Before Tufty, SPLINK and the Green Cross Man

Never underestimate the importance of road safety, or the voice of the entertainment industry!

Cal McCord. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

Black and white photograph of cowboy Cal McCord with the First and Second prize winners in Weymouth Beauty Contest sitting on his horse Ladybird.

The City of Westminster Archives Centre staff have uncovered the predecessor of the hedgehogs that taught the youth of today to look both ways before crossing the street. Cal McCord was a celebrity cowboy involved in a road safety campaign touring from London to Leicester. He also appeared in classics like BBC Children’s How to Become a Cowboy (1953) and Never Take Sweets From a Stranger (1960).

These black and white photographs show cowboy Cal McCord in a variety of scenes in an album which was compiled and captioned by the man himself – click on the images to enlarge and read his captions. The photographs have been taken around London and next to famous landmarks in Westminster. They feature other local figures like the then-Mayor of Westminster and the First and Second prize winners in the Weymouth Beauty Contest. His constant companion, self-proclaimed to be beloved above the rest, is his horse Ladybird.

Cal McCord photograph album. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

“The Mayor of Westminster, Alderman Rice, (looks like he’s brought his corporation with him????) handing me the Road Safety Message which I was to hand to the Lord Mayor of leicester at the end of the journey in Victoria Park there. It is worth nothing that this picture was taken in the Victoria Tower Gardens at the foot of the houses of parliament. Ladybird didn’t like the umbrella, look at her expression.”

The album dates from the 1950s. McCord lived at 21 Fontaine Road and Ladybird was stabled at Hilcote Stables, Wimbledon Common.

We have this gem in our collection, which we’d love for you to come to see, but if you’d like to know more about his life and works, the Cal McCord Collection was bequethed to the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance.

[Michelle]

Art Book of the Month, May 2016

Photograph by Jeffrey Bernard, in 'Soho Night and Day' by Frank Norman

Soho Night and Day by Frank Norman

Photographer: Jeffrey Bernard

Secker & Warburg, 1966


“At the time I was fourteen years of age and the war had just ended, and I was let loose on the world. I must own that every single word my worthy headmaster had to say has turned out to be God’s honest truth. Loose women can indeed get you into a lot of trouble and drink can destroy you both mentally and physically and as for gambling it is a curse that can end you in the poorhouse. However there was one thing my headmaster did not tell me and that is the best place in the world to find these things is Soho – that I found out for myself.”
– Frank Norman, 1966

“Life can be only understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.”
– Søren Kierkegaard, 1843

A grainy black and white love letter to Soho, colourfully put together by two of its gloriously infamous honorary grand dames, Jeffrey Bernard and Frank Norman. Far from being a chronicle of the cool and trendy, Bernard’s photos and Norman’s unsentimental, charming narrative introduce an array of characters from the seedy to the seductive – shop keepers, market traders, restaurateurs, café owners, models and sex workers – that were once an integral part of street life and of a specific ‘on the bum’ style, the passing of which is much lamented by Norman. We are taken on a journey back to a not-that-distant past that may as well be one million years ago, in these days of semi-permanent road-digging, refurbishment and coffee chains.

Photograph by Jeffrey Bernard, in 'Soho Night and Day' by Frank Norman

“The Welfare State is not I feel the only reason for the sharp decline in bummery.  Another reason is the redevelopment schemes, which have caused many of the old haunts to be razed to the ground by destruction firms and built anew by construction firms, where once stood a dingy café now stands a towering sky-scraper, which is air-conditioned and centrally heated..”

Plus ça change, eh!

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

[Rossella]

Humming in Harmony

“The power of music to integrate and cure… is quite fundamental. It is the profoundest nonchemical medication.”
– Oliver Sacks

Humming in Harmony for Mental Health Awareness Week 2016

Westminster Music Library’s five month programme of mindfulness workshops – Humming in Harmony – clearly demonstrates how true this statement is. These simple workshops, designed to improve mental health and beat isolation, connecting and bringing people together through music, have received lots of very positive feedback.

Humming in Harmony / Mind the Body workshop at Westminster Music Library for Mental Health Awareness Week, May 2016

Created by Sergio Lopez Figueroa, a qualified piano teacher and composer, Humming in Harmony uses the human voice and the power of vocal harmonies in new ways to relax the mind, whilst providing an opportunity to get away from our hectic digital lives.

Humming in Harmony / Mind the Body workshop at Westminster Music Library for Mental Health Awareness Week, May 2016

So what happens when we hum? I asked Sergio to explain:

“Music is energy, so by focusing on pitch or frequency and through conscious breathing, we feel the vibration, and over time improve concentration and focus by listening to ourselves and others simultaneously…. gradually we develop the ability to use this energy to interact with others, and to experience the benefit of tension and release in musical harmonies, and in our bodies and minds. From structured to open sessions, we can experience free expression, lead or follow as we please. We are each responsible for co-creating the best experience for the whole group, which makes Humming in Harmony different from other similar practices”.

It sounds simple enough, no qualifications or experience necessary, just turn up and start humming, and this is the really good part –  singing and humming not only brings people together, it’s also a great way to relax, unwind, de-stress, improve listening skills and pitch recognition, and helps develop correct breathing techniques.

Humming in Harmony / Mind the Body workshop at Westminster Music Library for Mental Health Awareness Week, May 2016

So with Mental Health Awareness Week fast approaching, last Saturday, Sergio – with a little help from Westminster Music Library – organised Mind the Body, a day of public health awareness activities focusing on music. Sergio demonstrated how the power of music can facilitate positive changes in emotional wellbeing, how it encourages communication, self-awareness and an awareness of others.  The day included interactive presentations by health practitioners, case studies, a film screening and Q&A session, and a creative Humming in Harmony improvisation led by Sergio on piano.

As you can see from the comments below from some of those who came along, I think it’s fair to say people got quite a lot out of the day:

‘Something I would normally never do – it’s a complete change to my usual hectic life.’

‘Excellent workshop, made me concentrate. Therefore, think positively in the present and left cares behind.’

‘Uplifting! Great help after feeling low.’

Humming in Harmony / Mind the Body workshop at Westminster Music Library for Mental Health Awareness Week, May 2016

And from Sergio himself:

‘Thanks for Westminster Music Library’s support in offering the time and space to start a new initiative like Humming in Harmony, and the efforts you’ve made to generate awareness. The event on Saturday was very successful. We discussed issues about health, showed some interesting videos, and had two humming sessions. Having the piano was a real bonus, the improvisation with keyboard and humming was very well received. Participants were asking when the next sessions are as they are keen to continue.’

I’d better check the diary…

[Ruth]

A month in Rome

The story that draws our attention today begins beautifully:

‘Thursday April 6th

Cover of James Knowles diary, April 1854. Image property of Westminster City ArchivesYesterday morning early the Neapolitan Company’s boat “Calabre[s]e” (300 horse power) brought us into the picturesque harbour of Civita Vecchia after a most tranquil night of passage from Leghorn. The moon and stars had added to their beauty the interest of a rare guest & a small comet with a nucleus of great brightness was visible during the first hours of the evening. After some idle time of waiting whilst passport formalities were in progress we were admitted to land […]’

James Knowles diary, 6 April 1854. Image property of Westminster City Archives

Inspired by the daily updates and podcasts of Nathaniel Bryceson’s diary of 1846, we have turned our noses internally to seek out similar items in the Westminster City Archives‘ collections. There are a number of manuscript diaries in the deposited archives and even more in the printed collections.

The object in question is James Knowles’ account of a month spent in Rome in April 1854 – just eight years after Bryceson was detailing his daily life in London. There is great enjoyment to be found in Knowles’ vivid descriptions of a tourist experience eerily familiar yet so far removed for the lucky ones among us who have seen Rome. Examining its content superficially, this detailed narrative paints the experience of the travelling Englishman which we can cross-reference with what is known of the time. The Neapolitan boat arriving from Leghorn, for example, was part of a longer route leaving Marseilles and travelling through Genoa, Leghorn, and Civita Vecchia on the way to Naples over 4 days (see bibliography below). Knowles comments upon recognisable works of art and tourist sites also:

‘We looked again into the Cathederal but liked it none the more. The dome less & less. The size of the place tho’ grand, it seemed wonderfully great today.

Passing the Pantheon, look’ again into it for a few moments and liked it better, especially the Portiico seemed finer than at first sight […]’

James Knowles diary, 8-9 April 1854. Image property of Westminster City Archives

But the value of this item is manifold, for it opens a space in which to briefly consider the diary as a historical source. The value of diaries as sources for social research is one which has been considered widely with both school-level and scholarly learning in mind and is one which we hope to touch upon at a later date. Pervasively though, it is agreed that one must start by addressing preliminary concerns, ie: by questioning by whom and when a diary was written, its purpose and its intended audience, and of course, its subject.

This diary is that of a young man, but Sir James Knowles (1831-1908) (log in to the ODNB with your library card number) was to become a key figure in nineteenth century London.

Whilst this is, generally, a travel diary, it is particularly the voyage of a learned man whose knowledge of the classics and the arts is scholarly and well-established. Following the life and literary output of Knowles’ work allows us to place it in a wider context of acquisition and use of knowledge. In the “Papers of Sir James Thomas Knowles, Architect and Editor, 1850-1908”, the deposited collection held here at the Archives Centre (Ref no: 716), it is one in a set of diaries of a tour of Italy and Sicilly. The only other one of our collection is “No.3” – a daily account of travels in and around Naples and in Sicily that ends in mid-sentence of description of journey from Salerno to Amalfi. Whilst the diary of the month in Rome cannot linearly be traced to another item in our collection, diary no. 3 can, for we hold a volume of lecture notes on travels to Rome and Sicily for a lecture delivered to the Clapham Literary and Scientific Institute in January 1856.

Sir James Knowles was an architect and journal editor, with humble origins editing the Clapham Magazine to becoming an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1853, and a fellow of the institute in 1870, founding and editing the Nineteenth Century journal and being a key member of the Metaphysical Society, a representative ‘theological society’ to discuss the bases of morality founded 1869.

Besides the diaries in question, the deposited papers in Acc 716 include letters to notable persons and the Royal Family, papers relating to the Metaphysical Society and Nineteenth Century journal including manuscript drafts, photographs and papers relating to the knighthood and death of Sir James Knowles and other examples of speeches papers and poems.

We hope that this has inspired you to visit and peruse these treasures more closely!

[Michelle]


Bibliography:

A handbook for travellers in southern Italy : being a guide for the continental portion of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies : with a travelling map and plans” (Paris, 1855), accessed 27 April 2016

Sidney Lee, ‘Knowles, Sir James Thomas (1831–1908)’, rev. H. C. G. Matthew, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2010, accessed 3 May 2016

The Fairytale of Leicester City

King Richard IIILast week saw the rather unexpected news of Leicester City clinching the football Premier League title. Was this really as significant as many newspapers described? The most uplifting story in British sporting history, or perhaps the biggest upset/shock? The team’s odds were 5000 to 1 at the beginning of the season having narrowly avoided relegation last year, after all. It was that and more, according to the papers.

To compare this victory with other surprise wins and ‘rise of the underdog’ stories, we should first take a look at how Leicester City’s story was reported last week:

  • Go to the library to look at the recent newspapers held there
  • Use NewsBank to search through all the stories about Leicester City being champions – you can even read Leicester’s local paper The Leicester Mercury. You could go further, following how the story unfolded throughout the season, starting all the way back in August 2015.
  • Read through more stories and see the papers themselves on Library Press Display – the Foxes’ victory was reported as far afield as Thailand, India, the US and more.

But why stop there? Have a look through other resources we have to see whether other sporting shocks had comparable headlines. Explore the tabloid newspapers on UK Press Online and take your search back further and further using the Times Digital Archive or The Guardian and Observer archive. Have a look at some of the suggested shocks mentioned by others: Boris Becker winning Wimbledon in 1985, Denmark winning the European Championships having not qualified, Nottingham Forest’s winning of the league and then European cup just after being promoted from the second division, Wimbledon’s crazy gang’s rise to prominence and FA cup glory in 1988… the list goes on. The headlines and stories are fascinating.

Football stories almost always involve a heroic manager, amazing team work and  notable individuals (Leicester’s stories even discuss the importance of Richard III!). Whatever the sport you will see that the English press – and people – always love an underdog; often more than their own team!

The above is just an illustration of how library resources can help you dig deep, research and analyse a story through looking at how it was reported in the media. The same principles can be applied to any story for personal interest, school projects or other research.

You can find free access to all these great databases – and much more – in the Newspapers and magazines section of our Online resources by subject page. Just log in from wherever you are using the number on your library card. In the Biography section you can also find out more about many of the people involved in the stories mentioned above by looking at Who’s who and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

[Owen]

A green oasis and a lot of fun

On guerilla gardening by Richard ReynoldsThe community gardening bug has bitten! We’ve posted before about the Marylebone Library garden, but did you know that not far away there is another band of green fingered enthusiasts making a beautiful green space around Church Street Library?

[I can’t help noticing that this book is available to borrow from Church Street Library… coincidence? Ed.]

Meeting on Saturdays from 10.00 to 11.30am, but with people popping by for maintenance tasks throughout the week, the project is led by volunteer head gardener Mike Wohl. Here are some pictures taken last week in the sunshine – Mike’s the one in the blue t-shirt:

All are welcome, no expertise needed – come and water the strawberries, plant some cucumbers, bring your little ones and get your hands dirty!

[Debora]

Spring again

Recently the Home Library Service held its second ‘Spring into Spring’ health and information morning, this time at Pimlico Library (see previous event details).

HLS Spring into Spring event at Pimlico Library

On offer was the chance to sample hand massage, chair yoga (above), laptops and tablets (below), as well as a chance to talk individually to representatives from Open Age, the Health Improvement and Falls Prevention teams and the council’s Environment Team.

HLS Spring into Spring event at Pimlico Library HLS Spring into Spring event at Pimlico Library

We even had two new recruits sign up to borrow a laptop from the Westminster’s Council’s Community Computers Scheme!

HLS Spring into Spring event at Pimlico Library

There was a wealth of library, council and health information leaflets to take away as a reminder of new things learnt.

“Helpful and entertaining”

“Thank you for a wonderful day out”

[Elaine]