Story sparks library inquiry

This Is Wiltshire: Matt Holland with a copy of the book Matt Holland with a copy of the book

ITS shelves are home to books by freedom fighters, misunderstood geniuses and political firebrands.

But a collection of poems and short stories by local authors proved a little too close to home for the custodians of the written word at Swindon Central Library.

The anthology, compiled by the organisers of the town’s literary festival, had been produced with the aim of adding a literary flourish to the council’s Big Arts Day in July.

The library had been involved with the book, entitled Swindon Unlocked, but an account of a night locked inside the building added an unexpected twist to the tale.

It sparked an inquiry by the council who, unsure as to whether the story was fiction or not, were concerned that author Sophie Boyce had fallen victim to a lack of head-counting by its staff at kicking-out time.

A description of an encounter with a security guard and a manager also set off alarm bells at the local authority, which feared for the reputation of its employees.

The fact the story, by Sophie Boyce, was entitled It’s Not the Cake and written in a vernacular style was not enough to halt the inquiry.

“I was woken by the security guards opening up at half seven,” Boyce wrote.

“Thought they were gonna arrest me at first or call the police because they weren’t half shocked to find me there. Didn’t take ’em long to realise what had happened though and they had their manager get out of bed and on the phone quicker than anything.

“You would have thought he’d killed a puppy in front of me the way he apologised but I guess he just didn’t want a lawsuit on his hands or the papers finding out – it’s all PR and lawsuits these days.

“Apparently I’ll be receiving a formal apology in the post and some kind of compensation but I don’t expect it’ll be much.”

The disclaimer was spotted by an Adver reporter who asked for a copy at the library this week and was told they were not on public display.

The ending of the story – where the character’s ordeal gives way to a swipe at the library’s design – is another possible reason why.

Boyce wrote: “Thinking about it now’s quite funny though, see, cause there’s things you don’t think of at the time but strike you later when the moment’s past.

“It isn’t the quiet or the dark or the wind or the deer that sticks in my mind most, it’s them bloody shutters. See, cause they weren’t there to protect the library or the books, they were wrapped around the little cafe like it had the crown jewels inside. No one getting in, no one getting out – as if the cake was the most important thing in the building.”

A spokesman for the council said yesterday that it had wanted to check the potentially disparaging comments about its staff and on the person who may have been trapped.

The situation was resolved when 400 labels were stuck at the end of the contribution in every book, explaining the story of Boyce’s confinement was a work of her imagination.

“The story is fiction,” the disclaimer read. “It is entirely made up. Sophie has never ever been locked up overnight in Swindon’s Central Library.

“But she has enjoyed being in this prize-winning building, with its round reading room and spiral staircase, many times during opening hours. You can too!”

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