Lena Smith – Reader Development Officer, London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Council

Shortlisted in the 2018 Hearts for the Arts Awards for Best Local Authority Arts Champion – Officer.

Lena Smith has been at the heart of the innovative writer development programme, Pen to Print (P2P).  She has worked tirelessly to develop engagement with her local community through this programme, which was established in 2014.

Over the last 3 years she has delivered a programme which:

  • Encouraged civic pride –  building pride in the borough and providing welcoming civic spaces through the library service
  • Enabled social responsibility by encouraging children and young people to realise their creative potential
  • Grows the borough through the development of the borough’s creative offer, celebration of the community’s creative talents and developing the skills of local people.

P2P exists to encourage people to write, get published and present their work.  Barking & Dagenham Libraries has an excellent track record of providing high quality creative writing classes and inspirational author events.  In 2017 P2P was awarded Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation status, one of the first Libraries to achieve this award.

Working with the team at the libraries Lena has set ambitious plans for the next four years, including developing the workshops and competitions programme; innovative commissions that work with local and national arts organisations; and connecting into wider London and national projects that will enable the borough to develop new partnerships. All of this will enable the programme to reach further and get even more of the community engaged with writing, libraries and the arts.

Lena has been part of the team that enabled the following successes:

  • Dagenham Library won BBI Library of the Year 2016.
  • A total audience of 5,362 at 141 events,
  • 1,175 pieces of work created, including 5 in the process of being published.
  • Since broadcast started in July 2016 there has been 2964 views of the YouTube channel.
  • One book successfully published, The Gaia Effect by Claire Buss

Lena Smith is proud to be leading the team which is a great resource for the Barking & Dagenham local community.  She does not seek any acknowledgement for her work, but I strongly feel that she should be recognized both by the Council and beyond for her dogged and persistent championing of the rights of local citizens to have access to exceptional arts for everyone.

What the judges had to say:

“Lena has demonstrated tenacity and passion bringing her expertise to the fore. Libraries are a wonderful resource in need of support and nurturing and the work she has done has gone above and beyond to help maintain this resource for her community.” What Next?