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!


The Fabric of India

The Fabric of India - workshop pieces exhibited at the V&AWestminster Libraries’ Bengali Service was approached by the Penfold Community Hub and the Victoria and Albert Museum to take part in a special project inspired by their current exhibition The Fabric of India (3 October 2015 – 10 January 2016).

A series of four workshops took place, with participants from both libraries and the Penfold Hub creating beautiful pieces of textile and block printed artwork. These workshops have brought out the artistic skills of some of the learners who had done this a long time ago, and others who were exploring these skills for the first time. More than forty people took part in the four workshops.

All the completed work was then displayed at the museum, and all the participants and their guests visited earlier this week. The trip started with a tour of the Fabric of India exhibition, where participants were mesmerised by tent of Tipu Sultan from 1799 which seems to be in its original condition. Having learnt and watched videos of different techniques and methods of weaving, so everyone enjoyed looking at the various textiles in the collection, some up to 4000 years old.

The Fabric of India workshop participants visiting the V&A


The tour was then followed with a reception and a thank you event hosted by the V & A Community Learning Team. It was a fantastic day out and has inspired many of our participants to become interested in further textile-related learning. In order to facilitate that, there is an ongoing discussion with one of our adult education partners to host a series of intermediate level textile based projects for Church Street Library. We hope to run these in the new year.

The Fabric of India - workshop pieces exhibited at the V&AThis Fabric of India project between Penfold Community Hub and the V & A has presented us with opportunities for more joint work in the future. So watch this space!


Tea and textiles at Church Street Library

'Tea & Textiles' at Church Street Library - group photo at Kew Gardens 2014The ‘Tea and Textiles’ project at Church Street Library, in conjunction with the Westminster Cultural Partnerships Officer and Westminster Adult Education Service, is going really well, with the quilt going on show next week.

The aim of the project is to create a quilt merging a map of the Church Street area (where the participants live) with images of plants and flowers that originate in their home countries. At the same time, the idea is to make a way for this diverse community to exercise their creative talents and a path through which they may be able to go further and start enterprises to sell their handmade crafts in future.

The  project started back in the summer of 2014 with a few taster sessions. The group then went on a visit to Kew Gardens to seek out inspiration from the beauty of the flowers and plants cultivated there.

'Tea & Textiles' at Church Street Library - first map drawing workshop 2014  'Tea & Textiles' at Church Street Library - workshop following Kew Gardens trip 2014

Currently the group has a total of 20 participants from around Church Street, who come from a total of fifteen different national backgrounds – tea growing is a key element of many of these nations. During the trip to Kew Gardens, the participants looked for at least three plants or flowers from the country of their origin, which would later form part of the embroidery work on the quilt.

'Tea & Textiles' at Church Street Library - quilt workshop in progress, 2014

The finished quilt will be exhibited at an event at the Showroom Gallery on 17 December, from 3.30 – 5.30pm.


Church Street Library gets healthy

Church Street Library hosted two key health events in October, organised by Westminster Libraries’ Bengali Service in partnership with the Health Information Project and Westminster Family Learning Service.

Health event at Church Street Library, October 2014The first event, tied in with Black History Month, aimed to promote Black and Ethnic minorities’ health information and raise awareness of common illnesses that these communities are naturally predisposed to, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

An author and producer from Gift of Living Organ Donation (GOLD), Dela Idowu, gave a presentation of a film about her emotional struggle dealing with a family member’s kidney failures. She had produced the film to raise awareness about living organ donation, which is a concern in both the Black and Asian communities. The film showcase was followed by a Q&A session and was a great success. There are plans to host more events like this in both Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham libraries.

Health event at Church Street Library, October 2014

The idea for the next event was to bring families together through the festive periods of both Eid and Diwali by providing family learning activities and to convey a message about health. The story book used was ‘Dinosaur Douglas and the Beastly Bugs‘ by Heather Meisner and is part of a project commissioned by Public Health, aimed at improving dental and oral health in primary school children. The idea is to encourage children to brush their teeth at bedtime so that they get rid of the ‘Beastly Bugs’.

Making tooth brushing fun, with Dinosaur Douglas

The event started with a story session, followed by family workshops making pop-up cards using the main character from the book and Islamic colouring and painting.

While some families were happily taking part in the workshops others were immersing themselves with free massage and henna arts designs. Over one hundred people attended, which led to a great and busy day!


Cross Channel Recipes

The Church Street Library twinning project has been focusing on food. We’ve held two recipe workshops with the English Speaking Club – each member brought a traditional recipe from their country of origin and wrote it out in English. I then translated them into French. They are being sent to Place des Fetes for display.

The English Speaking Club works on recipes for the twinning project

We’ve also held a children’s workshop. The children were asked to draw their favourite food into a paper plate. Fifteen children joined this activity and their fabulous work travelled by Eurostar (with me) a couple of weeks ago to be displayed at the Paris library.

          Children displaying their favourite food collages, ready to be sent to Paris for the twinning project           Children displaying their favourite food collages, ready to be sent to Paris for the twinning project         

Children displaying their favourite food collages, ready to be sent to Paris for the twinning project

Church Street Library is currently displaying a wide range of recipes, with print outs available to take away. There are some particularly tasty examples that have come directly from Bibliotheque Place des Fetes’s staff members’ kitchen, so come along to the library this month and pick up some recipes from around the world!

Finally did you spot us in the Guardian newspaper last week? ‘Tale of two cities: UK library twins with French counterpart‘.


Carriage 353 is on its way

Project 353 at Church Street Library November 2013As part of the ongoing collaboration between Westminster Libraries’ Bengali Service and London Transport Museum’s Project 353, an exhibition was held at Church Street Library to celebrate and showcase the fantastic artwork which participants have created in recent months.

All the original creative pieces of work were amazingly curated for this exhibition which was extremely inspiring for the participants to come back and see being displayed for the public. The exhibition was only at the library for a very short time, but the works will also feature in a larger display at the London Transport Museum itself in 2014.

Project 353 montage - Church Street Library November 2013

In addition, all the pieces have been used as illustrations to create a brand new children’s story book about Carriage 353. The book, entitled ‘The marvellous Adventure of Carriage 353′ has been printed into two different sizes – a giant publication to be used for children’s storytelling sessions at the museum as well as a number of little A5 copies of the glossy books which were presented to the participants along with certificates of achievement.

A Project 353 participant, Church Street Library November 2013     Some of the Project 353 participants, Church Street Library November 2013     A Project 353 participant, Church Street Library November 2013


Eid and Family Learning

Eid and Family Learning event in Westminster LibrariesWestminster Libraries’ Bengali Service recently held two very successful ‘Eid and Family Learning’ events to mark the celebration of the second Islamic festival, Eid-Ul-Adha.

Eid-Ul-Adha is celebrated worldwide at the end of the pilgrimage season to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Muslims sacrifice animals and distribute the meat amongst the poor to honour the biblical and ancient story of Prophet Abraham’s sacrifice of his son.

Eid and Family Learning event
The first of the events was held at Pimlico Library on 27 October with 94 attendants (61 of them children), and the latter was held at Marylebone Bangladesh Centre on 2 November, where over 150 people (97 of them children) came. Everyone participated in various activities, provided in conjunction with Westminster Adult Education and Family Learning Services; cultural workshops were delivered by the Marylebone Bangladesh Society. Story and quiz sessions were run by local volunteers along with the outreach worker.

Eid and Family Learning eventThe family learning workshops ranged from making gorgeous and decorative gift boxes and Eid cards, to digital family portraits, which were then framed with handmade glittery frames designed by participants to keep or give as a gift to their loved ones. There was also henna body and hand painting as well as face painting for the children and families to enjoy.

Light snacks and drinks were provided at the end of both events which created a party atmosphere and were enjoyed by all. Both of the events were extremely well received and lots of positive remarks were made, including “When are you having the next Eid celebration here… please do let us know”!

These events are organised with the aim of increasing participation from the Bangladeshi and Muslim communities of Westminster into library activities – success!


Project 353

Westminster’s Bengali service was approached by the London Transport Museum to work on a joint community programme as part ofProject 353, with workshops in both Church Street Library and the Museum.

"Project 353" at Church Street LibraryThe idea proved so popular with members of the Bengali service that we reached project capacity – 15 people signed up. The first two workshops took place in August, and the final event will be a day trip to the museum followed by a workshop tomorrow, 4 September.

During the workshops, the participants learnt about the first ever Metropolitan Railway carriage – number 353 – which was built in 1892 and ran on what is now known as the Circle Line. They were fascinated to learn about how the carriage had been recycled to fit so many purposes over the years, including being a clubhouse for American soldiers, a shop and even a garden shed! It was then bought back from a woman in exchange for a garden bench, and was restored 108 years later to its former design.

"Project 353" art work at Church Street Library

Participants not only learnt about its important history but also developed new vocabularies in relation to the project. The idea of the project was to get participants involved with the story in a creative manner through producing a number of art works which will form a special exhibitions in January. Activities included mono printing, embroidery and fantastic paintings by the participants. Everyone has had a brilliant time so far and we’re all looking forward to going on the trip armed with all our new inisghts tomorrow.