Tag Archives: RBKC

Who Lived Where: The London Blue Plaque Scheme

William Ewart's blue plaque at Hampton Public LibraryWith over nine thousand plaques mounted on buildings scattered throughout the capital, the London Blue Plaques scheme is well known. In some streets of central London, almost all the buildings display a plaque, or even more than one. What you may not be aware of is that the interesting scheme celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. Here’s a short history:

William Ewart, a Liberal MP, suggested that the government should start this scheme to honour significant London residents in 1863. The idea was rejected due to cost, but three years later in 1866 the Society of Arts (later the Royal Society of Arts) took the scheme on.

Napoleon III's blue plaque in Kings Street, St JamesThe first two plaques were erected in 1867. The first commemorated the poet Lord Byron at his birthplace, 24 Holles Street off Cavendish Square, but was later destroyed with the demolition of the house. The second plaque in Kings Street, St James was erected to the exiled French emperor Napoleon III London residence.  This has survived.

William Ewart is in the select group who are commemorated with more than one plaque. English Heritage, the current custodians of the scheme, now restrict the scheme to a single plaque per person however many addresses that individual had. William Ewart is commemorated in central London but also his former house which is now Hampton Public Library in south west London (see picture above). This is a particularly fitting commemoration as, whilst an MP, William Ewart introduced a bill that became Britain’s first Public Library Act setting up a network of free public libraries..

The London Blue Plaque Guide by Nick RennisonI think it is fair to say that for many years this scheme has favoured establishment figures and there has been a definite bias towards males. Currently only 13% of the total commemorate women. Recognising this, English Heritage is making concerted efforts to get proposals from the public for female candidates.
Westminster is home to plaques for several ‘non-establishment’ figures, including Crimean war nurse Mary Seacole and, unusually, one commemorating an event rather than a person: The Cato Street Conspiracy, which was a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister and Cabinet in 1820.

Mary Seacole's blue plaque in Soho Square, London   Blue plaque for the Cato Street conspiracy, 1820

Biographical details for these and other blue plaque entries can be found on the English Heritage website. You can find out more in one of the many Blue Plaque guides available from your library. However, for a more comprehensive, detailed biography why not use your library membership to consult the Oxford Dictionary of  National Biography online? Nearby, Kensington Central Library also holds a Biographies special collection of approximately 80,000 books, to which annually over 1,000 new titles are added.


The Soul of Notting Hill

Sledge: the soul of Notting Hill, by Marcia RobinsonOn Friday 12 February, Church Street Library was proud to host a talk and slide show presented by author Marcia Robinson.  Robinson’s book Sledge: the Soul of Notting Hill documents the life of her father, a pioneering Rastafarian man and much loved figure in the Notting Hill community.

In the 1970s, Sledge helped set up the first Ethiopian Orthodox Church in London for Rastafarians, called Local 33, in Denbigh Road, Notting Hill.

A talented bongo player, Sledge collaborated with Bob Marley, reggae group Aswad, and Byron Lee and the Dragonaires. He also modelled for GQ magazine and worked with fashion designers Ozwald Boateng and Evisu.

This was a fascinating talk which was very warmly received by the audience. If you missed it, there is another chance to hear Marcia Robinson speak on Saturday 5 March, 2.30pm at North Kensington Library. Book your free place at any RBKC library or via Eventbrite.


Jiving with Ravel

As part of Westminster Music Library’s Behind the Lines* programme, we are delivering no fewer than six creative projects in schools all over Westminster and the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea.

BTL Ravel workshop with Pimlico Academy students, April 2014

The third of these projects was with a group of pupils aged 12-15 from Pimlico Academy. Workshop Leader Tasha and five musicians from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) explored the works of the composer Maurice Ravel and the way the devastating effects of World War One influenced his music.

The introductory session, held at Westminster Music Library, kicked off with a look at Ravel’s use of rhythm compared to Couperin – Baroque composer and Ravel’s inspiration for his suite Le tombeau de Couperin. Based on a traditional Baroque dance suite, it was composed between 1914 and 1917 and is in six movements, each movement being dedicated to the memory of a friend of Ravel (or in one case, two brothers) who had died fighting in World War I.

BTL Ravel workshop with Pimlico Academy students, April 2014

It’s a dance suite, but could you dance to it? And which was better? Couperin’s suite or Ravel’s? Only one way to find out: musicians take up your instruments, everybody up and dance!

BTL Ravel workshop with Pimlico Academy students, April 2014Once everyone had got their breath back, the pupils had the opportunity to discover the vast selection of books and music scores on our shelves, pick a score each and challenge our unsuspecting RPO musicians to sight read their chosen score to play on the spot.

And to prove just how versatile (and game) these professional musicians are, they were not even phased when the score of Abba’s Money, Money, Money was chosen, with both participants and staff singing along to an accompaniment of trombone, recorder, two violins and bassoon. Works by Brian Ferneyhough and some Gregorian chant (with only 4 bar lines) didn’t even have them running for the exit.

After World War 1, Ravel’s compositions became increasingly eclectic, drawing on a broad range of influences not only from 18th-century music but ragtime and American music hall. I think he would have approved of our workshop.


*Behind the Lines is a year-long programme of participatory events run by Westminster Music Library in partnership with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, to encourage local communities from across Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea to engage with the Library and its collections. The programme uses the centenary of the First World War as inspiration for a series of interactive workshops and creative projects designed for adult, family and school participants.

There are still more music workshops to come for all ages and abilities, check out our website: http://www.musicbehindthelines.org/ to find out more.