How library volunteers were lending a ‘helping handbag’ on International Women’s Day

It was all about lending a helping handbag when an annual worldwide women’s event was celebrated by supporters of a new library in South Tyneside.

Saturday, 9th March 2019, 8:00 am
Updated Saturday, 9th March 2019, 9:33 am
Volunteers at Boldon Library celebrate International Women's Day. Gail Barkel, Laura McKeith and Val Scott

Backers of The Library, in Boker Lane, East Boldon, donated over 50 handbags as their contribution to International Women’s Day (IWD) 2019.

The items came packed with essential ladies’ toiletries, and will be donated to women in need across the North East.

In the bag. Volunteers at Boldon Library

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Those supported will include the homeless, those living in refuges, or hospitalised but lacking access to family or friend support.

The initiative was organised by Boldon and Cleadon Community Library, the charity established last year to operate The Library.

Trustee Gail Barkel said: “We wanted to do something by women for women. This project has been successful elsewhere in the country, so we hoped to replicate it here.

“We are so grateful for the incredible generosity of local women. We collected over 50 bags which were taken to the centre for distribution.

“The bags were given by women living in Boldon and Cleadon had joined forces to donate a wide range of handbags full to the brim.”

The items will be distributed through Changing Lives, a national charity which supports over 14,500 people a year.

It delivers specialist services around housing and homelessness, employment, women and children, and addiction, and engages with people who face multiple disadvantages.

IWD, celebrated on March 8 since 1911, highlights women’s struggle for equality and celebrates their social, economic, cultural and political achievements.

The Library was established as a Charitable Trust last November, after volunteers took over an existing centre from South Tyneside Council which was threatened with closure.

It offers a variety of activities and events including toddler groups, WEA sessions and special interest talks.

The first talk is on Tuesday when Fred Rylance will offer an insight into the history of Cleadon House.

Others will follow on the first Tuesday of each month, with National Trust team discussing the history of the Leas and conservation, on April 2.

Local art historian Jean Stokes will deliver a special interest session on the stained glass windows at 7pm on Thursday, March 21.

More information about The Library is available at and on its Facebook page.