Tyne Valley Community Rail Partnership were asked by Northumberland Libraries if they would like to participate in World Book Night, which was to be celebrated throughout the day on Friday 23 April 2021. World Book Night, is an annual celebration of books and reading, organised by the Reading Agency which brings people from all backgrounds together for one reason, to inspire others. Each book contained a leaflet from the libraries and a flyer from TVCRP.
Northumberland Libraries were one of ten Library Authorities chosen to distribute a free book to mark the occasion, and as the Tyne Valley Railway runs east west through Northumberland it was an ideal choice of partner.
TVCRP volunteers were happy to help, and the books distributed to the Station Adopters along the line at Haltwhistle, Haydon Bridge, Hexham, Corbridge, Stocksfield, Prudhoe, Wylam and Blaydon. Although Blaydon is not in Northumberland, many young people use the railway to commute to school in Blaydon.
The book which was selected by the Reading Agency was “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig. “A beguiling read filled with warmth and humour, and a vibrant celebration of the power of books to change lives”. - Sunday Times.
Each station was able to choose their own times for distributing the book. Wylam caught the morning commuters, Hexham did late afternoon and Blaydon also did the afternoon to catch the young people returning home from school. It was a lovely sunny day and one of the first occasions the volunteers have been able to get back on the platform. Social distancing was practised and volunteers all wore their high viz jackets and masks. Northern staff were all warned about the event so the volunteers were given a toot from the passing train crews.
The passengers were pleased to be given a free book and it was good to be able to give passengers and unexpected gift for returning to the railway. In fact all the trains which passed seemed much busier than they had been in previous weeks.
The volunteers all enjoyed participating in this event. The weather was superb, and it was great to be able to engage with people again. Everyone was very happy to have been offered a book even if they declined it.
Social media helped to publicise the event, on Facebook the group “What's on Wylam” had a great response to their post. Wylam Brownies @wylmbrownies achieved their most liked tweet, including a like by author Matt Haig who included some of their photos on his Instagram page..
Overall the social media response to this initiative was very very positive and some of the comments were:
“...this kind gesture was very touching. I read the book to my kid on the train, we both enjoyed this soothing way to start the day”.
The Blaydon Facebook page said
“Fantastic, I am reading it right now...Matt Haig is a brilliant author”.
There were also a couple of other quotes saying something to the effect “I wish I had seen this earlier”, suggesting that other events of a similar nature would prove to be popular.
Marie Addison, Northern's Regional Community and Sustainability Manager (North East) said, “I was delighted to be involved in such an enjoyable event. It was fantastic to see the volunteers engaging with customers to support the annual celebration of World Book Night. A huge thank you to TVCRP and Station Adopters for handing out books at stations along the line”.
Rail Minister, Chris Heaton Harris and MP Guy Opperman were visiting the Tyne Valley Railway and also got involved when they met Fiona Forsythe, the TVCRP officer.
Fiona said,”Reading and trains go together! It was a great way to chat to passengers and what an opportunity for social media!”