Author Spotlight: Diana Darke Discusses Syria

Diana Darke, authorNo one could accuse author Diana Darke of leading a boring life. Born to German parents in rural Wales, Diana studied Arabic at Oxford and spent many years living and working in the Middle East in a variety of government jobs. Writing about her travels started out as a hobby but rapidly became a career as, in the last 25 years, Diana has written no less than seventeen books on Turkey and the Middle East.

In 2005, Diana bought an 18th century courtyard house in the Old Walled City of Damascus, and spent the next three years restoring it – an experience that led her back to academia and the study of Islamic Architecture.

My House in Damascus, by Diana DarkeThis beautiful house in Damascus is the focus of her latest book, as well as the history of the current conflict in Syria told from a personal perspective. The richness and diversity of Syrian society is explored, bringing a much needed human context to the subject.

As part of the Paddington Book Festival, Diana will be giving an illustrated talk on her book My House in Damascus: An Inside View of the Syrian Revolution this evening at Maida Vale Library. For all forthcoming Paddington Book Festival and other events, please take a look at our News & Events page.


Courttia Newland on location in Church Street

Snakeskin by Courttia Newland   Music for the off-key, by Courttia Newland   A book of blues, by Courttia Newland   Society within, by Courttia Newland

Author Courttia Newland was our special guest at Church Street Library last week.  The author of seven novels, Courttia was in familiar surroundings, having made regular visits to Church Street market and the Lisson Green estate in the 1980s.  This coincidence fitted well with his chosen theme of place and environment in his writing.

We were delighted to welcome an audience of local people including users of the Home Library Service, who were able to attend thanks to the transport and support provided by HLS staff.  The audience particularly appreciated listening to Courttia reading from his own work. One Home Library Service customer commented on Courttia’s “beautiful, clear voice” and another customer enjoyed the chance to ask him about creative writing programmes.

Courttia Newland at Church street Library, October 2014


Come on in, the door’s open

Access to Research‘Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publications’. There’s a snazzy title for a document that I’m sure all of you have pored over. Or maybe you know it better as the Finch Report. Or maybe you don’t know it at all?

To be honest, it doesn’t matter – all any of us need to know is that it’s a Jolly Good Thing because it recommended that publicly funded research should be available to the people who paid for it: the public. Us, in fact. So Proquest (who some of you may know as the publishers of Ancestry, the fantastic online genealogical resource) were signed up to provide the ‘Access to Research’ front-end, which is about as user-friendly as it’s possible to be, and various publishers were brought on board. The current “offer” is impressive – 8,000 journals, many with long back files, containing 4 million freely-available articles. And these are from top academic publishers, 17 of them and counting, including big names like Oxford University Press and Wiley.

The range of subjects is extraordinary – some of the topics are obscure (Journal of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, anyone?) but there is plenty of more mainstream stuff (Journal of popular film and television for example). The point is that if you need access to research, esoteric or otherwise, and don’t belong to an academic library or have an awful lot of money at your disposal, you now have it.

So how does it work? You simply visit your local library – access is available in Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham libraries, as well as many other participating library services across the UK. Log onto a library computer and, in Westminster, go to our Online Resources. The interface couldn’t be simpler. Just enter your search terms (as with Google, you can use inverted commas around the term if you want to search for an exact phrase,  so “joan crawford” will return 102 results and joan crawford 1494). You will be asked to accept the Terms and Conditions (don’t worry – you only have to do this once each session). Do have a look at them – the most important condition is that users can’t save documents electronically although they can print out one copy of each article.  Accept the T&Cs and then look at the results.

When you click on an article, it will open up in a new tab so your results list remains open. You can read most of the articles as HTML format (like a straightforward webpage) or as a PDF (probably better if you intend to print it out ).

You don’t have to do a keyword search – you can Browse All Journals, using a drop-down menu to choose a subject. Or if you choose Advanced Search you can search by Author and narrow down your results by date.

Don’t forget to return to the original search screen to make each new search. The search results pop up on the websites of the various publishers, but if you stay there and use their own search boxes, you may find that you reach areas which are not part of the scheme, and get asked to pay unnecessarily.

This is all material that has previously not been available to The Public, only to those attached to academic institutions. So we should certainly make the most of it. Happy researching!


SWr1tes: Ryan, Moustafa, Boniface and a historical walk

The front entrance to Pimlico Library

SWr1tes, the Pimlico Library Book Festival, drew to a close last week after a really successful series of author events. Some authors were primarily discussing their own work, others were offering tips and advice on getting published, the writing process and more.

“It was fantastic”
“Thoroughly enjoyable”

These were just some of the responses to William Ryan’s visit to Pimlico Library. It was a very interesting presentation where William revealed how he conducted research work in Moscow for his novels set in 1930s Russia. He also took time out to discuss his book The Bloody Meadow. We hope inspiration has set in and that we will be lending works by the Book Group members very soon!

William Ryan visits Pimlico Library for SWr1tes 2014

A slightly different kind of SWwr1tes event was a walking tour of the Pimlico area with reference to World War One, led by Chris Everett. Chris’s tour included Dolphin Square – which was the site of the Government-owned Army Clothing factory at the time – and concluded at Victoria Station where many embarked for battle. The walk was very popular with calls for more. One member said that she “enjoyed the walk immensely” and that Pimlico Library was “vibrant with a real buzz about it”. Another commented that Chris “knew his stuff” with further comments that the tour was “knowledgeable and well delivered”.

Chris Everett leads a WW1 themed walk from Pimlico Library for SWr1tes 2014

Egypt: the elusive Arab Spring, by Wafik MoustafaLater in the week, Dr Wafik Moustafa presented his book Egypt- the elusive Arab Spring. The subject was a very topical issue at the moment and this was reflected in the audience of local residents and attendees from various academic institutions. This contributed to what one member of the audience described as “a very informed discussion”. We are grateful for Dr Moustafa taking time out from his role as a doctor and as a member of Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Global Ethics to come to Pimlico Library. As one of the audience noted, an “excellent choice”.

And finally, the Festival concluded with a workshop on self-presentation by Edward St Boniface, author of The London Trilogy. He gave tips and advice to all budding authors, who were inspired by Edward’s journey to being published. There was an excellent response to the workshop with a member of the audience stating “This was a very good talk with a great speaker. Informed, polite and professional”.

Edward St Boniface visits Pimlico Library for SWr1tes 2014

We would like to thank Edward and all our authors, speakers and tutors who have contributed their time to the Festival. A big thank you to the staff of Pimlico Library for putting the events on and Random House for the donation of books for the book sale. Lastly a thank you to all the members of the public, all 162 of you who came to the events and supported the Festival.

Until we read again,

The Quiet Librarian

I believe in unicorns (and that books are magic)!

Originally posted on RBKC Libraries blog:

Last week, Kensington Central Library hosted a marvellous magical performance, by Wizards Present, of the stage adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s book “I Believe in Unicorns”

Five classes, of over 150 children and their teachers, from schools in Hammersmith and Fulham, Westminster, and Kensington and Chelsea were entranced by this fabulous story about how lives can be transformed by books, stories and of course libraries and librarians.

Roll up roll up...who wants to see something amazing?

Roll up roll up…who wants to see something amazing?

Not only was the script and the performance magical, but the props used were magical too! The children gasped as books opened up to become houses and villages, books within books, books used to represent mountains and lakes, and they concealed other surprises as the story unfurls as Tomas, with his newfound love of books, becomes instrumental in saving his burning library when his village is devastated by war.

The children and staff loved it…

View original 74 more words

Paper Cutting for Silver Sunday

Our Paper Cutting workshop at Charing Cross Library on Silver Sunday had some very enthusiastic crafters. Chichy demonstrated the basics of this ancient craft, which is practiced throughout the world and has become very popular over the last year. Everyone produced a piece of artwork which combined paper cutting with watercolour painting and they enjoyed the couple of hours of concentration and creativity so much they requested a regular workshop!

“I had a really good time… forgot to use the internet that I had booked before!”

“Enjoyed this very much and to meet Chichy and more residents. Am doing artwork on my walls at home so this will be an added skill!”

“Enjoyable introduction to papercutting. Need more time to learn and develop the skills of the tutor. Need a workshop once a month.”

“Wonderful workshop”

Silver Sunday


Silver Sunday at Paddington Library

While Westminster Music Library got a head start by holding their Silver Sunday 2014 activity on a Saturday (‘Keeping the home fires burning’), Paddington Library filled the whole of the Sunday with a wide range of interesting and absorbing activities…

Silver Sunday 2014 at Paddington LibraryTim Killick, who trained in Hatha Yoga for two years with the British Wheel of Yoga, ran a chair yoga session which consisted of working on a basic relaxed posture with supported breath. He explained that, practised daily, this can strengthen the supporting muscles of the spine and free the shoulders and neck as the breath is guided into the ribs. It is far more difficult than one imagines but gets much easier the more it is practised and is the basis for good health encouraging free flow of energy in the body. According to Tom, a lot of ills, especially in later life can be traced to poor posture blocking the energy flow and leading to tension and overuse of certain muscles and joints.

There was also a play reading session, which took the last act of the ‘The Importance of Being Ernest’ by Oscar Wilde as its basis. Participants started the session with a chance to examine some lace work of the period, handmade sleeves, collars and handkerchiefs (part of a trousseau); also a mother of pearl hand painted fan and chamois leather evening gloves with mother of pearl buttons, some still in their wrappers. Participants swapped parts so that everyone got a chance to read a large part. We had forgotten how very amusing the play is and everyone really enjoyed themselves. The session finished with real coffee and chocolate biscuits. The whole afternoon was a treat.

Silver Sunday

Meanwhile, the IT classes comprised a beginners IT session focusing on internet searching and email. Participants were registered with the Learn My Way package which is interactive and allows the users to progress at their own pace. Once registered they can practice unaided at any time on any PC or they can get volunteer support  in Paddington Library every Friday. Other classes included an Online Shopping session and a Family History class – both proved invaluable and participants received easy to follow handouts for use in the class and for future reference.

The regular knitting class attracted its band of busy workers who made some delightful creations.

Silver Sunday 2014 at Paddington LibraryAnd to round off a successful day, a colleague from Havering Libraries took us through our paces and kept us on our toes with Fitsteps fitness training. A bottle of water was the order of the day if we felt out of puff and a good time was had by all.

We look forward to seeing everyone in the library again, and roll on Silver Sunday 2015!