Category Archives: Victoria Library

“All fares please!”

WW1 singalong at Westminster Music Library, to celebrate 100 years of women in public transportLast Thursday, Westminster Music Library marked one hundred years of women in transport with a commemorative First World War-themed sing-along.
In partnership with London Transport Museum and their Battle Bus project we sang our way through a variety of songs from the Great War era, setting the scene for a fascinating insight into women’s roles during The First World War.

London Transport Museum’s A Driving Force: 100 Years of Women in Transport is an engaging exhibition exploring the one hundred year history of women in public transport, and Westminster Music Library has been proud to host it for the past two weeks. Standing at the library’s entrance, it was a draw for many of our customers, who, like us, found these seldom-told tales of drivers, instructors, and the fondly-named ‘clippies’ to be an intriguing topic. Steering its way from 1915 (the date of the first female omnibus conductor) right up to the present day, the exhibition includes interviews, stories and anecdotes from female bus workers past and present.

Our WW1 sing-along to mark the anniversary was interspersed with accounts of women ‘on the buses’:

“On the buses the skirt question occasionally arose, with objections to conductresses going on the top deck; however, this seems to have been combined with the pre-war convention that ‘ladies rode inside’ and therefore things were a bit rowdier upstairs. The buses were crowded at all times – the small number of private motorists, combined with a shortage of petrol, meant that bus and tube travel was democratized. The prevalence of shift-work, the curtailed shop opening hours and the number of soldiers passing through London on leave disrupted the more rigid patterns of travel before the war: ladies who had the leisure to shop mid-mornings found themselves squashed alongside factory girls and troops. Several conductresses found themselves getting a hard time from such ladies, and agreed among themselves that they were getting a dose of resentment from women who had lost their maids!”

 A Driving Force: 100 Years of Women in Transport exhibition at Westminster Music Library, October 2015It was a privilege to hear such fascinating reports from a time so far removed from our own.

Our event was organised by Ruth Walters, Music Services Co-ordinator, who not only brought these stories to life through her engaging reading, but also expertly led all the singing.

Westminster Music Library drew an enthusiastic crowd with their vocal chords at the ready, and it was a pleasure to welcome back pianist Hélène Favre-Bulle, whose playing perfectly complemented the singing. Friends of Westminster Music Library will recognise Hélène as the accompanist for our Joint Force Singers choral project. Also ‘aboard’ on backing vocals were Miriam, Andrew and Jon, all members of the Music Library team, and we were delighted to welcome London Transport Museum’s Battle Bus Learning Officer Kathryn Palmer-Skillings. Her extensive knowledge was much appreciated as she answered our audience’s questions and gave further information on the topic during our tea break.

Ruth With Kathryn Palmer-Skillings - Battle Bus Learning Officer, at A Driving Force: 100 Years of Women in Transport exhibition. Westminster Music Library, October 2015

We’ve really enjoyed hosting this fascinating exhibition and running the event at the Music Library, and we are especially grateful to London Transport Museum for the loan and their time spent ensuring that both were successful. Our audience loved it, too, with comments particularly highlighting the uniqueness of the theme. Coincidentally our event was held on National Poetry Day, and Ruth couldn’t miss an opportunity to mark it with a few lines of very appropriate verse:

War girls, by Jessie Pope

There’s the girl who clips your ticket for the train,
And the girl who speeds the lift from floor to floor,
There’s the girl who does a milk-round in the rain,
And a girl who calls for orders at your door.
Strong, sensible, and fit,
They’re out to show their grit,
And tackle jobs with energy and knack,
No longer caged and penned up,
They’re going to keep their end up,
Till the khaki soldier boys come marching back.

There’s the motor girl who drives a heavy van,
There’s the butcher girl who brings your joint of meat,
There’s the girl who cries ‘all fares please!’ like a man,
And the girl who whistles taxis down the street,
Beneath each uniform,
Beats a heart that’s soft and warm,
Though of canny mother-wit they show no lack;
But a solemn statement this is,
They’ve no time for love and kisses
‘Till the khaki soldier boys come marching back.

Ruth reads at A Driving Force: 100 Years of Women in Transport exhibition. Westminster Music Library, October 2015

Although Westminster Music Library’s hosting of the mobile exhibition has now ‘reached the end of the line’, if you missed it and would like to catch it, its next temporary home is Westbourne Park Bus Garage.

Westminster Music Library enjoys sharing all things interesting and we love adding a musical twist, we’re delighted that our partnership with London Transport Museum made this possible.


Joining Forces for Silver Sunday (on Saturday)

Westminster Music Library was filled to the brim this Saturday for a hugely popular choir workshop which, with record attendance, topped even last year’s number of participants. Over fifty keen songsters rose early on Saturday morning to make music among the bookshelves, until it truly was standing room only!

Silver Sunday at Westminster Music Library, October 2015

The event was one of the many hundreds of events put on across the UK to celebrate Silver Sunday, a nationwide annual day to “celebrate older residents and help them get out and about and meet new people”. This year marks the fourth consecutive Silver Sunday and we were thrilled to be a part of it. Observant readers will notice that there was something unique about our event: namely, we hosted one of the only Silver Sunday events to be held on a Saturday! Our library’s opening hours necessitated this change, but, of course, it meant that all our attendees were able to join in with Sunday’s events, too.

We were honoured to have in attendance the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Councillor The Lady Christabel Flight, who, with the Sir Simon Milton Foundation, has pioneered Silver Sunday from its beginning in 2012 and is still very much showing her support for as many events as possible!

Silver Sunday at Westminster Music Library, October 2015

Keen followers of Westminster Music Library’s activities will be well aware of our year-long Joint Force Singers project in collaboration with Westminster Armed Forces. We were pleased to incorporate this choir project into our Silver Sunday event, as many of our choir members and non-members alike joined forces for the morning workshop. For our guests who weren’t members of the choir, it was a real privilege to join this established group of singers, and the choir’s presence gave the whole morning a real boost. We even had some non-members asking to join the choir afterwards! It’s not too late to join Joint Force Singers – if you live locally and would be interested in committing to our project, please contact Westminster Music Library.

The familiar faces of Project Officer, Felicity, and Accompanist, Helene, were seen, and the whole morning was led by the wonderfully talented Ruairi, the Joint Force Singers’ Musical Director. Ruth and Jon from the Music Library were our hosts for the event, ensuring everything ran smoothl, and re-formatting the library in record time afterwards to ensure we could open our doors to the public at 1 o’clock sharp!

As the morning took the form of a workshop, our choir members experienced a change from their regular rehearsal routine, while, in Silver Sunday spirit, our non-members found the event to be totally accessible even to those with no previous singing experience at all. Ruairi took us through a wide array of physical and vocal warm-ups, games, and then was able to teach us a significant amount of music, all in the short space of two hours! By the end of the session, he’d had us singing in canon (the musical term for a round) and two-part harmony: a great achievement for a group of singers who’d only been singing together for one morning. Music ranged from traditional English, to Scottish, to Swahili lullabies, and everything in between. All over the world there is such a rich musical tradition and we were fortunate to be led on a short tour of it all by our knowledgeable Musical Director.

Silver Sunday at Westminster Music Library, October 2015

All our guests were treated to well-earned refreshments, and were surely singing as they went home contented! Ruairi had really inspired folks with his enthusiasm and passion for making music. “I really enjoyed myself,” commented one of our attendees. Another said, “I try to attend all the events at the Music Library but this one was my favourite so far!”

Hosting events is a passion of ours here at the Music Library and our next one also has a sing-a-long theme – this Thurday 8 October, please feel free to join us for a World War I-themed singing event in collaboration with the London Transport Museum’s ‘Battle Bus’ project.


Record Breaking Numbers

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It’s been a busy, fun-packed summer for us, with over 2,300 children joining this year’s Summer Reading Challenge “Record Breakers” – so far!

850 young people  have already completed the challenge by reading 6 books over three library visits. Victoria Library has been especially busy with nearly a quarter more children joining than last year and more of these children have completed the challenge than they did over the whole of the summer last year.

There’s still time to sign up to the challenge and plenty of time to read the six books – and get your medal for finishing the challenge – what a great way to finish the summer!

See above for some of our Summer Reading Challenge highlights.

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.


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.


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


“Bless ‘em all! The long and the short and the tall!”

All ages singing together at the BBC Music Day WWII singalong at Westminster Music Library, June 2015So says the popular World War II song; and judging by the enthusiastic response, the long, short, tall, old and young were indeed feeling blessed by Westminster Music Library’s World War II sing-along.
Our event was part of the BBC’s inaugural National Music Day“a nationwide celebration of everything we love about music, with the aim of bringing people together from different generations and communities through their love of music.”

 On Friday 5 June we filled the  Library to the brim, uniting members of local community group Open Age along with troops of children from St Barnabas CE primary school for a morning of singing, celebrating the finest of the Second World War’s musical legacy.

While the struggles of wartime were very hard for soldier and civilian alike, our selection of songs served to communicate the positive qualities brought to light through the conflict: hope, in We’ll meet again; love of country, in There’ll always be an England; and bravery, in The white cliffs of Dover. Comradeship, too, of soldiers all-too-wary of their Sergeants and Corporals, is wonderfully represented in our ironic opening number, Bless ‘em all, whose composer, Fred Godfrey, assuredly informs us, “… furthermore, it wasn’t ‘Bless.’”

BBC Music Day WWII singalong at Westminster Music Library, June 2015

For our guests from Open Age, these songs were gateways into memories of growing up post-war, and for some, even during wartime. “Very nostalgic,” commented one visitor, although another justly observed, “I think it could get emotional for some people here.” Indeed, nostalgia can often rose-tint our recollections; for some the hardships of wartime are still very real memories.

For those of us young enough to have no such memories, the musical legacy of this time is a unique look into the past, and certainly our year six pupils from St Barnabas valued these as such – “A week ago these songs were completely unknown to the class,” commented their teacher.

Ruth leading the singing at the BBC Music Day WWII singalong at Westminster Music Library, June 2015We were grateful to the children for their hard work in rehearsing the songs to sing with us, and thrilled to hear that they’d even given a ‘preview’ performance to the rest of the school in their morning assembly before coming here.

Their earnest singing boosted our ranks, and was especially appreciated during the final number – Roll out the barrel – when it became apparent to many of us in the audience that we couldn’t encourage our vocal chords to hit the high notes!

One person who has no such singing woes, though, is Ruth Walters, who masterfully led us through the entire programme, accompanied by Anthony on piano. As well as being full-time staff, they are accomplished and experienced musicians, along with the three other members of the Music Library team: Miriam, Andrew and Jon. The high standard of performance is often commented on at events such as this one and we are grateful to our staff for using their musical talents so effectively.

Some of the Westminster Music Library team

We were also joined by Sam, a reporter working for Westminster Council, whose interviews and photo-calls really excited the children. A group photo taken at the end of the school children and staff serves as a lovely reminder of an exciting morning.

Children and WML staff at the BBC Music Day WWII singalong event, June 2015

After refreshments and much chatting, our guests left us, and we set to work opening up the Library to the public for another day. We enjoyed having people of all ages and backgrounds for our sing-along, and, in the words of Vera Lynn, here’s hoping “we’ll meet again some sunny day.”


Kind of blue

Königsblue at Westminster Music Library, May 2015: Timea Gazdag (soprano) and Dasol Lee (piano)

Take one soprano with “sensitive communication, particularly in pieces with a lyrical tone”, and a pianist, an active soloist whose playing has been described as being “sensitive and musical” and having “beautiful tone”, and it would seem at the outset that these two talented musicians have a fair bit in common. Both students at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, it wasn’t long before they discovered how much they enjoyed making music together, so much so that it seemed rather a good idea to form a duo, and so Königsblue was born. But why ‘Königsblue’?

Königsblue at Westminster Music Library, May 2015: Timea GazdagSoprano Timea Gazdag explains:

“It’s really a ‘bluo’. I come from Hungary, a strange place where everyone is sad. I now live in the UK, where no-one would tell you if they are”.

Königsblue at Westminster Music Library, May 2015: Timea GazdagOh dear, was Königsblue’s recital at Westminster Music Library for the good folks of our community going to be an evening filled with melancholy tunes, wringing of hands and weeping? She goes on to say:

“I am an art song person, cabaret music, folk music, country music”.

Scanning through the Google I found a review of their début concert in April 2014, it seems to have had an enthusiastic audience and was described as “fun” – maybe my fears were groundless? Indeed they were.

Opening the recital with a selection from Robert Schumann’s song cycles ‘Liederalbum für die Jugend (Album of songs for the Young)’, and ‘Myrthen’, it was clear that even though some of these songs have rather unhappy themes, our two musicians were keen to show Schumann’s lighter side, selecting songs which depicted the countryside and Spring from the first cycle, and from Myrthen – which the composer dedicated to his wife Clara – songs full of images of bridal flowers and love.

We were then treated to a polished solo piano performance by Dasol Lee of ‘8 Valses poéticos’, a collection of romantic waltzes by the twentieth Century Spanish composer Enrique Granados. Technically challenging, the music was perfect for this warm, spring evening, bringing to mind as it does flamboyant Spanish dancers:

With Timea’s performance of Pamina’s aria ‘Ach, ich fühl’s’ from Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute (a classic tale of “he doesn’t love me any more” when everybody knows he’s potty about her), and a selection from Hugo Wolf’s song cycle Möricke-Lieder, the concert all too quickly drew to a close.

So was this recital full of doom and gloom, unrequited love, sadness and anguish? Was our audience awash with tears?  Judging by the smiles on everyone’s faces, I think not…

“An excellent performance, I was delighted to see the power of music – there should be no barriers to great music – abounds”

“Very enjoyable, remarkable up-coming artists”

“A really beautiful recital, looking forward to more concerts in the Library”


Tonight at the Music Library: the London Mandolin Ensemble! More details on the Events at Westminster Music Library page.

Bustling Spring Health and Volunteering Fair at Victoria Library

On Wednesday 20 May, Victoria Library was host to a bustling Spring Health and Volunteering Fair. This year’s event was delivered as part of SW Connects project to support better integration of the armed forces families and their local community.

Dr Bike making a bike road safe at the Victoria Health & Volunteering fair, May 2015   Checking blood pressure at the Victoria Health & Volunteering fair, May 2015

WAES showing us how to prepare healthy snacks at the Victoria Health & Volunteering fair, May 2015More than 100 people came by throughout the afternoon to indulge in free massages, take part in a taster session to make healthy summer rolls, learn about mindfulness and get their health checked.  There were also plenty of opportunities to investigate some of the many volunteering options available.

General bustle at the Victoria Health & Volunteering fair, May 2015