A living, breathing library

Britain's biggest ever human library opens in Norwich this week. ROWAN MANTELL reports on the talking books which are living, breathing and happy to take questions too.

Joe Stirling was born Gunter Stern. A Jewish child, in Nazi Germany, he survived by walking through four countries and arriving in Britain in the final train-load of child refugees.

He never saw his parents again and his entire extended family was slaughtered in the gas chambers.

Kerry Whybrow was born a man, became a husband three times and now has a wedding dress ready for her next marriage, which will be as a woman.

Vince Laws was discovered as a baby in the wreckage of a car crash that killed his adoptive mother. He has written poems about that, and about being HIV positive.

Manfred Haggan joined the army as a teenager and found it hard to cope when he rejoined the outside world at 40.

Tom Garrod was still a teenager when he became a county councillor.

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This Wednesday Joe, Kerry, Vince, Tom and Manfred will all be books, ready to share their life stories as part of Britain's biggest ever Human Library.

People with stories to tell about having Tourette's syndrome, being a migrant worker, working with prisoners, and an Australian woman who converted to Islam while living inNorwich are also expected to take part.

Just as in a regular library, readers will be able to borrow their chosen books. They then have up to half an hour to talk to them.

Organiser Nick Little explained that the international Human Library is designed to challenge prejudice, allowing visitors to talk to people they might not otherwise meet.

Each book is a real person, each plot is a real life and each reading is a conversation.

'Everyone who comes across it sees the simplicity and utter brilliance of the idea!' said Nick.

Britain's biggest human library takes place this Wednesday November 3 from 11am until 7pm at The Forum.

Readers can simply turn up browse the 'books' and borrow their chosen title for a 30 minute chat.