Category Archives: Special collections

“And the Award goes to…”

Ruth Walters with the Westminster Music Library IAML Excellence Award certificate 2016On Saturday 2 April, in a swish hotel on the outskirts of Manchester, during this year’s International Association of Music Libraries (IAML) annual conference, we paused while the red carpet was laid out and the assembled delegates were transformed with sparkly frocks, frightening ‘up dos’ and slick tuxedos… well maybe not quite that sparkly, but The BAFTAs, The Oscars, The Grammys, none of them can hold a candle to The IAML Excellence in Music Libraries Awards.

A host of IAML delegates were assembled to celebrate the fantastic achievements of colleagues representing music libraries of all shapes and sizes across the UK and Ireland; no matter what their sector or type.

Some aspire to greatness, and others achieve it. In the music library world there are some folks who just keep getting better and better at providing all manner of services for their customers, whether they are tiny tots, learned professors, or all manner of people, young and old, in-between. Some have forged successful partnerships, devised innovative events programmes or organised fascinating exhibitions, others have achieved new levels of co-operation with schools and universities or are recognised for their special collections or outreach programmes. One thing’s for sure, all these award winning libraries are impressive, and demonstrate the dedication and passion of library staff determined to provide their customers with the best music library service they can.

The other thing about the IAML “Biennale” is it gives everyone an opportunity to adopt and adapt some of the work that the Award winners are so skilled at doing. We all know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and following someone’s good work and good practice is surely the most flattering pat on the back of all.

The nominations for this year’s Awards were judged by a panel of experts from both the music and library worlds, chaired by Jan Smaczny, Professor Emeritus of Music, Queen’s University, Belfast.

Professor Jan Smaczny, Chair of the IAML (UK & IRL) awards panelMusic libraries play a key role in supporting the study, performance and enjoyment of music and underpin the vibrant diverse musical life and heritage in the UK and Ireland and, as Professor Smaczny has said,

“the very musical infrastructure of the United Kingdom and Ireland depends fundamentally on the work of music librarians”.

And who are we to argue with the good Prof?

And finally, I must ‘blow the trumpet’ for Westminster Music Library, as we were indeed honoured with our fourth Excellence Award, which I was both delighted and proud to accept on behalf of my wonderful team.  Here’s why we were selected:

The service was particularly commended for its proactive working in seeking out new projects and partnerships, which engage with both users and potential users. The expert staffing levels and training offered to both staff and the public were also commended, as was the excellent stock and publicising of the service.  The panel felt that the library is a ‘national resource’ and a benchmark for ‘excellence’.

Thank you IAML, we are absolutely thrilled, and it is nice to wear a frock occasionally…

[Ruth]

IAML Study Weekend 2016  IAML Excellence Award certificate 2016

Ruth didn’t mention the whole story above – we’re very pleased and proud to say that she also won a personal acheivement award:

“The judging panel recognised that Ruth continues to bring energy, enthusiasm, creativity and professionalism to both Westminster Music Library and more widely to IAML (UK & Irl).  Under her management WML – one of the UK’s leading public music libraries – continues to take on new challenges in creative partnership working, event organising, and delivering an excellent music library service to its members.  So much of what Ruth – and WML – does is Excellent and a benchmark for others to be inspired by and follow.  One recent project of note is a partnership with the Armed Forces in which Ruth secured funding from the Ministry of Defence to set up a choir ‘Joint Force Singers’ with Westminster’s Armed Forces.  Ruth’s ongoing events programmes, community partnerships and fundraising have raised the profile of a specialist music service in the community, introducing new customers – children and adults – to the world of music.”
– from the IAML blog

Congratulations to Ruth and team once more!

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Art Book of the Month, March 2016

In a new series on this blog, we’re shining a light on some of the treasures of the Art & Design Collection at Westminster Reference Library.

Toros y Toreros by Pablo Picasso
Toros y Toreros by Pablo Picasso
Texte de Luis Miguel Dominguin et une etude de Georges Boudaille

Thames and Hudson, 1961
Text in English and Spanish. Double Folio


“Yesterday, Pablo phoned me from Cannes. He had already told me he wanted me to do something for a book that was being published soon. So I spoke to him about it as we had already spoken before, without my yet being able to find out what the book was about or what he wanted me to do. I asked him if it was a preface, a text, a commentary that he wanted, whether he expected me to talk about art, about bullfighting or about the polar star. But he only answered that any one of these subjects would suit the purpose”

Toros y toreros is a book of drawings by Picasso, about bulls and bullfighting, published in 1961 with a written commentary by the celebrated Matador Luis Miguel Dominguin and an essay by Journalist and Art Critic,  Georges Boudaille. The frontispiece is a facsimile reproduction of the artist’s handwritten title page.

Picasso and Dominguin met in 1950, introduced to each other by Jean Cocteau.  They became close friends and apparently Picasso designed the famous matador’s chaquetilla and trousers. In the book there are a variety of sketches in both colour and black and white. Some of these are busy and detailed, others barely an outline.

On a cold March day, if only for a minute or two, you’ll feel transported to the hot terraces of a Plaza de Toros, your head in a tunnel of spinning colours and sounds.

[Rossella]

Anarchy in the UK – Punk at Forty

Play Guitar with The ClashDo you remember 1976? 

40 years ago, punk stunned the nation with its explosion from nowhere, and in this its anniversary year we’ll be celebrating this iconic movement with events and exhibitions. Come in and help us celebrate and acknowledge the huge legacy that punk has left in the music history books.

History generously allocated 4 July 1976, with a number of memorable events.  100 hostages were rescued from a Ugandan airport where they were being held by pro-Palestinian hijackers; the United States celebrated 200 years of independence; and, in a dimly-lit back room of the Black Swan pub in Sheffield, The Clash gave their live debut to an audience of 50. Despite the grungy venue and the feeble crowd, it was, as far as debut gigs go, a far greater opportunity for exposure than most bands are given – they were supporting none less than the Sex Pistols, who, having nine months’ performance experience under their belts, were well-known for their onstage antics (and, incidentally, practically half way through their stint as a band already).

The Clash performing in Oslo in 1980. Left to right: Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, and Paul Simonon

As a quirk of history would have it, it was on the same night that, 170 miles further south, another group whose name rings loud in the hall of fame were giving another sort of debut. Riding on the success of an eponymous LP recorded three months previously, The Ramones gave their UK debut show at London’s Roundhouse, and were afforded a rather more spectacular crowd of 2,000 fans for their efforts – their largest so far. Known for their short and sweet three-chord wonders (by July 1976, the longest song in their repertoire was a fleeting two-and-a-half minutes), The Ramones had stirred up in the youth of London a taste for the loud, raucous and unconventional – a hunger soon to be intensified by the explosion of a home-grown punk scene. It was The Ramones, who, with their huge crowds, record contract, and overseas tours, gave inspiration to such bands as the Sex Pistols and The Clash – so, the following night, on day two of The Ramones’ UK tour, the two English bands took a break from performing to pay tribute to their American heroes.

Despite Johnny Rotten, the Sex Pistols’ infamous frontman, going on to liken The Ramones to Status Quo – as offensive a remark as one can make to a punk rocker – reports suggest that even he, too, was enamoured enough to wait for The Ramones to finish their show and meet them at the stage door. One can only imagine what this meeting of these three legendary bands, who have each gone on to write the history books of punk rock, would have looked like. The Ramones may have been loud and unconventional, but compared to the Pistols, known for their spiked green hair and homemade “I hate Pink Floyd” t-shirts, they must have appeared relatively tame. Rob Lloyd, vocalist of The Prefects, and witness to the occasion, sums it up succinctly: “I think The Ramones were a bit frightened of them.”

The Ramones, Toronto 1976

4 July 1976 had set the ball rolling for the unstoppable rise of punk rock in the UK. Literally hundreds of bands followed in the footsteps of the Sex Pistols and The Clash. Some are remembered well today: Buzzcocks (formed in 1976), The Damned (1976), Siouxsie and the Banshees (1976), The Skids (1977) and Stiff Little Fingers (1977) are familiar names to popular music fans. Others, with less familiar but no less amusing names, are sadly forgotten: the likes of Lemon Kittens, Hammersmith Gorillas and Desperate Bicycles and a whole host of other provocatively-named bands, live on only in punk history books. It wasn’t only the names of bands which had fundamentally changed, however. A new standard had been set for musical composition, where catchy melodies were no longer criteria for success (ABBA, the number-one chart-toppers in 1976, were no doubt looked upon with contempt). Bands no longer aspired to imitate The Beatles (whose breakup had only occurred six years previously) – punk rockers valued speed over caution, volume over subtlety and profanity over poetry. Producer Marco Pirroni recalls, “After that [the birth of punk], everybody speeded up…”

Despite the huge appeal of punk to the disaffected youth of the 1970s, who could probably think of nothing worse than listening to 1976’s top-selling album (Greatest Hits by ABBA), the closest punk ever got to chart-topping status was in the form of the more radio-friendly Boomtown Rats, whose Rat Trap was a number 1 single in 1978. (Punk purists would no doubt question the validity of describing Bob Geldof’s family-friendly band as “punk”.)

The Sex Pistols. In Paradiso

It appeared that punk would remain strictly underground, confined to the bars of London and Sheffield where no respectable person would ever tread – that is, until 1 December 1976, when punk was inadvertently rocketed into the mainstream view. Faced with a last-minute cancellation by Queen, producers of ITV’s Today show sought a replacement band for host Bill Grundy to interview on the popular 6.00pm show,  and somehow landed upon the Sex Pistols, presumably with the hope of discussing their £40,000 record deal with EMI, finalised some two months previously. Whatever the motivation for this surprising choice of band to replace Queen (one suspects that the Pistols were not first choice), the show went ahead, with disastrous consequences. Grundy, who was no novice at interviewing, made a valiant attempt to stay on topic (“I am told that the group have received forty thousand pounds from a record company. Doesn’t that seem to be slightly opposed to their anti-materialistic view of life?”), but received no thanks for his efforts: “We’ve f***ing spent it,” was the reply.

National scandal ensued. Grundy was sacked from Today and relegated to a Sunday morning book-review show, while the ever-restrained Daily Mirror added fuel to the fire by running the front-page headline, ‘The Filth And The Fury!’ Phone lines to the show’s producers were jammed with angry complaints from viewers who perceived their Wednesday evening supper to have been violated, and the Guardian reported that one man ‘had been so outraged that he had kicked in the screen of his new £380 television set‘ (ironically, a favourite activity of punk bands in hotel rooms). Punk had finally penetrated popular culture, albeit widely condemned. An unrepentant Sex Pistols attempted to use the buzz generated by their appearance to launch a nationwide tour, adopting the philosophy ‘no publicity is bad publicity’ – but this unfortunately appeared to be untrue. In Johnny Rotten’s words, “We tried to play around the country… We were banned from just about everywhere.”

Daily Mirror, 2 December 1976

Whether for good or ill, punk could no longer be hidden from plain sight. The punks had revolutionised music and fashion, and now culture, the final frontier, seemed within their grasp. But while some may have had some support from cultural icons of the day (Vivienne Westwood, who was at the time living with the Sex Pistols’ manager, Malcolm McLaren, was quoted as saying “It is quite normal [to swear in front of children] at the time of the scandal), it would appear that Britain of 1976 was not quite ready for punk. The Sex Pistols’ one and only album was released the next year, but only after EMI had dropped the band, major record shops had refused to sell it, and record charts had refused to list it, preferring to show a blank space in place of its provocative title. Anarchy in the UK simply wasn’t going as planned.

The bands which had the most commercial success were those who were prepared to tone it down somewhat. The Jam, The Stranglers, and the aforementioned Boomtown Rats seemed more successful at bridging the divide between mainstream culture and the punk underground. Their music – more melodic and reflective – was considered a safer option by record sellers and parents alike, and these bands found great success riding on the wave of interest in punk, bearing its name but in reality resembling very little of the ‘real’ punk bands like The Clash and the Ramones. Meanwhile, band after band either broke up (The Damned in 1978, Buzzcocks in 1981, The Skids in 1982) or re-invented themselves – Johnny Rotten famously forming the much tamer group, Public Image Limited, in 1978.

The punk revolution appeared to be over as suddenly as it began, but its influence was only just beginning. Seemingly hundreds of sub-genres appeared, as musicians fused punk with even the most unlikely genres. Some produced well-known acts: New York Dolls exemplified glam punk, and ‘horror punk’ had some success in the Misfits. A massive punk revival took place in 1990s California with bands such as Green Day and The Offspring. Although these bands sang about skateboarding and girlfriends instead of anarchy and revolution, their roots are discernible, and their debt to the 1970s punk scene shown in the typical three-chord riff which inevitably starts every song. Punk in its purest form may have been short-lived, but its explosive impact was sure to create waves in all styles of music. Surely, another punk revival is not out of the question.

Punk Rock Blitzkrieg, by Marky Ramone Punk Rock: an oral history, by John Robb The Official Punk Rock Book of Lists, bby Amy Wallace and Handsome Dick Manitoba

40 years ago, punk stunned the nation with its explosion from nowhere, and in this anniversary year Punk.London seeks to remember the influence of this iconic movement. Events are planned throughout the year across the capital, where punk music and culture can be either relived or experienced for the first time.

Westminster Music Library is pleased to support this series of events, and visitors to the Library can enjoy our impressive display of punk books and scores. Experience punk first-hand with John Robb’s Punk Rock: An Oral History or Marky Ramone’s Punk Rock Blitzkrieg, play along with The Clash with our guitar albums, or be amazed by the trivia contained in The Official Punk Rock Book of Lists. We also have a large number of Punk.London brochures available to keep, where you can find a full list of the punk events planned across London for this year. Do pop in to help us celebrate and acknowledge the huge legacy that punk has left in the music history books.

Punk at Forty exhibition, Westminster Music Library 2016

[Jon]

3D Printing, Break Dancing, Beast Wagon and more

Westminster BiPs logoDid you know that half of young people in the UK aged 16 to 24 want to start their own business? Well, Westminster Councillors certainly do and when they decided to launch Westminster’s first Enterprise Week , to coincide with Global Entrepreneurship Week 11-22 November 2015, the focus was firmly on young people and access to enterprise.

With this in mind, we hosted an Enterprise Fair at Westminster Reference Library, one of many events held across the council and in BIP libraries for Enterprise Week, showcasing the range of business support and assistance for enterprise and self-employment, creative courses, programmes, apprenticeships, funding and more, offered by organisations from a cross section of industries including fashion, music, dance, food, graphic novels and more.

We were delighted to have with us as stall holders on the day the London College of Beauty TherapyIndustry in the StreetsFashion Retail AcademyNatWest Enterprise,  Westminster Enterprise CentrePortobello Business CentrePaddington Development Trust, Maida Hill PlaceBusiness Launchpad,  Orbital ComicsRain Crew, Young Enterprise and Producer/Presenter N. N. D. who featured sound bites from participants for her programme on The Workplace on ResonanceFM.

Julie Bundy & Simon Aslaaf from Maida Hill Place, at Westminster Reference Library's Enterprise Fair, November 2015

Julie Bundy & Simon Assaf from Maida Hill Place

The day’s highlights also featured guest speakers who shared business journeys and industry insights. We heard from Julie Bundy & Simon Assaf from Maida Hill Place , a social enterprise offering tailored support for food industry start-ups, who spoke about food enterprise and the Pop-Up economy, and why food remains their passion – for Julie, it’s the power of food to bring people together under even the most challenging circumstances; for Simon, it was the food industry’s capacity to stay afloat despite the advent of the internet, where, as he reminded us, you still can’t fry an egg!

Clint Sinclair and Sharifa M Momad breakdance at Westminster Reference Library's Enterprise Fair, November 2015

Clint Sinclair and Sharifa M Momad breakdance

We were also delighted to have Westminster’s very own Clint Sinclair, in his guise as managing director of Rain Crew London Dance, a non-­profit company working to bring people together through dance, delivering classes, events, performances and community based projects. From Clint and guests we learned about the world of the break dancers or b-boys, and the dance ‘battles’ or competitions that take them all over the world. With fellow dancer Sharifa Tonkmor, Clint gave a brilliant live breakdance performance and then introduced guest Spin (aka Juan David Gaviria), a successful B-Boy dancer who spoke eloquently about how looking to his future, he successfully combined his dancing with enterprise by training to become a barber.

Beast Wagon, created by Owen Michael JohnsonThis was followed by Chris Thomson, Event manager at Orbital Comics who chaired a fascinating discussion with Owen Michael Johnson, twice British Comic Award-nominated writer & artist and creator of Beast Wagon, a black comedy comic book series set in a zoo, and Jason Atomic, artist and all round cross cultural creative & performer.

All talked about how drawing as youngsters shaped their future careers and the economic & creative challenges of working in the comics/graphic novel industry. The panel discussion was recorded and is scheduled to be featured on Orbital as a podcast early next year.

We had 3D Printer demonstrations taking place throughout the day, engaging and entertaining visitors, who also had fun with the 3D goggles.

The 3D Printer - guest star at Westminster Reference Library's Enterprise Fair, November 2015

The 3D Printer – guest star!

We enjoyed the day and especially the opportunity to promote Westminster Libraries Business Information Point services and our special collections in fashion, art & design and performing arts here at Westminster Reference Library. We would like to thank everyone who took part and supported the Enterprise Fair.

[Eveleen]

Take the Grade One Challenge!

Making Music logoAre you a string player who longs to dabble in woodwind?
A pianist who wants to try playing in an ensemble?
Or a complete musical novice with time on your hands and neighbours to irritate?

Here’s your chance. Working in partnership with the BBC’s Get Creative initiative, National charity Making Music is encouraging people to try learning a new instrument or take up singing. Whether or not you have studied music before, whatever your age or background, here’s an opportunity for you to try something new.

SaxophoneTrumpet

Making Music, who work to support amateur and voluntary musicians and ensembles, will offer one-to-one support for all those who take part. Their aim is to help as many people as possible to take a Grade 1 exam by the end of 2015; they’ll even cover exam fees for students who agree to fundraise on their behalf via sponsorship from friends and family.

The aim of The Grade 1 Challenge is to make music accessible to everyone, no matter what their age or musical background, to give people a way into starting, restarting, or just getting involved with an instrument which maybe they’ve wanted to learn for a while, but haven’t had the opportunity – or perhaps haven’t felt like they could learn.

To learn a new musical instrument you need 4 key things:

  1. an instrument
  2. a teacher
  3. motivation
  4. something to play

Westminster Music Library can definitely help with all of these! We can help you find an instrument or a teacher, we have a brand new display of Grade 1 resources, including books on music theory and harmony, preparing for music exams, plus information about Making Music and The Challenge. We also have “Grade-1-a-thon” Challenge packs to give away, generously donated by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM). And last but by no means least, a whole load of Grade 1 printed music available to borrow for free.

Grade 1 Challenge display at Westminster Music Library, 2015

So, how long does it take to work up to Grade 1 standard? The answer is: however long you want to give it. You don’t have to do a certain number of lessons before you can take the exam, and a little bit of regular practice can make a lot of difference.

At the end of the year, whether or not you take the exam, you’ll have the opportunity to take part in Making Music’s Grade 1 orchestra and play a specially commissioned piece of music.

MandolinPianoGuitar

Learning a new instrument is a challenge in itself, but if you want to take it further, why not sign up to The Grade 1 Challenge? Anyone interested in participating can sign up via the Making Music website.

Discover more about The Grade 1 Challenge at Westminster Music Library, pick up a leaflet and check out our Grade 1 Challenge resources

[Ruth]

Any other duties as required…

French hornI’m sure we’re all familiar with that line at the end of a job description, but if you’re part of the team in Westminster Music Library, you play a musical instrument and have often wondered what it would be like to perform in front of a live audience it can take on a whole new meaning.

Once I discovered that Jon – our Saturday Assistant – was an excellent French horn player, and not only that, had a group of friends who were similarly blessed, it was only a matter of time before he found himself “volunteering” to perform for the good folks of Westminster with his quartet. For anyone unfamiliar with the French horn, it’s a brass instrument with a mellow tone, consisting of a long, spiral tube ending in a flaring bell, three valves, and a funnel-shaped mouthpiece, and if you unwound it, that spiral tube would be more than 20 feet long.

Our four musicians clearly share a passion for this complicated and versatile instrument. It’s considered to be one of the most difficult instruments to play, and for good reason. It can play practically every note without pressing a single key, lends itself to many different styles of music and can fill so many parts. In an orchestra this beautiful instrument can be heard playing along with anything from a clarinet to a tuba.

The Jon Frank Horn Quartet  at Westminster Music Library, March 2015

Although the catalogue of original works for horn quartet is not extensive, there are a fair number of arrangements of well known works, and it was from a selection of this repertoire that Jon and his quartet performed for our audience in Westminster Music Library. And isn’t it great that each and every piece of music he chose for their recital came from our very own Music Library shelves?

The Jon Frank Horn Quartet  at Westminster Music Library, March 2015

The concert covered arrangements of Mozart’s overture to his opera The magic flute, selections from Bizet’s Carmen, and some lively jazz in the shape of two songs by Gershwin – s’Wonderful and I got Rhythm. As the concert drew to a close, it was clear that our quartet were not going to be allowed to leave with any haste. Our appreciative audience not only demanded an encore, but also held them captive while they fired questions at them about the French horn, its history, their favourite works for this illustrious instrument, and just how difficult it was to play.

All four musicians demonstrated so clearly the art of successful ensemble playing, this was a thoroughly enjoyable concert given by a group of versatile and committed musicians. Have a listen to their encore in this clip:

If you don’t know what this piece is, you’ll just have to visit The Music Library on Saturday and ask Jon….

[Ruth]

A Cinema Pioneer

Clapper board / reels of filmIn 1921, your school or university careers adviser would have been unlikely to recommend you the profession of ‘film critic’ for the simple reason that it didn’t yet exist as a full-time job. While film-going was already the most popular entertainment for the masses, the movies still weren’t taken seriously by the intelligentsia and were mostly reviewed in trade journals.

So when Caroline Lejeune from Withington, Manchester, fresh out of university,  announced her intention of becoming a film critic, there were probably a few dropped jaws in the family home. Luckily for her, CP Scott, editor of the Guardian, was a family friend and encouraged her to move to London, take a postgraduate degree and write a regular column in the Manchester Guardian which she kept up until 1928, transferring to the Observer until her retirement in 1960.

I was reminded of Lejeune by an excellent article in the Guardian which links to a few of her reviews. She loved Hitchcock (though abhorred Psycho), hated Errol Flynn’s Adventures of Robin Hood and admired Eisenstein. Sadly, she’s probably best remembered now for her scathing review of Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, mentioned in this blog a few weeks ago, but she deserves far greater recognition.

You can find out more about her life in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (her biography is written Dilys Powell, another notable female film critic)  or from her autobiography Thank you for Having Me. But, most importantly, if you want to read her criticism, check out the Guardian and Observer Archive (log in with your Westminster Library  card). For more writing on cinema, check out the International Index to Performing Arts or why not pay a visit to Westminster Reference Library to explore the excellent Performing Arts Collection?

[Nicky]