The first two months of 2022 are gone, one-sixth of the year, history already. Time for an update on the Gaia/nature reading challenge and to properly introduce The Lighthouse a new literacy and creativity centre in Toowoomba. I promised to donate a nature-related book to The Lighthouse for every post on the Gaia challenge in January and February. I have put together a nice little pile of books to add to the Lighthouse’s one-way library project aiming to get books into kids hands and homes. The most recent purchases are some gorgeously illustrated natural history books for kids: an Usborne board book on bug homes because kids love bugs, or at least they should. The incredibly beautiful What it is Like to be a Bird by Tim Birkhead, illustrated by Catherine Rayner and the equally beautifully illustrated, weird and wonderful The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Peculiar Pairs in Nature by Sami Bayly. This little pile of books I hope will inspire even greater curiosity and love for the natural world. I certainly found them beautiful to flick through and fascinating to read. They are books I may not have picked up except for the need to gather some suitable books to gift to the Lighthouse and its mission to inspire and nurture creativity and literacy.
The Lighthouse itself is an amazing project and space, a wonderful addition to the cultural landscape of Toowoomba, positively magical, whether you are a child or an adult. Based on Dave Eggers 826 Valencia, The Lighthouse sets out to provide a supportive creative space for kids and adults, but mainly kids. The programmes and infrastructure for adults supports and funds the activities for kids. The gorgeous corner prescient at 126 Margaret St, diagonally opposite Queens Park, consists of interconnected buildings.
What was once a sushi restaurant is nowThe Write Gallery, a stunning exhibition space with some fantastic art shows planned for 2022. Including an exhibition by botanical artist and designer Tarn McLean to coincide with the Carnival of Flowers in September and an exhibition I am very much looking forward to in October, by the wonderful author, illustrator and artist Caroline Magerl, check out Caroline’s Instagram for an insight into her enchanting vision.
Right now in the Lighthouse Explorers Emporium, part of the main building you can view three gorgeous works by Caroline, you will also find two beautiful original works by famed illustrator Chris Riddell.
The main Lighthouse building, (once a real estate office), begins with the Emporium space and climbs to an evocative, explorer’s space, filled with books and objects to inspire.
A story has been built around this amazing space and a fictional founder; Humboldt Montague Taylor. An old photo is the basis for the intrepid explorer, and the top floor activity space is Humbolt’s study. Oh, and the name Humboldt, I am informed is inspired by the great naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt, so the Lighthouse already has a connection to celebrating the natural world.
The space is very much a work in progress, thriving on donations and goodwill, so if you have any curious objects gathering dust and would like to donate them to the Lighthouse I am sure they will be gratefully received. If you have time on your hands, maybe volunteer to run a class or just help out with some of the practical things needed to make this space work.
On the ground floor, there are also the offices for Book Links and Child Writes and intermingled behind the main building is a rabbit warren of spaces available for use, particularly by writers and artists. They already have a crime writer and a romance writer in residence utilising the office space.
There is even a podcasting studio available for use. While adults pay to use the space, kids get to use Lighthouse facilities for free.
And even the Write Gallery is available to rent and it is not just a static art space but highly interactive. They have many workshops planned to coincide with exhibitions.
And check out the quirky lecture series organised by the Write gallery, I am looking forward to attending many of these and I think it is a great idea and way to share knowledge inspiration and our stories.
Lastly on the corner of the precinct what was once a fast food takeaway is about to become a new Emerge cafe. Emerge is well known to Toowoomba residents as a great cafe but also as a great initiative giving jobs, training and support to disadvantaged youth. A perfect partner for the Lighthouse.
The Lighthouse is an exciting project and one that will grow and expand, so if you are in Toowoomba, stop by and check them out. Check out the website: https://www.thelighthousetoowoomba.org/ and Don’t forget to keep an eye on events like exhibitions and quirky lectures
I have put together a small collection of books to drop off to the Lighthouse this week to keep my promise to donate a nature themed book for every post on the Gaia/Nature challenge so far this year. Not sure if I have kept count properly and if I have missed a post whether it be on a blog, GoodReads or Insta, whatever your platform of choice, let me know.
The last book in the pile is not a picture book, but a book I felt very strongly about including. It is Dara McAnulty’s remarkable Diary of a Young Naturalist. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, it is a remarkable piece of nature writing, beautiful in every way. Filled with wonder and insight and aside from the important contribution Dara makes to understanding and appreciating the natural world, he also generously gives insight into the experience of neurodiversity, to being different in a world that doesn’t always accept difference. Karen at Living on the Downs wrote a great post on Diary of a Young naturalist for last year’s Gaia/nature challenge check it out. Dara is a remarkable young man, fifteen years old when he wrote the book, he went on to be the youngest-ever winner of the Wainwright Prize. I would love to think that Dara’s writing will inspire other kids to write as passionately and as beautifully as he does. Like Greta Thunberg, Dara McAnulty is emerging as one of the leading voices in youth eco-activism, we should celebrate and applaud these amazing young people.
I will update on my February reading in my next post that will do for now.