Former librarian and best-selling author laments county's closure of libraries

A former Lancashire librarian who has become a literary sensation says that without a local library, his life may have turned out very differently.

Wednesday, 2nd November 2016, 12:19 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 4:38 pm
Author and former Winstanley College teacher Andrew Hurley

Andrew Hurley has taken the world by storm since leaving Kirkham library last year after releasing his novel The Loney.

But he says without being able to walk into his local library from a young age he wouldn’t have found the inspiration to forge his way as a writer.

“When I see what’s going on in Lancashire and all the libraries closing, it makes me very sad,” said the 41-year-old from Fulwood, Preston.

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Former librarian Andrew Michael Hurley returned to Waterstones in his home town of Preston to give a talk and sign copies of his Costa First Novel Award winning book The Loney. Andrew with his book. PIC BY ROB LOCK 3-2-2016

“It’s absolutely devastating to see they’re closing so many of them. I think the worst part is once they’re gone, they’re gone – there’s no bringing them back.

“It really is going to be the end of an era. I think it’s very unvalued that you can just walk into a library and pick up any book you want and read it – all for free.”

In September, it took less than two hours today for Lancashire County Council’s cabinet to sign the final execution papers for a host of Lancashire libraries and children’s centres – despite being forced to think again.

An eleventh hour attempt to make the cabinet reconsider its cost-cutting decision, first taken on September 8, to close more than 100 buildings, including Fulwood, Penwortham and Lytham libraries, failed to convince the ruling Labour group to change its mind.

Former librarian Andrew Michael Hurley returned to Waterstones in his home town of Preston to give a talk and sign copies of his Costa First Novel Award winning book The Loney. Andrew with his book. PIC BY ROB LOCK 3-2-2016

And Andrew, who was the librarian at Kirkham for five years before becoming a full-time author, said: “I used to use lots of libraries all the time. It definitely helped me become a better writer.

“There was nothing better than when I was a kid and having all those books at my disposal. Hopefully something can be done so more can stay open in the future.”

And it is this access to books which contributed to his Andrew’s latest success after he was one of two Preston writers to be selected for the International Literature Showcase.

Along with fellow author Jenn Ashworth, Andrew is one of 40 writers taking part in a ten-month programme offered to selected UK writers and literature organisations to help promote and export their work across the world.

Run by Writers’ Centre Norwich and the British Council, it will see Andrew amongst some of Britain’s best writers.

Focusing on emerging and mid-career talent, writers were selected from 369 applicants via an open, peer-nominated selection process to represent the broad cross-section of UK creativity.

In total, 80 writers and 50 literature organisations will be supported through the coming year, with the final selections announced at The London Book Fair next March. Activity culminates in June 2017 with a major international exchange taking place in Norwich, a UNESCO City of Literature.

“I think writing is Britain’s best export,” he said.

“The British writing scene is very strong and there’s a lot of writers from different backgrounds and styles so it’s going to be good to be amongst them.

“It’s a real honour to have been selected.”

Cortina Butler, Director of Literature at the British Council said: “We are delighted to support the launch of the ILS. This innovative online showcase will reach a wide international audience of individuals and organisations interested in British literature.

“Some of the most exciting contemporary writers and literature producers from all parts of the UK will be featured over the next months and we are confident that this will lead to a host of new international collaborations and literature exchanges.”

Andrew writes under the name Andrew Michael Hurley and is now working on his second book which is based in the Trough of Bowland area.

Set to be released at the back end of 2017, Andrew hopes it can have similar success to his first.

He said: “There’s no set title for the book yet but it’s about being part of a community and what you must do and sacrifice to be part of it.

“I don’t ever think about winning awards or anything like that when I’m writing, I just want to write a good book which people will read.”