Grace Hallworth: Obituary :: NEWS

Grace Hallworth: Obituary

19 August 2021 Share

Renowned children’s librarian and storyteller has died aged 93

Grace Hallworth, renowned children’s librarian and storyteller, has died in Ashlyns Care Home, Berkhamsted, on 10th August 2021, aged 93. 

Originally from Trinidad, her first job was establishing children's library services in Tobago. Grace arrived in the UK on a Churchill Fellowship, travelling from Trinidad via internships at Toronto and New York City public libraries. She was appointed children's librarian for Hertfordshire Libraries, serving in several key roles from 1957 to 1985. 

Grace had immense influence as a librarian and a storyteller, with her YLG lectures and courses inspiring many to take up storytelling and initiate creative activities to promote books and link libraries with schools. Her library years saw radical changes in society, and Grace contributed to discussions and policy making regarding multiculturalism and children’s books. Through the London Oral Narrative Group, she collaborated with Harold Rosen and Margaret Meek, and had input in the National Oracy Project. And she often represented the UK abroad, speaking at conferences and seminars run by organisations such as IBBY and UNESCO.  

Like other librarian-storytellers, before and since, Grace wrote several popular storybooks and folktale anthologies, with Down by the River nominated for the Greenaway award. 

When she retired from Hertfordshire, Grace continued as a professional storyteller, featuring in British television and radio programmes, and at storytelling festivals in Britain, Ireland, Denmark, and Israel. She mentored many of today's leading storytelling artists, and helped establish The Society of Storytelling, becoming its first chair. Projects with schools led to developing the concept of story sharing, which focuses on the listener rather than the performer, so that everyone contributes equally. This concept became central to her courses for teachers at Homerton College and other HE institutions. All this contributed to the growth of modern storytelling in and outside Britain, particularly in Ireland, New York, and Trinidad and Tobago. 

Grace was made an honorary life member of YLG in recognition of her work. In the coming months, Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books (in which Grace played a part in its foundation) will feature her work along with that of John Agard, Valerie Bloom, and others in a celebration of Afro-Caribbean children’s writers.

Our deepest condolences to Grace's family and friends.