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

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Make money, save money and stay competitive in 2018!

Next month, David Taylor, Digital Management Consultant, will be at Church Street Library running a free workshop about how to navigate today’s digital marketplace. Over to David to tell us more…

Like it or not we are in a predominantly digital age. Technology has moved so fast that it is affecting almost every part of our lives. Social media, data security, virtual reality, Blockchain, artificial intelligence, Big Data – the list goes on.

Unfortunately, many small businesses – indeed a large amount of organisations both large and small – are woefully unprepared to meet the challenges of this new landscape.

A report out last year by Lloyds found that 1.6 million small business lack even basic digital skills. That’s thousands of businesses who are potentially at risk of going bust or at the very least, not being able to compete.

However, no one should be surprised by this. Most human beings don’t like change – including business owners – especially when it is as potentially life-changing as the one we’re all experiencing as a result of technological advances.

Doing nothing is really not an option though and hoping that tried and trusted methods of marketing, sales, HR, IT etc. will somehow carry on working is a fantasy.

The key thing is to have a proper digital strategy for your business. One which takes into account the changing business landscape and helps you plan for the future, as best you can.

At a free event at 6pm on Wednesday 11 April, held at Westminster’s Church Street Library, I will be talking about how you can take advantage of this new digital world, reach out to today’s tech-savvy customers and ultimately future-proof your business.

As well as speaking inside the library, we will also be live streaming the event as a simulcast via the Westminster Business Information Point Facebook page and via my Twitter account – links below

The 45-minute talk can be distilled down to doing three things really well:

Innovating – small businesses should be looking to disrupt, challenge and find new ways of reaching out to customers. Don’t just wait for all your rivals to gain competitive advantage over you because you are too scared of ‘doing something different’!

Educating – nothing stands still and the pace of change is actually speeding up. So it is vital that you constantly upskill, learn new ways of doing business and bring in bright people to work around you. There is no excuse for failing to learn new skills. Never before have we had so many free resources at our fingertips.

Relating – business is all about your customer. Who are they, where are they, what do they want and how can you reach them in the most efficient manner possible. This is particularly true in today’s multi-channel, digitally powered world. So it’s vital that you strive to relate to your customers, employees, suppliers and advocates.

I look forward to seeing you on 11th!

David Taylor

Sign up to attend in person here 

Watch on Facebook Live here

Watch on Twitter here

Art book of the month, March 2018

After a little break, due to the refurb at Westminster Reference Library, ‘Art book of the month’ is back. Over to Nick…

As befits our recent reopening of our ground floor this month (the first floor is due to open up in April so art books won’t be available until then), why not have a thought about what art actually is with ‘A New Dictionary of Art’ edited by Robert Good.

This is an interesting take on the question of ‘What is art?’ which presents over 3000 definitions of art compiled from both established sources and the internet.

These range from the straightforward –

To the bizarre

To the formal

There’s a vulgar definition too, but it’s a bit cheeky for our blog. One of the joys about this books is how the work itself is very much a work of art!

Nick
Nicholas Alexander
Collection Services Officer

PS previous art book of the month posts: November 2017, October 2017 and September 2017

New community room for hire

We have an excellent new resource at Charing Cross Library: a community room is up and running and open for business. It’s only been open for a just over a month and already it’s been used for library, charitable, cultural and educational events.

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So, what’s has been happening in our new room? Children in Need have used the space for meetings, events associated with our current British Chinese Armed Forces exhibition, book club meetings, language lessons for adults and children, a language exam by the Confucius Institute, a Margery Allingham Society meeting, a home education parents’ meeting and several Westminster Business Information Points workshops.

So much already, and still loads to come including talks, exhibitions, workshops, events for children and much more. Keep an eye on our website for more information.

The community room is available for hire and its facilities include:

  • The room is 12m x 8m
  • It can accomodate 50 people seated or 70 people standing
  • Tables chairs and other working surfaces are available (table space for 30 people)
  • Projector and screen
  • Kitchen equipment (fridge, sink and small kettle)
  • No refreshments supplied but you are welcome to bring your own tea, coffee, sugar and milk

Please note: the library is not wheelchair accessible.

Cost: £200 per day (see library opening times); £20 non-refundable deposit or  £25 per hour; £10 non-refundable deposit

We welcome any members of the community interested in visiting our new space to take a look and spread the word. For more information and to book the community room, contact Charing Cross Library.

Aitor, Charing Cross Library

The Westminster tooth fairy part 2

Last month, we blogged about a new campaign by our colleagues in Public Health to encourage children to look after their teeth. You can read more about the Westminster tooth  fairy here

Two of our libraries supported the campaign, which is aimed at children aged three to seven, with two fun filled information packed events.  With 35% of five year old children presenting with at least one decayed or missing tooth the need for more information for parents around simple preventative measures is evident.

The children watched a film about the Westminster tooth fairy (available at http://www.westminstertoothfairy.com) showing was supported by a carousel of activities delivered by the dental and oral health teams, colouring pictures of healthy snacks, dressing up as dentists and toothbrushes, and sticking sticky food on the teeth.

Hatty Skinner, our  Children’s Officer delivered an interactive story session at Pimlico Library to children from Pimlico Primary. Library staff, Eric Walker and Simon Williams did a riveting double act with the same Dinosaur Douglas story at Maida Vale Library for the Year 1s from Essendine Primary School.

The children enjoyed the events and we all learned some important facts about looking after our pearly whites.

And if you’d like to know more – check out the resources for parents and carers on the Westminster website.

Kate Gielgud, Health Information Officer

The Westminster tooth fairy

Our colleagues in Public Health recently launched a campaign to encourage children to look after their teeth with a video and a quiz, take a look at the Westminster tooth fairy

They also spoke to a local dentist –

How to keep your children’s teeth healthy – top tips from a local dentist

We sat down with Dr Emilie Szasz, dentist at South Kensington’s Imperial College Dental Surgery, to find out her top tips for keeping our children’s teeth healthy.

We all know that children need to go to the dentist, but how often?

Children should visit the dentist every 6-12 months unless their dentist finds that they consume a lot of sugar or have fillings or decay in which case they should go every 3 months. Never leave it more than 12 months as children develop decay faster than adults.

Children can be reluctant to brush their teeth twice a day, how can we change this?

The trick is to get them into the habit from very early on so it’s part of their routine. Children should brush without parental help until they’re 7. Make it fun; sing a song, use an app – there are plenty on the market – or time yourself for the recommended 2 minutes. And remember; don’t get your children to rinse their mouths after brushing as they’ll lose some of the protection that helps to strengthen their teeth.

So what food and drink should children avoid?

It won’t make you popular but sweets, processed foods and fizzy drinks should be avoided. Raisins are packed full of sugar and get stuck in teeth so should only be eaten at meal times. Fruit, veg and nuts are the snacks we should be handing our children.

Looking for more advice?

Watch the ‘Tale of Triumph over Terrible Teeth’ with your child to find out more and put your knowledge to the test at the Westminster tooth fairy webpage.

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