Category Archives: Arts & culture

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
  2. ST MARY MAGS INFO
  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

 

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)

Free Comic Book Day on Saturday 6 May 2017

Pop in to your local Westminster library on Saturday 6 May for Free Comic Book Day!

Free Comic Book Day is an international celebration of all things comics – taking place on the first Saturday in May, it is a day where new titles are released, and comic shops giveaway free issues – we are also taking part, courtesy of the grand folks at Forbidden Planet who are providing the comics.

Free Comic Book Day is perfect for both hard-core collector fans and those whose interest has been piqued for the first time.

Enthusiasts of the comic book / graphic novel form will tell of the inventive artwork to stun and amaze – the array of characters, from superhero to regular Joe. The different universes on offer and running plot lines that will be hard to forget.

Explore all this and more at one of our libraries, please ask staff for your free comic book. We have three titles to give out, while stocks last – head on in before missing out.

Discover characters including Wonder Woman, DC superhero girls plus look out for the Forbidden Planet exclusive variant of the Doctor Who title too, featuring the Doctor with new assistant, Bill.

Why not check out the graphic novel selection or the DVDs available while you are there and see what else your local Westminster library has to offer?

[Matthew]

Queen’s Park Celebration

Henna painting at Queen's Park Library's Community Cultural Celebration, February 2017Queen’s Park is an area known for its diversity, and on Thursday 9 February we held a Community Cultural Celebration in the library which recognised the wide mix of people who live in the area.

The event – part of the Made in Libraries festival – began with face-painting and badge-making for the kids and continued with henna, Indian head massage and jewellery-making.

Chinese calligraphy master Mr Zhu particularly impressed the crowd with his beautiful translations of people’s names, and the evening was rounded off with some lively African dancing provided by local health and well-being group Healthier Life 4 You.

Mr Zhu's calligraphy at Queen's Park Library's Community Cultural Celebration, February 2017  Mr Zhu's calligraphy at Queen's Park Library's Community Cultural Celebration, February 2017

North African, Caribbean and Bangladeshi food was on offer, courtesy of local businesses Timgad and Guava Nights, plus the libraries’ ESOL conversation class. Not surprisingly this proved very popular! The library was absolutely packed with a mix of old and young, familiar faces and curious newcomers all keen to sample the activities. To say the atmosphere was lively would be something of an understatement, although fortunately the Learning Centre was available for those who wanted an escape from it all.

Picture from ‘Women of Colour - an Exhibition of Samplism’ by Toby Laurent Belson. Queen's Park Library 2017

Complementing the event’s theme was ‘Women of Colour – an Exhibition of Samplism’ by the local artist Toby Laurent Belson, which runs until 7 March. Toby’s vivid collage pieces, which depict women of the African diaspora, are stunning and make a visit to Queen’s Park Library even more worthwhile.

[Lucy]

Let There Be Love

Thirty people turned up on a chilly February afternoon at Paddington Library for a St Valentine Day theme recital of Clarinet and Poetry.

I was very lucky to engage two wonderful professionals: Poet, Valerie Fry and Clarinettist, Chris Hooker who performed a number of love poems and music with a Romantic theme. Among the poems were ‘The Owl and the Pussy cat by Edward Lear and ‘To His Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvel.

The musical repertoire included a number of fairly modern pieces by Paul McCartney  (Yesterday), Honeysuckle Rose (Fats Waller) and I’ve Got You Under My Skin (Cole Porter).

The  audience feedback was overwhelmingly positive and many people stayed behind to talk to the performers over some refreshments

[Laurence]

 

How Westminster Libraries’ resources helped me to trace an elusive artist

'A view from the artist’s studio', print by Jessie Beswick

‘A view from the artist’s studio’ by Jessie Beswick

Recently I found this engraving in a junk shop. The print was crudely held in place with a sheet of cardboard and peeling masking tape. The frame was immediately recycled, the backing replaced with acid free mount board. However I must thank the anonymous framer for their work in keeping the print in its frame but also more importantly for scrawling in ballpoint ink biographical and geographical information about this print titled ‘A view from the artist’s studio’.

The writer also stated that the artist – Jessie Beswick – was a sister of their grandfather. Without this information this would have simply been a pleasing anonymous town view from a window.

Not so useful was the difficult handwriting which made interpretation difficult. Luckily from this text there was no ambiguity in interpreting the picture’s location, King Street Chester. What were more problematical to read were the artist’s maiden and married surnames which meant using possible name variations in any search for this artist!

With no stated date on the print it was not a just a case of Googling a name and finding her. Even if I was confident with the surname spelling of Beswick I found a number of alternative individuals with this name. I suspected that ‘my’ artist was active before 1945, on the basis that the writer was two generations younger than the artist and had written the information relatively recently – ballpoint pens did not come into mass use until the late 1950s. Another fact which proved to be a red herring in an initial search for her in Chester Street directories (located in the City of London’s Guildhall Library) was to assume that the King Street studio was her residence. In fact it turned out from census and other evidence that Jessie Beswick resided at other addresses in Chester.

It was time to bite the bullet and use Westminster’s ‘In House’ online resources for family history, Ancestry and Find My Past.

Having two surnames to deal with, I first checked marriage records using Find My Past. Success: after several false hits I found the marriage of Jessie Beswick to Walter W White (Walmsley-White) in Chester in 1914. The record usefully included her parents’ names and her age, thus narrowing down by date any census searches for further information. The 1901 census found her, aged 15, residing at her parents’ house. The 1911 census entry usefully reminded me that the census is a record of household occupation on a specific night which is not necessarily the home address. A Jessie Beswick was staying with friends in Lancashire but I am convinced that this is the same person as her occupation is listed as an artist and the birth year and place of birth matches the previous census entry.

I have mentioned my problem of reading original handwriting. Transcribed entries from the census enumerator returns can also provide evidence of transcription errors. Jessie’s name had been transcribed as ‘Lessie’ in Ancestry’s 1891 census entry for the Beswick household.

Find My Past also has a useful facility to search selected local newspapers. An October 1915 issue of the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette reports on a local art exhibition which was

“strengthened by the contributions of some new members, and a new feature is collection of etchings by … Jessie Beswick (Mrs. Walmsley White), the latter lady being also represented in the oils section by two excellent studies of Brittany”.

Confirmation of the move was found when I used print resources at Westminster Reference Library’s Art & Design Collection. Post 1914 entries all list Jessie Walmsley White with a Devon address and prior to marriage her maiden name together with a Chester address. With this information it is reasonable to date this print between 1900 and 1914.

Royal Academy Exhibitors, 1905-1970The first resource I used was Royal Academy exhibitors, 1905-1970: a dictionary of artists and their work in the Summer Exhibitions
Vol. 6: SHERR-ZUL. 

This dictionary revealed that she had paintings exhibited in three separate exhibitions. Unfortunately the dictionary does not include illustrations but listed the botanical subjects of these works.

On a previous visit to Westminster Reference Library I had noticed a long run of annual directories: The Year’s Art: a concise epitome of all matters relating to the arts of painting, sculpture, engraving and architecture. 

The Year's Art, volumes 1908 - 1913

The Year's Art, 1915At that point I had not discovered her birth date and confirmation of her surnames, so I hadn’t plunged in with a systematic search of these volumes. Now, armed with this information, I returned to consult this series. Her first entry occurs in the 1909 edition. Usefully, an artist’s entry includes their home address together with the location of any exhibited work in public galleries. Her address details from the 1915 edition confirm the permanent move to Devon.

Find My Past was also used to find her death record. Luckily my assumption that she had remained in Devon was correct and I found her death record. Jessie died in 1961 aged 75.

Having tracked down this artist my next quest is to find further examples of her work, either in a gallery or improbably lurking in another junk shop.

[Francis]

Art for Everyone’s Sake

Art books collage 1

Westminster Reference Library, home of the specialist Art & Design Collection, now has art books for loan. Visit us at 35 St Martin’s Street and browse through our growing collection of inclusive, engaging and expertly written books on a wide range of art interests. The publications shown here are just some of our most recent additions:

Hieronymus Bosch; The Complete WorksHieronymus Bosch; The Complete Works combines new research with superb reproductions to celebrate this unique and visionary painter. His fantasies, grotesques and drolleries, set in natural surroundings, appear as fresh and eloquent today as they were 500 years ago.

Menswear illustration, by Richard KilroyFashion students! The explosion of international sales in menswear means that drawing is no longer dominated by women’s fashions. Menswear Illustration is the first survey of this new trend and features 40 innovative illustrators of contemporary styles in menswear.

Natural histories: extraordinary rare book selections from the American Museum of Natural History library, by Tom BaioneNatural Histories presents selected masterpieces of scientific art from 16th century zoologies to 20th century treatises. Essays by experts in their field explain how these scientifically significant, richly illustrated studies played integral roles throughout the history of natural sciences.

The Craft Companion by Ramona BarryBeautiful or bonkers The Craft Companion offers 170 projects to learn 33 crafting techniques, with inspiration from 150 contemporary artists. Try working with traditional materials (wood, leather, gold leaf) or turn to page 378 and make a recycled Terrarium for your plastic dinosaurs.

Art photography, by David BateArt Photography provides a fascinating introduction to the crucial role of painting in the invention of photography, and the importance of photography in the development of modern art. Visual examples from the 19th – 21st centuries illustrate how global this field of art has become.

Bernard Leach by Edmund De WaalBernard Leach is the first biography and critical monograph of this renowned 20th century potter whose ceramics, writings and teaching hold a central place in the international history of the decorative arts.

 

Making sculpture from scrap metal by Peter ParkinsonMetal workers have recycled broken tools and other scrap since the Bronze Age, but only in the 20th century did artists start using such items to make sculpture. Making Sculpture from Scrap Metal puts this artistic practice into context, describes the concerns and techniques involved, and illustrates these with the work of contemporary sculptors.

Looking at pictures: an introduction to art for young people through the National Gallery collection, by Joy RichardsonWhat are paintings for? This and other topics including colour, light, symbols and techniques are discussed in Looking at Pictures, the National Gallery’s excellent introduction to art for young people. Don’t let this put you off: it’s an illuminating mini-history of European painting.

Contemporary design Africa by Tapiwa MatsindeContemporary Design Africa is the first book on the innovative and sophisticated uses of traditional crafts taking place across the continent.   Over the past 100 years communities have used manufactured “rubbish” to make footwear, household goods, even toys. This practice, alongside the cultural use of natural materials, is an inspiration for any designer.

Alfred Wallis by Matthew GaleAlfred Wallis fisherman and marine stores dealer, is now recognised as one of the most original British artists of the 20th century. In the light of new research, this book traces the development of his painting from when he started 1925, until his death in 1942 at the age of 87.

If you want to borrow these or other art books, bring in your membership card; or bring proof of your home address and join the library for free. We are off the south side of Leicester Square, behind the main wing of the National Gallery. For more information, contact the library.

Art books collage 2

[Philippa]