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News / 31 July, 2013

Human Library’s books and bookworms aim to combat prejudice

Striking up a conversation with a stranger ‘unique’ in atomised metropolis, say participants

Open books: Human library participants outside the Town Hall

Page turners: Human library participants outside the Town Hall. Photograph: Adam Barnett

Personal stories were shared at a pop-up ‘Human Library’ event on Hackney Town Green on Friday in a bid to counter prejudice.

Participants sat on beds, chairs or towels and had 30 minute one-to-one conversations with strangers, either playing the role of ‘books’ to be read or ‘readers’ asking questions.

The event was the result of a 24 hour challenge issued to 12 graduates as part of Year Here, a social leadership programme creating pop-up events to challenge perceptions.

It used the existing Human Library concept, which is designed to create space for dialogue and interaction and to break stereotypes.

Michael Simpson, a 2013 Year Here Fellow, said: “We were asked to find something that explores and challenges prejudice. With the Human Library, we are bringing people together from all different walks of life and fostering unlikely conversations.”

He added: “There is something unique about it. It’s quite striking in somewhere like London where people pay such little attention to each other.

“And we’ve found that people are very willing to make new relationships and create community links that were not necessarily there before.”

Year Here encourages young people to spend a year tackling issues locally, instead of spending a gap year abroad, and has worked with Citizens UK, Teach First and O2 Think Big.

It is currently recruiting school leavers for future projects.

Jack Graham, CEO and founder of Year Here, said: “We’re really happy. It’s been a mad rush to get everything to this stage, but there have been lots of interesting conversations.

“We’ve helped to break down prejudice by people of different backgrounds talking to each other.”

Alexi Lamoom, 22, said he enjoyed being a ‘book’ as part of the Human Library.

He said: “I think it’s great to get people chatting. People in London are generally quite closed. It opens people up gets them communicating face to face.”

Lauren Edlin, 25, said the experience of being a ‘book’ was surprising and interesting.

She said: “It’s been great actually. You talk a lot and then you find common ground.

“In reality, you’re not really that much like a book. It’s not as if you say, ‘this is the thesis of my life’.

“But the more you know, and the more people’s experiences you know, the less prejudiced you are likely to be.”

/ 31 July, 2013

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