Category Archives: Arts & culture

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

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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!

Art Book of the Month, September 2017

 

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The Biography and Catalogue Raisonne of the Paintings of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema by Vern G Swanson
London: Garton & Co 1990

Recently Westminster Reference Library was contacted by Leighton House Museum who were about to hold an exhibition of the works of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. They were contacting us to ask if they could borrow from our Art and Design Collection a copy of the catalogue raisonné of his paintings to ensure the information they were presenting was as correct as possible. Whilst normally books from this collection are  reference only and therefore not available for loan, given the nature of the request we decided to make an exception.

Catalogue raisonnés are descriptive catalogues of works of art with explanations and scholarly comments. But to bring some life to this brief sentence I thought it might be nice to show you why the museum was keen to borrow the work and exactly what you get.

This catalogue raisonné starts off with an authoritative biography of Alma-Tadema before proceeding into the nitty gritty.

 

Helpfully Alma-Tadema had a habit of numbering all of his works which makes the organisation remarkably simple. The catalogue raisonné has varying amounts of detail for each painting ranging from the short…

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To the long…

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But, invariably the text details exactly what you need to know about each piece: the title, the style of work, the size, the provenance, what exhibitions it has been in, if it has been included in texts and of course a detailed description of the work itself.

Nick
Nicholas Alexander
Collection Services Officer

The making of mayamada – journey into manga

We’ve got an amazing event on Saturday 5 August, 1.30pm at Westminster Reference Library : ‘The making of mayamada – journey into manga’.  More info on our website

mayamanda founders, Nigel and Lao have written a guest blog post to tell us more –

The story of mayamada starts with failure, also known as a “learning experience”. We’ve had a few of those along the way…

mayamada founders Nigel and Lao

In the beginning, there was just an idea between a group of friends with a love of Japanese culture. We wanted to make cool t-shirts and sell them to an adoring fan base.

Unfortunately, the cool t-shirts never came, and neither did the fan base!

So once we admitted our plan was working we had a rethink. The group became a duo and me along with co-founder Lao set about working on a real brand to build.

As well as an interest in anime, manga, and cartoons, we also had a passion for storytelling. So after a brainstorming session (or two) we put those things together and came up with a whole universe of characters and stories. A brand was born.

mayamada became a universe; a television network with an all star cast of anthropomorphic characters. We started designing characters and writing manga-style comics to tell the story of the shows on the mayamada network.

mayamada manga

Even with the idea sorted, it still took a while to get our first title released. Two years. In 2013, we were able to self-publish Samurai Chef Volume 1 thanks to a successful Indiegogo crowd funding campaign.

Samurai Chef

Since then we’ve released the complete edition of Samurai Chef along with Hot Lunch: The Outer Circle and Serious Volume 1.

mayamada manga titles

We even managed to create some cool t-shirts featuring our characters. The fan base started to come too. It’s been great to see people respond positively to our stories, characters, and clothing.

mayamada clothing

We’ve been able to take our brand to comic conventions across the country where we get to meet new fans and people who have been supporting us for years now.  The support has allowed us to build the mayamada universe through new characters and stories.

Hyper Japan Summer 2016

But it hasn’t stopped there. We’ve also been able to launch our own social gaming event, GamePad. With the aim of making gaming more inclusive, we work with gaming companies including Ubisoft and Nintendo to put on a fun day of gaming for everyone. We’re glad for that initial failure, we never would be here without it.

mayamada GamePad Highlights

This is still at the beginning of our story though. There are lots more mayamada stories to write and characters to meet. No doubt there’ll be more learning experiences too as we keep building our brand – it’s all part of the journey!

mayamada brand

 

Many thanks to Nigel and Lao for sharing their story with us; don’t forget if you’d like to meet them on Saturday 5 August – book your free place on Eventbrite

French Culture Day at Church Street Library

Drama, music, suspense, storytelling and so much more were on offer on Tuesday 4 July at Church Street Library for French Culture Day.

And the pirates’ treasure was found!

French Culture Day kicked off in the morning with Institut français’ Anna Orford and her wonderfully eclectic under 5s storytelling session (in French and English) with songs, suspense and French book prizes (and the treasure was made of chocolate!).

There was a treasure hunt, later on in the day, for children aged 5-10, followed by a French class for adults. Altogether, more than 135 people joined us on the day.

I would like to say a  massive heartfelt thank you to our irreplaceable French Club tutors/volunteers Elodie and Tissam. They prepared the treasure hunt (clues, images, prizes etc) and adult lesson plan for the French class.

Most importantly, Elodie established a partnerships with King Solomon Academy’s French teacher, that was a great help as the teacher and two of her Year 13 pupils helped with running  the treasure hunt. This will hopefully lead to further joint events. I honestly couldn’t have done this without them!

Last but not least, Emmanuelle from Institut français kindly donated boxes of French books (which we also used as treasure hunt prizes) for the French book sale and the books sold very well. Oh and she said, let’s do this again around Christmas time!

Debora, Church Street Library

Volunteer with us this summer

Looking for something to do this summer? We are looking for volunteers to help deliver the Summer Reading Challenge in our libraries. Young people (14 to 25 year olds) are especially welcome to apply to volunteer.

The Summer Reading Challenge is a national reading initiative which encourages children to read for fun over the summer holidays.

The combination of fun, freedom, and creativity impacts significantly on children’s reading levels and confidence. Taking part in the challenge helps prevent the ‘summer reading dip’ which can occur when children are at home over the long summer break and, without reading opportunities, lose confidence in their reading.

 

We’ve had some fantastic volunteers, who’ve really helped make a difference and had some fun too. Here’s what a couple of them had to say –

If I had to sum up my volunteering as a Summer Reading Challenge Mentor, I would say the experience definitely made my summer! During the holidays, there’s a lot of time but not much to do. So what did I do? I took on the opportunity to be a Mentor and I loved it so much I volunteered at the same library again for 2 summers! Being a Reading Challenge Mentor is huge fun – you get to interact with young kids and really get a understanding of what books they enjoy. From science fiction to books about jam sandwiches (yes, there’s a book on that!), reading can be extremely exciting if you find the right book! I had a truly great time meeting with  young readers but also working alongside the friendliest staff around! The library staff are so welcoming and I truly enjoyed my volunteering . If you love reading and want to make a difference – this is the opportunity for you!

I had the pleasure of spending two summers in libraries around West London supporting the summer reading challenge. I loved interacting with all of the children and helping them to explore new genres and authors. Assisting with the planning and facilitation of arts and crafts sessions was definitely a highlight of mine. I also enjoyed helping to create in library displays to showcase the children’s work. I have always been passionate about helping children and young people. My work with the challenge inspired me to pursue a career within the education and charity sectors.  I would encourage anybody to take part in this programme, it was an amazing experience and has been an asset to my CV.

You can download a profile and apply to voulnteer on our website.

Nick, Tri-borough Libraries Children’s Services Manager