Library branches out - huge tree sculpture installed in Barnstaple

Mon 07 Nov 2022

Library branches out - huge tree sculpture installed in Barnstaple

A five metre high tree sculpted from sustainable scrap cardboard has taken root and sprung into life in the atrium of Barnstaple Library.

The Reading Tree was created by Exeter-based artist James Lake. James was the artist in residence at a pop-up library in the former Gap store in Exeter High Street back in September. Hundreds of shoppers visited the store over six weeks throughout September and October to watch the tree take shape as James worked on it. He invited local people to take part in the work, including children from Newtown Primary School.

The tree has now been installed in the dual-storey high atrium at Barnstaple by James and Creative Technologist, Jay Kerry. It creates an inclusive space. The branches create a cosy/welcoming canopy beneath which individuals can sit or groups gather.

The project was funded by Arts Council England and Exeter City Council.

James Lake said: “I like using cardboard as a sculptural material due to its immediacy, ease of availability, reasonable cost and low environmental impact. I want to make sculpture accessible and blur the boundary between high art and low art for all audiences. I believe in art for all; art beyond race, gender, age, wealth, ability and disability.”

The official launch of the Tree took place on the day of the library’s Makers Market, Saturday 5th November. Visitors are invited to drop in at any time during library opening hours and make a leaf to pin on/to one of the many cardboard trees that have sprung up around the library, and which create a forest of reading trees.

Lisa d’Alberti, Senior Supervisor at Barnstaple Library, said: “This has been a really unusual and rewarding project for everyone watching it take shape. The tree is looking magnificent and will be a wonderful place under which to sit, read, or simply enjoy being for a while. The tree’s branches and leaves will change with the seasons, and that will also reflect an ever-changing variety of individuals and community groups who use the library and its wealth of resources.”

Rae Hoole, Creative Communities Producer, Libraries Unlimited said: “It has been fantastic watching the wonderful project take shape, and we’re delighted at how many people have taken part in its creation. We’re hoping they continue to come and see it, and sit underneath it, enjoy a book and marvel at its beauty.”

Future events to be held under the Reading Tree include:

Friday 11th November 1.30pm – 3.30pm

Artist Athena Jane Churchill will be at the regular Tea and Chat Group to make birds and leaves to put on the tree. Free drop-in event – no need to book.

Saturday 10th December 10am – 4pm

Family Drop-in Workshop with artist Athena Jane Churchill. Make some sparkling birds to hang in the atrium. Free – no need to book.

Tuesday 13th December

10am – 4pm

Drop-in Family Art with Athena Jane Churchill. Christmas Decorations. Free event – no need to book.

4.30 – 5.30pm

Stories and songs under the Christmas Tree with hot chocolate. Free after-school event for families. To book, call 01271 318782.

Click on the links below for more information about the Reading Tree and events:


The Reading Tree project continues a programme of artist residencies taking place in libraries across Devon, supported by Libraries Unlimited.


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