The Enlightenment by LYR released today for Festival of Libraries

7 June 2024 - News

All that makes libraries extraordinary and magical spaces that take your imagination to far flung places has been captured in the words of a new lyric by the band LYR.

The track has been specially commissioned for Festival of Libraries 2024, with words by poet laureate Simon Armitage, music by Richard Walters and Patrick Pearson, and guest vocals from Josephine Oniyama. The Enlightenment was released on streaming platforms on Friday 7 June and will be performed live for the first time at Manchester Central Library as part of the festival on Wednesday 12 June (doors open at 7.30pm).

As a region boasting world-class libraries that have made Manchester a UNESCO City of Literature, a region that proudly invests in its libraries and celebrates all of the community, learning and creativity that they represent, it’s fitting that The Enlightenment will sit at the centre of a festival that is exploring these themes for the fourth year running.  The Festival of Libraries, which is organised by Manchester City of Literature, spans the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester and its 133 libraries, offering a programme that’s full of ideas, connections and discussion with exhibitions, author talks, vibrant performances, fascinating installations, workshops to get stuck into and international dynamics that are putting Manchester Libraries on the map.

LYR was formed in 2018 and is made up of Simon Armitage, singer-songwriter Richard Walters and multi-instrumentalist and producer Patrick Pearson.  For The Enlightenment, and for their Festival of Libraries performance, they will be joined by singer-songwriter Josephine Oniyama.  As well as a vast array of critically acclaimed talent, Josephine brings a local dimension, having been raised in Manchester and now based in Liverpool.

The Enlightenment tells of the adventures, discoveries, inventions and encounters that lie in wait within a library; a subject that each member of LYR is passionate about.

Simon Armitage says, “Libraries are very close to my heart. Since I became Poet Laureate I’ve been reading in libraries around the UK every spring, from big landmark buildings like the British Library to a mobile library van on the Outer Hebrides.  I want to support the under-pressure services that play a vital role in shaping the cultural, imaginative and intellectual life of this country, and often stand at the core of communities.  So to work on this project fits perfectly with my ambitions and current direction of travel.  When I was a student in Manchester I’d sit under the dome of Central Library reading and writing poems when I should have been studying social policy and criminology down the road.”

To Richard Walters, “Libraries have always felt like untouchable, almost sacred spaces for me, portals into other universes and other people’s minds, so to work on this project is a total joy.  When I was a child our village didn’t have a library made of bricks, instead a library on wheels appeared at the end of our road every week and brought all those words to our doorstep.  It was not much bigger than an ambulance, but it always felt like an immense space to me.  It blew my mind then, and still does to this day, that I was given free run of all those stories, all that magical thinking and all those endless ideas.  So much wonder begins in libraries, so many imaginations are lit up and allowed to turn into big ideas, so I feel very honoured to be welcomed into the stacks of Manchester Central to share some of our bright ideas!”

A love of libraries unites all the performers.  Josephine Oniyama says, “Reading and libraries have always been a central part of my life and career.  Narrative and prose have deeply informed my music making.  This project has allowed me to work with some really talented musicians and writers and bring to life the power of knowledge and the importance of libraries as places for everyone to enjoy that knowledge.”

LYR are also using the opportunity to highlight the importance of libraries to the fabric of society and from a very personal perspective.

Patrick Pearson says, “I can remember our local Library in Launceston, my Mum was a book addict so it was a weekly ritual of returning and loaning stacks of books.  It seemed as natural as going to the green grocers or butchers.  I wonder if it still exists?  Libraries protect the art of borrowing, a principle we’ve perhaps moved away from in the pursuit of ownership.  What a wonderful thing, to borrow a book, take only stories and pass it on.”

Simon continues, “I wanted to write about libraries as places of illumination, where a person’s mind can expand in every direction, and can do so for free.  I think we sometimes forget that knowledge, learning and information can be very expensive, be that an internet connection, a smart phone or a course of study.  Libraries are the ultimate democratic institutions – places of sharing – and having taken so much out this is an opportunity for me to give something back.  Let’s say I’m balancing the books.”

Tickets for LYR open Festival of Libraries 2024 are £12, or £4 unwaged, and can be booked below. Guests can arrive from 7.30pm.  The evening will begin with a set by Josephine, who will then be joined on stage by LYR.