Former Eastwood High School pupil organises Living Library to challenge hate and discrimination

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Substance abuse. Foster care. Sexual assault. The traveller community.

Whether we like to acknowledge it or not, these words most likely evoke any number of preconceived notions.

While very different in nature, these subjects have one thing in common - the people behind these headings face prejudice and discrimination on a daily basis.

An exciting and unique event, designed to challenge these misconceptions, will be held in Edinburgh later this month as part of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival.

The ‘Living Library’, organised by Laura Pasternak, a former Eastwood High School pupil and a young Regional Ambassador for the Holocaust Educational Trust in collaboration with the Scottish Storytelling Centre, is just like any normal library. In the same way that visitors browse the shelves in their local library and select a book to read, attendees at the Living Library will be able to browse our catalogue and choose a book to borrow. The main difference is that the books at this event are people, and reading consists of a conversation. Each of the ‘Books’ at the Living Library are people who’ve experienced discrimination and prejudice in society.

Among the Books featured at this event are first and second generation survivors of the Holocaust and the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, survivors of sexual violence, travellers, care experienced people, LGBT people, people with disabilities, refugees and feminists. While the discrimination the Books have faced is wide and varied, all have one thing in common - the prejudice they’ve experienced is underpinned by a lack of understanding and ignorance. This event is designed to allow for meaningful conversations to promote tolerance and respect.

Laura Pasternak, Regional Ambassador for Scotland with the Holocaust Educational Trust and organiser of the Living Library, said: “The Living Library is a wonderful opportunity to create a safe space for culturally diverse storytelling to dispel myths and encourage understanding of people or groups of people that regularly face discrimination and prejudice. It’s also an unmissable opportunity, in my view, to speak with Holocaust survivors which soon will no longer be possible.”

“With hate crimes in Scotland on the rise, and the recent anti-Semitic shooting on Yom Kippur in Halle, there’s never been a more urgent time to spark change and champion equality and human rights. Visitors to the Living Library will have the chance to speak with people they perhaps wouldn’t ordinarily encounter in their daily lives. My hope is that visitors will be open-minded, ask the Books questions ,and that their encounters will empower them not to stand-by in the face of hatred and discrimination.”

The Living Library will take place as part of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival on Sunday 20 October from 11am - 5pm at the Scottish Storytelling Centre at 43-45 High Street, Edinburgh. The event is completely free, drop-in and is open to all ages (under 12s must be accompanied by an adult).

Find out more about the event here: Scottish International Storytelling Festival