Category Archives: Arts & culture

Astronomy Month: Stars in Your Eyes

September is Astronomy Month at Westminster Reference Library with free events each week and telescopes for loan; more information about everything that’s happening on our website

Bayeux Tapestry 32-33 comet Halley Harold

Isti Mirant Stella, Bayeaux Tapestry, Canterbury, 1070s

They wonder at the star

This is the earliest picture of Halley’s Comet, made at a time when comets were bad omens. In 1066, it was visible from  24 April to 1 May, a few months after Harold’s coronation on 6 January, and before his death and defeat at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October.

Edmond Halley (1656 – 1742) astronomer and mathematician, was the first to compute the orbit of this comet and accurately predict its return in 1758. Halley was a frequent visitor when Sir Isaac Newton lived in the house which was on the site of the library from 1710 – 1727.

Did you know the library has a specialist Fine Arts Collection on the first floor? You are welcome to explore our books on this early medieval masterpiece, from a contemporary account to recent research:

Bayeux Tapestry and the Norman Invasion, Introduction and Translation from the contemporary account of William of Poitiers by Lewis Thorpe, London 1973

David Mackenzie Wilson, The Bayeux tapestry: the complete tapestry in colour, with introduction, description and commentary, London, 1985

Wolfgang Grape, The Bayeux Tapestry: monument to a Norman triumph, Translated from the German, Munich 1994

Lucien Musset, The Bayeux Tapestry: translated by Richard Rex, Woodbridge, 2005

Carola Hicks, The Bayeux Tapestry: The Life Story of a Masterpiece London, 2007

Library staff are happy to help you to find these and other books in the collection.

Not sure where we are? Westminster Reference Library  is off the south side of Leicester Square, behind the main wing of the National Gallery.  For more information, telephone 020 7641 1300.

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Celebrating ‘The Muse’ by Jessie Burton

Last month, as part of the Cityread London celebrations Church Street Library had an amazing day full of events. Over to the staff there to tell us more –

Friday 18 May 2018 saw the three Church Street Library book groups come together to discuss this year’s Cityread London book ‘The Muse’, set against the theme of art and Spain and London.

The ESOL group, bibliotherapy and monthly book groups plus other customers took part in a lively discussion on the book and its themes. The book is set in 1936 Spain and 1967 London and follows the story of Odelle Bastein from the Caribbean trying to solve the mystery of the painting that her boyfriend Scott has inherited from his late mother. The story reverts to 1936 and covers how the painting came to be – and follows the story of Olive Schloss in pre-civil war Spain. The story follows one of the rebels Isaac Robles and his sister Terese, and how their lives are entwined with Olive and her family. All is not as it seems in the household.

The readers taken on a journey of many twists in the story until it concludes with Odelle never really knowing the whole truth. The story reflects on how women were suppressed by the age. Olive wanted to go to art school but at this time, women were still much the second-class person.

For many of the group, English was not their first language and they rose admirably to the challenge of reading the book. Everybody took part in the discussion and everybody’s point was valid. The consensus was that the book was very enjoyable. For those who had read Jessie Burton’s previous book,
‘The Miniaturist’ this was a different style but equally as good.

After the discussion, the ‘Showroom Gallery’ courtesy of Terese and Anna held a fantastical collage montage around the themes in the book. The group developed their own style of art – some using the characters/themes in the book, others using their imagination. Everybody had great ideas and it was fantastic to see all the groups working together producing some great images.

From  midday, the groups were treated to an infusion of Spanish guitar music from the members of the London Guitar Orchestra and their conductor Tom Kerstens. The library was enchanted with the sound of guitar strings humming the air transforming the audience to a warm sunny Spain. The orchestra played six pieces, which showed their skills and took your breath away, and it was with great sadness when they finished after 30 minutes. The amateur group meet once a week to play, in Central London.

Overall it was a great morning of discussion, art and music that was enjoyed by all and we would love to see happen again. Roll on next year!

We must offer a big thank you to Joy Fromings, and her orchestra for giving their time free to perform and to Theresa and Anna from the gallery, without them the event could not have taken place.

Cityread London 2018

If you live within the M25 you may have come across Cityread London. If not, then this is your chance to take part in the biggest annual reading event in London, for Londoners and about London. As the organisers put it:

“This is an celebration of literature that brings reading to life for the whole capital in a massive book group”

This event is in its seventh year and for the first time will take place in May, rather than April. Each year, a different author and book are chosen and this time it’s the turn of Jessie Burton and her second novel ‘The Muse’. Many of you may remember her wonderful debut work ‘The Miniaturist’ which was broadcast as a BBC TV drama last Christmas.

We encourage all of you to read this year’s book and take part in the conversation. You may like to join one of our many book groups that are taking part this Spring. You can find details of our groups here

Not only that, May will be packed with events related to the themes of the novel, which are many and topical: live jazz band performance plus talk on the jazz clubs scene of 1960’s Soho, talks on the Spanish civil war, swinging Sixties, the changing role of women, immigration and its impact on the capital, art, food, drink and more.  Take your pick and book your place

And don’t forget to look at the Cityread website for a London wide picture of what is going on this May.

Enjoy.

Sylvia and Silvio in Charing Cross

Silvio Corio and Sylvia Pankhurst

A free exhibition about Sylvia Pankhurst and Silvio Corio, frontrunners in the campaign for women’s vote and against fascism, opened at Charing Cross Library on Friday. Over to Aitor, the library’s manager to tell us about the opening night –

With the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 being in the news and Sylvia Pankhurst’s name in the exhibition title, a good number of people were expected to attend the opening of Sylvia and Silvio but as nearly 100 came, packing the newly refurbished basement room, one wonders how many came to find out a bit more about “Silvio”. Who was the mysterious man who met the famous suffragette in 1917 – the start of an intriguing relationship that lasted till he died in 1954?

Alfio Bernabei

Alfio Bernabei, author, historian and journalist curated the exhibition and talked us through the turbulent years at the turn of the last century when about 300 Italian political refugees arrived in London seeking primarily freedom of speech. Some became involved in launching journals, setting up study centres and cultural associations. One of them, Silvio Corio, a talented anarchist typographer from Turin, soon mastered the language and started to work as a journalist and commentator writing about human rights, utopian ideas, social and political issues.

When he met Sylvia Pankhurst, already well-known for her militancy as a suffragette, she was the Editor of Workers’ Dreadnought. It was a meeting of minds that led them, two years later, to travel to Italy to meet Antonio Gramsci who was at the head of a workers movement called Ordine Nuovo. An Italian Sylvia was born. Back in London, always in the company of Silvio’s Italian friends, she was the first well known person in Britain to ring the alarm about Mussolini’s blackshirts. It was the start of an anti-fascist campaign that lasted throughout her life, always with Silvio as an active ally and contributor at her side.

The old billiard room!

Bernabei surprised many in the audience when he told them they were sitting in what used to be the billiard room of the building bought by the Italian fascist party in London in 1936 and how the exhibition in what is today a place of learning felt like an act of symbolical cultural re-appropriation. He then introduced “a special guest”. There was an audible gasp in the audience when Helen Pankhurst, granddaughter of Sylvia and Silvio, rose to speak. Then it was Megan Dobney’s turn to give an update on the statue of Sylvia Pankhurst due to be installed later this year in Clerkenwell Green.

Helen Pankhurst, Megan Dobney and Alfio Bernabei

The exhibition covering the anti-fascist campaigns carried out by Pankhurst and Corio in the 1920s and 1930s will run until 13 May. Caroline Moorehead, the author of the recent book A Bold and Dangerous Family covering the same period as lived by the family that lost two of its members – the Rosselli brothers – killed by the fascists, will give a talk on 26 April at 6.30pm. More info about that on our website 

Aitor, Charing Cross Library

Rhythm for life – towards better health and well-being

The world is more complicated than ever and life around us seems to move at an ever faster pace, statistics show that anxiety and depression have risen by a third in just over four years – it’s clear that we are facing a significant and growing problem. Discovering new ways to target these issues present great challenges, but also, opportunities. As technology continues to dominate our lives and change our behaviours, research shows there are actions we can take to tackle these issues, one of which is through drumming.

Something to consider

The roots of drumming are ancient, archaeologists have discovered evidence that people have used drums for millennia; numerous small cylindrical drums have been excavated in southern parts of Turkey and Iran dating from 3000 BC. Drumming was important then and it is now, think about your favourite song or musical composition, is there a drum beat or distinctly rhythmical element central to its structure? Some anthropologists believe that rhythms and sounds may have been a precursor to the languages we speak today and used as a form of communication.

Learning to drum and setting out on the musical journey of rhythm and pulse can be enjoyable and therapeutic, here are five reasons why you should come join the party…

1. Drum out stress and anxiety
Research shows that participating in group drumming activities boosts the body’s production of endorphins, the ‘feel good’ hormones. Experiencing a group drumming session can be powerful and transformative, promoting feelings of being energised and focused, it’s hard to engage with other things like your smart phone. Research also shows that participants who had blood pressure checks before and after a one hour drumming session displayed a reversal in stress producing hormones, proving that this is a powerful and transformative way to manage stress and anxiety.

2. Maximise your brain function
Your brain loves it when you drum. Music is a powerful way to engage your brain in a full neurological workout; the visual, auditory and motor cortices work hard during a group drumming session. Drumming promotes synchronous brain activity, getting both sides of the brain working together whilst improving concentration, coordination and problem solving skills. The power of drumming is especially noticeable in people living with dementia and acquired brain injury. Therapeutic Instrumental Music Performance (TIMP) programmes show transformative results in stroke survivors and their rehabilitation, and music has been proven to be a powerful means of communication for those living with dementia.

3. Boost your immune system
There is growing evidence that drumming can be linked to a reduction in pro-inflammatory immune response in the body, helping to induce the opposite effect through increasing the positive anti-inflammatory defences your body needs to stay healthy. According to cancer specialist Dr Barry Bittman (who conducted extensive research in the fields of music and neurology), group drumming has the potential to increase cells associated with killing cancer and viruses. Research conducted at The University of Tokyo showed the number of white blood cells increased significantly, the slowing down and synchronisation of breathing during the sessions improved blood flow.

4. Feel more connected
With the constant quest for super speed broadband and the latest smart phone, do we still have the capacity to make real and meaningful connections to people and places? Drumming is a great way to feel connected to others without speaking or acting, but solely through the non-verbal pulsating rhythms created in a group. Meet new people, laugh, listen, reflect and be part of creating an incredible shared experience for yourself and those around you.

5. It’s fun!
Injecting fun into your life is a serious business! People who are deprived of fun and recreational experiences are more likely to commit crimes, be less productive and have low self-esteem. Drumming is one of the most fun and rewarding things to do – why not give it a try?

Starting in January 2018 we will be holding lots of free drumming workshops in Westminster Music Library, no experience necessary! Contact us to find out more: musiclibrary@westminster.gov.uk
020 7641 6200

Ruth
Westminster Music Library

Half term fun at Maida Vale Library

Maida Vale Library hosted a full programme of events for children during half term.

There has been an ongoing treasure hunt to find spooky Halloween characters hidden around the library.

Spooky!

On Monday we had two really well attended sessions for our popular rocket making session in the morning and again in the afternoon – more than 80 children and adults came along.

Rockets!

On Tuesday we hosted an Elmer Day event. A bit late I know (or early as they’ll be another on 26 May 2018), but better late than never! The children listened to some stories about the multi-coloured elephant, played a game, then coloured in pictures and elephant ears and made an Elmer model.

On Thursday we were making spooky puppets from felt in the morning and afternoon and again and we were joined by over 100 children and adults! Hopefully everyone had a great time and I was ably supported by volunteers Lisa and Khaleda, so a big thank you to them.

A spooky Dracula!

There was also time for sharing stories, so something for everyone.

Halloween stories!

Simon Williams
Maida Vale Library

PS – if you’re interested in volunteering with us, we have more information here

Pimlico Library celebrates Libraries Week

Pimlico Library celebrated Libraries Week yesterday, Thursday 12 October with the Worlds of Possibilities festival – a free series of artistic activities in public libraries held to celebrate the wide range of activities and opportunities available in libraries.

Pupils from two local schools experienced an afternoon of poetry and performance workshops; poet and playwright,  Tommy Sissons entertained two classes from Pimlico Academy and three classes from Pimlico Primary got to meet author, Smriti Prasadam-Halls.

Smriti Prasadam-Halls read from her book T-Veg, about a vegetarian dinosaur, to primary school pupils from Pimlico Primary. She also spoke about other stories she’s written and where she gets her ideas from.

Tommy Sissons read poems from his book Goodnight Son and hosted a Q&A session with secondary school pupils on writing and being a poet.

Both events were also attended by Libraries Minister, John Glen MP and Cllr Jacqui Wilkinson, Deputy Cabinet Member for Environment, Sports and Community.

Thank you to Smriti, Tommy, pupils and teachers from Pimlico Primary and Pimlico Academy for contributing to such a fantastic event!