“In projects where Matt has led on his own initiative, and also in supporting the wider Fun Palaces community, across the UK and internationally, he has shown a solid understanding of our values and a clear articulation of where this aligns with his own practice – as well as where we can work together for greater benefit. Specifically, his work with Lambeth Libraries for Fun Palaces 2015 made a massive difference both in the engagement with the project, and in the eventual delivery.
Further, he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty. Literally. Fun Palaces are not just about engagement theory and strategy, they are – very deliberately – about true engagement and full participation, across the board, from the grassroots up. Sometimes this means putting up and taking down marquees, in the rain. Matt does this too.
Matt is very good on the theory of practice and the practice of theory, he is also brilliant at linking potential collaborators, whether he will personally benefit from those links or not.
In short, he’s very good at what he does, and he does a lot of great stuff.”
– Stella Duffy, Co-Director, Fun Palaces
“Matt is one of the most outstanding individuals I have encountered in my quarter century in university education. His rare set of gifts combines intellect and professionalism with all-round humanity and commitment.”
– Dr. Warren Boutcher, Queen Mary University of London
“From our perspective, Matt’s workshop was a huge success. The informal feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive.
As staff we also enjoyed it hugely both in terms of content, but also a lesson in taking a creative approach. We are trying to make our classes and courses as engaging as possible and are comfortable with taking risks and doing things differently. Your workshop was a powerful lesson in that also.”
– Professor Matthew Molineux, Head of Occupational Therapy, Griffith University
“We had Matt MC our National Year of Digital Inclusion 2016 Forum in Sydney as part of www.godigi.org.au . The theme was Innovation and Equity and posed the question, How can we create a society where everyone can innovate? Matt led the day brilliantly and engaged with participants who came from government, community and corporate sectors in a way that was inclusive. Highly recommend his work.”
– Brendan Fitzgerald, Manager Digital Inclusion, Infoxchange
“It was a privilege to be involved in [the event], such a buzzing, inspiring and captivating day. I particularly loved seeing the boys’ faces mesmerised by your storytelling- such an art.”
– Emma Caddick, Organiser, Usborne Books At Home
“Matt worked as an expert for Usborne, advising on the Write and Draw Your Own Comics book that I wrote. His insights and enthusiasm proved invaluable. Having someone on the team who’s worked extensively with young people, helping them to unlock their creative potential, made it much easier to work out if what we had on the page would get the job done when it made its way into the hands of actual children.”
– Louie Stowell, Senior Editor, Usborne Publishing
“Friendly, engaging, extremely creative, professional and very easy to work with – Matt Finch has been one of the best people I’ve worked with and I recommend his work without reservation.
Matt worked with CityLibraries Townsville staff for three days in August 2016. We asked Matt to run a range of original workshops with staff from all teams and levels. Matt’s approach was to engage with us early and often. He was very interested in our unique context, in both the formal strategic planning framework sense, as well as the informal organisational culture of our teams. Matt used this to tailor his work so it had immediate impact on staff.
Matt was able to energise staff, enthuse them to think about usually dry topics like strategic planning, and impart a genuine sense of play and adventure when it comes to planning and prototyping new services and programs.
I am sure Matt’s work with us will have an ongoing positive effect which will have qualitative as well as quantitative benefits, and will contribute to sustaining healthy and vibrant services in Queensland.”
– Warren Cheetham, Coordinator Planning & Business Development, CityLibraries Townsville
“Matt ran a workshop for the Somerset Libraries team to build confidence in turning ideas for events, activities and partnerships into reality. Matt’s enthusiasm for libraries immediately shines through, which enabled the group to instantly warm to his messages. The perspective he offered challenged us and stretched our view of what is possible – this is exactly what was needed.
Matt filled the room with fun, creativity and exploration. The session offered international examples about how libraries can engage with local communities, storytelling, building partnerships and enthusing people.
The activities throughout the day got us sharing ideas, allowed us to find our creative flair and encouraged us to think about how we can do things differently.
The legacy – when we are trying to make tricky decisions you can now hear us asking ourselves – WWMFD (What would Matt Finch do?). The workshop has started us on a journey towards an entrepreneurial culture.”
– Tabitha Witherick, Service Manager – Development, Somerset Library Service
“Matt Finch worked with Lambeth Libraries during 2015 to make every library in Lambeth a Fun Palace. This was the first time all the libraries in one local authority in England had become Fun Palaces and Matt was fundamental to our success.
He was able to create contacts for us with a wide range of partners including authors, staff and students at universities, plus makers and artists. In all approximately 175 people joined to make it happen: a mixture of staff and volunteers.
The events required external funding and Matt helped with a successful bid to Arts Council England. He was an excellent co-producer: listening to what we wanted to achieve and providing support to achieve our outcomes. Crucial to the organisation was getting staff and local people on board and Matt helped deliver training for staff and community. As part of his support he also produced a toolkit that could then be used by others to deliver Fun Palace events.
Matt is very creative and provided us with some really interesting ideas that engaged participants of all ages but were which were also simple to use. He listened to our ideas and helped us develop them into practical activities.
We are so lucky to have been able to have him work with us on this. His help and inspiration made it an incredible success. Over the weekend more than 2000 people took part in the activities.
Matt was able to really help us raise our profile and we got lots of publicity for the service and recognition of what libraries can do both locally and nationally. Matt really commits himself to a project, not only did he promote the events and our libraries in the run up and during the Fun Palace weekend, he continues many months later to help publicise our work and tweet about us.
Should we ever get the opportunity we would love to work with Matt again and cannot recommend him enough for the way he engages and brings together communities to explore new ideas and activities.”
-Susanna Barnes, Head of Libraries and Archives, London Borough of Lambeth
“Matt has led us through a number of projects involving local community organisations. He organised the police and rural fire services to participate in a zombie game held in the remote township of Tullamore where school students and teachers strategized their way through a terrifying apocalypse at the local showground. Under Matt’s careful guidance we attracted regional media attention as well as the interest of teaching experts and students from Charles Sturt University who volunteered their time and support, taking on roles in the event.
Time Travel Detectives was devised for local schools. Matt secured the services of Peter and Wendy Miller, convincing them to drive 9 hours from Melbourne to Parkes, to become our Victorian-era scientists whilst showcasing Peter’s amazing digital inventions and works of art. The kids were totally immersed in learning through play – from mastering old English accents, choosing costumes and props, swirling through an eerie time travel fog (smoke machine), and capturing mysterious creatures to use for scientific investigation and reporting.
In typical Matt style, he wasn’t content letting the kids monopolize all the fun. He arranged a speaking event where Peter engaged an adult audience with tales about his movie and sound career, and showed his contemporary digital art projects.
The library is always looking for new and exciting ways to engage with adults and young people, so outreach is important. Matt organised our pub events held at the local Railway Hotel. He talked the owners into letting us “take over” their dining area where we played games including Tabletop Superheroes, which he helped create and license. Pre-games trials and meetings with the pub staff meant that on the night, participants could happily play the games while filling their stomachs.
Matt’s strategic use of social media such as Twitter has worked in our library’s favour. During the “Fun Palaces” weekend and the “Follow a library campaign” he used his experience and expertise to connect us to the world. This resulted in requests for interviews about our programs and practices from popular industry sites such as Library as Incubator and Zoe Toft’s Playing By the Book.
Matt’s articles and blogs have also had a positive impact for Parkes Shire Library. Library Officer Debbie Gould has been in high demand since he drew attention to her talent and skill running groups for adults with a disability. She has accepted an invitation to present at a seminar in Sydney in November 2015. Debbie attributes a great deal of her confidence and skill to three years of working closely with Matt.
“Working with Matt makes me look at what I do so differently. I’ve learned so much about engaging with my audience, trying new things, and taking the time to see what works with them and what doesn’t. The skills that I have learned from him are transferrable; they just don’t belong to working with kids and young people. I’m able to incorporate “Matt-ism” into all my events and presentations,” said Debbie.
As the branch librarian, I can say that working with Matt has been an amazing experience. It’s been so valuable having a partner-in-crime that is prepared to push boundaries of traditional library services – an important reason for Parkes Library becoming the 2014 Bess Thomas Award winner. We’ve achieved industry recognition and provided customers with innovative programs and events and resources. Matt sees the big picture and has the skills to join all the dots. His input has helped us become leaders, not followers, which delights our managers and supporters no end!”
– Tracie Mauro, Branch Librarian, Parkes Shire Library
“Auckland Libraries employed Dr Matt Finch on a fixed term contract from February until August 2013. We appointed Matt to push the boundaries in how our large public library network creates innovative programmes for children and young people. His brief was to inspire others to experiment and learn from the experience of working in fresh, even unexpected ways. We wanted to increase the library’s involvement in interactive play for people of all ages.
In response, Matt created novel opportunities for teams to learn about meaningful play through actually doing play and gaming. He convinced us to buy a store of Nerf guns which, unleashed, became the means of attracting teens into learning experiences. Matt wrote the storyline for a time-travel themed school holiday programme that piloted a vibrant approach to self-directed learning across the library network.
Urging colleagues to see possibilities beyond the library walls, Matt brokered relationships with community and business partners that resulted in a rich array of offsite events and opportunities for library activities in art spaces and retail environments around the city. He built valuable relationships between Auckland Libraries and youth-focused organisations here and overseas.
To drive innovative thinking, Matt sometimes chose to take the lead role and move us into a completely new space. He conceived and created our first Dark Night Festival, a season of adult-focused cabaret and burlesque events to celebrate, challenge, and question sex and sexuality on page, stage, and screen. Dark Night was so successful that it attracted the attention of a city art festival, for which Matt hosted a follow-up event exploring the history of censorship in New Zealand.
Internally, Matt transformed our annual in-house training event for children’s and youth librarians into an international programme, arranging guest speakers from Christchurch, Wellington, Melbourne and New South Wales. This dynamic two-day event created a sense of urgency around the new rules of engagement that a library needs to stay relevant: will we see rules as constraints or a springboard?
Matt delivered on the promise to shake us out of business as usual and engender innovative thinking, collaboration and risk taking. His time at Auckland Libraries created tangible and lasting results in both programmes and mindsets.”
– Greg Morgan, Manager Service Development, Auckland Libraries
“Matt was an invaluable addition to our web content team, able to work unsupervised and deliver superb work on time, every time. I would love to have Matt as a full time content editor and hope to work with him again in the future.”
– Dr. Ashley Tucker, Digital Channels Programme Manager at Herefordshire Council and NHS Herefordshire
“MCAD’s Public Programs received a boost when Matt came over to run a seminar for librarians, and a workshop with Museo Pambata’s Children’s Advocacy Program. The knowledge that he shared, and his enthusiasm for reading and writing, books, and the possibilities of libraries (and other such institutions) inspired the attendees, with whom he has been in contact since. Although the Children’s Advocacy Program of Museo Pambata is now inactive, Matt’s work there has led to the development of an app/game which MCAD hopes to launch this year.”
– Mary Ann Josette E. Pernia, Head of Education and Special Projects,Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, Manila
“Matt came and did a talk for us at one of our Training Days and was incredibly popular with our audience, displaying a level of energy and enthusiasm which was only exceeded by his depth of knowledge. Talking about graphic novels and how to engage readers of all ages with them is a tricky subject for many librarians, but Matt managed to not only get all attendees involved, but the feedback we received showed that his ideas would be taken away and put into practice. I look forward to being able to work with him again in the future.”
– Jonas Herriot, Chair, London Youth Libraries Group, Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals (UK)
“Dr. Finch’s contribution to Behind the Book has been vital to our mission in moving the organization forward. His educational background has allowed him to create materials appropriate to all ages from kindergarten to high school. He has also provided useful advice and insight from his extensive experience. I have no hesitation in recommending Dr. Finch for work in educational consulting, curriculum design and community outreach.”
– Jo Umans, Executive Director and Founder, Behind the Book, New York City
“Matt visited Wollongong City to run a region-wide workshop for staff working with children and young people through a broad spectrum of literacy-based engagement activities. Matt presented a day of workshops on children & youth outreach and engagement.
There were opportunities to have a go at fun, low-cost, practical activities to enthuse and inspire children, young people and families – from how to run a comic book workshop, even if you can’t draw, to the weird and wonderful world of the Fruit Ninja! The workshop was very well attended from a broad cross section of service providers and organisations. The feedback from the day was very positive with staff reporting that they would use the skills learnt on the day back with their children and young people.
We have tried to get Matt back to Wollongong but due to him being in such high demand we have not been able to have him back in our city. We would recommend Matt to anyone wanting an informative, creative and fun workshop – Matt is your person.”
– Tracey Kirk-Downey, Children and Family Services Coordinator, Wollongong City Council, Australia
“Matt has visited Wellington City to run region-wide workshops on ‘outside-the-box’ literacy for libraries, and he continues to be impressive. Instantly grasping the concept of these workshops, Matt was adaptive and happy to cater to our unique requirements. He is a friendly, down to earth, and very likeable character, who related well to the workshop attendees, regardless of their various levels of knowledge, experience and backgrounds. He runs his workshops in a relaxed, yet professional style with the perfect blend of static and dynamic activity, and, in response, we’ve received nothing but positive comments from the attendees. We would count ourselves very fortunate to have Matt back to Wellington City again in the future.”
– Adrienne Hannan, Children’s and Youth Services Coordinator, Wellington City Libraries, New Zealand
“Matt Finch ran two workshop sessions for the NSW Readers’ Advisory Working Group. One of the workshops focused on comics and using them as tools to help connect people with reading. It was also a session which highlighted the interest comics/graphic novels can have for all types of readers.
The other session highlighted that libraries are all about making the real world reach out and touch the boundaries of imagination, knowledge, creativity, and make-believe. He shared some of the events and programs he had been working with in partnership with libraries such as the ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ held in Tullamore showground with over 100 zombies and survivors battling each other. This was a great example of community partnerships. He highlighted using pop culture as a starting point for programs.
Matt also strongly made the point that it is not about technology, but about culture and encouraged public libraries to leverage the ideas from the United Nations public library manifesto which is empowering as it gives permission to do practically anything. He encouraged people to see the opportunities and not the problems and encouraged discussion of the ideas he raised. The NSW Readers’ Advisory Working Group would be very happy to work with Matt again.”
– Ellen Forsyth, State Library of New South Wales, on behalf of the New South Wales Readers’ Advisory Working Group
“In 2012 students at Tullamore were involved in the initial [zombie survival] workshop with Dr Matt Finch. This workshop was a great starting point for many of our students – some who are reluctant writers – to immerse themselves in the world of creative writing. In 2013 our students were given the opportunity to assist in giving students from both Parkes High School and Trundle Central School to experience the same workshop – except this time we were the zombies!
Our students continued to develop their skills in drama, character profiling and writing as part of this workshop. It also required students to work in teams to complete the human pinata task which required students to problem solve. The two days gave students a starting point to write some creative pieces in lessons after the workshops that were about not only survival but how to plan a battle strategy which brought in the text types of the narrative, recount and procedure. This again hooked in our reluctant writers with many producing a sustained piece of writing as a result.”
– Natasha Shankelton, Head Teacher Secondary Studies, Tullamore Central School
“In 2013, our students participated in the Zombie Day at Tullamore. The day was well organised and all students were involved and immersed in the world Dr. Finch created for them. Students thoroughly enjoyed the “zombie experience” with its role playing elements, creativity, and use of higher order thinking skills. Students developed skills in cooperation and teamwork and the writing elements were cleverly incorporated into the activities, for example, using zombie texts to write book reviews. Students had to review if the books had any strategies or tips on surviving zombie outbreaks as well as devising a break out plan. As the kids were immersed in the task they were keen to write! Dr. Finch’s genuine, down to earth, helpful, and playful approach to the experience was really fantastic.”
– Cara Cracknell, Principal, Trundle Central School
“Matt is a gifted speaker with a talent for relating to his audience and engaging them in his subject and passion. He has a vast knowledge of libraries around the world and was happy to talk about their innovations and share information with us. He understands the issues libraries are facing and customised his workshop to suit our situation. Flexible and thoughtful, he was willing to adapt his subject matter to the needs of his participants as he quickly grasped where their attention and zeal lie. The participants were led on an active journey of discovery into pop culture phenomena. They left the workshop excited, engaged and full of new ideas and knowledge, and with a good dose of enthusiasm – ready to seize and craft new opportunities. We are looking forward to having Matt return next year to delight us with his lively personality and enlighten us further with his new discoveries.”
– Rose Barker, Manager, Wellington City Libraries
“My library colleagues and myself found Matt Finch’s presentation at the NYR – Are we done Yet? (Nov 2012, PLVN , State Library Melbourne) extremely helpful and inspiring. Since we work at one of the busiest library branches in Victoria. Matt’s experience in lower socioeconomic areas of Australia and UK, as well as tips for programs that encourage readers, were extremely relevant to our libraries. I found him a very informative, passionate, and entertaining speaker. Matt tailored content and was flexible to adapt his content to his audience. He used creative engagement tools and threw out provoking questions. He allowed interruptions for questions and answered with clarity. Matt also made himself available for further questioning between breaks and after. This provided us further specific insight into potential strategies to address public libraries challenges of with engaging youth in literacy and storytelling.
The following day after the event I started formulating some programs with like-minded “guerilla warrior” library colleagues – asking the same question that Matt asked; “What super hero would make the best Librarian and why?” We expanded this to ask the youth who visit our library, which resulted in interesting responses. The most popular was “The Hulk, because we are strong & supportive, but can suddenly turn with super strength to discipline them when required!”. Very edifying indeed! From this knowledge together with my colleagues we have developed a “superhero” themed youth Wii & PS3 competitions during the Australian summer school holidays, to tie in with games & movie blockbuster releases. Taking Matt’s tips on board to ensure library programs encourage reading, there is also a audience favourite prize for borrowing/bringing a book of superheroes and dressing up as them.
So a big thank you to Matt for inspiring us to engage youth in the library with more gusto and creative, low budget solutions. We hope he is able to share this knowledge with more library and community organisations with the mission to reach & teach youth to be life long readers and storytellers.”
-Rachel Harvey, Brimbank Libraries
“When Parkes Library works with Dr Matt Finch, we always know we are going to receive a dose of the extraordinary.
His approach to literacy is not only completely engaging to students of all ages but shows a preparedness to work outside the norm that consistently provides our library with positive results. In real terms this means that we make connections with students and schools that we’ve missed in the past, fill teen workshops to capacity in record time (and negotiate extra sessions to meet demand), while increasing our visitor, borrowing and membership numbers.
Through working collaboratively with Matt we know that we are providing Parkes children with unique opportunities. It is so satisfying watching the kids participate in the full-sensory workshops then becoming so totally immersed in their writing and drawing that they don’t want to stop.
With Dr Finch in the library, usual policy is suspended occasionally. Instead of frowning upon mobile phone conversations, the staff can’t help but smile. After all, it’s only a bunch of parents telling other parents to do themselves a favour and get them, and their kids, down to the library, ‘because I don’t know where they got this guy from, but he’s amazing!’ We can work with that…”
– Tracie Mauro, Branch Librarian, Parkes, New South Wales
“It was lovely to have someone like Matt Finch as presenter for our recent blogging workshop. He really engages the kids and it’s great to see them responding to him so well. We are all very keen to put our new skills into practice and produce some new and interesting tasks.”
– Sam Anderson, teacher at Tullamore Central School, New South Wales
“Your talk on children’s literacy was really insightful. I’ve been reading the articles about comics in the classroom on your website – it’s great to realise that initial ideas I have had can so easily be implemented. I feel like I am one step closer to assembling the Avengers in an everyday classroom!”
– Kylie Xerri, participant in professional development staff meeting, The Oaks Public School, New South Wales
“From my point of view, Matt’s book trailer workshop was a big hit. His enthusiasm had the students ‘eating out of the palm of his hand’ and they all produced some really creative presentations on books!”
– Jo Pilon, Librarian, TAFE Parkes, New South Wales
“In a world of globalised business, internationally aware educators like Dr. Matt Finch make a vital contribution to the training of the next generation. Matt’s ability to understand the worlds of academia, business and the wider community is supremely valuable in developing the next generation of the workforce. At PMD Magnetics, his work in training and community outreach has made a huge impact on our work as corporate citizens and our long term commitment to the UK economy.”
– Geoff Dance, Managing Director, PMD Magnetics, Stratford upon Avon
“Matt’s contribution to Paint the Town REaD in 2011 has been a game-changer for our organisation. From managing our website launch to developing workshops and presentations for schools and public bodies, he has made a vast contribution to all our activities as we prepare for 2012′s Year of Reading. His energy, enthusiasm and talent for community education are limitless and Paint the Town REaD is pleased to recommend his services to clients in Australia and beyond!”
– Rhonda Brain OAM, Founder, Paint the Town REaD
“Dr Matt Finch has been one of my favourite guest lecturers. Not only was he engaging as a speaker, but his passion for literacy was actually infectious. I went home thinking I needed to do something to get more kids into libraries or generally into reading and proceeded to spend an hour on the phone talking to my 9 year old nephew about his recent discovery of Gulliver’s Travels and I rejoiced that my brother’s hatred of novels didn’t pass down to his offspring.
As a child literacy was one of the most appealing things, it was a new adventure in every new book. Even as an adult I feel the same way, I just lack the time to pick up a book at the moment between uni, work and getting ready to move house. I want to indulge in my favourite, The Secret Garden, but at the same time finally get through Game of Thrones that have been sitting on my bookshelf since my last birthday. My point is is that I love that Dr Finch is imparting the same passion and doing something worthwhile, addressing parliaments to get literacy right in the public mind.”
“The students were captivated and you left an excellent impression on all of us!”
– Mireia Barrachina-Plo, Development Leader for Student Voice, Heart of England School
“Matt did a brilliant job and his presentation was pitched at the right level, giving pupils very interesting examples from the real world of business”
– Cornelia Smith, Head of Languages, Queen Elizabeth School, Atherstone