SWr1tes: Lauren Owen and Sarah Naughton at Pimlico Library

The Quick, by Lauren OwenLast week saw the launch of S.W.r1tes – the Pimlico Library Book Festival. An enthusiastic audience came to hear Lauren Owen present her highly acclaimed début novel The Quick. Lauren discussed the inspiration behind the book and also read excerpts. Included in what turned out to be a very responsive audience were members of the Dracula Society, who contributed to a hugely entertaining evening.

Pimlico Library thanks Lauren for coming and opening the festival.

Lauren Owen at Pimlico Library, September 2014  Sarah Naughton at Pimlico Library, September 2014

Two days later, it was the turn of Sarah Naughton, who once wrote about some of her favourite books for this blog.

The Blood List by Sarah NaughtonMs Naughton delivered a highly entertaining workshop entitled ‘Break into writing’. More than 30 people got advice on developing ideas and improving their creative skills as well as tips on their marketing and publishing options. Costa-nominated Sarah also read excerpts from her work, The Blood List. Finally, all the audience received a free book donated by Random House.

Here’s what audiences have said so far:

“Thank you for the advice”

“Very engaging presentation, thanks”

“Thought her book was absolutely amazing- even though it’s a child’s book.”

“I want to read the book”

“More of these events, please”

The festival continues until the end of this week, with more author events: Dr Wafik Moustafa (1 October) and Edward St Boniface (3 October) – see the Pimlico Library events page for more information.


The wonders of the English language

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED)Watching a programme on BBC4 about the indigenous Taino people of the Caribbean (Lost Kingdoms of Central America – The people who greeted Columbus – currently available to view on iPlayer) I was reminded again just how many languages contribute toward the English we know and use today. It seemed amazing that the word ‘canoe’ actually came from these islands so far away. They called theirs ‘canoas’.

Canoe is of course not the only ‘English’ word to originate in a far flung place. The language grows all the time as we communicate on a global scale. One of the best and most entertaining ways to begin looking into this is to consult the Oxford English Dictionary (log in with your library card), a place to discover all sorts of unusual words, look at their origins and expand our own vocabulary. In its online form it is continuously added to, consists of 600,000 words and states that it is: “Widely regarded as the accepted authority on the English language”.

It would be impossible to carry all 20 of the physical volumes around with you and most of us would be hard pushed to find space in our homes, so it’s great to have online access with your library card. Go ahead – use it to find out what a word means (it’s thoroughly reliable), where it comes from or, if you wish, to find another with the same meaning (it has a great thesaurus)!


In pursuit of a crime writer: investigating Reginald Hill

Good Morning, Midnight by Reginald HillEven if you don’t recognise the name you may be familiar with the work of Reginald Hill whose Dalziel & Pascoe series of crime novels was televised by ITV.

Set in Yorkshire, the strength of both novels and TV series was the interplay between the two contrasting characters. As an avid reader of crime novels it has struck me that crime novelists usually either go with the ‘antisocial loner’ or create a partnership between two main characters. The setup of a lead character and sidekick worked for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – why change a winning formula?

Reginald Hill died fairly recently and I thought it would be interesting to find out more about the author using the library. My first step was to read the blurb printed in his novels. Westminster Libraries stock a large number of his books so this information was not hard to find. If you are searching the Westminster library catalogue, many entries include the heading ‘Author Notes’ beneath the item’s details. This contains a brief biographical outline.

The next step was to use Westminster Libraries 24/7 library resources to obtain further information. I consulted Who’s Who / Who Was Who and drew a blank (plenty of other Reginald Hills feature, but not this one). His absence was not due to the compilers’ aversion to crime and thriller writers. Anthony Price, a contemporary of Reginald Hill, has been listed for many years, and other crime writers such as Ian Rankin are also included. I can only conclude that Mr Hill did not wish to be included in this directory as potential subjects are approached by the editors and the entry is compiled from information received.

The other major 24/7 biographical resource used to check for deceased authors is the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, but currently people have to have died before 31 December 2010 to be included – Reginald Hill died in 2012.

As my subject was an author the obvious resource to check within the 24/7 library is Contemporary Authors which includes dead and living authors. Author entries include not only a list of their published titles (these lists also helpfully includes any US alternative titles) but also includes any author pseudonyms and their titles. The main part of an entry is a discussion of the author’s work including citations of reviews and links to relevant websites relating to the author and their work.

Reginald Hill died on 12 January 2012. Several newspaper obituaries were published immediately after his death. These can be read using Newsbank or other online newspaper archives. Several references to the author and the Dalziel & Pascoe series can also be found using Newsbank. Note however that many of the search hits refer to the TV listings of the Dalziel & Pascoe series rather than articles about the author and his books. One interesting article, found in the Guardian & Observer Archive was a discussion of television adaptations of crime novels and their authors’ feelings about them. Reginald Hill hated the ITV pilot episode which starred the comedians Hale and Pace. [Observer 16 April 2000. Tina Ogle – “Even the Gumshoes”]. Later the BBC successfully re-launched the Dalziel & Pascoe series and cast Warren Clarke and Colin Buchanan in the title roles.

Magnifying glassThis brief investigation of one crime author gave me plenty of leads to follow, and the combination of hard copy evidence and online resources can help you to build up a profile of an individual too, whether you’re a detective, a fan, or both.


A breath of fresh-er

I have to confess that I didn’t have very high expectations of the planned Marylebone Library outreach visit to the Royal Academy of Music for their Freshers’ Week – how very, very wrong I was! At times it felt like we were under siege – in a good way, of course – and we joined up nearly 50 enthusiastic students within our two hour window.

Marylebone Library display

My colleagues Mulgeta and Anthony were great support and David’s excellent display helped to lure them in. Once we had their attention, the students were impressed that they could use one library card for three library boroughs and although the Royal Academy has a well stocked library, they were pleased to learn of our award-winning collections at Westminster Music Library, as well as the online music resources on offer. We will definitely being paying them another visit this time next year!


60 years of the Route Master

Originally posted on RBKC Libraries blog:

Owen Grey, Reference Librarian, writes:

In Earls Court’s sixty years ago on the 24th of September the Routemaster bus was unveiled by London Transport.

A brief story in the Times, Biggest Commercial Motor Show by our motoring correspondent from Friday 24 September 1924 speaks about its benefits-  but even then could not foresee how it would become what Transport for London describes as being regarded by many as an icon of London. Or indeed just how long it would live on…

It is I am sure missed in a lot of ways by nostalgic Londoners (although I am glad I do not have to get my buggy onto it), but equally I am sure they would never be allowed these days with the dangers they pose: crazy children (and adults) leaping onto and off platforms to catch or leave the bus, who cares about whether you are…

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Code Club a-go-go

Felix the Cat from ScratchA weekly Code Club started last week at Charing Cross Library. Code Club is a nationwide volunteer-led after school club initiative encouraging children from 9-11 years old to learn computer programming. Volunteer computer whiz Rob is running the club at Charing Cross Library.

At Charing Cross most of the children were completely new to programming and using Scratch but at the end of the hour they had all created a project (like this example) where Felix (a cat) chases Herbert (a mouse), catches him, says “Mmmm”… and then poor Herbert turns into a ghost!

Scratch programming

There were some fabulously colourful and accessorised cats and mice (obviously influenced by London Fashion Week). The children all enjoyed it and said they would be logging on to their project at home and would be definitely coming back this week to do another project.

There are a few places still available for this afternoon’s session – please contact the library to book.


Sights and sounds Behind the Lines

On 4 August 2014, the 100th anniversary of the day the First World War was declared; we opened a four day Behind the Lines creative summer school, due to end with a grand finale performance by participants alongside musicians from the RPO at St John’s Smith Square.

Several people who read our previous post about the Summer School and the performance at St John’s Smith Square asked whether the concert had been recorded. We’re pleased to say that this video about Behind the Lines, including the amazing summer school is now available to view:


Take a look at the Gallery too!

The summer school featured two of our First World War composers who were also good friends, Maurice Ravel and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Ravel had wanted to be an air-bomber, but was rejected because he was too small; he was finally allowed to become an ambulance driver, and he saw and experienced the horrors of the front-line at first hand. Vaughan Williams was a stretcher-bearer, who also knew the unimaginable tragedies of the trenches. Both of them made their war-time experiences part of their music; Vaughan Williams in his ‘Pastoral Symphony’, and Ravel in his suite ‘Le tombeau de Couperin’. These works would be the focus of the summer school, using them as inspiration to create a new work for our final concert.

Pupils from schools across Westminster and adults from local community group Open Age all contributed material for the final work, which was performed in front of an audience of VIPs, family and friends. From the opening chords to the incredibly moving finale – an off-stage performance of The Last Post – what started out as a lot of disconnected ideas, transformed into a very moving and fitting tribute not only to our chosen composers, but also our many First World War heroes.