The latest from Westminster Community Information

Seals Argue like a pro

Feel like there are one or two things to discuss at the moment?

Want to sharpen up your debating skills?

Westminster has not one but three debating clubs within easy reach; the Society of Cogers, the Sylvan Club and Debating London. You can just go along and listen or get more involved and take part in debates.

Two of the groups meet in pubs, which may be of interest, and one offers debate training (for a fee). You can find them listed on the Westminster Community Information web site.

Debra on the Community Information stall in Paddington LibraryPaddington health event

In late April I attended one of the regular health events at Paddington Library.

Here are some of the things you asked me about:

  • A young man wanted to know about knitting groups in the borough
  • A Malaysian lady who wants to start her own business running classes in Malaysian martial art (silat) and Malaysian cooking asked about business resources
  • A lady wanted to find a diabetes support group
  • A mature student was looking for social groups in the area.
  • An older lady was asking about handyman services and draught-proofing grants.

I will attend other library health events in the future and look forward to seeing you there and answering your questions about community information in Westminster.

[Debra]

Vive la France in Church Street

French Culture Day at Church Street Library, July 2016Church Street Library recently held their French Culture Day.

The event was organised to celebrate the end of term for the hugely popular Children’s French Clubs held in the library, and also to mark Bastille Day which was a couple of days afterwards on 14 July.

French Culture Day was a joint effort between Debora who runs the clubs for the library and the clubs’ brilliant teachers, native French volunteers Devrim, Elodie, Fleur and Marie.

“What a wonderful event, I am amazed at the sense of community one can feel in this room where everyone is chatting enjoying the nice food and meeting new people. I think this is what a library should be about.”

There were French themed/speaking activities for around seventy adults and children. A children’s Treasure Hunt led by Elodie, Fleur and Marie took thirty very excited children on an adventure filled with clues throughout the library floor, finishing with rewards of prizes including candy bags and French books.

“My children had a lot of fun, I enjoyed with them to be taken around this library I never been to, so a great discovery. Everything looked very well organised and the French ladies are very experienced with children. Nice food too, so thank you!”

“My children come to the French Club and this is the best way of saying goodbye before the summer break. They really loved the club and this event today was so unexpected, thank you so much to all of you, amazing work.”

Devrim created a 45 minute bespoke French class for adults, covering a variety of tourist-style scenarios and concluding with useful handouts.

“Fantastic idea! I have never experienced a French adult class before, let alone for free! The quiches are amazing, can I ask for the recipe?”

The events were followed by homemade French style refreshments including the aforementioned quiches made by Fleur which were quickly reduced to crumbs!

“I’ve never been to this library and I will definitely come back for more events like this one! Please keep up the great work we had fantastic time.”

 

“I’m French and this level of FBD celebration is usually found in France but I’ve never seen it in a public space in Britain and free of charge. Thumbs up for Church Street Library and thanks to the great ladies for organising all this for us!”

“What a brilliant idea and perfect way to say au revoir!”

[Debora]

Art Book of the Month, July 2016

The Life of The Bee by Maurice Maeterlinck, 1911. Front cover

The Life of The Bee by Maurice Maeterlinck
(Translated by Alfred Sutro)

Illustrated by E J Detmold

Published by George Allen & Co Ltd
Illustrated edition 1911


The Life of The Bee by Maurice Maeterlinck is a wonderfully eccentric book written in a variety of genres. It is informed by the author’s years of experience studying the complex behaviour of bees. Yet this intricate factual account is suffused with epic drama and wildly poetic philosophical digressions.
Maeterlinck, in telling the story of the bee, explores the subjects of life, death, truth, nature, humanity, and everything in between.

The story of the bee becomes almost a mystic parable to describe all human experience. It has the added charm of being one of the most beautifully illustrated books in our collection. Edward Detmold’s paintings perfectly reflect the sentiment and beauty of the writing.

The Life of The Bee by Maurice Maeterlinck, 1911. 'Founding The City', p72

Below I have gathered together some of Detmold’s illustrations and selected a few memorable passages from the chapter entitled, ‘ The Nuptial Flight’ which presents the tragic sex life of the heroic male bee. I hope you enjoy them.

‘Most creatures have a vague belief that a very precarious hazard, a kind of transparent membrane, divides death from love and that the profound idea of Nature demands that the giver of life should die at the point of giving. Here this idea, whose memory lingers still over the kisses of man, is realised in its primal simplicity. No sooner has the union been accomplished than the male’s abdomen opens, the organ detaches itself, dragging with it the mass of the entrail, the wings relax, and, as though struck by lightning , the emptied body turns on itself and sinks into the abyss.’
(Part V THE NUPTIAL FLIGHT 87 –page 166)

The Life of The Bee by Maurice Maeterlinck, 1911. 'The Duel of the Queens', p126The Life of The Bee by Maurice Maeterlinck, 1911. 'The Combs', p198

‘Nor does the new bride , indeed, show more concern than her people, (for the poor male Bee ) there being no room for many emotions in her narrow, barbarous, practical brain. She has but one thought, which is to rid herself of as quickly as possible of the embarrassing souveniers her consort has left her,…She seats herself on the threshold, and carefully strips off the useless organs…’
(Part V THE NUPTIAL FLIGHT 89 –page 173)

The Life of The Bee by Maurice Maeterlinck, 1911. 'Sphinx Atropos', p188 The Life of The Bee by Maurice Maeterlinck, 1911. 'The Queen', p20

‘Prodigious nuptials these, the most fairy-like that can be conceived, azure and tragic , raised high above life by the impetus of desire; imperishable and terrible, unique and bewildering, solitary and infinite. An admirable ecstasy, wherein death, supervening in all that our sphere has of most limpid and loveliest, in virginal, limitless space, stamps the instant of happiness on the sublime transparence of the great sky;…’
(Part V THE NUPTIAL FLIGHT 90 –page 174)

The Life of The Bee by Maurice Maeterlinck, 1911. Title Page

You can view this book in the Art & Design Collection at Westminster Reference Library.

[Susie]

“Pass along, pass along”:  the London Proms

The First Night of the Proms is almost within earshot. The Proms are now in their 122nd year, the first being held in August 1895 at the Queen’s Hall in Langham Place.

Proms programme cover 1936. Image property fo Westminster City Archives.But London promenade concerts pre-date this by at least 60 years. Their early history can be pieced together in Robert Altick’s wondrous The Shows of London, a comprehensive survey of the myriad edifications, spectacles and entertainments enjoyed by Londoners from the seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century – and it’s a history that can be well illustrated from the fine collection of playbills, programmes and prints to be found in the large West End theatre collection held at Westminster City Archives.

Promenade concerts (of sorts) were a feature of the London pleasure gardens of the eighteenth century. The music was one of several attractions: dining, dancing, fireworks and masquerades were other draws. The Marylebone Gardens was the most notable example in Westminster – both Thomas Arne and George Frideric Handel conducted their work here. The Gardens closed in 1778; the current Marylebone Library in Beaumont Street now occupies part of the site.

Marylebone Gardens, c1770, with the “orchestra” (bandstand) on the right. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

Marylebone Gardens, c1770, with the “orchestra” (bandstand) on the right. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

But the first promenade concert so called in the capital appears to have been amid Madame Tussauds costumed wax figures, then temporarily billeted in the Assembly Rooms of the Royal London Bazaar in the Gray’s Inn Road.  The Romance of Madame Tussauds quotes from a poster of 1833:

“there will be a Musical Promenade every Evening from Half-past Seven till Ten, when a selection of Music will be performed … the Promenade will be lighted with a profusion of lamps, producing, with the variety of rich costumes, special decorations, etc., an unequalled coup d’œil”

The fashion for promenade concerts became established at the Colosseum in Regent’s Park, a huge rotunda designed by Decimus Burton to house a giant panorama of London as envisaged from the top of St Paul’s Cathedral. To stem the fall in visitors to the panorama, promenade concerts were introduced, following their popularity in France where they were known as concerts a la Musard. The musical programme largely comprised overtures, quadrilles and waltzes.  The Colosseum was demolished in 1875 and the Royal College of Physicians now stands on its site.

View of Colosseum, Regent’s Park, c1840. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

View of Colosseum, Regent’s Park, c1840. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

Colosseum playbill, 1835. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

Colosseum playbill, 1835. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

By 1839 promenade concerts were given at the cavernous Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand.  A poster of 1843 offered “a series of grand instrumental Promenade Concerts a la Valentino” – denoting that the concerts were in the style of those held in Paris under the direction of the French conductor Henri Valentino.

Crown and Anchor poster, 1843. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

Crown and Anchor poster, 1843. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

By the 1840s, proms had become established at several London venues devoted to entertainment or instruction. In 1842 the Royal Adelaide Gallery, in the Lowther Arcade off the west Strand invited Londoners to a “Grand Musical Promenade Concert, Vocal and Instrumental”.  The Gallery was originally dedicated to the display and demonstration of popular science and technology for the “Intellectual Recreation and Scientific Improvement in every Member of the Community” but within a few years music, dance and other amusements were added to the billing. During the concert intermissions popular science demonstrations and lectures were offered,  including “magical illusions” and lectures on “Animal Mechanics” and “Laughing Gas”.  The head office of Coutts Bank now stands on the site of the Lowther Arcade.

Royal Adelaide Gallery poster, 1842. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

Royal Adelaide Gallery poster, 1842. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

In the later nineteenth century, Drury Lane, the Albert Hall and, pre-eminently, Covent Garden were favoured venues for prom concerts.  They became a regular fixture at Covent Garden by the late 1850s, with Louis Antione Jullien and later Arthur Sullivan among their celebrated conductors.  In Thirty Years of Musical Life in London 1870-1900, Hermann Klein notes

“in central London, during the “seventies”, the best medium for good orchestral music were the Promenade Concerts at Covent Garden. These were held in August and September, under the management of Messrs. A. and S. Gatti.  Much that was interesting and instructive the shilling habitué could  hear at these “Promenades”.

Detail from a lithograph depicting Jullien’s promenade concert at Covent Garden. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

Detail from a lithograph depicting Jullien’s promenade concert at Covent Garden. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

Another observer evokes the bustle of an 1889 prom:

“On New Year’s night at the Albert Hall, [the] Messiah is the affair of the shilling gallery, and not of the seven-and-sixpence stalls. Up there you find every chair occupied, and people standing two or three deep behind the chairs.  These sitters and standers are the gallery vanguard, consisting of prima donna worshippers who are bent on obtaining a bird’s-eye view of Madame Albani [link?  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma_Albani ] for their money. At the back are those who are content to hear Handel’s music. They sit on the floor against the wall, with their legs converging straight towards the centre of the dome, and terminating in an inner circumference of boot soles in various stages of wear and tear. Between the circle of boots and the circle of sightseers moves a ceaseless procession of promenaders to whom the performance is as the sounding brass and tinkling cymbals of a military band on a pier. The police take this view, and deal with the gallery as with a thoroughfare … calling out “Pass along, pass along” and even going the length of a decisive shove when the promenade is at all narrowed by too many unreasonable persons stopping to listen to the music. The crowd is a motley one, including many mechanics, who have bought Novello’s vocal score of the oratorio and are following it diligently; professional men who cannot afford that luxury and are fain to peep enviously over the mechanics shoulders; musicians in the Bohemian  phase of artistic life; masses of “shilling people”.
(from George Bernard Shaw’s London Music in 1888-89)

From 1895, under the management of Robert Newman and the baton of Henry Wood, the Proms became an annual festival of the new and the best in classical music at the Queen’s Hall. They began as a private venture but in 1927 came under the patronage of the young BBC. The decoratively rich and acoustically fine Queen’s Hall was damaged beyond repair by enemy action in 1941, after which the Proms moved to the Albert Hall.  The story of the Hall’s destruction is told at the West End at War website, drawing on the WW2 civil defence archive held at Westminster City Archives.

Queen’s Hall: Programme cover 1936; Playbill, 1906; engraved portrait of Sir Henry Wood, 1934. Images property of Westminster City Archives.

Queen’s Hall: Programme cover 1936; Playbill, 1906; engraved portrait of Sir Henry Wood, 1934. Images property of Westminster City Archives.

Busts of Wagner, Brahms and Weber, salvaged from the debris of the Queen’s Hall, c1953. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

Busts of Wagner, Brahms and Weber, salvaged from the debris of the Queen’s Hall, c1953. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

[Rory]

In June, somebody celebrated their second birthday of the year…

Maida Vale Library pulled out all the stops for its week of free celebrations to commemorate The Queen’s Official 90th birthday on 11 June 2016. Like The Mall itself, the library was be-decked in patriotic red, white and blue Union Flag bunting.

Crown making craft activity for the Queen's 90th birthday, Maida Vale Library, June 2016 Crown making craft activity for the Queen's 90th birthday, Maida Vale Library, June 2016
The 'Crown Jewels' on display for the Queen's 90th birthday, Maida Vale Library, June 2016

The celebrations kicked off on the Monday with the first of four craft drop-in sessions. The families who came along made some wonderfully designed crowns which sparkled in the sunlight as they left the building. One little boy was particularly pleased to be able to make another crown, having already made one recently at school for The Queen.

“It’s great that the library does theses craft and art events as they don’t do much art stuff at school nowadays.”

Making Buckingham Palace for the Queen's 90th birthday, Maida Vale Library, June 2016

On the Tuesday, families made 3D models of Buckingham Palace out of recycled junk and on the Wednesday a wonderful collage of the 2012 Diamond Jubilee’s Thames Flotilla of boats was recreated and is now proudly on display in the children’s library.

“My kid really loved this event as he’s mad on boats.”

Remembering the Jubilee Flotilla for the Queen's 90th birthday, Maida Vale Library, June 2016

The first big event of the week took place on the Wednesday with our under 5s’ Royal Teddy Bear’s Picnic. Blankets were laid out on the floor and the toddlers and their teddies were treated to music, songs and rhymes along with healthy food and drink. Staff took the opportunity to talk to carers about library partners such as MEND who will be working with us over the summer providing free weekly sessions. They also promoted upcoming library health events specifically aimed at young children, such as Dinosaur Douglas who made an appearance the following week as part of National Smile Week.

“Fabulous event for kids and nannies! I’ve enjoyed it as much as the kids.”

Teddy Bears' Picnic for the Queen's 90th birthday, Maida Vale Library, June 2016 Teddy Bears' Picnic for the Queen's 90th birthday, Maida Vale Library, June 2016Teddy Bears' Picnic for the Queen's 90th birthday, Maida Vale Library, June 2016

The Thursday saw a multitude of different designs created for cards and badges fit for The Queen. We also had two more major events for the over 5s: a red, white and blue themed Indoor Street Party with children’s entertainment which took place on the Friday, followed by a visit from Zoo Lab on Saturday who brought along some of The Queen’s smaller beasts to the library.

Our partner Imagethirst was on hand to offer a free photo to children (or adults for that matter!) at the party with our special guest of honour…

Portrait with 'The Queen' at Maida Vale Library, June 2016

All in all nearly 300 people turned up at the various events and activities which took place over the week. We were particularly pleased that we were able to showcase the best of British to some new arrivals who have settled in Westminster and made it their home.

None of these events could have been possible without the ward funding provided by Little Venice, Maida Vale and Westbourne wards. Staff and volunteers worked as a team to make so many events happen in such a short period of time and I must thank each and every one of them for all their hard work.

“The staff here are brilliant and so helpful, they always have so many interesting ideas.”

[Ben]

Remembering the Somme – the story of Major Booth

Last Friday, in the Long Room of Lords Cricket Ground, the Westminster Cathedral School held a special assembly in commemoration of the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. Years 3, 4, 5, and 6 sat attentively ahead of an audience including parents, staff from Lords and Westminster City Council, Chelsea pensioners and other invited guests.

Army and Navy Co-operative Society Limited, abridged list of officers' equipment and necessaries for home and foreign service [1916-1918] . Image property of Westminster City ArchivesThe day, curated by the Archives’ Education Officer Peter Daniel, started with a visit from the ghost of a soldier from Pimlico – Ernest Richard Boots (now aged 133 years). In a flurry of historical hats and playful repartee with the children, this charismatic apparition explained the features of his army uniform and how each was suited to the international arena of the First World War. Two modern-day soldiers from the 7 Rifles, the Army Reserve Battalion in Westminster, then explained how the uniforms had changed in accordance with technological developments.

The main attraction of the day followed, when the Year 5 class of the Westminster Cathedral School performed a play about Major Booth for their colleagues. The play told the story of Major Booth, who died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme and was a player for the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and Second Lieutenant in the British Army. The play had previously been performed by the MOD Theatre group.

Booth’s biography intersected with various key moments in 20th century history. The story included encounters with the Suffragettes and Mahatma Ghandi. Booth’s path to success as a cricketer and his role in the army showed how the world had been unfair before the war and how after the war, through the equality of sacrifice of all the soldiers and those involved in the war effort at home, British society came to adopt the determination to pursue a fairer, better and more inclusive structure.

Each of the roles in the play was shared with different children taking it in turn to act each part and the Year 5s joined in chorus to sing an ensemble of wartime songs. The songs which had been used as a mnemonic tool to teach the children about history, now staggered the performance beautifully.

The show ended with England’s cricket anthem Jerusalem and a minute of silence led by Chelsea Pensioner John Gallagher with live accompaniment.

A central message came through, questioning the ‘whys’ behind inequality and discrimination of class, gender, and race:

Voice 1: I was a have
Voice 2: I was a have not
All: What hadst thou given that I gave not?

If you’d like to know more about this project, try the following:

[Michelle]

A chorus (life)line

Westminster Music Library is pleased to announce the launch of our new vocal set hire service! Modelled on our hugely popular orchestral set hire service, our newly-expanded collection of vocal sets is just as impressive, and launches in the wake of our very own community choir project.

Joint Force Singers rehearsal

Joint Force Singers definitely benefited from access to our choral set collection over the duration of the project; covering as it does such a wide variety of styles, levels and genres from classical to folk, popular to jazz, there was no excuse for our Musical Director not to find something suitable for concert programmes to impress audiences.

Vocal sets available from Westminster Music LibraryVocal sets available from Westminster Music LibraryVocal sets available from Westminster Music Library

Browsing through the catalogue brings up lots of the classics like Bach’s Magnificat and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, many of which are available in a number of different editions. More unique and sometimes obscure works by lots of the great composers can also be found; highlights include dozens of part-songs for chamber choirs by Elgar, Holst and Vaughan Williams.  But you’ll also find carols, nursery songs, madrigals, humorous songs, folk songs and pop songs all well-represented, available in multiple copies and at extremely competitive rates.

Ever thought about forming a barbershop quartet or a rock choir but don’t know where to find the music? Or perhaps you’re just stuck for ideas of what to perform next with your choir. All of our vocal sets are individually catalogued and available to browse on our catalogue:

Vocal sets available from Westminster Music Library

We have over 800 performance sets available for all sizes and styles of choir – the perfect song or larger work for your choir will be in there somewhere, and our knowledgeable library staff can offer advice and will even help you choose.

Most of us know there are lots of well documented health benefits in singing with a choir, and on top of that you’re bound to make a whole bunch of new friends. So what are you waiting for, if you’re the librarian or the choir master, or even forming a brand new choir, why not pay us a visit?

[Jon]