National Inclusion Week and Black History Month at Paddington Library

Written by Lacey Baker, Monica Casale and Sara Ashbourne on behalf of Paddington Library

 Diversity, Inclusiveness and Libraries

What does Diversity mean? What does Inclusiveness mean?

 These are rhetorical questions to ponder over but at the library, Diversity to us means, “Creating an environment within our society where everyone feels welcomed, accepted and recognised for the uniqueness, skills, traits, creativity and personalities; therefore, reaching their full potential not matter their physical or mental disabilities, beliefs or ideologies, age, ethnicity or gender” and Inclusiveness to us means, “A community hub enriching everyone’s connection, knowledge and understanding on multiculturalism, background and personal history, interests and languages by learning, talking, sharing, listening and reading in spaces such as Libraries, schools, clubs and centres.”

Westminster City Council embraces everyone’s differences, to bring new perspectives to the present and future challenges within our city; our communities and to play our part in this, we celebrated National Inclusion Week Monday 28 September- Sunday 4 October and Black History Month exhibiting photography by Youmanity. Our colleague Paulo was the creative mind that put together the photographic display and in addition, we showcased a variety of topical books such as The Book of Pride by Mason Funk, They Don’t Teach This by Eniola Aluko, Open: Why asking for help can save your life by Franki Bridge and many more.

Display for Inclusion Week

Who is Youmanity?

Youmanity are a charity registered in England and Wales; based in London. They are run entirely by volunteers and an unpaid Board of Directors. Their efforts celebrate equality, cultural diversity, supports social inclusion and promotes human rights. Youmanity devise and deliver cultural projects throughout the year and their Annual Photography Award is designed to raise awareness of important social issues. Participants from all over the world submit photographs that tell important human stories. The most outstanding photographs are selected and showcased in exhibitions open to the public. Themes explored have included: human trafficking, social identity, gender discrimination, age discrimination and disability.

Over the past ten years Youmanity has produced and directed several educational short films, which convey powerful and positive content to a wide audience. Celebrating the importance of cultural diversity and social inclusion, The Windrush Generation is a film that traces the arrival of the Afro-Caribbean community in the UK. All films are made available to the public, charities and NGOs via Youmanity’s social media channels- Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

With education at the forefront, Youmanity is championing a pioneering project to develop a more inclusive student-centred teaching approach. Funded by the European Commission, the 2Smile Project aims to care for youths at risk of abandoning education. To date, Youmanity’s projects have received the patronage of Amnesty International, the European Commission, the British Council, the International Organisation for Migration, the Metropolitan Police and the Royal Photographic Society.


Black History Month with the Paddington Staff

Black History Month has been celebrated for over 30 years. Yet, it took the death of American civilian-George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter protests and for a 17th Century statue of a slave trader for many people to acknowledge the depths of racism and the legacy the slave trade has had on our country- from our banks, businesses and our cities. Black history in Britain didn’t start with the Windrush generation, it goes far back as to the Romans, the Elizabethan times; to Black immigration to cities such as Bristol and Liverpool circa the 19th century.

For Lacey, the words that come to mind on Black History Month are “Achievement. Empowerment. And uplift through Education.” And she also said, “Black history should not be relegated to one month in the calendar, we should constantly be celebrating, understanding and learning about black history as we do any other history. We learn about black artists, musicians, educators, lawyers, inventors, politicians and authors. And as a library service we can be enablers of this, through narrative and history e.g. Mansa Musa, Nanny of the Maroons, Olaudah Equiano, Frederick Douglass, Mary Seacole, Black WW1 and WW2 soldiers, Marcus Garvey, Harold Moody and Mangrove Nine.”

Monica, on behalf of the library, created a vibrant and inspiring display with a collection of books and DVDs to celebrate Black History Month throughout October and she said, “With our Read, Learn, and Connect ethos in mind we focused on celebrating British history with a selection of modern, captivating authors for adults and children. Together, with the latest fiction titles, we had a selection of classics; biographies, cooking books, lifestyle and travel books that we hoped would interest and excite all readers. It’s the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the commitment and support to the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion agenda of all Westminster libraries and the precious contribution Black Britons have made to our dynamic multicultural city”.

Our colleague, Ann, suggested sharing stories and experiences for Black History Month which delighted staff- of which Sara did a piece on her family and recorded a reading of a childhood story called My Skin is Brown by Paula Dejoie, alongside her caption on why she chose to read the book for Black History Month. The Storytime video can be viewed on our  Westminster Libraries & Archives Facebook page.

As our team discussions continued, it led to Annette and Sara making an advert for our community notice board because we wanted not only staff to contribute but the public to participate in this month’s celebration. Annette also felt we should focus on the positives towards the Caribbean Islands and African countries by producing a wall display full of geographical information. Our colleague Charles wrote a piece on a Ugandan game called Omweso (also known as Mweso)- a traditional mancala -2 player turn-based strategy board game- of the Ugandan people.

Notably, we must remember that History is not just about the past, with rooted connections between all ethnicities from our ancestral lineages. More and more, it is also about the present and what we as a community and society want to achieve for ourselves and the next generation’s potential to truly flourish brightly and proudly. Fundamentally, our skin is a diverse range of colours and our souls carry our own individual uniqueness, but as American educator Jane Elliot said, “We all one race: The Human Race”.


Recommendations- We encourage you to watch!

There is a Netflix documentary series called Journey of an African Colony, the Making of Nigeria; produced and narrated by Olasupo Shasore, the former attorney general and commissioner for justice in Lagos State, historian and writer. Shasore’s books, A Platter of Gold and Possessed: A History of Law & Justice in the Crown Colony of Lagos 1861-1906, form the basis of the documentary. The series which had it world premiere earlier this month, traces Nigeria’s history of slave trade and colonial occupation- and then independence. To read more about it, visit the NPR website.

On BCC iPlayer, you can catch up with the four-part documentary programme- Enslaved with Samuel L Jackson. In this series, Samuel L Jackson alongside a group of journalists and drivers explore 400 years of slavery, hot the trans-Atlantic slave trade become the world’s greatest money-generating machine and to tell the stories of the many enslaved Africans who resisted.

Yinka- an ex-colleague who worked at Queen’s Park Library- her father was a member of Mangrove Nine and BBC1 will be airing a film about Mangrove as part of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe collections of films which are set between the 1960s to 1980s telling stories involving London’s West Indian community. Read more about it on what’sontv website for details about the film. Also, there is an obituary in the Independent newspaper about Frank Critchlow who played a central role in Notting Hill black community; setting up the Mangrove Restaurant.

Showing at the Lyric Hammersmith theatre next year  Thursday 25February- Saturday 20 March 2021; in front of a socially distanced audience, will be the restaged production of Sancho: An Act of Remembrance. In the solo play he wrote, the actor Paterson Joseph, will reprise his role of Ignatius Sancho – an 18th century Black British writer and composer. Head over to Timeout to read the review the review from Wilton Music Hall.

Lastly, there is a video on AJ+ Facebook page where you can find out more about Theodor Michael Wonja, one of the last Black survivors of the forced labour camps in Germany during the Second World War. Theodor sadly passed away 19 October 2019 at the age of 94.

Food for thought- some last words

In Season 2 Episode 4: A Lighthouse in the Sea of Time of a 90s kids show -Gargoyles- that Sara watched alongside her brother, the writers- Brynne Stevens and Lydia Marano- gave one of the fictional characters- a blind black veteran-turned-author, an aspirational and inspirational monologue about the importance of books and I believe you’ll agree with that it is true:

“The written word is all that stands,

Between memory and oblivion.

Without books as our anchors,

We’re cast adrift, neither teaching nor learning.

They are the windows on the past,

Mirrors on the present,

And prisms reflecting all possible futures.

Books are lighthouses erected in the dark sea of time.”

Recommended Reads

This week’s Book of the Week is The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. We’ve put together a selection of some historical fiction you may enjoy after reading Gregory’s Tudor romance.


wolf hall book cover

Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall documents Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power in the court of Henry VIII in the 16th Century. Born into a working-class family with no political history or renown, Wolf Hall highlights Cromwell’s pragmatism and skill in aiding Henry during the tumultuous Reformation period. Winning the Man Booker prize amongst other notable awards, Wolf Hall has been named as one of the 10 best historical novels by The Observer.


the gates of rome book cover

The Gates of Rome, by Conn Iggulden

Gladiatorial combat, conniving senators, and mass warfare whisk Iggulden’s readers off to the ancient world of the Roman Empire. Full of suspense and dastardly plots, the first book in the Emperor Series is not to be missed.


the mermaid and mrs hancock book cover

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, by Imogen Hermes Gowar

A stunning twist on the historical novel, The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock takes the reader back to 1785 and the world of merchant sailing. Jonah Hancock leads the normal life of a merchant trader, until one day his Captain arrives on his doorstep claiming he has sold Jonah’s ship for the most staggering prize of all; a mermaid. But with great beauty comes a destructive power, one which has the potential to change Jonah’s life forever.


the narrow land book cover

The Narrow Land, by Christine Dwyer Hickey

Set in the 1950’s, The Narrow Land explores the unlikely friendship between Michael, a 10 year old boy living with his troubled mother, and the Hoppers, an artistic couple who live nearby. The legacy of the Second World War haunts this novel, shaping landscape and characters alike and making for a nostalgic read.

All of these books (and more!) are available to download from our cloudLibrary here.  All you need is a Westminster library card and if you are not a member, don’t worry,  just click here – it’s completely free to join and use our resources.

Recommended Reads

This week, our Book of the Week is The Butchers, by Ruth Gilligan. The Butchers deals with the subjects of the Irish borderlands, Catholicism vs Celtic Tradition, and family relationships. We have selected a list of similar books you might enjoy.  

normal people

Normal People, by Sally Rooney

Connell and Marianne are from different worlds. He is the effortlessly popular star of the school football team; she keeps her head down and dreams of escaping their small Irish town. When the pair are both accepted into Trinity College Dublin, their worlds drift apart and collide in a realistic portrayal of growing up. 


night boat to tangier book pic

Night Boat to Tangier, by Kevin Barry

Barry’s latest novel looks at the impact of crime on the soul through Charlie and Maurice, ageing Irish gangsters chatting about their lives in a Spanish ferry terminal. These men are deeply flawed, carrying their familial tragedies into Spain on the hunt for Charlie’s missing daughter. This book is darkly comic, with a look into the devastating results of serious crime, and was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2019.


nine folds make a paper swan book pic

Nine Folds Make A Paper Swan, by Ruth Gilligan

Telling the untold stories of Irish Jews, Nine Folds Make A Paper Swan examines belonging, communities, and Irish identity in one spellbinding novel. Three intertwining voices combine to tell their stories throughout three different time periods, creating a comprehensive account of previously overlooked religious history in Ireland.


where the crawdads sing book cover

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens

Owens’ 2018 novel is a beautiful coming of age story which has topped the NYTimes’ Best Seller List for the past two years. The story follows two different timelines which slowly come together, combining a murder investigation with a young girl’s experiences growing up in an isolated marsh in North Carolina in the 1950’s-60’s.

Some of these books are available to download from our cloudLibrary here.  All you need is a Westminster library card and if you are not a member, don’t worry,  just click here – it’s completely free to join and use our resources. 

Recommended Reads

Our Book of the Week is Chan Ho-Kei’s Second Sister. This novel deals with the themes of crime, family, and investigation, so we have put together a list of similar titles we hope you will enjoy.

11 missed calls jpeg

11 Missed Calls, by Elisabeth Carpenter

If you’re a fan of psychological thrillers and suspense, this book is perfect for you. Past and present are woven together in Anna’s desperate search for answers. What happened to her mother 30 years ago? And, on the discovery of another woman’s love letter in her husband’s wallet, is there anyone left she can trust?

dead man's folly book cover

Dead Man’s Folly, by Agatha Christie

A classic crime favourite, Dead Man’s Folly is a detective story featuring one of Christie’s best-loved detectives, Hercule Poirot. Summoned to Devonshire to investigate the details of a Murder Mystery Party, Poirot begins to realise not all is as it seems as a real murder plot emerges amongst the summer festivities.

cat spitting mad book cover

Cat Spitting Mad, by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

If you’re looking for a more modern read, try Shirley Rousseau Murphy’s Cat Spitting Mad, a humorous take on the crime genre narrated by felines. Joe Grey and Ducie are two former housecats turned detectives in their bid to absolve an old friend from a gruesome murder. Will they prove successful?

splinter book cover

Splinter, by Sebastian Fitzek

Our last recommendation is Sebastian Fitzek’s Splinter, a chilling tale of memory loss and illegal experimentation. Wrecked with grief after the death of his wife, Marc wants nothing more than to forget everything. When Marc returns home one day to find his wife still alive, he is plunged into a nightmare unable to recognise reality from fiction. But is there a deeper conspiracy at work?

All of these books are available to download from our cloudLibrary here.  All you need is a Westminster library card and if you are not a member, don’t worry,  just click here – it’s completely free to join and use our resources.

Cousins in Mayfair

Cousins by Salley VickersMayfair Library Reading Group met yesterday to discuss Cousins by Salley Vickers.

May 1994: Will Tye, a student at Cambridge, falls from the tower of King’s College. This event is the starting point for a story running through three generations of the Tye family, told from the view point of three different women: Will’s sister Hetta, grandmother Betsy and his aunt Bell. The group felt that this device was sometimes confusing, they weren’t always sure who was speaking.

All agreed that the ending (which we won’t give away!) was the best part of the book, when the story really picked up. They saw it as interesting rather than shocking or surprising.

Salley Vickers is probably best known for her first novel, published in 2000, Miss Garnet’s Angel. You can find her other books, including Cousins, in Westminster Libraries.

Miss Garnet's Angel by Salley Vickers  The Boy who could see Death by Salley Vickers  The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers

The group meets at the end of March to discuss their next book, Cartes Postales from Greece by Victoria Hislop. Come and join in!


Arthur sends his apologies

The apology of Arthur Tresbit by Robert Thayer

“Arthur Tresbit is about to cause the destruction of civilisation as we know it… And for that he’s very sorry.”

Robert ThayerAuthor Robert Thayer gave a balanced and interesting talk about the nature of high finance, and in particular the financial crash of 2008, to the Paddington Library Reading Group recently.
The illustrated talk formed a backdrop to his recently published novel, The Apology of Arthur Tresbit, an amusing fictional account of an ordinary man who destroys the world financial system.

To find out more about forthcoming events at Paddington Library, visit our News & events page.


The book of the moment

It’s almost time for the announcement of this year’s Man Booker Prize winner!

Where to find the Book Awards section on Westminster Libraries catalogueIt’s not uncommon for individuals or book groups to use book awards as a personal challenge – a colleague in RBKC reads the Man Booker shortlist every year and shares her thoughts with the rest of the staff. Why not join her?

You can find the latest shortlists of all the main awards on the library catalogue itself, making it quick and easy to find out where the books are in stock or to place a reservation.

When a new shortlist comes out, we move the winners from the previous year to the ‘Prizewinning books’ list so that you can still find them.

Latest key dates for book awards:

  • 13 September: Man Booker Prize 2016 shortlist
  • 17 October: Baillie Gifford Prize (formerly the Samuel Johnson Prize) for non-fiction 2016 shortlist
  • 18 October: Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize 2016 shortlist
  • 25 October: Man Booker Prize 2016 winner
  • 15 November: Baillie Gifford Prize for non-fiction 2016 winner
  • 22 November: Costa Book Awards 2016 category shortlists

Book awards section on Westminster Libraries catalogue

Reading an article entitled ‘Literary prizes make books less popular, study finds‘ made me wonder why, if this was the case, why on earth anyone in the book industry – authors, publishers or booksellers – continues with the whole awards malarkey? It depends on your definition of ‘popular’. The conclusion of the 2014 study was that sales increase, the book reaches a wider audience than it might otherwise, and those readers may not have chosen the book because it appeals to them but simply because it has won a prize. Therefore the proportion of negative reviews increases – the book is less popular in terms of good reviews, but still more popular in terms of increased sales / borrowing from libraries. If they can cope with the poor reviews, the authors can enjoy the kudos of the award, the prize money, and the revenue from increased sales, as well as the knowledge that their work is being seen by large numbers of people.

A Song of Ella Grey by David Almond Neurotribes by Steve Silberman A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

If you’re an avid reader, sometimes it’s good to have your tastes challenged, either by reading a book that’s won an award or that is recommended by someone whose tastes may not align with your own. An online book group I belonged to once held a ‘reading challenge’, where peoples were assigned a book by other members that went against their preferences. I was given some ‘chick lit’ (I quite enjoyed it) and I challenged a friend who hated biographies and war stories to read Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth (sadly, it didn’t change her mind – but she read it!).

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge One by Sarah Crossan The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neila Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell

Why not use our handy book lists or even some of the Staff Picks on this blog to find yourself or your children a new, award winning book to read?


What are you reading today?

It seemed like a good time to ask this again – your library staff and their reading habits have been left uninterrogated for too long. So here is a snapshot of answers to the question – a broad spectrum of themes and genres, as you might expect. Click on the links or the cover images to find out where they’re in stock in Westminster Libraries:

Calamity in Kent by John RowlandBritish Library Crime Classics

I’ve been working through the ‘British Library Crime Classics’ series – reissues of long out-of print crime novels from the Golden Age of crime writing 1920s-50s.  I have recently read Calamity in Kent by John Rowland and Serpents in Eden: country crimes edited by Martin Edwards (a collection of rural mysteries).

Theft by Peter CareyTheft, by Peter Carey

A book about fraudulent art and the love between two brothers who can’t stand themselves, and can’t live without each other.  It keeps me chuckling on the train.

Web series, by Mary Balogh
I’m currently re-reading Mary Balogh’s Web series, which covers the lives and loves of two families.
The older brother marries the sister of the other family (The Gilded Web), the twin brother meets and marries the widow of his best friend when that friend is killed and he is injured during the battle of Waterloo (Web of Love). The vegetarian by Han KangThe twin sister marries the brother of the woman that married his older brother (Devil’s Web).

The vegetarian, by Han Kang

It’s weird, beautiful, dark and intense. I can’t compare it to anything I have read in a while.

The girl with all the gifts by MR CareyThe girl with all the gifts, by MR Carey

This is a cross between Never let me go and 28 weeks later. A virus has turned the people of Britain and possibly the world into flesh eating zombies…
I don’t usually read sci-fi books but this is classed as fiction and really got me hooked – I love it.

Innocent Eréndira and other stories, by Gabriel Garcia MarquezInnocent Eréndira and other stories, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A book of short stories decorated with the vibrant and vivid images that are typical of Marquez’s novels. The book begins with The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother. The ease of reading these tales and the length of each makes this a wonderful collection to read alongside a longer and more difficult book, or to read with someone else.

Birdsong by Sebastian FaulksBirdsong, by Sebastian Faulks

This is my current book club read and I am near the end now. If you want a powerful sense of the insanity of WW1 and the way it broke just everything, this is the book for you. I will be cheering myself up with some Terry Pratchett.

The professor, the banker and the suicide king: inside the richest poker game of all time, by Michael Craig
This is a book about an American banker and entrepreneur called Andy Beal, who took it upon himself to challenge the best Texas Hold’em poker players to a series of heads-up/one-one-one matches in Las Vegas in the early 2000s. He ended up losing several millions after initially being ahead. It’s a great read as it gets into the psyche of the professional poker player, and demonstrates just how precarious a living being a professional gambler really is.

The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, by Alex RossThe Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, by Alex Ross

A very readable history of music from the early 20th century starting with Mahler, Strauss and Wagner, the development of classical music in America, music under Nazism and Communism etc.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena FerranteMy Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

I’m currently reading volume three (there are four volumes in total) of this trilogy. A masterpiece! An epic tale of two women and the powerful nature of their friendship throughout their lifetime. But it’s also the transformative story of a neighbourhood, a city and a country in its violent and intellectual political and historic contest.