Remembering the Somme – the story of Major Booth

Last Friday, in the Long Room of Lords Cricket Ground, the Westminster Cathedral School held a special assembly in commemoration of the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. Years 3, 4, 5, and 6 sat attentively ahead of an audience including parents, staff from Lords and Westminster City Council, Chelsea pensioners and other invited guests.

Army and Navy Co-operative Society Limited, abridged list of officers' equipment and necessaries for home and foreign service [1916-1918] . Image property of Westminster City ArchivesThe day, curated by the Archives’ Education Officer Peter Daniel, started with a visit from the ghost of a soldier from Pimlico – Ernest Richard Boots (now aged 133 years). In a flurry of historical hats and playful repartee with the children, this charismatic apparition explained the features of his army uniform and how each was suited to the international arena of the First World War. Two modern-day soldiers from the 7 Rifles, the Army Reserve Battalion in Westminster, then explained how the uniforms had changed in accordance with technological developments.

The main attraction of the day followed, when the Year 5 class of the Westminster Cathedral School performed a play about Major Booth for their colleagues. The play told the story of Major Booth, who died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme and was a player for the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and Second Lieutenant in the British Army. The play had previously been performed by the MOD Theatre group.

Booth’s biography intersected with various key moments in 20th century history. The story included encounters with the Suffragettes and Mahatma Ghandi. Booth’s path to success as a cricketer and his role in the army showed how the world had been unfair before the war and how after the war, through the equality of sacrifice of all the soldiers and those involved in the war effort at home, British society came to adopt the determination to pursue a fairer, better and more inclusive structure.

Each of the roles in the play was shared with different children taking it in turn to act each part and the Year 5s joined in chorus to sing an ensemble of wartime songs. The songs which had been used as a mnemonic tool to teach the children about history, now staggered the performance beautifully.

The show ended with England’s cricket anthem Jerusalem and a minute of silence led by Chelsea Pensioner John Gallagher with live accompaniment.

A central message came through, questioning the ‘whys’ behind inequality and discrimination of class, gender, and race:

Voice 1: I was a have
Voice 2: I was a have not
All: What hadst thou given that I gave not?

If you’d like to know more about this project, try the following:


Travels in London

You might think of the Schools Library Service (SLS), if you know of us at all, as simply providing fiction and topic-based resources to schools each term – our ‘Project Loans’ service. This is a key part of our work, of course, but we also offer other things, including visiting schools and helping them to make the most of their school libraries.

In the middle of a stock weed: Westminster SLS
In the middle of a stock weed…

We travel to schools in the three boroughs (Westminster, Kensington & Chlesea, and Hammersmith & Fulham) and beyond and meet with teachers and school library staff to whom we offer advice and assistance.

Dissection Guide IV: the Rabbit, by HGQ Rowett, MA
A recent find!

We weed tattered and out of date books and suggest further ways to improve the school library, whether it’s in a draughty corridor or a purpose built room.  Sometimes we find most unusual items!

After whittling down library stock we want to help build the collection back up again. We’ll select lovely new books to enrich the collection as well as the minds of their young readers, and in so doing we keep the SLS afloat as we are self-financing.

We travel around London by bus, tube, on foot, bicycle and even, at times, in vehicles in which we get collected from the station. Nick, as the manager of the entire operation, goes further afield than the rest of us.  Today he’s in Brent, yesterday Croydon! Tomorrow…

And not forgetting that we continue to support school staff by providing a range of training courses. We’ve just had a terrific one on Running your Primary School Library.


Takeover Day at the Archives

On Friday 20 November the City of Westminster Archives Centre, Maida Vale Library and St John’s Wood Library participated in the Kids in Museums‘ national initiative ‘Takeover Day’. This initiative aims to give young people the opportunity to participate in a work environment, assisting staff and volunteers in their work and contributing to the life of an organisation.

In the final of three posts today about #takeoverday we find out how the day went at Westminster City Archives:

At Westminster Archives we welcomed students from St Matthew’s CE Primary School, hoping to give them a flavour of future employment, a sense of achievement and a fresh perspective on the Archives Centre’s role within the community.

Our pupils worked at different stations throughout the day, allowing them to fully appreciate the variety of roles at in our establishment. At the reception desk pupils spoke with our readers and spent time assisting our Archives Assistant Michelle in rejuvenating our children’s book display. Assessing our book stock encouraged children to think creatively about ways of drawing readers into our building. Ishmael especially enjoyed working at reception; he “enjoyed welcoming the public and talking to them.”

Takeover Day at Westminster City Archives, November 2015: Children's display

Donning their lab coats our young workers had the chance to be conservators for part of their day. Georgia taught pupils about the special paste used to repair paper. Working in this significant role really appealed to our students, with Hanifa especially pleased at being able to “make a paste that would fix torn paper with the right material.”

Takeover Day at Westminster City Archives, November 2015

Acting as ‘History Detectives’ St Matthew’s School also spent time in our search room discovering the resources we have available to the public. Pupils looked at historic maps, photographs and learned how to use our microfilm readers; vital tools for any building and family historians. Looking at historic photographs of Old Pye Street gave our students the chance to see how the area local to their school has changed.

Kyode especially enjoyed learning about our resources and the microfilm reader;

“The ‘History Detectives’ job was the best. We got to use the microfilm and we looked at pictures (most of them from Old Pye Street) and on the map we found our school”

Pupils had the chance to demonstrate their knowledge to our volunteer Jelena, Cllr Tim Mitchell and the Deputy Lord Mayor in our closing ceremony.

Takeover Day at Westminster City Archives, November 2015: with the Deputy Lord Mayor

Staff and volunteers at Westminster Archives were really pleased to be able to work alongside the pupils of St Matthew’s CE Primary School for the day, demonstrating to them the varied and interesting roles of our employment. The positive feedback from staff and pupils alike highlighted the fun-filled day had by all! We were pleased to hear similar comments from those taking part in the day at Maida Vale Library and St John’s Wood Library and hope to participate in next year’s event.

Takeover Day 2015“This experience at the Archives centre has been amazing […]. Learning all these amazing jobs has inspired me to do something similar when I grow up, overall I love working in the Archives.”


Takeover Day at Maida Vale Library

On Friday 20 November the City of Westminster Archives Centre, Maida Vale Library and St John’s Wood Library participated in the Kids in Museums‘ national initiative ‘Takeover Day’. This initiative aims to give young people the opportunity to participate in a work environment, assisting staff and volunteers in their work and contributing to the life of an organisation.

This is the second of three posts today about #takeoverday – how did it go at Maida Vale Library?

Holding a Takeover Day (or morning, in our case) was a first for Maida Vale Library but unlikely to be the last. Six Year 4 students from Ark Atwood Primary Academy descended upon the library to find out just what working in a local library is all about. And we set them straight to work!

Milo & Sirine were enlisted to help prepare and deliver our Friday Under Fives session, taking charge of the puppets and even reading a Peppa Pig story. Minor concerns on our part that they might be reluctant to take part were unfounded as they proved themselves totally unfazed by the hundred strong crowd! The jungle puppets did seem to be misbehaving a bit more than usual though, with Milo being the primary target…

Of course it’s not all songs and puppets working in a library. Rayya & Sonya helped out with some of the more routine tasks such as counting the previous day’s takings and helping process the new books. Then Tom & Alice helped plan our Over Fives Christmas Party and Milo & Sirine helped design the poster for the event.

Takeover Day 2015We’d like to say thank you to all our helpers and to everyone at Ark Atwood who made the morning possible, including deputy head teacher Sam Baxter as well as all the adults who accompanied the children on the day including teaching assistant, Eleanor and parent volunteers, Fiona & Rita. We might just see you again next year!


Takeover Day at St John’s Wood Library

On Friday 20 November the City of Westminster Archives Centre, Maida Vale Library and St John’s Wood Library participated in the Kids in Museums‘ national initiative ‘Takeover Day’. This initiative aims to give young people the opportunity to participate in a work environment, assisting staff and volunteers in their work and contributing to the life of an organisation.

This is the first of three posts today about #takeoverday – how did it go at St John’s Wood Library?

Six children from George Eliot Primary and Barrow Hill Junior Schools took over running the library for the day. Councillor Judith Warner joined us early on and had a long conversation with all the children. They tried a whole range of tasks and seem to have really enjoyed themselves. At the end of their day they were presented with certificates and tokens of appreciation.

“Today I learnt that books are not boring and are very exciting and fun. I would recommend to go to the library two times a week. After this experience, I want to be librarian.”

“I have enjoyed today I have had a lot of fun. I thought libraries were boring but I don’t think they are boring now.”

“Today I have learnt a lot. I have had a great experience. Being a librarian is an amusing job. My favourite part was when I scanned the books.”

“I learnt that they organise books with numbers.”

“This event is really fun and to take part is really cool. It gives you ideas of what you do when you are older.”

Takeover Day 2015We’d like to say thank you to all the children, and we hope to see you again soon!


Music Therapy Week 2015

Music therapyThis week (22 – 27 June) Westminster Music Library is displaying a selection of books, informative posters and leaflets in support of Music Therapy Week 2015, in conjunction with The British Association of Music Therapy (BAMT).

The British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT) is the professional body for music therapists and a source of information, support and involvement for the general public.

Music Therapy in Schools by Jo Tomlinson et al. Music Therapy in Dementia Care by David Aldridge A Comprehensive Guide to Music Therapy by Tony Wigram et al. The music in music therapy by Jos de Backer

Music therapy is an established clinical discipline which is widely used to help people whose lives have been affected by injury, illness or disability. Music Therapy Week 2015 is a week dedicated to raising awareness about how music therapy can improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our communities across the UK. It can help people of any age who find it difficult to communicate verbally, due to a physical or cognitive disability, emotional distress or mental illness. This year’s campaign will focus on the instrumental role music therapy has to play in supporting people with dementia and those who care for them (, 2015).

The BAMT have been working closely with libraries across the UK to deliver a series of workshops and exhibitions during Music Therapy Week and Westminster Music Library are grateful for the opportunity to share in this collaborative project.

Music therapy display at Westminster Music Library, June 2015

Where music helps, by Brynjulf StigeThe books in our display give an overview of the wide range of material available at Westminster Music Library for Music Therapy students, practitioners and enthusiasts. We also hold Music Therapy journals in paper and online, and researchers who are Westminster members can access our online content at




“Bless ‘em all! The long and the short and the tall!”

All ages singing together at the BBC Music Day WWII singalong at Westminster Music Library, June 2015So says the popular World War II song; and judging by the enthusiastic response, the long, short, tall, old and young were indeed feeling blessed by Westminster Music Library’s World War II sing-along.
Our event was part of the BBC’s inaugural National Music Day“a nationwide celebration of everything we love about music, with the aim of bringing people together from different generations and communities through their love of music.”

 On Friday 5 June we filled the  Library to the brim, uniting members of local community group Open Age along with troops of children from St Barnabas CE primary school for a morning of singing, celebrating the finest of the Second World War’s musical legacy.

While the struggles of wartime were very hard for soldier and civilian alike, our selection of songs served to communicate the positive qualities brought to light through the conflict: hope, in We’ll meet again; love of country, in There’ll always be an England; and bravery, in The white cliffs of Dover. Comradeship, too, of soldiers all-too-wary of their Sergeants and Corporals, is wonderfully represented in our ironic opening number, Bless ‘em all, whose composer, Fred Godfrey, assuredly informs us, “… furthermore, it wasn’t ‘Bless.’”

BBC Music Day WWII singalong at Westminster Music Library, June 2015

For our guests from Open Age, these songs were gateways into memories of growing up post-war, and for some, even during wartime. “Very nostalgic,” commented one visitor, although another justly observed, “I think it could get emotional for some people here.” Indeed, nostalgia can often rose-tint our recollections; for some the hardships of wartime are still very real memories.

For those of us young enough to have no such memories, the musical legacy of this time is a unique look into the past, and certainly our year six pupils from St Barnabas valued these as such – “A week ago these songs were completely unknown to the class,” commented their teacher.

Ruth leading the singing at the BBC Music Day WWII singalong at Westminster Music Library, June 2015We were grateful to the children for their hard work in rehearsing the songs to sing with us, and thrilled to hear that they’d even given a ‘preview’ performance to the rest of the school in their morning assembly before coming here.

Their earnest singing boosted our ranks, and was especially appreciated during the final number – Roll out the barrel – when it became apparent to many of us in the audience that we couldn’t encourage our vocal chords to hit the high notes!

One person who has no such singing woes, though, is Ruth Walters, who masterfully led us through the entire programme, accompanied by Anthony on piano. As well as being full-time staff, they are accomplished and experienced musicians, along with the three other members of the Music Library team: Miriam, Andrew and Jon. The high standard of performance is often commented on at events such as this one and we are grateful to our staff for using their musical talents so effectively.

Some of the Westminster Music Library team

We were also joined by Sam, a reporter working for Westminster Council, whose interviews and photo-calls really excited the children. A group photo taken at the end of the school children and staff serves as a lovely reminder of an exciting morning.

Children and WML staff at the BBC Music Day WWII singalong event, June 2015

After refreshments and much chatting, our guests left us, and we set to work opening up the Library to the public for another day. We enjoyed having people of all ages and backgrounds for our sing-along, and, in the words of Vera Lynn, here’s hoping “we’ll meet again some sunny day.”


Temper temper!

Sam's Pet Temper by Sangeeta BhadraOn Tuesday, Years 1 & 2 from Queen’s Park Primary School enjoyed a special Queen’s Park Library visit with Canadian author Sangeeta Bhadra. Sangeeta’s debut children’s book, Sam’s Pet Temper, uses humour and striking illustrations (provided by Marion Arbona) to tell the story of a little boy whose bad temper takes on a life of its own.

The children loved hearing all about the Temper’s naughty antics and finished the session by producing some very creative drawings of their own imaginary Tempers:

Sangeeta Bhadra visits Queen's Park Library

Fortunately there wasn’t any sign of bad moods during the visit; Sangeeta was impressed by the excellent behaviour of all the children and the very grown-up thoughts they had about the book. Sam’s Pet Temper is a charming picture book and perfect for ages 5+ who might be struggling to get their own tempers under control!