Over the past six weeks Westminster Libraries staff members have been working with acclaimed theatre production company Nimble Fish to stage a unique library event, Brave the Dark at Queen’s Park. On Friday 4 December the hard work paid off and the first Westminster Libraries’ sleepover took place at Queen’s Park Library.
Fifteen children aged 10 to 13 enjoyed the excitement of a spending the night in an unusual location, including a midnight feast. But this wasn’t any ordinary sleepover – before any sleeping bags could be unfurled, there was a mystery to be solved…
We explored the shadowy library and met four unusual characters, each trapped in time by a sinister librarian and each with their own story to tell. Snowball fights, disco dancing and stargazing on the roof ensued; we even spent time crouched in the basement with a munitions factory worker to escape the Blitz! Participants ended the adventure by releasing balloons into the night sky, each with an attached message telling part of their own personal story.
The atmosphere in the library was transformed – even for those of us who know the building well – using lights, haze, strange sounds and a little bit of indoor snow. The kids loved meeting characters from different eras, prompting one to comment that “I really like the use of time and how it was … a time portal and it all connected to each other.” For many participants, the sense of mystery was one of the best parts of the evening:
“It was really exciting and it was really tense because …
I was so desperate to find out what the mystery would be!”
One audience member provided a great description of the whole event which shows just how much we managed to pack into an hour’s mystery-solving:
“I really liked this experience because I liked the adventure and the way we were travelling through time and we went through dancing, mystery, suspense… and in the end we went through our dreaming.”
“We learned not to judge a book by its cover and that the big bad guy in the story actually had a heart.”
After all the excitement it’s no surprise that settling down for the night was a challenge for some participants, but after chatting and sharing stories everyone was able to manage at least a little sleep. The library was cosy and warm, and not at all as spooky as some of the children had suspected.
The following morning, after a breakfast of chocolate-chip brioche, bananas and fruit juice, parents came to collect the kids and were thrilled to find they’d had such a good night. Despite feeling slightly sleepy the group were still very enthusiastic and there were lots of requests to run the event again but with “even more mystery, maybe a kind of even scarier mystery”. A library sleepover adventure genuinely captures the imagination of children (and plenty of grown-ups) and there are lots of exciting possibilities to be explored in the future.