Out of Hours – Light Night Leeds, 2017

Out of Hours was a site-specific performance, for visitors old and new to The Leeds Library.

The entrance is to be found on Commercial Street, in between the Co-Operative Bank and Paperchase. It is one of Leeds’ best kept secrets. Now there is an opportunity to uncover it, after closing time. It is rumoured that a Victorian ghost with a guilty past still haunts the building .

In small groups, over the course of 45 minutes, A Quiet Word will introduce you to those who can tell the story with a contemporary twist and who may want to ask you in return: what are you afraid of? What keeps coming back to haunt you? What are your hopes or fears – about life in Leeds or elsewhere, or the near or distant future? Where are the places only you know about and what is your best kept secret? You will be invited into the darkest corners of the library, where you will find books and perhaps something more…

In 1884, librarian John MacAllister was working late in his office at The Leeds Library. At around 10.55pm he made ready to leave, in order to catch his last train home to Harrogate. On entering the library’s Main Room, he noticed a figure, standing in the darkness. Believing it to be a burglar, he ran back to the office, to fetch the library pistol from his desk, but, on returning, he found that the figure was gone. At that moment, he realised that a face was peering at him – seemingly from within one of the bookcases. He described the vision as ‘pallid and hairless, and the orbits of his eyes were very deep.’ As he watched, the face’s owner emerged from the bookcase. The stranger shuffled past him, and disappeared into the Gentleman’s toilet. MacAllister followed, but on entering found that figure he had seen had vanished – apparently into thin air. The apparition was later identified as the ghost of Thomas Sternberg – a former librarian who had died in 1880.

Over the course of the performance, the audiences heard the story of Vincent Thomas Sternberg, a Victorian Librarian, who is rumoured to have become the Leeds library Ghost. As part of their visit, they were invited to take part in a séance and experience a supernatural manifestation via a recreation of the Pepper’s ghost illusion used widely in Victorian theatre performances.

The experience began on the street outside the library’s main entrance and lasted for around 45 minutes. All those taking part left the library with a small book as a souvenir. This was a flick-book, that showed the ghost of Sternberg, looming out of the library shelves. You can see the animation that the book contained below.


This strictly limited capacity performance ran from Thursday 5 to Friday October, 2017.

Out of Hours was created specifically for Light Night Leeds 2017.

Produced by A Quiet Word, in collaboration with The Leeds Library

Devising Team – Alison Andrews, Matthew Bellwood, Oscar Stafford, Jaye Kearny, Amy Levene, Shona Mackay, Frances Andrews and members of The Carriageworks Young Theatre Makers

Technical Team – Dave Glenister, Gideon Woods, Tony Lidington

Book Concept and Text – Matthew Bellwood and Alison Andrews

Book Design and Layout – Amy Levene at Wingfinger Graphics

With thanks to the staff and members if The Leeds Library and the Leeds City Council Light Night Team

Out of Hours booklet

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