All systems are go for a science-themed summer of fun aimed at encouraging children to get the most of books.

OnFife Libraries are launching their Summer Reading Challenge aimed at inspiring 4 to 11 year olds to use their inventiveness and imagination.

The annual challenge, which begins on Saturday (25 June), is coordinated by the Reading Agency – a national charity that aims to inspire more people to get into books.

This year’s Gadgeteers theme is a celebration of all things STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – with a focus on creative thinking and teamwork.

The programme encourages young people to discover science and innovation in the world around them – in areas as diverse as food, fashion, music and sport.

The UK-wide initiative encourages children to enjoy the benefits of reading for pleasure over the summer months and helps to prevent a dip in reading over school holidays.

Libraries run by OnFife have consistently achieved some of Scotland’s top participation figures for the Challenge.

Taking part for the first time this year will be children from Fife Council’s holiday clubs. Clubs in Camdean, Kelty, Fair Isle in Kirkcaldy and Leuchars will work closely with the libraries team over the summer on a literacy and attainment programme.

Libraries staff hope as many as 2,500 children will take up the Reading Challenge. They can do so by popping in to one of OnFife’s 32 libraries, or by catching the mobile libraries as they dot about the region.

Children can pick up a collector’s folder from libraries staff, set their own reading goals and then work their way through six books, e-books or audio books that catch their eye.

Participants collect special stickers and other rewards along the way – all for free. Everyone who completes their personal challenge will receive a certificate and goodie bag.

Rewards include books, bookmarks, pencils, games and toys. Three local visitor attractions – Cluny Activities, Fife Zoo and the Scottish Deer Centre – have donated free days out for the finishers’ prize draw.

Libraries staff will be running a series of free events with a team from the teacher training organisation SSERC and their STEM Ambassador programme. These events will include workshops on coding, construction and chemistry.

Some libraries will host STEM-themed craft sessions, which have a £3.50 admission fee.

Children can also join in the fun online through the Summer Reading Challenge website.

Once online, they can access lots of fun facts and activities, book recommendations and join six fictional Gadgeteers – characters created by children’s writer and illustrator Julian Beresford.

OnFife Libraries’ Service Development Officer for Young People, Sabrina Maguire, says: “Having missed the past two years, we can’t wait to welcome children back to our libraries for the Challenge.

“Reading for pleasure is one of the most enriching things a child can do. We have lots of fun events and great rewards lined up. It promises to be a winning celebration of all things science.”

Fife Council’s Childcare Services Team Manager Gary Peattie, says: “We are looking forward to working with OnFife Libraries to bring the Summer Reading Challenge, and its many benefits, to the children in our holiday clubs.

“Literacy and developing a love of reading are as important as ever and we are very happy to be involved with such a valuable project.”

Alastair MacGregor, Chief Executive at SSERC says: “We’re delighted to be working with OnFife to support their Summer Reading Challenge.

“The STEM Ambassador Programme provides children with the opportunity to meet people from a wide range of different backgrounds and careers.”

Fifers can be instrumental in the success of a music participation initiative that will launch this autumn at a local library  

Fifers are being encouraged to back a scheme that lets people take out musical instruments in the same way they would borrow books.

The new service, based at Lochgelly’s Jennie Lee Library, means people will be able to try out an instrument without the expense of buying.

A crowdfunding page set up to support the initiative – called We Make Music Instrument Libraries – is accepting donations until Wednesday (8 July).

The Jenny Lee Library at Lochgelly Centre is one of nine libraries taking part in a pilot project, which is also being trialled in North Ayrshire and Edinburgh.

OnFife Libraries staff at Lochgelly have already accepted 40 unused or unwanted instruments following a public appeal in January. These are being currently cleaned and repaired, ready to be put on the shelves.

Among the donations have been guitars, keyboards and violins, as well as brass and electronic instruments.

The project group behind the scheme involves several groups, including St Andrews Music Participation, Tinderbox and the Music Education Partnership Group.

“The response to our appeal for instruments has been fantastic,” says Karen Taylor, Interim Programme Manager with OnFife.

“All the money we raise will go towards buying, repairing and servicing donated instruments and getting them into the libraries in good condition.”

To donate to We Make Music Instrument Libraries, go to: https://bit.ly/3OR1Wrl

Culture lovers have much to savour this summer with a new season of shows

We have just released a brochure for the new season and it is packed with shows, exhibitions and events taking place across the Kingdom.

With drama, music, comedy and dance – as well as a host of family events – theatre-goers have every reason to rediscover the thrill of live performance.

“There’s nothing to beat the excitement and buzz of live shows,” says OnFife chief executive Heather Stuart. “We’re thrilled to be welcoming back customers into our theatres.”

Audiences can make great savings too, as OnFife continues its multibuy offer when anyone buys three or more tickets.

OnFife’s museums and galleries are also open again with an enticing line-up of exhibitions, including the family-friendly Art-tastic at Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries, Explore! Travellers and Trailblazers at St Andrews Museum and a major retrospective – Jack Vettriano: The Early Years – now on at Kirkcaldy Galleries.

Included in the line-up of live events are three captivating theatre shows, starting with Dunfermline Dramatic Society’s presentation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at Carnegie Hall from 23 to 25 June.

Ireland the Show, at Rothes Hall on 24 July, features some of the Emerald Isle’s most gifted artists, accompanied by the fabulous Keltic Stormband and the world champion Gael Force Irish dancers.

A new production of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Jekyll & Hyde tale by Isosceles Theatre Company is at Carnegie Hall on 2 September, having already thrilled audiences across the UK.

Fans of musical theatre have plenty to anticipate. Ansell’s Les Musicals at Carnegie Hall on 26 June is the ultimate celebration of the genre, featuring countless classics from the shows – all brought to you by G4 frontman Jonathan Ansell and Britain’s Got Talent winner Jai McDowall.

Dalgety Bay Players present Big: The Musical at Carnegie Hall from 30 June to 2 July – a fresh take on the classic 1988 movie that made Tom Hanks a Hollywood star and a perfect show for all ages.

The list goes on. Glenrothes Amateur Musical Association returns to the stage with a full-scale, updated version of Cole Porter’s classic Kiss Me Kate at Rothes Hall from 27 September to 1 October.

Funbox – Jungle Party at Lochgelly on 20 and 21 August is a jumbo-sized musical adventure and the perfect chance for audience members – of all ages – to come dressed as their favourite wild animal.

Two Fife dance companies have upcoming shows. Swan Dance Academy, Glenrothes, will captivate audiences on 1 and 2 July and Dalgety Bay’s Dance Academy stages its 30th Anniversary extravaganza at Carnegie Hall on 24 September.

And the race is on for tickets to see one of the country’s most enduringly popular variety acts – the Ladyboys of Bangkok, who are returning to Glenrothes with shows at Rothes Hall from 1 to 3 August.

Music is making its mark too. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra will take you on a voyage of discovery with a programme of music created to excite, delight and inspire at Rothes Hall on 22 July.

On 2 September, Rothes Hall hosts to The South – the impressive nine-piece band that rose from the ashes of that British pop institution, The Beautiful South.

Three top tribute acts play Rothes Hall. Simon & Garfunkel: Through the Years revisits the duo’s much-loved back catalogue on 3 September; the world’s favourite celebration of George Michael’s music, Fastlove: Everything She Wants, is on 18 September; and the international smash hit Abba show, Thank You For The Music, takes place on 23 September.

If comedy is your bag, then get ready to grab tickets for award-winning stand-up Larry Dean at Carnegie Hall on 25 June and laugh-out-loud Leah MacRae at Rothes Hall on 10 September.

“It’s great to be back,” says Heather Stuart, “and, with those summer nights stretching out ahead of us, what better time to get out there and enjoy some fantastic entertainment again.”

Author Sir Ian Rankin and singer Marti Pellow were among the VIP guests at the launch of Jack Vettriano’s new exhibition at Kirkcaldy Galleries last night.

Sir Ian Rankin, Jack Vettriano and OnFife Chief Executive Heather Stuart

Around 80 guests attended the private preview event for the long-awaited show, which had been postponed twice because of Covid-19 restrictions.

In his welcome speech, the artist paid tribute to Kirkcaldy Galleries and Fife’s public art collection, which he described as the best in Scottish art outside Edinburgh and Glasgow.

He also had a dig at the Scottish art establishment and National Galleries of Scotland, which has never exhibited any of his works.

“It has an annual budget, and that budget is your money, and my money,” he said. “It is taxpayers’ money – so why don’t they give the taxpayers what the taxpayers want?”

Before adding, to much laughter: “I’m not saying I’d be at the top of the list but probably the second top.”

Jack Vettriano: The Early Years, which opens today (Friday), features an array of early works completed before the artist achieved international success in the 1990s. Alongside pieces that have commanded five and six figure sums are a dozen oil paintings, produced by the artist in his 20s and early 30s and signed with his birth name, Jack Hoggan.

It is the artist’s first retrospective since a major show at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery in 2013 and the first to focus on his formative years and early career.

For Vettriano, who grew up in Methil and Leven, the exhibition is a welcome return to the gallery where he developed his passion for art, having been gifted a set of paints for his 21st birthday.

The show also includes one of two paintings he entered for the Royal Scottish Academy’s annual show in 1988 – both of which sold on the first day, a turning point that inspired the artist to go full-time – and also his rejection letter from Edinburgh School of Art.

Jack Vettriano: The Early Years is at Kirkcaldy Galleries until 23 October 2022

Jack Vettriano and Marti Pellow

Gallery showcases Rachel’s forte for feel-good portraits  

Inspirational photographs that celebrate the strength, beauty and wisdom of women over 40 are to feature in an upcoming exhibition.

Forty life-affirming portraits by Fife’s Rachel Watson will feature in a show filled with joy, laughter and plenty of pizazz.

For the Saline-based photographer – better known by her social media name Rachel ShootSweet – 40 over 40 is the perfect opportunity to show that age is only a number.

“So often,” says Rachel, “society would have women believe they are less valuable as they age but those I’ve photographed are, without exception, smart, brave and beautiful.”

Rachel has spent six months photographing the women – either in the studio, or at outdoor locations including beaches, woodlands and gardens. Participants’ ages range from 40 to 97.

Among them are two women who have undergone operations to treat breast cancer. Both women, says Rachel, wanted to love and embrace their bodies and how they have changed.

Photo sessions have enabled all the sitters to share conversations about their lives – their hopes and dreams, how they have changed and what they would tell their younger selves.

They have also provided an opportunity for the woman to be, in Rachel’s words, ‘the most epic version of themselves’. Although, understandably, the photo sessions can be a little daunting to start with, the overall experience is always transformational, Rachel adds.

“What’s considered beautiful changes from country to country, decade to decade and person to person,” says Rachel, “so why even try to conform? Women don’t need to be anyone else’s idea of beauty – this is about celebrating these women for who they are.”

40 over 40 will take place in the FifeSpace Gallery at Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, from 31 May until 20 August. Admission is free.

Being a service that supports people with dementia to fully participate has always been important to us and we were delighted to be supported in our activities by The Life Changes Trust.  We’re pleased to let you know about our dementia group at Kirkcaldy Galleries, where you can share a cuppa with Fiona and Jacqueline and explore local history through our unique collections.

To find out more about these free monthly sessions and to book your place call 01592 583206 or email kirkcaldy.galleries@onfife.com.

We have another activity which you don’t even have to leave your house to take part in.  We think everyone will enjoy our trip down memory lane, recorded at Beveridge Park in Kirkcaldy.

Do you remember feeding the birds there, or the rowing boats in the pond? Perhaps you enjoyed the putting green or played bowls. Whatever your memories of the park, we hope it brings back happy ones. You can watch the video here.

Don’t forget to pause the video to reminisce over a cuppa with family and friends!

Workers who floored the world urged to share their stories 

Workers who helped shape one of Scotland’s most enduring industrial success stories are being asked to share their memories with museum staff.

Curators in Fife want to speak to anyone who played a part in building the county’s reputation as a world-leading centre for linoleum production.

Staff are capturing employees’ reminiscences as part of a £115,000 project that seeks to engage people with Fife museums’ globally renowned linoleum collection.

The Flooring the World project – backed by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund – is also encouraging people to come forward with work-related artefacts.

Curators hope the two-year project will fill gaps in a remarkable collection that includes photographs, pattern books, catalogues, samples and workers’ tools.

Linoleum, and its many variants, has been dubbed the most ubiquitous and democratic of floor coverings, bought by customers across the social spectrum. Included in Fife’s collection is a piece of the linoleum that furnished Paul McCartney’s childhood home in Liverpool.

Products made in Kirkcaldy – and the Fife villages of Falkland and Newburgh – floored millions of homes, offices and public buildings at home and abroad.

The industry employed one in 10 of Kirkcaldy’s population at its peak in 1914 but, with consumers increasingly choosing vinyl flooring or carpets, just one factory was left by 1963.

The sole remaining factory – built by Kirkcaldy’s first floor covering manufacturer, Michael Nairn & Co – is still operational today and owned by international flooring company, Forbo.

The Swiss-based company recently gifted its historical archive, which dates back to Nairn’s foundation in 1847, to the cultural charity OnFife, which runs the region’s museums service.

A key aim of Flooring the World will be to make the expanded archive accessible to all – through museum displays or, by appointment, at OnFife’s Collections Centre in Glenrothes.

Forbo’s treasures includes a striking set of linoleum marquetry pictures, banners carried by workers on summer excursions and delightful promotional materials created by renowned sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi. Nairn’s very own factory fire engine also features.

Project engagement curator Lily Barnes said: “Our collection is strong on the first century of lino production, but contains fewer objects from the 1960s onwards. This period, well within living memory of contemporary Fifers, will be a particular focus over the next two years.”

Curators are particularly keen to hear from women workers and anyone who took part in industrial action. They also want to learn more about production in Falkland and Newburgh.

As well recollections of day-to-day working practices, the team would welcome stories about the many musical bands, social clubs and sports teams linked to factories.

Gavin Grant, OnFife’s Collections Team Leader, said: “We’d like to find out as much as we can about the everyday experiences of people working with linoleum – not just manufacturing, but retail, marketing, administration and all of the other associated roles.”

The project will also explore the wider social impact of linoleum on people’s lives. The team is keen to hear from anyone who remembers having linoleum at home or in places of work.

The Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, which is run by the Museums Association, supports initiatives that help collections achieve greater social impact. The fund has awarded more than £11 million to 162 projects since it launched in 2011.

Story wagon rolls into town … ready for campfire tales to begin

It is a former coalmining town with a rich seam of stories to tell – now the people of Lochgelly are being encouraged to share them.

Lochgelly is one of four Scottish communities chosen to host a five-day storytelling event run by the national charity, Scottish Book Trust.

The Community Campfires project will invite local residents to celebrate the people, places and events that make their town special.

Free workshops that bring on board an author, a digital storyteller, a filmmaker and a podcaster will help people share their stories in unexpected ways.

Storyteller Luke Winter and his team will pitch up in their eye-catching blue story wagon from 23 to 27 May.

Their informal drop-in sessions at the Lochgelly Centre – hosted by OnFife Libraries – are also open to people from surrounding towns and villages.

The residency will end with a celebratory community campfire, which enables people to tell their tales in a variety of formats, including print, audio and film.

Community Campfires is part of a wider Scottish Book Trust initiative called Scotland’s Year of Stories. Its focus is celebrating stories inspired by, or created in, Scotland.

“The sessions will be fun,” says OnFife Libraries’ Service Development Officer, Christine Cook. “You don’t have to be a great writer – just willing to come along and get involved.”

“It’s all about drawing out stories and experiences – past and present – that give a real flavour of the people who make up this part of Fife.”

Lochgelly has no shortage of material – carefree days out at the Meedies, Tawse-induced terror in the classroom, or endless hours lost in the town’s gigantic Cooperative Store.

There are rich pickings too in the town’s mining past – a time when its Little Moscow moniker was a badge of honour for so many local men and women.

Once the coal ran dry, in came the Andrew Corporation, whose mysterious microwave antennae, produced on the edge of town, were symbolised by a red lightning flash.

Away from the coalface and factory floor, sporting stories abound – 11,000-plus spectators at Gardiners Park, or the thrills and spills of the wondrously named Thunder Valley Raceway.

Organisers are also keen to hear more recent stories – among them, anecdotes that illustrate how the community responded to the challenges of the Covid pandemic.

“We can’t wait to hear, watch and read the stories of the people in this vibrant community,” says Christine. “It promises to be a great week of shared experiences.

“Keep an eye on our Fife Libraries Facebook page or drop into our Jennie Lee library at the Lochgelly Centre to have a chat with our lovely staff about how you can get involved.”

Says Luke Winter:

“I’m incredibly excited for Story Wagon to be visiting Fife with Scottish Book Trust as part of Year of Stories. As craic catalysts, Story Wagon encourages people to explore and create stories.

“The Your Stories programme from Scottish Book Trust has done a brilliant job of collating treasure troves of stories across Scotland over the past 14 years.”

Marc Lambert, CEO of Scottish Book Trust, said:

“The Your Stories programme has always been a cornerstone of Scottish Book Trust, giving a platform for people to share personal experiences and for some, be published for the first time.”

“Through the Community Campfires residencies project, we will be able to connect directly with these important stories and share them with a wider audience.”

The Your Stories programme is funded by Event Scotland.

All OnFife libraries, museums and galleries will be closed on Monday for the bank holiday. We’re sorry if this causes any disappointment or inconvenience.

Wellbeing festival programme is packed full of bright ideas

Variety and creativity are key elements in a month-long series of events designed to improve health and wellbeing across Fife.

People of all ages are being encouraged to take part in OnFife’s Ways to Wellbeing Festival – and to spread the word among friends and family.

From 2022 to 2024 Ways to Wellbeing will also be part of the National Lottery Heritage Fund-funded partnership project Dunfermline & West Fife Wellbeing Through Heritage to support a Covid-19 recovery focusing on access to heritage through a series of facilitated and enriched activities to promote wellbeing.

OnFife’s recently launched Cultural Wellbeing sessions – which are tailor-made for people living with dementia and their carers – provide a perfect start to the programme.

Mindfulness practitioner Craig Gilbert will lead a session at Kirkcaldy Galleries on Tuesday 10 May, and newcomers will be particularly welcome.

Craig’s session, which is supported by The Life Changes Trust, will provide a mix of artistic flair and mindfulness to help relaxation and improve wellbeing.

And there’s time for more reflection on Wednesday 11 May when book lovers of all ages can join a Scotland-wide reading initiative that seeks to boost mental health.

The Keep the Heid and Read campaign is inspired by recent research, which suggests reading for just six minutes a day can boost wellbeing by 68 per cent.

The campaign is being led by the Scottish Library and Information Council, in partnership with mental health charities and Scotland’s 32 public library services, including OnFife. People can pledge to complete six minutes of reading by visiting www.keeptheheid.scot

After this moment of calm and quiet, comes something altogether more raucous – a feel-good evening that offers a light-hearted look at the menopause.

The Midlife is a Cabaret – Laughing in the Face of Menopause! is at Rothes Halls on Friday 13 May. It promises to be eye-opening, enjoyable and a whole load of fun.  Fab comedians Raymond Mearns and Pauline Eyre, as well as the ever-wonderful, dynamic duo Red Velvet

Revelry, will be there to keep the crowd on its toes – more details and booking here:  The Midlife is a Cabaret – Laughing in the Face of Menopause.

As Fife celebrates Ways to Wellbeing, younger readers can take part in Bookbug Week, from 16-22 May. All events are suitable for families with children aged 0-4 and every event is free, although booking is essential. This year’s theme is Bookbug’s Big Journey, and it’s full of interesting twists and turns along the way.

And don’t forget OnFife’s Lego Club. They’re the perfect opportunity for everyone – families, children over 8 to adults over 80 – to have fun as they construct, create and chill out. These weekend sessions will take place at Kirkcaldy Galleries, Duloch, St Andrews, Buckhaven, Cadham and Jennie Lee libraries. Contact the venues for details.

There are also free Ways to Wellbeing scavenger hunt and activity packs available in all libraries from 7 May.

A five-day event in Lochgelly will be bringing people together to share stories. The town is one of four Scottish communities chosen to host a five-day storytelling event from 23-27 May.

The Community Campfires project – run by the Scottish Book Trust – will invite local residents to celebrate the people, places and events that make their town special. Everyone from Lochgelly and its surrounding towns and villages is invited to the Lochgelly Centre to share stories linked to the area.

Elsewhere, three OnFife Libraries are promoting the physical and mental health benefits of walking, reading and sharing books.

Anyone can take part in the Walk ON wellbeing initiative – no matter their age or fitness level. The idea is simple – take part in a short health walk, and then relax with your fellow trekkers over a chat about books. You don’t even need to read anything in advance.

To find out more about these free sessions, get in touch with OnFife Libraries staff at Cupar, Duloch and Rothes Halls.

And, lastly, if it’s craft activities you have been yarning for… then why not try the Kirkcaldy Galleries crochet club or the knitting group at Templehall library? Contact the venues for details.