A MESSAGE FROM PETER FRANCIS, WARDEN AND DIRECTOR
I am writing this sitting alone in Gladstone’s Library pondering this fading year and wondering what the next year will bring. Will the vaccine give us hope of a return to normality? Will Brexit impact us financially and isolate us from our near neighbours? Will the Black Lives Matter movement have heralded a more open-handed, diverse and equitable society? It is a sense of isolation, constraint and being cut off that has defined the past year.
Gladstone’s Library is all about community. We pride ourselves on being a gathering place for those with open and liberal values. Individuals and groups of writers, academics and the spiritually inclined gather here and talk together over coffee, lunch and dinner or huddle round the fire in the Gladstone Room to read, reflect, share a drink or an idea. The mainspring of what we are and what we do has been snapped and snagged by the pandemic.
I know from your comments that you have missed us and we have certainly missed all of you. We have been overwhelmed - and humbled - by the wonderful messages which many people have included with their donations to our sponsor a shelf campaign. Gladstone’s Library has clearly been a significant, sometimes even a life-changing, presence in many of your lives.
Christmas and New Year is a time to summon hope in this bleak mid-winter as we think ahead to the future. Five of us are working hard planning and preparing to open the Library in the Spring. Our future will be different to our past. There won’t, probably until the end of 2021, be any hope of courses and large communal events at the Library. Our lectures and talks will be a blend of a few people in the room and a larger audience on-line – perhaps much larger audiences than we have ever experienced before for the Library’s programme.
We will focus on what we do best: providing a space to think, resources to help you think and people to share your thoughts with. We will provide good generous hospitality to feed the mind and body.
When we re-open, Gladstone’s Library will be as safe a place as we can make it. Our reading rooms have always provided good social distancing between its desks; all our bedrooms will have their own bathrooms; there will be extra cleaning of all our public spaces; there will be nine unisex toilets on the ground floor; our dining room will have table service rather than cafeteria style; our procedures for checking in and out will be made as safe as possible.
Making everything safe, clean and ready has taken time and money to achieve and I thank all of you who have supported the Library financially with donations or by sponsoring a shelf during the pandemic (click this link if you can give now). Your funds together with support from trusts and the Welsh government have been invaluable, even life saving for the Library.
We can’t wait to get you back. We want again to be able to stimulate debate, encourage creativity and provide the space for concentrated work. We long for connection and an end to isolation.
A Methodist minister, Anton Dowell, wrote these lines in his Christmas card this year and they encapsulate what I want to say and wish for you -
May your Christmas
Lift you above the restraints and fears
Of the past months
And bring you to a New Year
Where hopes can be fulfilled
And we may freely meet again.
Happy Christmas and a hopeful New Year.
Warden and Director