Take the Grade One Challenge!

Making Music logoAre you a string player who longs to dabble in woodwind?
A pianist who wants to try playing in an ensemble?
Or a complete musical novice with time on your hands and neighbours to irritate?

Here’s your chance. Working in partnership with the BBC’s Get Creative initiative, National charity Making Music is encouraging people to try learning a new instrument or take up singing. Whether or not you have studied music before, whatever your age or background, here’s an opportunity for you to try something new.


Making Music, who work to support amateur and voluntary musicians and ensembles, will offer one-to-one support for all those who take part. Their aim is to help as many people as possible to take a Grade 1 exam by the end of 2015; they’ll even cover exam fees for students who agree to fundraise on their behalf via sponsorship from friends and family.

The aim of The Grade 1 Challenge is to make music accessible to everyone, no matter what their age or musical background, to give people a way into starting, restarting, or just getting involved with an instrument which maybe they’ve wanted to learn for a while, but haven’t had the opportunity – or perhaps haven’t felt like they could learn.

To learn a new musical instrument you need 4 key things:

  1. an instrument
  2. a teacher
  3. motivation
  4. something to play

Westminster Music Library can definitely help with all of these! We can help you find an instrument or a teacher, we have a brand new display of Grade 1 resources, including books on music theory and harmony, preparing for music exams, plus information about Making Music and The Challenge. We also have “Grade-1-a-thon” Challenge packs to give away, generously donated by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM). And last but by no means least, a whole load of Grade 1 printed music available to borrow for free.

Grade 1 Challenge display at Westminster Music Library, 2015

So, how long does it take to work up to Grade 1 standard? The answer is: however long you want to give it. You don’t have to do a certain number of lessons before you can take the exam, and a little bit of regular practice can make a lot of difference.

At the end of the year, whether or not you take the exam, you’ll have the opportunity to take part in Making Music’s Grade 1 orchestra and play a specially commissioned piece of music.


Learning a new instrument is a challenge in itself, but if you want to take it further, why not sign up to The Grade 1 Challenge? Anyone interested in participating can sign up via the Making Music website.

Discover more about The Grade 1 Challenge at Westminster Music Library, pick up a leaflet and check out our Grade 1 Challenge resources


A world of imagination

SiggistardustFor the past several months, children and adults at St John’s Wood Library have been enjoying storytelling on Tuesdays with Sigalit Hart, aka Siggistardust, children’s artist and storyteller. Regularly and steadily, for about thirty minutes, images from picture books have come alive with sounds, gestures, facial expressions and movements.

Siggistardust has her fan base – members of our library (and some new ones!) – who regularly come to listen to her and enjoy being brought into the world of stories, of imagination… of magic! Children (and we have seen some adults as well) step eagerly into this world of magic, engage their creative side and sail away! It is a lovely journey with Siggistardust.

When Siggistardust is not engaged in her sessions at the libraries in the City of Westminster, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, as well as Primrose Hill Community Library, she conducts sessions on storytelling, after-school arts and craft, and one-on-one storytelling. She also finds time to write and illustrate her own books and is working on a film. For more information visit her website.

During the summer, Siggistardust will take a break from storytimes at the library, but she will run an event at St John’s Wood Library titled ‘Record Breaking Comics’, as part of the Arts Award program and Summer Reading Challenge. There will be wacky record breaking comic characters and also space for creating your own fantastical comic book. It is on Monday 10 August 2-3.30pm – See you at St John’s Wood Library!


All the fun of the Fayre!

Marylebone Liubrary stall at the Summer Fayre 2015I missed last year’s Marylebone Summer Fayre, so I’d forgotten how much fun it is.

The Howard de Walden Estate – which owns most of Marylebone – closes the High Street and several of the side streets (in cahoots with the Council, of course), installs a music stage in Paddington Street Gardens, and populates the whole area with stalls selling an astonishing range of food and drink, a tempting array of jewellery and craftwork, and us! Marylebone Library has had a stall for several years now, and as outreach it’s hard to beat.

We joined people up, we made sure that existing members knew about all our services, and we flogged some withdrawn DVDs and CDs (which flew off the table).

Marylebone Liubrary stall at the Summer Fayre 2015

Were we downhearted when it rained hard? Well, yes, we were rather! But we stiffened our upper lips and carried on, and it didn’t last long. Soon the crowds were back on the streets, and the party carried on right through the afternoon.

I think a good time was had by all. It was by me.


A taste for crime

National Crime Reading Month

June is National Crime Reading Month, and Paddington Library Reading Group celebrated by delving into the works of a number of our favourite contemporary authors:

Books by C J SansomCJ Sansom

Some of us felt that Dissolution by CJ Samson was worth reading for its historical details about monasticism in Tudor England, but that the overall tone and style was a bit gloomy and claustrophobic. One reader had to put the book down on more then one occasion to avoid feeling down!

Henning Mankell

Books by Henning MankellAuthor Henning Mankell made a big impact with his award-winning novel Sidetracked, which features Inspector Kurt Wallander. The author takes the reader into his confidence and shares hints and speculation – of which the main character is unaware, so much so that one reader felt the need to leaf ahead to see what happens! The good Inspector is a likeable, thoughtful, character with whom the reader can engage and we would not want to lose him.

Arnaldur Indidrason

By contrast, Icelandic author Arnaldur Indidrason makes the reader rely solely on his hard working detective Erlendur and his colleague Sigurdur Óli for leads and insights into murders in and around Reykjavík.

Books by Arnuldur IndridasonIn the novel Jar City, the opening passage relates the murder of an elderly man alone in his flat. [Spoiler removed!]. The author explores an interesting aspect of Icelandic society: the problems of rare genetic disease, Iceland being a country which until relatively recently was isolated from the world, which meant everybody was related to everybody else – a surefire recipe for inbreeding and its consequences.

Books by Ian SamsonIan Sansom

A much lighter tone is depicted in Ian Sansom‘s novel The Norfolk Mystery, which features the eccentric and eclectic Professor Swanton Morley and his assistant Stephen Sefton, a veteran of the Spanish Civil War. They travel round the country collecting information for a series of County Guides for travellers and yet find themselves solving murders at the same time.


Finally, the National Crime Reading Month website contains some fascinating blogs on what makes a criminal mind. Some speculate that an inadequate upbringing (child abuse, neglect, etc) is a factor, others point to the correlation between head injuries and behaviour changes. For example, the notorious murderer Fred West suffered head injuries in a motor cycle accident. Interesting.


Music Therapy Week 2015

Music therapyThis week (22 – 27 June) Westminster Music Library is displaying a selection of books, informative posters and leaflets in support of Music Therapy Week 2015, in conjunction with The British Association of Music Therapy (BAMT).

The British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT) is the professional body for music therapists and a source of information, support and involvement for the general public.

Music Therapy in Schools by Jo Tomlinson et al. Music Therapy in Dementia Care by David Aldridge A Comprehensive Guide to Music Therapy by Tony Wigram et al. The music in music therapy by Jos de Backer

Music therapy is an established clinical discipline which is widely used to help people whose lives have been affected by injury, illness or disability. Music Therapy Week 2015 is a week dedicated to raising awareness about how music therapy can improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our communities across the UK. It can help people of any age who find it difficult to communicate verbally, due to a physical or cognitive disability, emotional distress or mental illness. This year’s campaign will focus on the instrumental role music therapy has to play in supporting people with dementia and those who care for them (www.bamt.org, 2015).

The BAMT have been working closely with libraries across the UK to deliver a series of workshops and exhibitions during Music Therapy Week and Westminster Music Library are grateful for the opportunity to share in this collaborative project.

Music therapy display at Westminster Music Library, June 2015

Where music helps, by Brynjulf StigeThe books in our display give an overview of the wide range of material available at Westminster Music Library for Music Therapy students, practitioners and enthusiasts. We also hold Music Therapy journals in paper and online, and researchers who are Westminster members can access our online content at www.westminster.gov.uk/247.




Oxford Language Dictionaries

Oxford Dictionaries

Oxford Language Dictionaries was always a useful resource. It was able to translate words from a variety of different languages into another variety of different languages. Recently this resource has been combined with other Oxford University Press online dictionaries to form Oxford Dictionaries online. You can now access the following all in one place:

  • Translating, grammar and pronunciation tools for English, German, Chinese, French, Spanish, Russian and Italian.
  • The ability to search for phrases/proverbs – and translate your phrases so you can find their foreign language equivalents (or vice versa)
  • Find rhyming words – great if you want to write a poem or tell a silly joke!

Many of the old favourites have remained in the new format including being able to listen to words pronounced correctly. Perhaps the best advantage of the new system is the ability to use it on your smartphone.

Anyway, don’t take my word for it. Have a go yourself: www.oxforddictionaries.com

A couple of notes before getting started:

  • If you’re used to the old version, the new format may take some getting used to. Don’t give up. It really is very good!
  • TIP! When on your phone, choose the three lines in your top-right corner to show a menu with all the languages you can access. On a computer you will have more options but this position for the language menu is still important.
  • When logging in from your phone you may need to scroll down quite a way to find the library card number box (no need for a username and password, just the card number).
  • TIP! Clicking on the logo will take you back to the main home page if you’re feeling a bit lost!


I Can Promise You a Rose Garden (The Marylebone Gardener)

RHS Enyclopedia of RosesOne advantage of being located at Marylebone Library is its proximity to Regents Park, beyond the Marylebone Road traffic fumes. After enjoying crocuses and other spring flowers it is now floral blockbuster time at the Queen Mary’s Rose Garden.

To be honest I am not too inspired by the beds of a specific rose variety grown en masse. Yes, it is impressive to see “carpets” of brightly coloured flowers but this disguises the fact that the plant is nothing to write home about minus its floral wow factor (which admittedly in massed beds does intensify the plants’ scent).

Rose beds  Rose beds

Stubby shootsHowever, if you take away these positives what is left – for much of the year – are some ugly stubby shoots sticking out from the main stem, ready to lacerate anyone who approaches too close!

It also does not help their cause that many hybrid tea roses are named after celebrities or sponsors eg “Redox Bouquet” – names that are hardly in keeping with the rose’s romantic and poetical associations.

This makes it seem I am not a rose fan. Not true! There are many climbing, rambling, wild and shrub roses which I consider attractive plants. An example of a rambling variety, ‘Rambling Rector’, is one of several varieties trained here on the ropes slung between posts to provide a dramatic garden feature. The posts and ropes frame the central circle containing the rose beds.

Rambling Rector rose   Rose trained up pillar and ropes

David Austin's English RosesThe garden also contains a number of varieties of shrub roses. These have a much better natural shape and therefore can be better fitted into a general planting scheme. Amongst the examples of historic varieties are a number of more recent varieties bred by the grower David Austin. Further examples of David Austin English roses can also be found nearby at Paddington Street Gardens South.

Lurking in curved border north-west of the central circular rose garden I was fortunate I discover another rose bred by David Austin “Kew Gardens“. I was so taken by the simple flowers and its useful habit of repeat flowering that I plan to include it to my new garden. There is not a strong perfume from the flowers but as it is a thornless rose one can approach the flowers closely to sniff without injury. It can be used for informal hedging and this effect can be seen here at Regents Park.

'Kew Gardens' rose  'Kew Gardens' rose detail

For anyone interested in growing roses check out the Library Catalogue for advice and inspiration. Remember you don’t need to travel to another library to pick up a copy. Simply reserve the copy from the catalogue and specify your home branch as the pickup location (there is a small charge for reservations – but it’s cheaper than the bus!).

The Rose, by Jennifer Potter  Growing Roses, by Alan Titchmarsh  How to grow beautiful roses, by Peter McHoy

If you’re now feeling inspired to grow roses, do use the useful RHS online resource Plant Finder to seek out nursery sources for your chosen variety.