Cuttings remarks

Westminster Music Library's newspaper cuttings collectionRegular readers of this blog may recall Hold the front page, in which I described my work sorting through and analysing Westminster Music Library’s Edwin Evans Press Cuttings Collection. At the time of writing that particular blog entry, I had made my way through approximately 20% of the collection.

Now, over a year later, the task is complete, and I am in some position to report on my findings.

My specific task has been to create an elementary catalogue of this collection, alongside recording some basic details against each person’s entry: discipline, gender, etc.

While the eventual aim of the entire project – the creation of a fully searchable digital archive of this collection – remains unchanged, this was deemed a suitable preliminary task to assess the collection’s value and potential. It seems remarkable that, for all the years that the collection has been in the Music Library’s possession, it had not been catalogued until now. The reasons for this, one may suppose, relate to its relative inaccessibility and its sheer size – both of which are motivating factors in the decision to create a digital record of this underappreciated collection!

In my initial blog post a year ago, I offered some statistics on the content of the collection which may have been of interest to those wishing to understand the shape of the classical music culture of the early 20th century.  The final breakdown of discipline and gender of subjects included in the Evans Collection is mostly unchanged from my initial report, but the most up-to-date version is summarised here for those interested:

  • A significant majority (66%) of subjects are Performers. Of these Performers,
  • 37% are singers
  • 29% are pianists
  • 17% are string players
  • 5% are conductors
  • 12% are ensembles
  • Just 2% are wind players of any sort!
  • Composers represent 26% of subjects, while “Others” come in at just 9%.
  • 57% of all entries are Male, 32% female (the remaining 11% accounts for non-individuals such as ensembles and festivals).
  • 38% of all subjects are featured in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (log in with your Westminster library card).

If you’re anything like me, a chart of percentages and statistics fills you with delight, but these data do indeed serve a useful purpose. The Evans Collection may be used to draw comparisons between historical music circles and today’s, to the interest of music fans and great benefit of historians. For example, over one-third of all performers reported on were singers, as opposed to a mere 0.2% being woodwind or brass players! (Speaking as a French horn player myself, I am grateful to report that today’s classical music culture is much more balanced in favour of wind players: trombonist Christian Lindberg, for example, or clarinettist Julian Bliss, are well-known names.)

My work with the Edwin Evans Press Cuttings Collection is, regrettably, finished for now. As previously mentioned, a digital archive of the collection is the goal, but for now, even with the publication of this catalogue, it is hoped that this will go some way in increasing the collection’s accessibility to all interested parties.

The newly-created catalogue is now available online, via the Westminster Libraries web pages – take a look.

Edwin Evans' Press Cuttings Collection online


Happy 90th Birthday Ma’am!

IMG_3177To mark the auspicious occasion of Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th birthday, Maida Vale Library has assembled a display with a selection of books and magazines for loan. Westminster Libraries also have a host of other titles which we’ve brought together in a book list in honour of the Queen’s birthday.

Of course, The Queen is unique in that she also has an official birthday as well as a real one. During the week of 6-11 June 2016 the library will be decked out in red, white and blue when it hosts a packed week of activities and events for local children. Details are still being firmed up at the moment, but will be released as soon as we have them on our Events page and on posters, so keep your eyes peeled.

In the meantime from all of us, a very “Happy 90th Birthday Ma’am!”


“It worked online – at home!”

This was what someone had to say about Library Press Display, one of our amazing online resources, available to all members of Westminster Libraries. Last week I showed him how it was possible to get different magazines and newspapers using our website and that you don’t even need to be in the library to use them – they can be accessed at home as well.

Online newspapers for members of Westminster LibrariesLibrary Press Display has to be one of my favourites. It allows you to read the papers as they look that very day – the current copy. Not just one or two newspapers either, but papers and some magazines from around the world in a huge variety of languages – also on the day they are published!
I loved it from the moment I saw it but didn’t believe that we could have access to anything that amazing; would they really allow our library members to access all this? Yes, they would and yes, they do.

Of course as the visit by this particular customer proves, using this or any other online resource doesn’t have to mean the end to all your visits to your local library so do continue to drop by.

Library Press Display is one of several online newspaper resources useful for anything from finding recent articles and looking at today’s stories to historical research. Just go to:


Summers in Mayfair Library

Cllr Steven Summers visits Mayfair LibraryCouncillor Steven Summers, Cabinet Member for the Community, visited Mayfair Library last Saturday.

During his visit to the library Cllr Summers met with staff and talked about the services provided by Westminster libraries to its users.

He was also very interested in the excellent online services on offer such as Zinio digital magazines. While he was there, Cllr Summers also took time to listen to the views of local residents and library users.


Read all about it!

Online newspapers for members of Westminster Libraries… two key anniversaries in 2014 and how you can find out about them.

Our New Year’s Day post unearthed some of the less-evident anniversaries coming up in 2014 (though somehow we missed out the Big Brownie Birthday – sorry Brownies!), but of course there are two other big ones this year, relating to the two World Wars:
The centenary of the start of the First World War and the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings.

A great way to get a feel for historical events as they happened at the time is to delve into contemporary newspaper reports. It’s just amazing how many newspaper resources there are available online for members of Westminster Libraries. They are not just useful for the current (eg: Library Press Display) or recent (over the past ten years or so, as with Newsbank) news. They also provide an unparalleled insight into the past 200 years or so – and you can access them with just your library membership number!

Try these:

  • UK Press Online
    Look for both text and images from the time whether it’s 1914 or 1944. This database allows you to browse through the paper day by day, as well as searching for articles on particular subjects.
    A place to start: Browse Wednesday 29 July 1914
  • Illustrated London News
    Another publication which contains a great number of images from the time; both photos and drawn illustrations.
    A place to start: Search for ‘his majesty’s land ships’
  • Picture Post
    Again an illustrated publication but concentrating far more on photographs, this is a great place to start when looking back at the Normandy Landings.
    Start by searching for just the word ‘Normandy’ within 1944
  • Times Digital Archive / Guardian and Observer archive
    These newspapers will provide more reading material than the other publications but fewer pictures. Don’t be put off – it doesn’t make them any less interesting.
    Suggestion: Look through just how things were unfolding by searching for the word ‘Normandy’ between June and July 1944.

We’re sure that if you start with our suggestions you won’t be able to resist delving deeper into this amazing historical archive we have at our fingertips – who knows what gems you’ll find?


Marylebone Library on the move… Pt1

Marylebone Library stacks...It has started. Meetings are taking place; plans are being pored over; more plans are being made. Books are being counted, assessed and (just a few so far) moved. Brows are starting to be furrowed.

Marylebone Library is on the move. Twice.

In August, we move to a temporary billet in Beaumont Street, just near Marylebone High Street. Then, in a couple of years or so, we do the whole thing again, ending up in our super-duper, brand new building in Luxborough Street (subject to receiving planning permission).

As well as moving all the books and computers and furniture from the lending and reference sections of the library, we have to solve the “under the pavement” problem. In the basement, extending beneath the pavement of Marylebone Road, are the library stacks, three rooms full of our reserve stock. As well as a “classified” sequence of books which mirrors the sequence in the reference reading room, there are back numbers of magazines and journals, sometimes bound and sometimes not.

There is not room for these at our temporary location, so they have to be found temporary homes, where they will be not only safe, but also readily accessible to library users (as far as possible). This is – he says, nonchalantly – a bit of a challenge.

Do you begin to see why brows are becoming furrowed? Would you like to know more about our travels? You would? Excellent! I’ll get back to you.


Irregular Observations: an elementary centenary

Irregular Observations
– musings from the Sherlock Holmes Collection.

This is the first in an occasional series of musings from the Sherlock Holmes Collection in Westminster Libraries.  The Collection started life in 1951 and is now one of the most comprehensive in the world.  If you enjoy Sherlock Holmes and want to learn more, have a look at our website or get in touch.

The hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan DoyleSunday 26 May 2013 is the centenary of the birth of one of Britain’s best-loved actors and one who ranks high in the lists of those who have portrayed Sherlock Holmes, Peter Cushing.

Cushing first donned the deerstalker for the 1959 Hammer version of The Hound of the Baskervilles – the first Holmes film to be made in colour. Portraying Sir Henry Baskerville was his usual Hammer co-star Christopher Lee (who would himself go on to play both Sherlock Holmes and his brother Mycroft Holmes, though closer to the former than the latter in physical appearance).

An actor and a rare one: Peter Cushing as sherlock Holmes, by Tony EarnshawIn 1968 Cushing took up the deerstalker again for the 16 episodes of the BBC’s Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, some of which have survived. The series included The Hound of the Baskervilles in two parts, the first version of the novel to be filmed in part on location on Dartmoor and one which is still regarded as one of the most successful adaptations. Cushing made suggestions and insisted on removing lines or details that he felt were not in keeping with the original stories. He asked that all his costumes be based on original drawings published with the stories in The Strand Magazine.

His final leading role was again as an elderly Sherlock Holmes, in the 1984 television film The Masks of Death.  A sequel, The Abbot’s Cry, was planned for 1986, but was never made due to his failing health.

Houdini and Conan Doyle, by Christopher SandfordPeter Cushing shared a rare distinction with Peter O’Toole – both played Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well as Sherlock Holmes. Cushing portrayed the writer in the 1976 film The Great Houdini. Conan Doyle knew Houdini and the two men were close friends before a disagreement about Spiritualism. You can read more about their friendship in biographies of Conan Doyle and books which focus on the two men. Oh, and Peter O’Toole also played Conan Doyle in Fairytale: A True Story and provided the voice for Holmes in an Australian animated television series.

The actor married Helen Beck on 10 April 1943 at Kensington Registry Office. He was awarded an OBE in 1989 and died on 11 August 1994. Cushing wrote two volumes of autobiography, An Autobiography in 1986 and Past Forgetting: memoirs of the Hammer Years in 1988.

We should also note, in view of the 50th anniversary celebrations due later this year, that Cushing is one of two actors to have portrayed both Sherlock Holmes and Docto Who. In 1965 he stepped into the Tardis in the film Dr Who and the Daleks and the following year in Daleks’ Invasion Earth.  The other is… Who?  (No – we don’t count Matt Smith’s Doctor dressing up as Holmes in The Snowmen).

Starring sherlock Holmes, by David Stuart Davies     Sherlock Holmes on screen

Come into the Sherlock Holmes Collection at Marylebone Library to find out, look at some of the scripts from that other Doctor Who’s Sherlock Holmes production and read the reviews.


Are you experienced?

Jimi Hendrix“Purple haze all in my brain
Lately things just don’t seem the same
Actin’ funny, but I don’t know why
‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky”

As all lovers of popular music will know, 27 November 2012 is – or would have been – the 70th birthday of James Marshall Hendrix, better known as Jimi.

He sadly isn’t around to celebrate it as he died in London on 18 September 1970. Forty-two years after his death, to many he is still, quite simply, the greatest guitarist of all time.

The basic details of Hendrix’ life can be found in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and, to be honest, it’s the usual rock star story of army, music, drugs and a tragically early death. What really matters is the music, played with his unique  upside-down style (Hendrix was left-handed and played a right-handed guitar upside-down). You can find plenty of CDs of his work in stock in Westminster Libraries as well as  biographies and musical criticism. For an in-depth critique online as well as a comprehensive discography, videography and bibliography, check out the Encylopaedia of Popular Music, part of Oxford Music Online and for some more serious criticism, have a look at African American Music Reference, from the Alexander Street Press.

For some contemporary accounts of his life, you can check out some of our archive of newspapers and magazines. His tragic death was reported on the front page of the Daily Mirror. Ironically the first time he was mentioned in The Times was in a report of the death of  the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein, as a concert he was giving  was cancelled as a mark of respect. Only three years later, his own obituary was published in the same paper:

“In contrast to the violence and seeming anarchy of his music, Hendrix was a gentle, peaceful man whose only real concern was music. His final public appearance was when he sat in with War, an American band, at Ronnie Scott’s club in London last Wednesday, and it was typical of the man that it was he who felt honoured by being allowed to play.”

Hendrix spent much of his short career in London and anyone who wants to get closer to the man might wish to visit the Handel House Museum in Brook Street, Mayfair. For several months in 1968, Hendrix lived next door – he was thrilled to discover the Handel connection. His flat is now used as the offices of the museum. And when you’ve seen where he lived, you’ll be able to see his most famous gig on the big screen as Hendrix 70 : Live at Woodstock  is released in cinemas around the country.