Tag Archives: art

Learning and working together

As always, it’s been a busy few months for Westminster Libraries’ Bengali Service! Here’s a snapshot of what we’ve been up to:

Mental Health Facilitators / Ayurvedic Indian Head Massage training

Community Celebration Day at Church Street Library, December 2016Community Celebration Day at Church Street Library, December 2016

This is a joint project in Church Street, in partnership with the Mosaic Community Trust, to train local residents – particularly those with English as a second language – to become mental health facilitators and massage therapists through a qualified training programme. In turn they are able to act as champions for their respective communities.

As part of the programme a ‘Community Celebration Day’ was held in December at Church Street Library – many people, including GPs and practice managers from the local health centres, attended to discuss patient participation and how local people can play an active role in terms of their care needs.

The project has 15 students and they will be graduating as massage therapists this month! The training will equip the participants with relevant skills to work as therapists or freelance in a salon. Some students demonstrated their newly acquired skills at the event in December and at Church Street’s New Year’s New You event in January.

A World In A Suitcase (AWIASC)

A World in a Suitcase is a storytelling project funded by the Wellcome Trust & WAES in collaboration with an author and a former BBC producer. Its aim was to foster closer relations, understanding and tolerance between communities through sharing their ‘World’.”

Myrna Shoa and Timuchin Dindjer have run six workshops with our English Speaking Clubs members at Church Street Library, using multimedia arts and story-telling prop materials.

Participants have created a visual record of their stories through collages, drawings, words and photos. All these culminated into an exhibition at WAES which was opened by the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Cllr Steve Summers.

A World in a Suitcase (AWIASC) exhibition, 2017

A World in a Suitcase (AWIASC) exhibition, 2017 – click to view the rest of the images

Employment and Training Project at Queen’s Park Library

A great partnership has been forged with Queen’s Park Community Council and Paddington Development Trust’s (PDT) employment programme to introduce a new service at Queen’s Park Library.

The PDT Employment Adviser, Shah Alam, is based in Queen’s Park Library every Tuesday (10.30am-3.30pm). Shah works with Westminster residents, long term unemployed and job seekers, men and women over the age of 19, on a one to one basis. He sees them for a series of Information, Advice and Guidance sessions, a minimum of six and at a pace set by the client. Sessions can cover motivation and confidence, skills and referrals to training, CV creation, job search and applications, interview techniques and practical support.

SShah at Queen's Park Library, giving employment advice and supporthah is enjoying meeting with different community members, people with different needs and expectations from a job and who are balancing different responsibilities of family and childcare and other commitments. Contact Queen’s Park Library to find out more.

Parenting Seminars at Queen’s Park Library

A series of parenting seminars were organised and delivered at Queen’s Park Library, in partnership with Westminster Early Help Team & Parenting and Fast Co-ordinator, Madhu Chauhan.

Parenting seminars at Queen's Park LibraryFifteen local people have attended the seminars over three weeks learning about raising resilient happy children, instilling positive behaviours at home so they become happy, well-rounded and able to achieve their full potential.

Feedback ranged from great to excellent after all these workshops!

International Mother Language Day at Pimlico Library

Another successful event was held at Pimlico Library in partnership with Westminster Bangladeshi Association (WBA) on 16 February to commemorate International Mother Language Day – a day to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

The event attracted over a hundred people into the library. We saw children making collages with signs and symbols of their native countries, with images of healthy food and key healthy lifestyle messages in different languages. Children also took part in a colouring completion and poetry performance as well as speeches about the importance of cultural diversity in language and why it is important to learn English in this multicultural city of Westminster.

International Mother Language Day at Pimlico Library International Mother Language Day at Pimlico Library

This event was also supported by various organisations such as My Time Active, Westminster Memory Service, Health Information Co-ordinator and Health Trainers.

A Volunteer Success Story

Magdalena works at Queen’s Park Library helping out with Basic Computer Sessions and the English Speaking Club. She also helps colleagues with shelving.

Recently, she has acquired a job as she has been growing in confidence through her volunteering with the Bengali Service in Westminster Libraries. Congratulations Magdalena!

International Women’s Day

The Bengali Service also marked International Women’s Day with an event at Church Street Library, with some high achieving local female guest speakers to inspire the local women of Westminster as well as service providers ranging from  the education, training, employment, health and wellbeing sectors.

Watch this space for more news!

[Mahbuba]

Art Book of the Month, February 2017

Leaves from a Missionary’s Notebook by Stephen Tennant

Leaves from a Missionary’s Notebook by Stephen Tennant
Hamish Hamilton, 1986
(First published by Secker & Warburg Ltd, 1929)

Stephen Tennant, “the brightest” of “The Bright Young People”, was twenty-three years old when Leaves from a Missionary’s Notebook was first published.  The notebook tells the story of the Rev Felix Littlejohn and his quest to convert the heathens to the light and in the process is exposed to all sorts of outrageous, horrifying and hilarious behaviour by natives, sailors and other characters.

from: Leaves from a Missionary’s Notebook by Stephen Tennant

It is in some ways a book ahead of its time, as the story is told in graphic novel format with drawings by the author who was also an artist as well as a socialite and a quintessential English eccentric.

from: Leaves from a Missionary’s Notebook by Stephen Tennant   from: Leaves from a Missionary’s Notebook by Stephen Tennant

Stephen’s life is as interesting as any book if not more so.  The son of British nobility, as a young man he is supposed to have ‘resembled the youthful Shelley’ and was the inspiration for Cedric in Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate. Stephen’s friends ranged from Virginia Woolf to David Hockney and his surrealist poses are a frequent feature in Cecil Beaton’s photographs of the 1920s and 1930s.

Dedication in Leaves from a Missionary’s Notebook by Stephen Tennant

Stephen’s niece was British novelist and editor, the Hon. Emma Tennant who sadly died last month.

[Rossella]

How Westminster Libraries’ resources helped me to trace an elusive artist

'A view from the artist’s studio', print by Jessie Beswick

‘A view from the artist’s studio’ by Jessie Beswick

Recently I found this engraving in a junk shop. The print was crudely held in place with a sheet of cardboard and peeling masking tape. The frame was immediately recycled, the backing replaced with acid free mount board. However I must thank the anonymous framer for their work in keeping the print in its frame but also more importantly for scrawling in ballpoint ink biographical and geographical information about this print titled ‘A view from the artist’s studio’.

The writer also stated that the artist – Jessie Beswick – was a sister of their grandfather. Without this information this would have simply been a pleasing anonymous town view from a window.

Not so useful was the difficult handwriting which made interpretation difficult. Luckily from this text there was no ambiguity in interpreting the picture’s location, King Street Chester. What were more problematical to read were the artist’s maiden and married surnames which meant using possible name variations in any search for this artist!

With no stated date on the print it was not a just a case of Googling a name and finding her. Even if I was confident with the surname spelling of Beswick I found a number of alternative individuals with this name. I suspected that ‘my’ artist was active before 1945, on the basis that the writer was two generations younger than the artist and had written the information relatively recently – ballpoint pens did not come into mass use until the late 1950s. Another fact which proved to be a red herring in an initial search for her in Chester Street directories (located in the City of London’s Guildhall Library) was to assume that the King Street studio was her residence. In fact it turned out from census and other evidence that Jessie Beswick resided at other addresses in Chester.

It was time to bite the bullet and use Westminster’s ‘In House’ online resources for family history, Ancestry and Find My Past.

Having two surnames to deal with, I first checked marriage records using Find My Past. Success: after several false hits I found the marriage of Jessie Beswick to Walter W White (Walmsley-White) in Chester in 1914. The record usefully included her parents’ names and her age, thus narrowing down by date any census searches for further information. The 1901 census found her, aged 15, residing at her parents’ house. The 1911 census entry usefully reminded me that the census is a record of household occupation on a specific night which is not necessarily the home address. A Jessie Beswick was staying with friends in Lancashire but I am convinced that this is the same person as her occupation is listed as an artist and the birth year and place of birth matches the previous census entry.

I have mentioned my problem of reading original handwriting. Transcribed entries from the census enumerator returns can also provide evidence of transcription errors. Jessie’s name had been transcribed as ‘Lessie’ in Ancestry’s 1891 census entry for the Beswick household.

Find My Past also has a useful facility to search selected local newspapers. An October 1915 issue of the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette reports on a local art exhibition which was

“strengthened by the contributions of some new members, and a new feature is collection of etchings by … Jessie Beswick (Mrs. Walmsley White), the latter lady being also represented in the oils section by two excellent studies of Brittany”.

Confirmation of the move was found when I used print resources at Westminster Reference Library’s Art & Design Collection. Post 1914 entries all list Jessie Walmsley White with a Devon address and prior to marriage her maiden name together with a Chester address. With this information it is reasonable to date this print between 1900 and 1914.

Royal Academy Exhibitors, 1905-1970The first resource I used was Royal Academy exhibitors, 1905-1970: a dictionary of artists and their work in the Summer Exhibitions
Vol. 6: SHERR-ZUL. 

This dictionary revealed that she had paintings exhibited in three separate exhibitions. Unfortunately the dictionary does not include illustrations but listed the botanical subjects of these works.

On a previous visit to Westminster Reference Library I had noticed a long run of annual directories: The Year’s Art: a concise epitome of all matters relating to the arts of painting, sculpture, engraving and architecture. 

The Year's Art, volumes 1908 - 1913

The Year's Art, 1915At that point I had not discovered her birth date and confirmation of her surnames, so I hadn’t plunged in with a systematic search of these volumes. Now, armed with this information, I returned to consult this series. Her first entry occurs in the 1909 edition. Usefully, an artist’s entry includes their home address together with the location of any exhibited work in public galleries. Her address details from the 1915 edition confirm the permanent move to Devon.

Find My Past was also used to find her death record. Luckily my assumption that she had remained in Devon was correct and I found her death record. Jessie died in 1961 aged 75.

Having tracked down this artist my next quest is to find further examples of her work, either in a gallery or improbably lurking in another junk shop.

[Francis]

Through the eyes of children

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Paddington Children’s Library is currently hosting the annual summer art exhibition of Lyndons Arts Trust. The exhibition showcases pieces by the Trusts’ artists-in-residence, volunteers, children of Malorees Junior School, and young people involved in the International Exchange Programme, all looking at the following key themes:
  • Identity
  • Conservation
  • The history of the city through the eyes of its children: Trade and immigration
The event was also used to launch the new fundraising appeal aimed at developing a computer arts programme that will help children and young people learn graphic design as well as coding for animation and websites.
You can view the exhibition at Paddington Library until Friday 1 July.
[Laurence]

Art Book of the Month, June 2016

The Yellow Book

The Yellow Book: An Illustrated Quarterly
London: John Lane, The Bodley Head, Vigo Street
Boston: Copeland & Day
Holdings – chronological 1894-97


On 16 April 1894, John Lane and Charles Elkin Matthews’ Bodley Head in Vigo Street (just behind the Royal Academy) published the first issue of The Yellow Book, the most commercially successful of the many ephemeral arts magazines of the 1890s. It carried a broad spectrum of material, including Henry James’s short story ‘The Death of the Lion’ and poems by Richard le Gallienne ‘Tree Worship’ and Arthur Symons ‘Stella Maris’.  Max Beerbohm contributed ‘A Defence of Cosmetics’ and Arthur Waugh (father of authors Alec and Evelyn) an anti-avant-garde essay ‘Reticence in Literature’. Illustrations included a study of draped female forms by Sir Frederic Leighton, work by William Rothenstein, Laurence Housman and Walter Sickert and three plates by Aubrey Beardsley, who also designed the cover showing a leering plump masked woman, possibly a prostitute.

The daring new publication was greeted with a barrage of critical hostility, unusual even for the Victorian press.  The most notorious review, in the Westminster Gazette, demanded an ‘Act of Parliament to make this kind of thing illegal’, citing in particular Beardsley’s plates with their ‘excesses hitherto undreamt of’. Ironically, this adverse criticism helped make The Yellow Book a succès de scandale.  Despite the rather expensive cover price of five shillings the entire first edition of seven thousand sold out in five days; lending libraries and book clubs had waiting lists.

George the Fourth, by Max Beerbohm in The Yellow Book

George the Fourth, by Max Beerbohm in The Yellow Book

Subsequent issues featured the literary work of Arnold Bennett, Baron Corvo, Ernest Dowson, George Gissing, H G Wells, W B Yeats and John Buchan and illustrations by Charles Conder, Philip Wilson Steer and John Singer Sargent.

Despite the fact that he never wrote for the periodical, during the Oscar Wilde trials, which commenced in April 1895 (while the fifth volume of The Yellow Book was in preparation) it was widely reported that Wilde was carrying a ‘yellow book’ (a French novel, Aphrodite by Pierre Louys, with a yellow cover, not The Yellow Book) when he was arrested. This was to have serious consequences for Lane and for Beardsley.  An angry mob gathered in peaceful Vigo Street and began pelting the offices of the Bodley Head with mud, resulting in some broken windows. Lane, in New York at the time, panicked and withdrew Wilde’s books from his list, but it was too late. Beardsley was popularly regarded as being a close friend of Wilde, even though they had become estranged. On his return, Lane realised that his whole enterprise had been tarnished by association with Wilde, even though the disgraced author had never been asked to contribute to The Yellow Book. Beardsley was sacked and his drawings excluded from the forthcoming issueFollowing Beardsley’s ignominious departure from The Yellow Book, it struggled on until 1897 but, bereft of its decadent aura, became a more conventional literary journal.

A defence of cosmetics by Max Beerbohm, in The Yellow Book

A prospectus was issued in March that contained a list of contributors in order to whet the appetite of the public and entice possible distributors. The cover depicted a lady without a chaperone, a typically confident ‘Beardsley Woman’, looking over the books displayed outside a second hand shop, whose proprietor, a caricature of Elkin Mathews in absurd Pierrot’s garb [,] regards her with a quizzical gaze.  Inside, the prospectus proclaimed that the aim of The Yellow Book was,

“to depart as far as may be from the bad old traditions of periodical literature and to provide an Illustrated Magazine which shall be beautiful as a piece of bookmaking, modern and distinguished in its letter-press and pictures, and withal popular in the better sense of the word”

and concluding that,

“it is expected that THE YELLOW BOOK will prove the most interesting, unusual, and important publication of its kind that has ever been undertaken.”

The journal’s appearance was based on the popular and often ‘naughty’ French novels of the day, with their simple yellow wrappers; it resembled a hardback book more than a magazine and was instantly recognisable.

Study, by Sir Frederic Leighton, in The Yellow Book

Study, by Sir Frederic Leighton, in The Yellow Book

The Bodley Head continued to champion challenging and talented writers.  In June 1894 Dostoyevsky’s The Poor Folk appeared, with an introduction by George Moore.  Unfortunately, the personal and business relationship between Lane and Mathews had deteriorated to such an extent that, in October 1894, the influential partnership was dissolved.  The frequently humiliated Mathews was too staid and retiring to continue working with the thrusting, risk-taking Lane.  Their parting of the ways was, according to Lane at least, “of a perfectly cordial character”, although Mathews was left feeling bitter and rancorous.

The Bodley Head’s new premises were more like a club than a publisher’s office; the ‘teas’ held at G1 from four to six o’clock were famous in their day.  Lane was fond of inviting distinguished and beautiful women to these soirées, so fond indeed that one wit christened him ‘Petticoat Lane’.  Among this company might be found poet, novelist and children’s author Edith Nesbit, Olive Custance (later Lady Alfred Douglas) and, wrapped in furs, Lady Randolph Churchill.  He also entertained the ‘New Woman’ authors he published such as Mary Chavelita Dunne (who wrote as George Egerton), Ella D’Arcy, Evelyn Sharp, Netta Syrett and Gertrude Dix.  In the evenings his gatherings were exclusively masculine and included not only artists and writers, but also connoisseurs of the objets d’art, old china and glass, which Lane collected assiduously.

The Yellow Book at Westminster Reference Library

Each Art Book of the Month is on display for one month in the 1st floor art reading room, where it may be viewed freely (and handled with care). The rest of the time these treasures go back to the art stacks and may be viewed only upon request.

[Antony Clayton]

Art Book of the Month, May 2016

Photograph by Jeffrey Bernard, in 'Soho Night and Day' by Frank Norman

Soho Night and Day by Frank Norman
Photographer: Jeffrey Bernard
Secker & Warburg, 1966


“At the time I was fourteen years of age and the war had just ended, and I was let loose on the world. I must own that every single word my worthy headmaster had to say has turned out to be God’s honest truth. Loose women can indeed get you into a lot of trouble and drink can destroy you both mentally and physically and as for gambling it is a curse that can end you in the poorhouse. However there was one thing my headmaster did not tell me and that is the best place in the world to find these things is Soho – that I found out for myself.”
– Frank Norman, 1966

“Life can be only understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.”
– Søren Kierkegaard, 1843

A grainy black and white love letter to Soho, colourfully put together by two of its gloriously infamous honorary grand dames, Jeffrey Bernard and Frank Norman. Far from being a chronicle of the cool and trendy, Bernard’s photos and Norman’s unsentimental, charming narrative introduce an array of characters from the seedy to the seductive – shop keepers, market traders, restaurateurs, café owners, models and sex workers – that were once an integral part of street life and of a specific ‘on the bum’ style, the passing of which is much lamented by Norman. We are taken on a journey back to a not-that-distant past that may as well be one million years ago, in these days of semi-permanent road-digging, refurbishment and coffee chains.

Photograph by Jeffrey Bernard, in 'Soho Night and Day' by Frank Norman

“The Welfare State is not I feel the only reason for the sharp decline in bummery.  Another reason is the redevelopment schemes, which have caused many of the old haunts to be razed to the ground by destruction firms and built anew by construction firms, where once stood a dingy café now stands a towering sky-scraper, which is air-conditioned and centrally heated..”

Plus ça change, eh!

You can view this book in the Art & Design Collection at Westminster Reference Library.

[Rossella]

Art Book of the Month, April 2016

Spine. The Costume of the Russian Empire, by C W Müller, 1804Costume of the Russian Empire, by C W Müller

Illustrated by a series of seventy-three colour engravings, with descriptions in English and French

William Miller, London 1804


A pictorial history of costume in the Russian Empire as it was at the beginning of the 19th century. An empire

“of an extent unknown to other modern nations…it touches the Frozen Ocean and borders upon the warm climates of Persia, Japan and China on the south.”

Not surprisingly, these costumes range from furs and ‘the skin of their rein-deer’ (Yakouti) complete with hair, to the skins of fish (Ostiaks), and – as in the case of the Tschutski of Siberia – ‘Men and women puncture their arms and faces in a regular manner’.  Eat your heart out Lady Gaga.

The elegant engravings are accompanied by hilarious descriptions, obviously from a more urbane explorer viewpoint, of the lifestyle of these people, long gone and long forgotten;

“The most part are satisfied with one wife” (Samoyed)

“Their manner of living, with respect to their food, is disgusting to the greatest degree.  They use no salt, and all their food is simply boiled”

“Their dances are pantomimical, and are not free from indelicacy” (Kamtshatka).

My favourite descriptions are of the Tungoosi, from the Lake Baikal region:

“ignorant of falsehood, treachery and robbery of any descriptions; they possess a gaiety of temper and openness of heart to the greatest degree; They will, with pleasure, divide their last morsel with their almost unknown guest; They fish and hunt with great skill; embroider in a very neat manner and – last but not least –  they are generally supplied with brandy, of which they are very fond.”

A priceless and utterly fascinating insight into primitive ethnicity and cultures that have pretty much disappeared from the face of the earth.

[Rossella]

You can view this book in the Art & Design Collection at Westminster Reference Library.