Tag Archives: Christmas

Festivity

Westbourne Park Baptist Church Community choir at Paddington Library, December 2016Our calendar of festive events was enjoyed by all, even though with the timing of Christmas and the late break up of schools we had to pack a LOT into a few days of holiday!

Sadly not many pictures were taken – perhaps a stipulation by Father Christmas? But please take the reports by Westminster Music Library and, here, Paddington Library to be representative of a whole lot of fun being had across the borough.

In the middle of December, we welcomed the members of the Westbourne Park Baptist Church Community choir, who staged a nativity with Mary and the three wise men in Paddington Children’s Library. Audience participation was very much forthcoming and along with the resounding carol singing there was abundant gold, frankincense and myrrh, not to mention mince pies, biscuits and fruit juice.

Westbourne Park Baptist Church Community choir at Paddington Library, December 2016

A bit later in the month, Paddington Children’s Library hosted a busy Christmas party for the under fives, with special guest Father Christmas in what looked like a brand new suit! This was Father Christmas’ first visit to our new childrens’ library in Queensway. It has been nearly a year since we moved into the former shop and it is time to reflect on and celebrate the popularity of the Under 5s, the burgeoning homework club with our fabulous volunteers and the numerous class visits, plus the art exhibition courtesy of Lyndons Arts Trust. It has certainly been a good year. Father Christmas was suitably impressed. He was also impressed with the behaviour of the children, all of whom received well deserved presents – a cuddly toy and a book each.

Under Fives' Christmas Party at Paddington Library, December 2016

Library staff would like to thanks to the South East Bayswater Residents’ Association for its generous support of both events.

Happy New Year!

[Laurence]

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Deck the shelves…

Opal Flutes at Westminster Music Library, December 2016So it’s that time of year again, the tree has gone up, we’ve covered the place in tinsel, the Santa hats have been dusted off and we’re starting to get sick of certain songs already… yes, Christmas time is officially upon us.

And it wouldn’t be Christmas without us sharing the many festive musical events we’ve held in Westminster Music Library since the start of December…

Opal Flutes at Westminster Music Library, December 2016

Opening proceedings with a cracking selection of winter themed arrangements were the fabulous Opal Flutes flute choir, a bunch of keen amateur musicians of all standards and from many walks of life; as well as the standard flute we’re all familiar with, they also boast players of piccolo, alto flute and bass flute. So popular are they that they even have music specially arranged for them, Jingle Bells never sounded so good.

Staff get into the swing of the under fives' Christmas party at Westminster Music Library, December 2016

Having bid them all the very best for the festive season, it was time for the Music Library staff to take over and present the madness and mayhem that is the Under Fives Christmas Party, as ever with the help of the indispensable Georgina from Victoria Children’s Library:

Father Christmas came to the under fives' Christmas party at Westminster Music Library! December 2016“Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without the Under Fives Christmas Party in the Music Library, it’s right up there with the Queen’s Speech”

And of course there was a visit from the one and only Father Christmas (we know who you are, and your secret’s safe with us…).

Our musical entertainment managed to conjure up a lot of happy faces although there were a few tears. It’s amazing how competitive parents can be when it comes to the race for getting a Christmas present for being “good all year”…

Carols with Knightsbridge Brass at Westminster Music Library, December 2016

Once Santa had departed to continue his gift distribution and we’d tidied up the tinsel, our thoughts turned to our grand finale Westminster Music Library Christmas event – a carol evening including mince pies and silly stories, and the amazing musical accompaniment of Knightsbridge Brass, a quintet of brass players from The Band of the Scots Guards.

Carols with Knightsbridge Brass at Westminster Music Library, December 2016A little different from Trooping the Colour, they were all game enough to trade in their bearskins for Santa Hats and provide exceptional musical back up for the carolling crowd – which reached a record breaking number this Christmas.

And that’s us done for this year’s Christmas celebrations in the Music Library, although we’re still eating the mince pies…

[Ruth]

From woof to tra la la la la

Mayfair Library held two heartwarming events last week.

Dodger Dog balloonOn Monday 28 November, Karen Gee read her book, ‘How I Became Dodger Dog!’, which is based on the true story of how an unwanted little Staffie puppy found his ‘forever home’.
Around 30 excited children came to Mayfair Children’s Library after school to hear Dodger’s story and to receive stickers and balloons.

The reading was warmly received by children and parents alike and was both entertaining and educational, promoting responsible dog ownership. Signed copies were available to buy, with 25% of the profits going to dog charities throughout the world.

Mayfair Community Choir at Mayfair Library, November 2016

The next day, Christmas started early when the Mayfair Community Choir performed their Welsh-themed Christmas concert. There were readings from A child’s Christmas in Wales, interspersed with verse and carols. The evening finished with wine and welsh snacks.

Mayfair Community Choir at and their 'I love my librarian' badges at Mayfair Library, November 2016The choir all wore badges proclaiming ‘I love my Librarian’ and made a rousing plea to all present to express their support for librarians in Westminster.

[Katrina]

Don’t look at these, but…

The 2016 Westminster Libraries & Archives online Advent Calendar is here! Treats behind each door number become live at midnight each night, starting tonight. Each day we will entertain you with local history photographs, useful tips (on festive cookery, local activities, crafts for kids and much more) and more bits of interesting Christmas knowledge than you can shake a candy cane at.

For real world enjoyment, here’s a great idea – make a book Advent Calendar!

Book Advent Calendar

Of course, our Advent Calendar is really all you need. However, in the interests of fairness, objectivity and all round librarianly generosity we thought we’d share a few other online calendars we’ve found…

We’ve discovered in previous years that many of these calendars are only publicised in Advent itself, so we will add others to this post as we come across them – do check back for more. And if you’ve found one you’d like to share, please add it in the comments!

Counting down to Christmas

Merry Christmas from Westminster Libraries & Archives!Last Sunday, 27 November, was the first day of the Christian religious season of Advent. In November?!? Yes – Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, the nearest Sunday to 30 November. As the first day of Advent does not reliably fall on a particular date, most of the daily Advent Calendars that are bought or made nowadays begin on 1 December and are a countdown of 24 days up to and including Christmas Eve, 24 December.

We’re pleased to announce the return of the Westminster Libraries and Archives online Advent Calendar. In keeping with the more ‘usual’ format, the daily entries will begin on Thursday 1 December. Those of you who have enjoyed this little celebration of all things festive, interesting or seasonally useful in the past will recognise some of the themes and pictures – it’s Christmas after all, a time of familiar traditions as well as novel gifts. But while many an old favourite will feature, we’ve also unearthed new treasures and will be asking you to take part in a new ‘Christmas Favourites’ survey.

Advent Calendar 2015

So add wcclibraries.wordpress.com/advent-calendar-2016/ to your favourites, look out for daily reminders and tweets, and join us in a particularly librarianly lead up to Christmas!

St John’s Wood round up

Hanukkah fun at St John's Wood Library, December 2015There’s just been so much going on in St John’s Wood Library recently! And there’s much more to come.

Here’s a round up of a few highlights from recent weeks:

For Interfaith Week 2015, we hosted Sh. Kazi Luthfur Rahman, Imam at the London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre, who gave a talk about the Quran. While discussing links to the previous revelations – Torah, Psalms and Gospels – the Imam also discussed some of the important teachings, as well as the history and origins of the Quran. There was an involved discussion, with the general consensus being that the library should organise more events regarding different religions and cultures.

'Time to Listen' poetry installation at St John's Wood Library, December 2015

Then, as part of a ‘tour’ of libraries, we welcomed Toni Stuart and her poetry installation Here to Listen. Toni describes herself as “a poet, performer, spoken word educator, festival curator from Cape Town, South Africa, currently in London, UK”. She stayed with St John’s Wood Library for two full days in early December, before moving on to do the same at Victoria Library and Westminster Reference Library later in the month. In silence, she listened to those who sat with her and told her their stories and what was on their mind. She then wrote poems about it. She describes her approach on her blog: Here to Listen, and you can read the poems written at St John’s Wood Library.

December was also the month for Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations, including arts and craft and face painting hosted by Imagethirst, who have been coming to St John’s Wood Library for several years, offering to do portrait photos of children for free. They sometimes host the whole party, sometimes they bring frames to decorate. This time they did some fabulous face paiting. Children (and parents, carers, this librarian and our volunteer Vivienne Levan) also made hanukkiot (hanukkia is the eight candled menora).

Christmas at St John's Wood Library 2015The Christmas parties were also a joy, with happy children receiving books as gifts, enjoying healthy snacks and having lots of fun, thanks to staff and volunteers alike.

The Monthly Meet Up continued with a visit from the Timeline Brass Ensemble performing some classic sounds of the season. This young and enthusiastic band made some heads turn on the street (yes, they were powerful!) so people came in from outside to enjoy the music. Others peeked through the windows and waved. It was a burst of lovely music that shook us up in a good way.

A lovely bit of continuity through the generations has led to our regular Storytime on Tuesday afternoons. For about 30 minutes – or as we prefer to measure it, several stories – Gavin Asher reads and acts for children.

Storytime with Gavin at St John's Wood LibraryIt is a treat and he is gaining a following. An avid reader, Gavin has been a very regular library member for a long time. His son Gino is now a teenager, but he basically grew up in the library. Gavin loved reading to Gino so much that he missed doing it and decided to share his joy of reading with other children and adults.
Join us next Tuesday!

And there’s much more to come – visit our Events page for details. We hope to see you at Tim Judah’s talk about Ukraine this evening!

[Ivana]

A look ahead to 2016

Well, 2015 is almost over, which means it’s time to look forward to 2016 and see what anniversaries we will be commemorating. It’s a particularly interesting year for them.

January

One of the great unsung heroes of medicine will be remembered on 1 January (or if he isn’t, he should be!). On that date in 1916, Oswald Hope Robertson, a British born research scientist from Harvard  Medical School, then working in France, carried out the first successful blood transfusion using blood that had been stored and refrigerated.

There had been blood transfusions before (the soon-to-be-more-famous-as-an-architect Christopher Wren experimented on injecting fluids into dogs as early as 1857) but the donor and the recipient had both needed to be present as there was no way of storing the blood for later use. Robertson is usually credited with setting up the first blood bank and thus being instrumental in saving thousands of lives. So think about him if you donate blood or if you are someone who needs a transfusion. And of course, with any reference to blood donation, a mention of Tony Hancock becomes compulsory: “A pint! That’s very nearly an armful!


February

February brings with it the 90th anniversary of Black History Month. Yes, we know that this is commemorated in October in Britain but in the USA it’s in February. The first events were in the second week of February (chosen because it coincided with the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and the great abolitionist and former slave, Frederick Douglass) when the historian Carter G Woodson of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History announced the first Negro History Week.

This was taken up by school boards in North Carolina, Delaware and West Virginia and was soon successful enough that other states followed. By the 1970s, the week had become a month and had renamed itself as Black History Month. In Britain it has been celebrated since 1987 and is now a national institution.


March

There’s no doubt that one of the biggest anniversaries next year will be in July when football fans will be celebrating 50 years since England last won a major tournament. All very tedious for those of us not in thrall to the beautiful game but even non-footie fans will want to remember an associated story from 19 March 1966 when the World Cup was stolen from Westminster Central Hall where it was on display at a stamp exhibition. A £4,500 reward (about £70,00 in today’s money according to the excellent Measuring Worth site) was offered. A ransom note asking for £15,000 was received (the thief probably should have gone for the stamps which were worth £3 million) and the chap who posted it was soon arrested but the real thieves were never found.

However the cup was found, by the hero of the hour – Pickles, a border collie who spotted a newspaper wrapped package next to a car in South Norwood and soon uncovered the missing trophy. Read more about the story in the Guardian:

“Now Pickles began the life of a celebrity. He starred in a feature film, The Spy with the Cold Nose, and appeared on Magpie, Blue Peter and many other TV shows. He was made Dog of the Year, awarded a year’s free supply of food from Spillers and there were offers to visit Chile, Czechoslovakia and Germany.”

Pickles received an appropriate reward and British Pathé was there to capture the moment:


April

April is going to be Bardtastic as the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare will be remembered on 23 April (Miguel Cervantes, author of Don Quixote died on the same day so expect to hear plenty about him). Shakespeare’s Globe will be projecting 23 short films on the South Bank of the Thames, one for each of the plays. They’ll probably being putting on some theatre too.

A more lowbrow commemoration will be on 11 April, 80 years after the first Butlins holiday camp opened in Skegness (which as we all know, is ‘so bracing’) in 1936. The camp was opened by Amy Johnson, the pioneer aviator and was an instant success. A week’s holiday with three meals a day and all the knobbly knees competitions you could eat would have set you back 36 shillings and people flocked there, though three years later the camp was requisitioned for use as a naval training camp. Read about the history of Butlins in Sylvia Endacott’s Butlin’s: 75 years of fun!


May


Five years later on 9 May 1941, an event took place that got little publicity at the time but which literally changed the course of the war. On that day the German submarine U-110 was captured by the Royal Navy, and with it an Enigma machine complete with code books. Fortunately the Germans didn’t realise that the machine had been retrieved (the submarine commander tried to scuttle it rather than allow it to be captured and he himself drowned) and so it became a vital part of the code breaking activities at Bletchley Park led by Alan Turing.

The Imitation GameThere are plenty of books about Bletchley available in Westminster Libraries – find out lots more in a previous blog post on the subject – or you could borrow and watch the recent film The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch.


June

PocahontasMoving back in time, 12 June sees the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Rebecca Rolfe from Virginia with her husband and baby son Thomas. She stayed at the Bell Savage Inn in Ludgate Hill (which itself had a very interesting history, being a former theatre) and soon became the toast of the town, being presented to King James I, attending a masque by Ben Jonson and having her portrait painted by the Dutch artist Simon de Passe. Sadly though, London didn’t suit her health and she planned to return to Virginia the following year, but tragically died at Gravesend without seeing her homeland again.

Why am I telling you all this? Because Rebecca Rolfe, better known by her Algonquian name of Pocahontas was one of the first native born Americans to visit this country. You may have  seen the Disney film but the reality is much more interesting. You can read about how Pocahontas saved the life of Captain John Smith and ensured peace between her people and the English settlers in A man most driven: Captain John Smith, Pocahontas and the founding of America.


July

Castleton Knight advert, 1923Readers of cinema trade journals in the 1920s would have noticed adverts for Castleton Knight (a producer and distributor) who claimed he could ‘show a perfect picture through any fog’. This boast seems rather baffling now but anyone who attended the cinema before 1956 would have known exactly what the problem was – smog. This didn’t just affect the streets of London and other cities – it found its way into buildings too.

In 1952 an opera at Sadlers Wells had to be cancelled and the leading lady was treated for smoke damage. It has been calculated that 4000 people died in just a few days in 1952 as a direct consequence of the London smog.

On 5 July 1956 the Clean Air Act was passed, which introduced smoke control areas in which only smokeless fuels could be used and which ensured the removal of power stations from cities among other measures. Smog, in Britain at least, is a thing of the past though other countries certainly have a way to go to reduce air pollution.

You can read about the smog in The Big Smoke: a history of air pollution in London since medieval times, by Peter Brimblecombe. Or you could check out some contemporary newspaper reports – a picture in the Illustrated London News shows the Christmas Tree being erected in Trafalgar Square four days late because of the smog.
(And no, we don’t know what Castleton Knight’s invention actually was).


August

If this article had been published by Westminster Libraries 25 years ago, it would have been typed on an electric typewriter or perhaps a PC with a basic word processing programme and then sent out in a paper newsletter rather than being researched and published online. Not that many of us would have known what the word online meant. There were online databases but it was a laborious process logging on to each one individually and then printing out search results and few but academics had access to the right computers and modems anyway.

However all this changed thanks to Tim Berners Lee, the father of the World Wide Web. While the first website went live in December 1990, it was on 6 August 1991 that Berners-Lee posted a summary of the World Wide Web project on several internet newsgroups, which marked the debut of the web as a publicly available service on the internet.

You can still read Berners-Lee’s post here. Subsequently he has been knighted, awarded the Order of Merit, named by Time Magazine as one the Hundred most important people of the twentieth century and even took part in the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics.


September

The World Wide Web has certainly changed all our lives. A smaller, but no less important event – for the people of London anyway – took place on 2 September 1666, 350 years ago when a fire broke out in Thomas Farriner’s bakery in Pudding Lane and raged for 5 days. Over 400 acres of London were destroyed including approximately 13,000 houses and 67 of the 109 city churches as well as St Pauls Cathedral.  A witness to the Great Fire of London was the diarist Samuel Pepys, who ‘saw a lamentable fire’ with

“Everybody endeavouring to remove their goods, and flinging into the River or bringing them into lighters that lay off. Poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats or clambering from one pair of stairs by the water-side to another. And among other things, the poor pigeons I perceive were loath to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconies till they were some of them burned, their wings, and fell down.”

Old St Paul's Cathedral in flames
It took nearly half a century to rebuild the City, with St Pauls not completed until 1711.

By Permission of Heaven: the story of the Great Fire of London, by Adrian TinniswoodFor a first hand account of the city before the Fire, have a look at John Stow’s Survey of London, published in 1603, which describes in detail many of the churches and other buildings that were destroyed in 1666. For more on the Fire itself, you could listen to the podcast on the subject from Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time or you could read Adrian Tinniswood’s By Permission of Heaven: the story of the Great Fire of London.


October

In October 1941, 75 years ago, a magazine called Liliput published a cartoon of a group of schoolgirls reading a notice with the caption “Owing to the international situation, the match with St Trinian’s has been postponed.” The cartoonist, Ronald Searle, was to spend most of the war as a prisoner of the Japanese, though he continued drawing even in the terrible conditions of Changi. On his return home he began to submit cartoons to Punch, The Strand, Radio Times and other magazines and his first book, Hurrah for St Trinian’s and other lapses was published in 1948.

St Trinian's : the entire appalling business - Ronald SearleThe ghastly schoolgirls were soon followed by their schoolboy equivalent, eternal prep school cynic Nigel Molesworth but it was St Trinians which remained Searle’s greatest success. The school, with its pupils more interested in the racing results than their education and disreputable staff soon inspired a series of successful films along with several more books, and the cartoons were collected together as St Trinian’s : the entire appalling business.

St Trinians  was even revived in the twenty first century with two more films starring Rupert Everett and Colin Firth and no doubt will continue to entertain and horrify for many years to come.


November

One anniversary that will definitely not go unmarked, by the BBC at least, falls on 2 November 1936 when the television service officially opened (though there had been experimental transmissions since 1932). Until the war put an end to television (the engineers were need for more important work), programmes were only broadcast within a 40 mile radius of Alexandra Palace and by 1939, 23,000 licences had been sold. The Times was impressed with the first day’s transmission

“As seen on the small screen of a receiver in Broadcasting House, the inaugural ceremony was more successful than those previously unacquainted with the achievements of television had expected… the very successful transmissions of the male television announcer suggested that there is a technique to be learned by those who wish to be well-televised.”


December

The final anniversary of the year is, appropriately enough, a festive one. For  Christmas 1616 King James I requested a masque (a courtly entertainment involving singing, dancing and general razzamatazz) from the poet Ben Jonson. Christmas, his masque begins

Enter Christmas, with two or three of the Guard.

He is attir’d in round Hose, long Stockings, a close Doublet, a high crownd Hat with a Broach, a long thin beard, a Truncheon, little Ruffes, white Shoes, his Scarffes, and Garters tyed crosse, and his Drum beaten before him.

While he’s not actually *called* Father Christmas, he is soon followed by his 10 children – Carol, Misrule, Gambol, Offering, Wassail, Mumming, New-Year’s-Gift, Post and Pair,  Minced-Pie and Baby-Cake, each followed by a torch-bearer carrying marchpane, cakes and wine. It seems that this was the first time Christmas had been personified so 2016 can really be considered his 400th birthday. Find out more about the history of Father Christmas.


We’ve mentioned lots of books and online resources above, but if you want to find out more about these or any other anniversaries throughout the year, there’s much more to be found using both the 24/7 Library and of course the libraries themselves – search the catalogue and see where it takes you!

[Nicky]