Kirklees Council – Kirstie Wilson

Winner of the Best Local Authority Arts Champion - Officer in the Hearts for the Arts Awards 2019


Kirstie supports the arts by leading on the library service’s delivery of the Libraries Connected cultural offer in the context of our Council priorities. She embeds the promotion and use of broader creative activity as a way into reading and literature throughout her work. All our librarians are Arts Award advisers and opportunities for children to achieve the award are incorporated into our events planning.

Kirstie leads on the provision of a range of high quality cultural and creative experiences, both as a universal offer and targeted to meet specific needs within the local community. Many of these are in partnership with Council colleagues and local organisations. As an active member of the multiagency Nurturing Parents programme, she advocates to health and early years colleagues on benefits of family involvement in reading and the arts from the earliest opportunity, including our Storywalks programme:

She commissions local artists to increase the range of creative and cultural opportunities available, mentoring young artists to help them develop skills to run their own businesses. By being an active member of the local cultural educational partnership, working with arts organisations and individual artists ( she achieves projects such as Metal Metropolis, a book written by local children with Chol Theatre.

On the steering group of Huddersfield Literature Festival, she supports the annual celebration of books and authors, poetry and performance; works with Creative Scene to build arts participation in and around the five towns in North Kirklees as well as many other local arts organisations and festivals. Recent work includes developing an offer with colleagues regionally and The Reading Agency to bring more high profile authors to the region; championing the Read Regional campaign to celebrate new books from the North of England.

She has utilised the British Library’s Living Knowledge network to create a stronger adult offer through developing the live screening project as well as bringing Get it Loud in Libraries here – our first gig sold out! She initiated our annual Pageturners Children’s Reading Festival, offering creative activities to engage and inspire the reading and artistic choices of primary age children; most recently piloting an at home offer where artists created versions of their workshops which could be delivered by van, film or social media to children and families who had barriers stopping them from attending live events, such as young carers.

She devised Being All I Can Be, workshops with performance poets to engage secondary school age young people to use the Shelf Help collection, using drama, creative writing and rap to foster acceptance and empathy. A council priority being Early Intervention and Prevention, she inspired the project, ‘Well into Words’ which uses  a multisensory approach to storytelling, making the classics accessible to diverse groups including people with learning disabilities, visual impairments and those living with dementia. This approach opens up literature to many who would find a traditional book format challenging or impossible. This way of working is embedded in service delivery through library staff training and mentoring.

What the judges had to say:

“Brilliant, fresh, focussed ideas that bring tangible benefit to such a huge range of people – from children, people with disabilities and those unable to go to traditional live events. Really inspiring.”

– Samira Ahmed, journalist, writer and broadcaster

Kirstie is someone with great ideas about how to keep our Libraries actively engaged with the community and thriving. ‘Storywalks’ and ‘Being All I Can Be’ are lovely, inclusive initiatives – simple and inviting. She clearly has a place in her heart for nurturing both the young and the old and finding creative ways to help them access the Arts. – Les Dennis, actor, comedian, television presenter and National Campaign for the Arts Champion

Kirstie is to be congratulated on her personal drive to deliver high quality arts experiences within the library environment. This is generating clear benefits for local children, their families and helping to develop the capacity of artists and the creative sector, through a highly effective networks of partners. – Lorna Lee, Head of Culture & Heritage Services, London Borough of Waltham Forest, and winner of a 2018 Hearts for the Arts Award

An astounding amount of work and achievement for one person. Kirstie Wilson brings ideas and energy to such a wide range of projects. Any council would be proud to have a dynamo like Kirstie working for them. – Samuel West, actor, director and Chair of the National Campaign for the Arts

What the shortlisting panel had to say:

“A key element of Kirstie’s excellent work is the confident and informed commissioning of local artists to deliver work for the community. It brings cultural offering to the community whilst offering mentoring and professional development to grass roots and fledgling creative talent. More of this sort of thing!”

“Kirstie has been phenomenally successful in highlighting the importance of reading and literacy for all ages, from early years to the elderly alongside a range of special needs groups.Her work has been showcased at international conferences, and brought together people far closer to home by working in partnership with artists, educationalists, funders, and community representatives.”

“It is great to see such a clear example of how libraries can deliver a key culture offer when there is an officer with vision involved.”