Making music at Westminster Music Library

Make Music Day UK

It all started 35 years ago in France…

In 1982, staff at the Ministry of Culture dreamed up an idea for a new kind of musical holiday. They imagined a day where free, live music would be everywhere: street corners and parks, rooftops and gardens, store fronts and mountaintops.
And, unlike a typical music festival, anyone and everyone would be invited to join and play music, or host performances. The event would take place on the summer solstice, June 21, and would be called Fête De La Musique. In French, the name means both “festival of music” and “make music”

Amazingly enough, this dream came true. The Fête has turned into a true national holiday; France shuts down on the summer solstice and musicians take over. Almost 8% of the country (5 million people) have played an instrument or sung in public for the Fête de la Musique. Today, Make Music Day takes place in over 120 countries and 750 cities across the world.

It was about time that the UK joined the party. In 2016 I was invited to meet with a group of people representing music making across the country, our job was to organise an annual UK wide, free day of music held in public spaces, from squares to libraries, bandstands to school halls and arts centres, held on the summer solstice, 21 June. Make Music Day UK aimed to turn the country into a stage, and offer a full spectrum of performers the opportunity to display their musical skills.

Naturally Westminster Music Library would be holding some sort of event, but we just cannot do things by halves. So it was that on the hottest day of the year, 25 would-be musicians joined our “Learn to play day” to learn the basics of playing a musical instrument for the very first time. Guided by a workshop leader and professional tutors, our fledgling orchestra learnt a surprising amount in such a short time. They delighted our invited audience with a grand finale concert featuring well known classics from Handel to the The Kinks, and clearly the particpants enjoyed it just as much:

“Inspirational, a fantastic opportunity for all to learn to play an instrument and enjoy music”

With the mercury rising ever higher and our budding musicians heading for home with dreams of performing at the Albert Hall, we had a swift turn-around for an evening recital featuring a talented oboe trio – Oboi. A tremendous performance by students at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, who played repertoire from Beethoven to Mendelssohn arranged for oboe trio. They played brilliantly and even managed to look cool, we could only marvel at their professionalism. Our audience loved it:

“It was brilliant. Well arranged and an excellent opportunity to be aware that this is a fantastic Music Library and supports the enjoyment and education of music for all interested.”

And from the Director of Make Music Day UK:

“Yesterday was the first Make Music Day UK and there were nearly 140 events taking place all over the UK, from Aberdeen to Swanage, Swansea to Norwich, and everywhere in between. Thank you very much everybody for getting together on this, we certainly feel we’ve made a good start!”

Roll on Make Music Day 2018.

Ruth, Westminster Music Library

Generation Z: what do we know about young audiences?

We are very fortunate to have two Cultural Partnerships Officers within our service. Their role is to support the  library service, but they have a wider remit too  – to support the arts and culture sector in the city and increase access for residents, particularly the most vulnerable, to cultural events.

They do this by brokering between different partners and community groups or council services, facilitation of events, providing advice and signposting, sharing information, supporting fundraising and giving opportunities for professional development at Culture Network Westminster.

So, what’s the Culture Network Westminster..?

It was set up nine years ago, has around 500 individual members representing about 200 different arts organisations, cultural institutions, community groups, teachers, social workers and council officers. We hold two large scale networking events each year, with a professional speaker talking about an area relevant to arts and culture professionals. Each event is normally attended by around 40-70 network members. Previous events have covered volunteering, digital marketing and fundraising – and have been held in venues such as the Wigmore Hall, Somerset House and Tate Britain.

Over to Debora and Charlotte to tell us about the most recent Culture Network Westminster event –

Our last Culture Network Westminster (CNW) event was held at The House of St Barnabas, a Grade I listed Georgian town house in the heart of Soho. It began with introduction to the charity whose unique model, of a social business and integrated employment academy, aims to break the cycle of homelessness.

The event took off in the charming Chapel of St Barnabas followed by light refreshments in the dramatic 18th century Rococo Drawing Room where our CNW members networked and relaxed in the elegant historical setting.

Members also enjoyed exploring the House and The Collective, a contemporary art programme of rotating exhibitions and permanent collection.

Our main speaker Lucie Fitton, Head of Learning and Participation at The Audience Agency, shared some of the company’s latest work and insight about young audiences – with a particular focus on teenagers and young adults.  What do we know about the needs, interests, digital habits and characteristics of young people and how this impacts on this audience’s engagement with the arts, culture and creativity?

We had some lovely feedback from two of our members:

“I would like to thank you and the team for running another excellent event. We have found these events invaluable for our organisation as we have the opportunity to network with other people in the local area.”  Nadia Holland, Learning Coordinator, Royal Collection Trust

“It was such a great space and was a really interesting and ingenious mixture of people and organisations. Well done!”  Lucy Foster, Community Heritage Programme Manager, Paddington Development Trust

We would also like to share the following supporting material related to our main speaker and project pitching session:

  1. Westminster presentation What we know about young people
  3. Time Credits in Arts and Culture LONDON
  4. Neighbourhood Keepers Proposal Guidelines
  5. Westminster Business Information Point

Debora Gambera and Charlotte Fergusson

WCC Culture Partnerships Office


Fun times at Maida Vale Library!

We’ve been busy at Maida Vale Library –

We hosted a couple of activities to amuse the local children during the half term break.  On  the Tuesday we had a monster mouth event to highlight with National Smile Month, all about dental hygiene. After a story about a dinosaur who eats too many sweets and ends up at the dentists, we made some lovely colourful monster hand puppets from felt.

On the Thursday we had a dinosaur drawing workshop  – there were some very weird and scary results.

About 50 children plus their parents, turned up to the events. Thanks to Mina, our agency worker and our volunteer, Susan for all their help with the events.

And this we had a very lively under 5s event where we celebrated National Bookstart Week – everyone got copies of ‘Everybunny Dance’ by Ellie Sandall.

We read some bunny stories – “Where’s Peter Rabbit?”, and “Guess how much I love you” and the rhyme “Peter Rabbit had a fly upon his nose” and of course we played sleeping bunnies. After some major bunny hopping, the children made some bunny ears after colouring them in.

Don’t worry if you missed out, we have lots of events in our libraries for all ages, hope to see you soon.


Exploring other worlds with our children, it’s National Bookstart Week 2017

This week (Monday 5 to Sunday 11 June 2017), is National Bookstart Week and this year is an extra special celebration as Bookstart is 25 years old!

BookTrust, the organisation that administers the Bookstart programme, encourages children and families to read more. Over these 25 years, they have gifted more than 34 million books to children.

Bookstart currently gives free books and resources to every child in England and Wales, at two key ages before school, to help inspire a love of books and encourage shared reading.

This year’s special National Bookstart Week book is Ellie Sandall’s Everybunny Dance and many libraries will be reading this story and special rhymes to do with the great outdoors.  We have many copies of this book to give away.

Our libraries are running special events to celebrate for babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers and their families around this year’s theme, ‘Let’s Explore Outdoors!’

Special under 5s session at Pimlico Library on Tuesday 6 June 2017, 10.30am to 11.30am

They’ll be stories, rhymes and a bunny craft activity.

Special under 5s session at Marylebone Library on Tuesday 6 June, 10.30am to 11am and Friday 9 June, 3.45pm to 4.30pm

We’ll be singing songs and rhymes and giving out copies of ‘Everybunny Dance!’ by Ellie Sandall on Tuesday. And on Friday we’ll have super storytelling and a beautiful bunny ears craft.

Don’t worry if you can’t make these sessions, we also run regular events for the under 5s every week across the borough.

It’s never too young to share a story or a rhyme with your young ones so come along have some fun and start or continue your child’s journey to a life of reading for pleasure. Sharing stories is of huge benefit to children, particularly when done from an early age.

Children who regularly have books shared with them benefit in lots of ways:

  • better emotional health
  • children develop longer attention spans and wider vocabularies
  • it builds their language skills
  • and in the long term helps them to be better readers and learners.

All this by sharing a book together for a few minutes each day. Just 10 minutes spent sharing a story with a child each day can have a lasting impact.

You can hear Lauren Laverne read Everybunny Dance on the Bookstart website.

Nick Fuller
Tri-borough Libraries Children’s Services Manager

The wonders of nature at Mayfair Library

Earlier this month,  we were pleased to have Cinzia Delegate, an officer with London Wildlife Protection; she gave a talk to children and adults on ‘The wonders of nature’ at Mayfair Library.

This interactive and educational talk included interesting facts about wildlife in London and what to do if you see sick, inured or orphaned birds or other animals. The children were given ‘bunny ears’ to help them listen as well as stickers, certificates and vegan cakes.

If you’re interested in coming along to any library events, at Mayfair Library or any other Westminster library – check out our library events page.

[Staff at Mayfair Library]

Impro For Elders – back by popular demand!


Back by popular demand, Impro For Elders is starting again at Church Street Library! The project is a 8-week pilot programme starting tomorrow, Wednesday 17 May, 3.45pm to 5.15pm (ask at the library for more details).

This grew out of a project delivered by Improbable Theatre in partnership with Church Street Library between November and December last year. It was funded by a local community fund, Create and Arts Council England. Directors Andre Pink and Caroline Williams worked with over twenty 60+ people local to the Church Street Ward to explore improvisation and storytelling, aiming to give older people from the local area access to the uplifting shared experience of improvising together. You can read about what happened last year on a previous blog post, Improbable Impro.

Impro For Elders appeared at The Cockpit in a double bill with Improbable’s improvised show Lifegame on 30 November and 1 December 2016. In a special version of Lifegame, one of the Impro For Elders participants was the on-stage guest each night.

We received some fantastic feedback from both participants and audience members:

“What I have gained out of it is immense and given me positive energy which I was certainly lacking before taking part in the project.”

“I actually feel years younger! I was surprised at how much energy I had and how my body could do things I thought I could no longer do.”

“I thought it was the best theatre experience I’ve seen and felt this year. Inclusive, moving, funny, full of possibilities” 

“A thoroughly enjoyable evening – both shows were filled with joy, humour and passion. I always enjoy Improbable performances, and the Impro For Elders concept is a fantastic one.”

Given the extraordinarily successful outcome and subsequent demand from local older residents, Andre Pink from Dende Collective has offered to continue on a voluntary basis whilst Improbable will be sponsoring him to make it more sustainable.

The project will work again with the same group along with new participants. Visit the Dende Collective’s website  for more information about them and their upcoming events.

‘As a company rooted in improvisation, we believe that it is a deeply democratic art form that fosters a sense of community and empowerment amongst its participants and audiences alike. In an age of increasing digital complexity it is determinedly live, and about the people who take part, their energy and what they offer.’ Ben Monks, Improbable Executive Director.

Visit Improbable’s website for more information about them and and their upcoming events.

Debora Gambera (Church Street Library)

Ben Monks (Improbable Executive Director)

Dementia Awareness Week 2017


Hot on the winged heels of Mental Health Awareness week (thank you to all colleagues and partners who helped get that information out there) we are promoting Dementia Awareness Week (14 to 21 May 2017), an Alzheimer’s Society initiative, in our libraries.  There are so many myths around Dementia and that is why we recommend the Reading Well books on prescription dementia list.

Dementia display QP Library

Book display at Queen’s Park Library

This is a varied carefully chosen collection consisting of evidenced and researched information books, alongside fascinating and moving personal histories. It also includes a children’s picture book to help younger readers understand beloved members of their families who have been diagnosed with one of 100 conditions that come under the umbrella of Dementia.  Check out the craft book for creative ways of engaging those living well with Dementia.  It is a helpful and uplifting collection.

DF logo

The second initiative I want tell you about is the Dementia Friends sessions happening this week which are run by a trained Dementia champion. They are relaxed and informative sessions that engage us in such a way that unhelpful fears and misinformation around the subject can be openly discussed and real facts and practical tips on creating Dementia friendly services and how to reach out and support those living well with Dementia come to light.

Details of the Dementia Friends sessions this week:

These sessions are open to everyone and I urge you to recommend them or even come along yourself.

Kate Gielgud
Health Information Co-ordinator