Musicians Amy León and Jah Wobble join campaign for libraries
Libraries have played vital roles in the lives of two musicians featured on a poster campaign for libraries by CILIP, the library and information association.
New York–based singer and poet Amy León and UK bass guitarist, singer, composer and writer, Jah Wobble join Stephen Fry, Mary Beard and Jacob Sam-La Rose by lending their support to the campaign.
The posters are freely available to library supporters to print and display. This library advocacy tool is there for everyone who wants to show their support for libraries, which can be downloaded from www.cilip.org.uk/posters
Amy León and Jah Wobble explain why they’re lending their support to the campaign.
Amy, who grew up in the US social care system after her mother died, says it was libraries that helped her to find her place in the world.
“It was interesting growing up in Harlem, a lot of our school libraries had very limited options and the books we were given were out-dated or didn't reflect the world we were being raised in. I remember the first time I went to the New York Public Library, it was a school trip where everyone got their library cards and therefore access to knowledge. The kind of knowledge a black child is often deprived of in today’s education system. That trip resounded with me as an invitation to grasp education on my own terms and to fall in love with literature. To know that despite the differences between me and the authors I had access to, the language was enough to unite us. Libraries are safe havens, one of the few places on this planet where you can see a vision of equality. No matter your age, race, socioeconomic status, the doors of the library are open to you. I definitely think that in this digital age there should be an incredible amount of support and resources being put into young writers. More free workshops, more cross generational literary events, more publishing opportunities, and most importantly - more diversity.”
Amy, who performs frequently in the US and Europe and has collaborated with the BBC, Roundhouse, The Battersea Arts Centre, and was a judge on the panel of the Amnesty CILIP Honour Award, believes her connection with libraries and literature run deeper than conscious memory:
“I grew up in the foster care system, so I have very few memories with my birth mother. On weekend visits we would rent Disney movies from Blockbuster and get a ridiculous amount of books from the library - always too many to read in 36 hours but enough to keep my mind distracted from the reality of the situation. I remember the day she bought me the Secret Garden, I had to be around 4. I was far too young for a chapter book of that size but I did my best to read it every day until the letters formed words then sentences and ingrained themselves into my young mind as images. It’s insane how deeply intertwined our lives are with literature - how the essence of all we know rests in language chosen by other minds in attempts to communicate, inform, and enlighten their readers.”
Jah Wobble is the stage name of musician and composer John Wardle as coined by his friend John Simon Ritchie (aka Sid Vicious) in a drunken mumbled version of John Wardle. John met Sid and John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) while studying at Kingsway College in Holborn, before they went on to success with the Sex Pistols. John’s own music career took longer to take root.
Before forming Public Image Limited with John Lydon in 1978, Jah Wobble lived a chaotic life in squats but says, despite this, and due to the influence of libraries on his life: “Old Etonians have commented to me that I was better read than they were. To this day I normally have three or four books on the go. Less fiction nowadays though I must admit.”
John said, “It was around 1982 -1986 that I really got ‘into trouble‘ with drink and drugs” and in 1986 he quit the music scene to work for London Underground - also overcoming his alcohol addiction, following a bit of help from a self-help book borrowed from his local library. He returned in 1988 with a new version of his band the Invaders of the Heart and went onto critical and commercial success in the nineties with a variety of albums and collaborations with well-known musicians (e.g. Björk, Sinead O’Connor, Brian Eno). John’s most recent album with the Invaders of the Heart (The Usual Suspects) was released last year.
John is a frequent writer including book reviews for the Independent on Sunday and the Times. He published his autobiography ‘Memoirs of a Geezer’ in 2010.
John said: “I was an excellent primary school pupil - top boy in my class - but I rapidly fell by the wayside at my secondary school and eventually I was expelled (which is when he went to Kingsway). However, libraries were always a mainstay for me, in terms of education and entertainment. So I became very well read.” However he was not just a library user. “I wasn’t a volunteer at my local library (Bancroft Road library in Stepney), I was a ‘Saturday boy’.” But he said: “I wasn’t a good employee to be honest. The very things that got me in hot water - like doing yoga while following instructions from a yoga manual, and engaging customers, (or users as they were then called) - would now be seen as exemplary activities and present-day employees point out that I would now be viewed as an excellent employee!”
As lead Ambassador for London Libraries, John has given free concerts to capacity crowds in libraries, as well as several well attended talks. He addressed attendees at the ALCL (Association Of London Chief Librarians) 2017 Seminar 'London Libraries - Building on the Past and Creating a Brighter Future’, and left them with this thought: “Libraries are an idea, and ideas are indestructible."
Download all the posters from: www.cilip.org.uk/posters