programme, so you can expect to progress quickly.
More advanced users are welcome to apply too, and Steve will see what he can offer you.

PS … there is lots more about what’s happening at the centre in our monthly newsletter. If you haven’t yet picked up your copy from the centre, here’s an online version of it: Blythe Newsletter Dec 2018 (opens as PDF)

And finally…

Whereever you are on December 25th, best wishes from all of us at the Blythe Centre, and remember to have…


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If you would like an email once a month to alert you to the fact that we have just published our latest news page (like this one), please click on the ‘Follow’ button in the top right-hand side of this web-page and then write in your email address.
(Your address is always kept private and never notified to any third party)

Armistice remembrance

Unsurprisingly this month’s post is dominated by one event – the 100th Anniversary of the 1918 Armistice, the day when peace came to the world again and the terrible Great War finally came to its end.
Here at the centre over the last few weeks, everybody has been involved one way or another with the remembrance of that 1914-18 conflict, whether supporting commemorative initiatives or directly taking part.

This week especially we’ll be holding our breath to see what happens to the marvellous commemorative quilt (see pic, below) designed and made here by the centre’s Quilting Group. It has been donated to the British Legion West Midlands Branch, and is being auctioned for charity.
Remembrance quilt made b the Quilting Group
There were hopes that it would go on display at a local art gallery first, but in fact it was whisked off fairly quickly to Warwick, where it will feature in the Midlands Poppy Ball on November 2nd.

The British Legion rep in Stafford, Annmarie Jones, was delighted when she saw it, and she’s convinced it will raise a lot of money for the Legion.
Well done one and all…


Naturally, the volunteers felt there had to be a display to mark this significant event, especially bearing in mind that so many local young people died tragically all those years ago in that brutal war.

So, visitors will have noticed our display at the entrance to the library – featuring the some of the knitted poppies which have so seized the imagination of local people.

Blythe Centre poppy Remembrance display

Blythe Centre poppy Remembrance display

Talking of poppies, we’d be very happy to welcome YOU here, if you can make it, on Thursday 1st November, when Levison Wood is organising a PIN A POPPY session (between 3.00pm to 4.30).
Lev needs your help to pin 3000 poppies (all made by local knitters!) onto netting. The resulting artwork will produce a marvellous effect, falling like a veil, when it is hung a few days later from the Calvary Cross at St. Peter’s.
Everyone of all ages is welcome to come and help. And, don’t forget, we have a drinks machine here – so no one need go thirsty while they’re working.

Centenary play

Finally, especially for those who love theatre & music, there is a major production here on the evening of Wednesday 14 Nov.

‘Crossings’ is a play that has been written to be used as part of Staffordshire’s ‘Live & Local‘ First World War Centenary Project.
It’s a sombre but fascinating performance – half set in 1919, half set in the modern-day. It tells the story of Margaret and Grace, and their memories of Margaret’s brother who died in the Great War. Their lives are strangely reflected in the modern-day second act, in which we meet Mirjana who has escaped the Balkans War.
Combining powerful storytelling, live music and a waltz or two, this beautifully crafted play will make for a memorable evening.
As usual, you can book online, or just buy advance tickets at the library desk.
For details of all other events at the library centre, please check our Activities & Events page.

Libraries are good for you!

It must be October because the annual Libraries Week is already upon us.
This year the event focuses on wellbeing, showcasing the way in which going to a library is actually good for us and our mental health.

Libraries_week_2018Yes, it’s true – scientists say so. Apparently, research shows that library users have higher life satisfaction, happiness and sense of purpose in life compared to non-users. So now you know why you feel so good every time you come in!

A deeper focus for this theme is how we can all understand and manage our health & wellbeing, by using some recommended self-help books. These books are free to request and borrow at Blythe. The scheme is endorsed by health professionals.
There are currently four book lists available: Reading Well for mental health; Reading Well for dementia; Reading Well for young people; and Reading Well for long term conditions.
If the books are not immediately in stock, our volunteer staff will help you to reserve them.

Changes Wellness Prog-logo

And don’t forget… that every Tuesday this month, anyone can attend (no booking necessary) a ‘Changes’ session. Changes is a mutual-support group for anyone feeling a bit under mental strain in their daily lives. It’s a confidential, professional, closed session, and a chance just to talk.
Sessions take place after the library has closed to the general public, but someone will be there to open the door to you…

Lots to do!

As usual at Blythe Centre, there’s always a full list of things to do (check the events page for details).
Especially, please don’t forget the Autumn Fair on Saturday October 6th and the Book Sale on the 13th: as well as being fun events, they raise money to keep the library going…

Also, bookings are open now for our next theatre event.
For this, we are welcoming a joint production from Pentabus Theatre and New Perspectives Theatre, a play to mark the centenary of the end of World War.
Crossings promotional posterIt’s set in a village hall.
The first action takes place in 1919, just after the Great War has come to an end. Here Margaret comes face to face with Grace, who knew Margaret’s brother in the war. Through this chance meeting their two lives collide.
But then the plot fasts forward to 2019. In the same the village hall we meet Mirjana, a carer who is originally from Sarajevo, having escaped the recent civil war there.
With live music, waltzing and unexpected connections, the two actors will dance you through a century of turmoil, exploring how we return, resettle and adapt.

‘Crossings’ comes to Blythe Centre on the evening of Wednesday 14 November – click for details of how to book tickets online.  You can also buy tickets at the library desk.


We are also happy to be selling tickets for the Forsbrook School Fireworks Spectacular in November. Tickets are £5 per person (even for children) – though concessions are available for a family ticket.
Just ask at the desk.

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Preparations for the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day – the day peace came to Europe after four years of horrifying fighting – are well advanced all over the country.
The weekend of November 11th will see many commemorative events – and we are pleased to say that the users & staff here at Blythe Centre are playing their part.

The local Thousand-Poppies project was started by one of our own volunteers; a beautiful WWI Remembrance quilt has been created by the knitters who meet here; the local Rotary is holding a commemoration evening here; and today we are also announcing a new poppy project that anyone can take part in.

1000 Poppies

Well done to Gill Crowther who came up with the lovely idea of knitting red poppies for the 100th anniversary.
Knitted poppies made by Hayley PrimeGill, who volunteers here on a Thursday (and other times!), is also treasurer of the Blythe & District History Society; and the library and the society and local residents have enthusiastically picked up on her idea, so much so that the 1000 mark has already been reached!
Lev Wood, the well-known secretary of the history society, has been driving the project along, and he is very pleased with progress. He has asked people not to stop knitting though: he’s aiming for a display locally that he hopes will be truly moving, and so, the more poppies the better.

(You can get instructions on how to knit the poppies from Rachael Moore at the Sizzatrix hair salon, near the Co-op – which is just what Hayley Prime did – see her poppies in the pic. The deadline for completed poppies is Sept 30th.).

Staffordshire remembers
Not everyone can knit of course, so the Libraries service has come up with a way for all of us to join in.
You still make poppies, but these poppies are to be made of cut-ups of newspaper or card. The idea is to use something personal into the making – like, say, one’s old letters or even old photos or old newspaper clippings – to make the poppy special. See ‘Staffordshire Remembers’ for details.

These poppies have to be made to a particular shape and size – so please use the template. Even children can make these, so Staffordshire is expecting tens of thousands to be created.
When you have made your poppy, hand it in here at Blythe Library Centre, where it will be carefully packed and sent to Stafford – where it will form part of a giant display in November.

Quilt of remembrance

Well done too to our Quilting Group.

Quilting group at Blythe Centre
The group (see pic above) is very successful, with over a dozen members usually at the Thursday sessions, so it was no surprise when they were asked to create a quilt on the theme of Remembrance. Each member did a section, as is the way with quilts, and it was completed a couple of weeks ago.
Right now, demand for it is high that it has already been taken for display in Stoke, but we do hope one day to have it on display in the centre too.
In next month’s edition of this web-bulletin, we will have photos of it too.

Tribute evening

Blythe Rotary Club have organised an evening here on Wednesday 26th Sept to remember the role of the ordinary soldier in war.
In particular, the evening will remember the Blythe Bridge man whose bravery in WW1 was so commended that he was awarded the Victoria Cross – Private Ernest Egerton.  An account of the role of the North Staffs Regiment in the conflict will also be outlined.
The modern soldier is not forgotten – with a talk on life in the Royal Marines.
However, it is not just talking – music by the Penkhull Brass Band, including a Last Post ceremony – is also taking place.

As you’d expect, tickets (£7) are going fast, so please call in to the centre if you want to be sure of getting one.

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Pastimes in the heat

Hasn’t it been hot??!!
(The weather is supposed to calm down a little toward the latter half of August, but it’s been such a surprising summer that we’re taking nothing for granted.)

So, as you’d expect, we’ve seen a run on gardening books… With fruits ripening earlier – and the opposite problem, of dehydrated plants -, there’s a lot to research. Come and check out what we have in stock!


Talking of the garden, there is no better pastime on a long hot afternoon than to go outside and while the time away reading a book.

woman wearing green top reading book

A good read! (Photo by Artem Bali)

One volunteer, Jan, read After You by Jojo Moyes, which she really enjoyed.
She told us: “If you like books dealing with human relationships, this is the book for you. It has excellent description of the various characters’ personalities and ways of dealing with emotional problems. It’s an easy book to read because it’s so well written.
Jan’s favourite author of all is the early twentieth-century novelist, D.H. Lawrence, who also wrote with great insight about relationships between men and women.

Why not let us know if you, like Jan, took a book out of the library that you really enjoyed? Just email us, and we’ll publish your assessment.

If you have the time to talk to our volunteers, they can make recommendations of books for you, based on your tastes and interests.


This month, there are lots of crafts sessions for children at the centre. But it is not just the children who get to make stuff.

The very popular Quilting and Knit & Natter groups also end up creating some lovely works, some of which are donated to our Craft Sales Area.
These local craft products do not only make great, unique gifts but also provide income which really helps support this library project. We receive a 25% commission, and that does add up after time.

Crafts sales area at Blythe Centre

Crafts sales area at Blythe Centre

Current stock includes knitted items, quilts and cushions (including some from Made by Nan) and bags, phone holders and aprons (a lot made by The Sew Sisters).
Do let us know if you’d also like to sell similar items in the centre.

Now… where’s that sun-tan lotion? !!

Summer readin’

Michief time is here

Blythe Bridge Library Centre is just one of the libraries across the country taking part in the 2018 kids’ ‘Summer Reading Challenge’ – this year called Mischief Makers (!).
(Because, yes, one of the partners in the scheme this year is the Beano comic… )

Summer Mischief Makers Reading ChallengeChildren must explore a map of Beano-town to find the mysterious buried treasure and become ultimate mischief makers! The comic’s Dennis, Gnasher and friends will help them solve clues and collect stickers, having fun and adventures along the way.

The idea is that kids sign up, and then collect stickers and incentives for every two books they read. When they complete their six books, they will receive a special Mischief Makers medal & certificate.
The scheme is completely free of charge.

Register at the library from Saturday 14 July onwards; parents can keep an eye out for other special Summer Reading Challenge activities and events over the summer too.
Find out more online about the Summer Reading Challenge, where you can take part in online games.

Deserved awards

Congratulations to our own Helen (Bickerton) and Sharon (Cartlidge)! See pic below.
Yes, these two, who are among the leading lights here at the Blythe Centre, picked up some well-deserved volunteer awards for their organisational work behind the scenes, helping to create services that support the community.
Sharon Cartlidge and Helen Bickerton awards at the 1000-Lives event

It was all part of the 1000-Lives event which was held at Staffordshire University recently.
We are incredibly proud of them, as we know how hard they work. If you see them sometime, do give them a (gentle!) pat on the back…

A board game to try

Have you ever played backgammon? It’s a cross between chess (but not so nearly as difficult) and draughts… and it’s 5000 years old…
Backgammon board

Well, Paul has asked us to tell you a bit about the newly-formed backgammon group that’s started at the library.

There are only five regulars currently. Two of the group play purely for pleasure, but one is in a league team and really knows what he’s doing. It’s good to have him around to explain the whys and wherefores and to design tactics.
While the rules are simple, the best players say it can be a very thoughtful and tactical game. Fortunately, unlike chess, games are relatively short!
One of the great advantages of backgammon is that it is a fun way to keep the mind elastic; a sort of brain-exercise if you will.

Folks who have never played before will be most welcome to the sessions and will get an introduction to the game. Sessions are from 2-4 on Friday afternoons. For more info, contact the backgammon group

Calling All Writers

We’re looking for budding and aspiring creative writers.

Have you written a poem that you’d like to see in the Blythe Centre Newsletter?
Have you attended an event here at Blythe Centre that you could write a short review about?
Have you read a book that you think others would love to read? Tell us about it…

Please send your submissions to for consideration and you could see your name in print!