Category Archives: Charing Cross Library

Ali Smith in Charing Cross Library

More than fifty people braved a cold wet Monday evening to come to prize-winning author Ali Smith‘s inspiring talk in praise of public libraries.

Author Ali Smith at Charing Cross Library, February 2017

Public Library and other stories by Ali SmithThe audience was enthralled for the whole 45 minutes of Ali’s talk in Charing Cross Library. She gave a fiercely intelligent, passionate and valuable insight into the role libraries play and why we need them so much, as well as how she came to gather the material for her book Public Library and other stories.

After the talk, she signed copies of her books that people had brought with them. A fantastic evening.

Author Ali Smith at Charing Cross Library, February 2017


Calling all comic fans!

Free Comic Book Day 2016Save the date –
Saturday 7 May is
Free Comic Book Day

Across North America and around the world, comic shops will be giving away free comics. And Westminster Libraries are taking part, courtesy of the lovely folks at Forbidden Planet who are providing the comics.

You can collect yours from your local library (see list of participating libraries below). One title per customer, while stocks last – which won’t be long!

There is a Doctor Who title, a Superhero Girls title and selected libraries will also have Suicide Squad (suitable for teens and over only).

Doctor Who for Free Comic Book day 2016 DC Superhero Girls for Free Comic Book day 2016 Suicide Squad for Free Comic Book day 2016

“Free Comic Book Day is the perfect occasion for newcomers to comics as well as those who have been reading them for years to celebrate comics and discover new titles that debut on the first Saturday in May”
– Free Comic Book Day spokesperson Dan Manser

Why not check out the graphic novel collection while you are there and see what else your library has to offer?


Participating libraries in Westminster:

Year of the Monkey

Happy New Year!

Charing Cross Library held a Chinese New Year celebration last Friday, 5 February. Over 130 people enjoyed fantastic magic shows, singing, dancing, networking and drinks. This year we worked together with Henan Associations, who brought us some interesting Henan local folk cultural elements.

Chris Lloyd, Community Development Manager, presented a welcome speech. The Chinese Embassy Minister Counsellor (Economic & Commercial) Jin Xu and counsellor Li Hui attended the party and kindly wished all our customers a Happy New Year. The longest-serving Premier Minister of St Kitts and Nevis Denzil Douglas also attended the celebration and gave warm wishes of good relationships among British, Caribbean countries and China.

This weekend the biggest celebrations of Chinese New Year outside Asia will take place in London: find out more.

Mussolini’s Folly in Charing Cross

The idea of learning about the hall which was once the headquarters of the Italian Fascist party obviously intrigued a lot of people, as nearly 100 came to the opening of the exhibition Mussolini’s Folly – Farce & tragedy in Little Italy at Charing Cross Library last week.

'Mussolini’s Folly – Farce & tragedy in Little Italy' exhibition at Charing Cross Library , November 2015

‘Mussolini’s Folly – Farce & tragedy in Little Italy’ exhibition at Charing Cross Library , November 2015

Alfio Bernabei, author, historian and journalist curated the exhibition and talked us through the relevance of the library building to the Italians from 1937-1940 – “an 11,000-square-foot Palace befitting the rightful pride of Italians of the Fascist Era“; and the rise of the Fascist movement and its importance in London.

Alfio Bernabeis with Italian Consul Giulia Romani, Charing Cross Library, November 2015Our other two speakers were the Italian Consul for London, Giulia Romani, who talked about the need for vigilance in present times, and Simone Rossi, the UK secretary of Anpi-London who spoke passionately about the National Association of Italian Partisans.

The exhibition runs until 14 December and there are images of the library as the former headquarters – with a statue of Julius Cesar; the special music evenings with the tenor Beniamino Gigli and a boys violin concert (Mussolini’s favourite instrument). It also includes fascinating images, reports and newspaper cuttings including one about Sylvia Pankhurst supporting the anti-fascist movement.

Photograph showing fascist motto 'Believe Obey Fight' above the balcony upon which it was once written - Charing Cross Library, November 2015

Photograph showing fascist motto ‘Believe Obey Fight’ above the balcony upon which it was once written – Charing Cross Library, November 2015

One of the fascist mottos, ‘Believe Obey Fight’ used to run around the balcony of the building– it might be nice to get a library motto up there – perhaps ‘Question Read Learn’? Any ideas?

Do come and see the exhibition, it is a great success and we hope to continue to build further links with our local Italian community.

“Really interesting”

“Great to hear about our local history, I had no idea about the background of the library”

“Perfect talk – interesting, at just the right level and not too long”

Continuing the theme of ‘Italians in London’, Alfio Bernabeis’ 1987 Channel 4 documentary Dangerous Characters was shown in the library this week, with Alfio present. It tells the story of how a thriving Italian community in London was led astray politically and ends with the tragedy of the sinking of the SS Arandora Star in 1940.

Alfio Bernabeis at Charing Cross Library, November 2015

Alfio Bernabeis at Charing Cross Library, November 2015


Record Breaking Fun

Record Breakers 2015 Boo Hiccup event at Maida Vale LibrarySince our last update, over 2,000 children have joined this year’s Summer Reading Challenge, ‘Record Breakers’. Children borrow books from the library, come back and tell us a bit about them and receive stickers and rewards for their books. Have you joined in yet? There are still 3 weeks to go so lots of time to get reading!

Here is a round-up of some of this week’s Summer Reading Challenge events in our libraries:

We had the amazing ‘Boo Hiccup’ and his magical comedy show at Maida Vale library (above). He was great – the children and grown-ups had lots of fun!

Mask-making from the Wallace Collection at St John’s Wood library
Mask-making inspired by the mythical creatures from the Wallace Collection at St John’s Wood library (above).

Mayfair library had a visit from Debutots: here is Isobel in action telling her stories, and the children having fun with bubbles.

Isobel at debutots session telling her stories and the children having fun with bubbles
If you like dancing, you’d love the events by Diddidance – below, Kerry is doing a dance with children at Charing Cross library, complete with pom poms!

Diddidance: Kerry doing a dance with children at Charing Cross library

Back at Maida Vale library, there was the “Wacky Vehicle” event. Children were tasked with making a vehicle of some sort with a large collection of recyclable materials. It’s amazing what you can do with toilet rolls, Pringle boxes and old bottles! Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most popular vehicle proved to be the rocket: there appear to be a lot of budding record-breaking astronauts at Maida Vale. Here are some cosmic photos of the results (including a bus!)

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Check out the events yet to come to see what’s on at your local library!

Fab Times at Charing Cross and St John’s Wood

It was back to the 1960s at Charing Cross Library last Friday when we recalled the days of Beatlemania with Aaron Krerowicz, America’s only full-time professional Beatles scholar.

Books and music by and about the BeatlesUsing a mixture of slide show, music clips and audio interview extracts from the band, he described the Beatles career from start to break-up. He showed how they developed, both musically and lyrically, and demonstrated the influence of other musicians, notably Carl Perkins and Bob Dylan. Paul McCartney claimed:

“If there were no Carl Perkins, there would be no Beatles”.

Aaron also described the innovations that the Beatles themselves pioneered, some of which could only be achieved on a studio recording..

It was considered a matter of personal preference which was the best of the Beatles albums, although it was generally agreed that Abbey Road had the best contributions from the pen of George Harrison.

The enduring appeal of the Beatles is undoubted – only next door the Garrick Theatre has been staging Let it Be, a tribute to the Beatles, while earlier this week the Metro had a feature about a Soho restaurant that was displaying a collection of previously unseen photos of the band on tour in the USA.

The audience, some 40-50 strong, were predominantly (like myself) people who had lived through the Beatles era. Many were quite knowledgeable about the group themselves and Aaron gained some new facts himself during the Q & A session. The discussion could probably have gone on for several hours, but sadly we had to draw matters to a close and prepare the library for opening the following day, with a reminder to the audience that, if they wanted more, Aaron would be giving another different talk at St. John’s Wood Library the next day, before returning to the States.

A ‘fab’ time was had by all:

‘Great informed presentation, fantastic’

‘Lively and well documented presentation’

‘Wonderful music lesson!’


St John’s Wood Library also enjoyed welcoming Aaron Krerowicz on Saturday 18 July for his presentation ‘The Beatles’ Alter Ego, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’.

Aaron Krerowicz at St john's Wood Library, July 2015

As St John’s Wood Library is a stone’s throw away from Abbey Road, it was a delight to have such an expert here to tell us about the production, collaboration and inspiration behind the iconic album.

Aaron Krerowicz’s books will shortly be available to borrow from St John’s Wood Library.


Chinese painting

The beautiful and traditional art of Chinese painting holds a fascination for many. Charing Cross Library invites you to join in with their long-established Chinese painting class, held every Saturday from 11.00am – 1.00pm in the library. Chinese Art Class The class is taught by an experienced teacher, Mr William Cai, who has practiced Chinese painting for over 40 years – and has been teaching it in the UK for more than 20 years. He has served in various institutions such as the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Missenden Abbey Adult Learning Centre, the University of Westminster, Imperial College and more. Adults of all levels of skill, from beginners to advanced, are welcome. Classes cover techniques including Xie Yi (which is a freely expressive style) and Gong Bi (highly detailed brushstrokes, very precise and without independent or expressive variation), and subjects such as landscape, flowers and birds. The courses also includes an introduction to and analysis of master works in Chinese painting, to help students understand and appreciate Chinese art. Through live demonstrations and hands-on exercises, Mr Cai guides students through to mastery of the basic techniques of Chinese painting, step by step. You can find out more by contacting the library or Mr Cai – more details on the Charing Cross Library events page.