Welcome to Tales from The Leeds Library, one podcast series in which we talk to members of our extended community about their lives, their work, and their relationship to books, libraries, literature and heritage. Alongside our discussions with contemporary members, we also dive periodically into the Library’s rich history to find out what makes us one of the most interesting and unique cultural institutions in Leeds and the UK.

Listen and Subscribe: 

You can access all episodes on our podcast player below, or you can scroll down to find full podcasts descriptions as well as links to more information.

All episodes are also available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, and Google Podcasts



Special Episode: Oral History with Judith Pickard – Library Member since 1952

In this special episode of Tales from The Leeds Library, Archive Assistant Niimi Day Gough and Assistant Librarian Anna Goodridge interview our longest subscribing member. Miss Judith Pickard became a member in 1952 – which, at the time, required references and a share certificate (viewable here)! To celebrate her 70th anniversary of joining the Library, she shares her memories of sherry parties, piano recitals, and the Library’s growth towards its Next Chapter.

To find out more about The Leeds Library’s exciting expansion into our new building, and to view the plans we discuss in the episode, click here.

S2E12: Sarah Brooks – author

For the final episode of season 2 of Tales from The Leeds Library we talk to author Sarah Brooks about her upcoming debut novel A Cautious Traveller’s Guide to the Wastelands and ask if less is more in sci-fi and speculative fiction, how she brings myth into her work, and what it is like being taught by George R.R. Martin. We also discuss the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing, Samovar, a bilingual online magazine of translated speculative fiction for which Sarah is co-editor, and Chinese fairy tales.

Find out more about Sarah on her website

Find out more about Samovar 

Check out the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing

S2E11: Jed Aitchison – Project Manager at Buy Nowt LS6

This week’s episode of Tales from The Leeds Library features a conversation with Jed Aitchison from Buy Nowt LS6. We talk to Jed about libraries, but not as we know them: instead of lending books Buy Nowt LS6 lends things. We also discuss sustainability and the ethos behind the Library of Things movement, some of the weirder objects available for borrowing, and what our relationship to stuff says about us.

Find out more or become a member of The Library of Things here.

S2E10: Yvonne Battle-Felton – author

This week we talk to author Yvonne Battle-Felton about growing up in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, completing a PhD while raising three children, the differences between writing for children and writing for adults and what you can learn about writing in universities vs the school of life. We also talk in depth about her Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlisted novel Remembered, delving into Yvonne’s writing process and the inspiration behind the novel.

Find out more about Yvonne on her website here

Buy Remembered here

Listen to Write Your Novel with Yvonne Battle Felton here

S2E9: Librarian Ann Sproat and Archivist Errin Hussey from the Henry Moore Institute

In this episode, we talk to Librarian Ann Sproat and Archivist Errin Hussey from the Henry Moore Institute. We discuss art archives in the digital age, how libraries and archives acquire new material, what does and doesn’t count as sculpture and the difficulties of deciding how to put an archive in order.

More about the Henry Moore Institute here


S2E8: Niimi and Anna – Archives Assistant and Assistant Librarian at The Leeds Library. 

In today’s episode, we talk to Niimi, the archives assistant and Anna, the assistant librarian, about The Leeds Library’s archive. Anna has been working for the library for over 20 years and has a strong understanding of the archive, while Niimi has only been with us for a few months. Together we discuss the reasons we have an archive in the first place and what can be found in the library’s extensive collection.

More information about the Library’s archive can be found here

S2E7: Lisa Di Tommaso – Librarian at the Morrab Library. 

Lisa from fellow independent library The Morrab talks to us about a career in libraries, the trials and tribulations of independent library life and keeping the Morrab running over lockdown. We discuss the Morrab’s extensive Cornish collection: 3,000 books printed in the 16th-18th centuries; manuscripts relating to various local families; long runs of periodicals and local newspapers; prints, engravings and a Cornwall photographic archive as well as the library’s contemporary projects and events program.

More about the Morrab library here

S2E6: Cheryl – The Little Bookshop in Chapel Allerton 

This week we talk to Cheryl who runs The Little Bookshop in Chapel Allerton about what makes us fall in love with reading, what inspires young readers, and why it is important to focus on building diverse and inclusive collections for children and young adults. We also talk about the day to day logistics of running a bookshop and the joys and hardships of the bookselling world.

More about The Little Bookshop here

S2E5: Aoife Larkin – Collections Librarian at Leeds Arts University

We talk to Aoife Larkin about art books and books as artefacts, Leeds Arts University’s special collections and some of the more unusual volumes it holds, and issues of conservation in historic collections. Aoife worked for a long time at fellow independent library The Portico in Manchester, and we discuss her work there, as well as some of the issues around managing historic collections and engaging people in what they have to offer.

More about Leeds Arts University’s special collections

S2E4: Ian Harker – poet and Marketing and Comms at The Leeds Library

This week we talk to poet and new staff member at The Leeds Library Ian Harker. Ian joined the Library as the Marketing and Communications Officer a month ago, and we discuss the exciting projects that will be taking place in the Library over the next few months. We also talk about Ian’s background in writing and the Leeds poetry and literature scene, as well as discussing his Saboteur award nominated magazine Strix.

Find Ian on Twitter

Strix Magazine

Buy Rules of Survival here

S2E3: Peter Spafford – writer, broadcaster and musician. 

This week we talk to Peter Spafford. Peter is the Director of Words at Chapel FM where he hosts Love the Words, a weekly radio show interviewing writers and readers of all genres. We also discuss poetry from his most recent volume Frisk, as well as other writing commissions and collaborations such as Road Markings, a collaboration with Dortmund poet Ralph Thenoir.

Peter’s Website

Listen to Love the Words here

Buy Frisk here

S2E2: Hannah Stone – poet

This week on Tales from The Leeds Library we talk to Hannah Stone, poet, theologian and host of the monthly lunchtime poetry talk Nowt but Verse amongst many, many other things. To say Hannah is a busy creative is an understatement. We discuss her collaborations, her process and her poetry which takes in history, theology, humour, feminism, landscape and music.

Buy Hannah’s Poetry collections here

Read Hannah’s Poet in Virtual Residence blog for Leeds Church Institute here

S2E1: Susan Watkins –  Professor in the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities and Director of the Centre for Culture and the Arts at Leeds Beckett University

Welcome back to Tales from The Leeds Library! Kicking off our second season is a fascinating conversation with Susan Watkins. We talk about her work on contemporary women’s post-apocalyptic fiction and what post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction can tell us about our current world. We also discuss the posthuman, women and aging, and why, when we so often feel like we are living in the ‘end times’, do we turn to post-apocalyptic fiction for answers.

Buy Susan’s book Contemporary Women’s Post-Apocalyptic Fiction here

Read Susan’s article: The Squid Game Effect: Why do we seek out Dystopias? 

S1E12: Joe Williams –  Director of Heritage Corner and the Leeds Black History Walk

For the final episode of season one of Tales from The Leeds Library we talk to actor/writer and director of Heritage Corner and the Leeds Black History Walk, Joe Williams. We talk about Joe’s life and work, black history in Leeds and the importance of engaging with local history through creativity and the arts.

Heritage Corner Leeds

S1E11: Frances Brody – author

In this episode we have a conversation with the author of the only novel ever set in The Leeds Library. We talk with Frances Brody, author of the gripping Kate Shackleton series of detective fiction, about her life in libraries both here in Leeds and across the UK and the US.

Frances’s website

Find Frances on Twitter

Buy the Kate Shackleton Series here

S1E10: Anna Goodridge –  Assistant Librarian 

Like all good historic buildings, The Leeds Library has a ghost. In this episode of Tales from The Leeds Library we discuss the haunting of the Library with our resident paranormal expert and Assistant Librarian Anna Goodridge.

Anna’s ASSAP talk on the ghost

S1E9: Chris Nickson –  author

In this episode of Tales from The Leeds Library we talk to author Chris Nickson about his life as a music journalist in America, the changing face of Leeds over the years, and the importance of historical research and veracity in his own historical fiction. We also discuss the latest book in his DI Inspector Tom Harper series: Brass Lives.

Chris’s website

Buy Brass Lives here 

S1E8: Ruth Robbins –Professor in English and Director of Research for the School of Cultural Humanities at Leeds Beckett University. 

In this week’s episode of Tales from the Leeds Library we talk to Ruth Robbins – professor in English and Director of Research for the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities at Leeds Beckett University. We talk to her about her research specialisms in the late Victorian era, and the work she has done on The Leeds Library’s own Victorian fiction collection. We also discuss her interest in biography, subjectivity and talk in detail about her book Literary Feminisms – which traces the history of the intersection between feminist theory and literary criticism.

Buy ‘Literary Feminisms’ here

S1E7: Shaun Page –  local historian, photographer, Leeds Echoes host. 

This week’s episode features a conversation with Shaun Page, a local historian and photographer, and host of the Leeds Echoes podcast. Shaun talked to us about the importance of local history, the use of new technologies in arts, culture and heritage, and the joys of living in Burley.

Shaun’s Website

The Leeds Echoes Podcast

S1E6: Brian Cole – bookbinder

Brian Cole has worked extensively with The Leeds Library’s collection as a conservator and book binder. In this episode we discuss the history of bookbinding, and the shape of the trade in the UK today. We discuss his book Aspire to the Beautiful and Brian also takes us through some of the different bookbinding techniques he has used to conserve some of our own collection.

Copies of Aspire to the Beautiful cost £12.99 + £2 p&p and can be bought directly from Brian. Email him at: bcole11@hotmail.com or pick up a copy in person at The Leeds Library.

Read Brian’s article on New York libraries in our newsletter Speaks Volumes

S1E5: Emily Zobel Marshall –  author, poet and Reader in Postcolonial Literature at Leeds Beckett University

The latest episode of Tales from The Leeds Library features Dr Emily Zobel Marshall – Author, poet and Reader in Postcolonial Literature at Leeds Beckett University. We talk about Emily’s work with Carnival, her work with the charity Remember Oluwale and their planned memorial sculpture garden featuring work by artist Yinka Shonibare. We also talk in depth about Emily’s most recent book American Trickster: trauma, tradition and Brer Rabbit – a fascinating study of the cultural journey of Brer Rabbit from its contested origins in African folklore to an internationally recognisable trickster figure.

Find Emily on Twitter: @EmilyZMarshall

Buy ‘American Trickster: Trauma, Tradition and Brer Rabbit’ here

Find out more about Remember Oluwale 

S1E4: Louisa Yates – Director of Collections and Research at Gladstone’s Library

 In this episode  we speak to Louisa Yates, Director of Collections and Research at Gladstone’s Library and visiting Lecturer at the University of Chester. We talk about the collection and her work at Gladstone’s Library, the importance of preserving independent libraries, their future and particularly how digital technology is helping to shape it. We also discuss the upcoming ILA (Independent Libraries Association) AGM which will take place here at The Leeds Library.

Find Louisa on Twitter: @louisayates

Gladstone’s Library

The Independent Libraries Association

S1E3: Jane Riley – Librarian at The Leeds Library

Jane Riley has been The Leeds Library’s librarian since 2015 and for this episode of Tales from The Leeds Library we talk to her about the collection and its history, the gems it contains including: The Leeds Library’s oldest book; the issues facing libraries housing historic collections; and the highs and lows of library life.

Find out more about the library’s collections.

S1E2: James Nash – poet

In this episode of Tales from The Leeds Library we talk to poet James Nash. We discuss his chosen form – the sonnet, how art influences life and life influences art, and his recent collection of poetry entitled A Bench for Billie Holiday. We also discuss James’ longstanding relationship with The Leeds Library and the poems he has written in and about the space.

James’ Website

A Bench for Billie Holiday

S1E1: Kevin Grady, President of The Leeds Library and Fiona Gell, Communications Officer at The Leeds Library

To launch Tales from The Leeds Library, our new podcast series, we have a conversation streamed live from the Old Librarian’s Office with President of The Leeds Library Kevin Grady and Communications Officer Fiona Gell. We talk to Kevin about the early history of the Library, how it was founded and who by, as well as the changes he has seen during many years of service on Library committees. With Fiona we discuss the Library today, the ideas behind the podcast, and what we can look forward to in upcoming episodes. Watch the recorded live episode here!


Events at The Leeds Library