Human Books 2020

The end of an era. There will be no Human Books in 2020.

The Human Books project has opened up thousands of conversations between people who would never otherwise have conversed. Over the period of the project around 3000 conversations have taken place. We are sad that the project has been shelved, perhaps temporarily, for now.

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How does it work?

Situated in the lovely World of Words area of the Arboretum at WOMAD you will find our Human Books. We have a selection of 42 humans, all of whom have encountered discrimination or some extraordinary situation in their lives.

You will be able to read a tantalising synopsis of their tale in our Booklist, check out when they are available and book them out with one of our expert Librarians. When your allocated borrowing period arrives you will be introduced to your human book and then you can choose where to converse. We have 3 beautiful furnished yurts available and beanbags dotted around in shade or sun.

You can chat about any aspect of the book and each session lasts 30 minutes. Oh & it’s all FREE. See this year’s booklist HERE.

There are 8 x 2 hour sessions during the festival, with 10 – 12 books normally available for each session. Come & see the whole timetable but note that we only take booking for the current or next session at any time (otherwise it gets booked up on Friday!).

choosing books

Choosing books

yurt chat 2yurt chatbeanbag chat

Wordle pic mashup

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Human Books 2019

The Human Books event at WOMAD Charlton Park was our TENTH anniversary and the last one for organiser Katy Duke (though she may be back as a Librarian!).

We had the best Human Books event we’ve ever had, glorious weather, fantastic Librarians and some fascinating books. Take a look on the 2019 tab for lots of pictures. WOMAD will be recruiting again in March 2020.

Check out ‘How does it work?‘ and ‘The Human Book‘.

WOMAD 2019 best - 24 of 70

WOMAD 2019 best - 48 of 70WOMAD 2019 best - 69 of 70




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The Human Book

The Book is someone who has encountered discrimination or an extraordinary happening in their lives. They write a 200 word description of their experience & this is collated in the Book Catalogue, and six of these sit on the table either side of the Human Books entrance. There are normally around 45 Books available over the weekend from Friday lunchtime to Sunday evening, in 8 different sessions.

The Books sit on the bookshelf waiting for Readers. The Librarians introduce Readers to Books at the beginning of each slot (four half-hour slots per session) & both Reader & Book choose where to sit to talk for half an hour. Each Book works for two 2-hour sessions (+ half an hour prep) but need to be flexible on sessions until the timetable is fixed.

We have 2 lovely yurts and places to sit outside under the trees in the Arboretum.

The bookshelf

Librarian with Book catalogue

Reader & Book

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The Librarian

The Librarian is the ‘front end’ of the event and is there to explain how everything works. When you arrive at the tables of the Human Books event the Librarian will be on hand. They will show you the book catalogues, which give a potted synopsis of each ‘Book’ available to borrow over the weekend. They will help you to choose a suitable book, explain when they are available & direct you to the Chief Librarian to make a booking.

The Chief Librarian takes charge over all the other Librarians and crucially holds the booking sheet for the session. They also time each session and send other Librarians to the yurts to warn readers that time is almost up! At the end of the session they ring the school bell & the Readers leave their Books & the Books go back to the shelf.

Books are generally read by only one Reader at a time, in exceptional circumstances the Librarian may allow for more, if the Book is happy to oblige.

Librarians introduce Readers to their Books at the beginning of each session. They act as greeters at the yurts, and sometimes as ‘pullers’, explaining to the thronging crowds why they should come & join in at our event. They change the booklist on the blackboard at the end of each session.

There are 12 Librarians in total, with 4 on duty at any given time.

Librarians helping with book choices

Librarian writing the sign

Chief Librarian

A pair of Librarians at work


Librarian with Book catalogue

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Human Book 2018

WOMAD will be on 26th – 29th July 2018 and the Human Books event will be held in the Arboretum, from Friday lunchtime to Sunday evening. There are 42 Human Books this year. Here is the Booklist. Here is the Timetable.

Check out the World of Words page on the WOMAD website.

How does it work? What is a Human Book? What do the Librarians do?

Feedback from Readers from 2016.

Take a look around this blogsite for details of previous years and how it all worked. Katy

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