It is estimated by the French Consulate that there are around 3-400,000 French people living in England, the vast majority of whom are based across London. Traditionally the most popular areas are around South Kensington and the East End, for historical reasons, but the staff of Church Street Library have been aware of many French customers and a French-speaking Arabic community using their services. The presence of a French community in the area is also highlighted by the establishment of BNP-Paribas (a major French Bank) a few years ago near Lisson Grove and a French bilingual school in St Mary’s Terrace.
Church Street Library is is already a multi-cultural library, welcoming many communities and nationalities within its walls and meeting educational and cultural needs. A French coffee morning held during Adult Learners’ Week in May was very successful and customers expressed their interest in knowing more about French culture and language.
So the next step is building a relationship with a library in France! Bibliotheque Place des Fetes in Paris is a library with similar facilities and customers, and it is now the ‘twin’ of Church Street Library.
The twinning project aims to serve and engage customers of both countries, young and old, with easy access to shared learning in English for Paris customers and French for London customers. Local schools will also be involved in this project. King Solomon Academy is keen to join in and have their French classes exchange with English classes in Paris.
A book exchange has already started between the two libraries and Church Street Library has now a very good stock of French fiction books to offer to customers. The French Institute in London has also been a great help donating many French books to the library’s collections.
What else is planned?
- A series of childrens’ events will be held at the library about Paris and French childrens’ literature.
- Craft work done by children at Church Street Library will be sent to Place des Fetes and displayed in their children’s library.
- Activities around French literature, cuisine and language will take place at the library and Place des Fetes will do the same about English culture.
- There will also be opportunities for staff to discuss and exchange information about working practices.