The Reformation

In the run-up to the major Christian festival of Christmas, the display of books from the Biography Collection at Kensington Central Library is focusing on the period of rapid change in Western European Christianity known as the Reformation, in the year that marks 500 years since the events traditionally taken as being the starting point for the process.

Martin Luther

The main emphasis, inevitably, has to be on Martin Luther and other dissident thinkers in the German-speaking world, the traditional starting point for the Reformation being the nailing by Luther, to the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, of his Ninety-Five Theses. This notwithstanding, it does appear that, although nailing notices to church doors was a regular practice at the time, there is no direct evidence that Luther actually did do this in this particular case. What is certain is that the theses were circulated in the context of debate at a private university (i.e. not a church institution) which was supported by Luther’s local secular lord, and that Luther’s personal arc and the Reformation more widely were partly given impetus by local and wider conflicts between church and secular state.

This factor is arguably even more straightforwardly to the fore in events in England: the conflict between state and church authority over the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon; the dissolution of the monasteries; the establishment of what amounts to a national catholic church in England, i.e. one which on the one hand does not acknowledge the international authority of the Pope, but on the other maintains the episcopal system and stops short of the much wider structural and theological changes that characterise Lutheranism, Calvinism, and other nonconformist denominations.

Whatever your belief system, the Biography Collection team wish you celebration and recuperation over the period of holidays following the northern-hemisphere winter solstice.

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Christmas cooking

If you want some ideas for your Christmas menu, look no further – whether you are looking for traditional or modern ideas, here is a collection of recipe books to inspire you. All of these books can be borrowed from our libraries, no need to just choose one!

The Hairy Bikers’ 12 Days of Christmas

From Christmas Eve to Twelfth Night, the hairy bikers have thought of everything, from a traditional roast goose to telly snacks, to what to do with turkey leftovers. It even includes a section on edible gifts such as sloe gin and chutney.

Jamie Oliver’s Christmas cookbook

Jamie has also got everything covered.  From pates to roast meats, herb butters to chocolate log, but what Christmas recipe book wouldn’t be complete without a whole section on potatoes!  Not only that, Jamie includes a lot of delicious vegetable recipes including creamed spinach, four ways with Brussels sprouts and Clapshot, a delicious vegetable mash made with bitter marmalade and “loadsa chives”.  Something special for everyone.

Delia’s Happy Christmas

Delia’s recipes always provide a safe pair of hands, just what you need to get you through the Christmas period.  Not only does this book include 100 new recipes such as chestnut cupcakes, along with old favourites and traditional recipes, Delia has taken away the stress of planning with sample menu plans to make sure you are ready for the whole period.

Nigella Christmas : Food, Family, Friends

If its luxury and decadence you’re after, then look no further.  Nigella shares simple recipes for start with a cocktail, prepare simple dinners with friends, go to town on the main event, make soothing soups and light bites to restore yourself ready for the next feast and finish off with a hot drink.  There are even gift ideas as well as sweet Christmas baking and preserves.

Great British Bake Off Christmas

Enjoy Christmas bakes and savoury treats from the hosts and participants of the Bake Off.  Including Paul’s mince pies and Mary’s best Christmas pudding or try a passion fruit and pomegranate Pavlova layer cake.  Ideas for the whole Christmas period whether for entertaining or relaxed suppers with some Christmas present ideas thrown in too.

Fiona

Brompton Library

 

A love of reading

You’re never too young to enjoy a good story, and at your local library children are welcome to join from birth. It’s absolutely free and for children there aren’t any fines for returning books late.

Did you know that all families with babies aged 0-12 months are eligible for a free Bookstart baby pack?  Each pack contains two books, a rhyme sheet and a booklet of tips and ideas for sharing stories with your child. Pop into your local library to pick yours up today.

If you’re interested in getting involved in your local reading community, check out the fun under-fives activities on offer at your local library.

And remember, we understand that children can be noisy (and sometimes messy!) so don’t worry too much about being quiet; we love to see young children enjoying our libraries and welcome their enthusiasm!

By taking out books and reading with your child every day you can help their physical, mental and emotional development as well as language and listening skills. Plus, you get to enjoy some fantastic stories!

“A love of reading is more important in academic achievement than a child’s social or economic background.” –Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, ‘Reading for change’ 2001

Happy reading!

Harriet Skinner

Libraries Children’s Officer

Revolution at the library

This month’s display from the Biography Collection display, in the foyer of Kensington Central Library, commemorates the centenary of the Russian Revolution with a selection from our enormously wide range of books on the key figures of that event.

Finding books for this display was one of those occasions which reminds us how rich and diverse our biography collection is – scholarly biographies analyse the minutiae of developments in political thought amongst revolutionaries, while collections of deeply personal letters highlight the intimate relationships of those caught up in this epic drama of history.

We can get a sense of the eccentricities and excesses of the Imperial elite by reading the memoirs of Prince Felix Yussoupoff, best known for murdering Rasputin, which we have in an opulent violet covered hardback produced by the Folio Society in the nineties. Frances Welch’s Rasputin: A Short Life is a compulsively readable and at times very funny profile of one of the most bizarre and controversial figures of the period, and proves that fact can indeed be a lot stranger than fiction.

How did Trotsky choose to remember Lenin? We can find out by reading his famous essay from 1926. What was the 28 year old Joseph Stalin’s role in the revolution? Simon Sebag Montefiore’s scrupulously detailed Young Stalin answers this and numerous other fascinating questions that afford glimpses of alternative histories. Robert H. McNeal’s Bride of the Revolution: Krupskaya and Lenin reveals the intertwining of personal relationships and political imperatives.

Also from the collection, When Miss Emmie was in Russia by Harvey Pitcher allows us to glimpse the revolution through the eyes of English governesses working for aristocratic families as their world collapsed – often very young women whose previously narrow, parochial lives had not prepared them for front row seats in an arena of earth-shaking change.

These titles are just a tiny sample of what our collection holds, and we thought the range of our Russian Revolution-related books was so impressive that we would make them the subject of an event. If this is a topic that interests you, come along to Biographies and the Russian Revolution, on Wednesday 15 November, 2 to 3pm at Kensington Central Library. After a brief introduction to our Biography Collection, we will be seeking to answer the question “Is there such a thing as an unbiased biography of any prominent figure in the Russian Revolution?”, by looking at biographies written throughout the last century, and asking how their view of their subjects was influenced by their authors’ time, place and political standpoint. We’ll also be showing you how our online resources can enrich your knowledge of this period, and what the British journalists and cartoonists of 1917 made of events.

Also, if you have not yet discovered the treasures of our Naxos free online music streaming, we’ll be using music from revolutionary Russia to invite you into it.

Book your free place via Eventbrite 

The Biography Store Team at Kensington Central Library

Black History Month event at Chelsea Library

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Caged bird by Maya Angelou

Black History Month did not pass unnoticed at Chelsea Library. We were well prepared with a rich collection of books for children, teenagers and adults – and we had information displays throughout the library.

On Saturday 21 October, the library held a very successful Black History Month story and craft session. I invited Ade Akinbi, a teacher from a local primary school to be our special guest. As our events are free, and families can just come along – you never know how many will come, how old the children will be, and whether the planned activities will be appropriate for them. Therefore, I prepared for all possibilities – and hoped for the best!

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After my short introduction, Ade read ‘Caged bird’, Maya Angelou’s famous poem.

I then read Julia Donaldson’s ‘The ugly five’. This story is such a great fun and a fantastic introduction to our craft session – making animal masks. Tigers were absolutely the favourite choice, as you can see. Monkeys, lions, hippos, giraffes and cows (acting as wildebeests) could not compete with them.

After the first fifteen minutes of hubbub and excitement, everybody gradually got quiet and listened to songs from The Lion King in the background. (By the way – this is a guaranteed recipe for home-family-art-craft-workshop: talking book playing in the background and all sorts of craft materials on the kitchen table.)

The children and adults seemed content in designing, colouring and cutting, and I seized the moment for Ade to read another story – ‘When the rains come’ by Tom Pow and Malika Favre, set in a village in Malawi. We all enjoyed it, even learnt how to say “Hello, how are you?” “Moni. Muli bwanji.”

Six year old Christina made three masks – all tigers! Agynes (8), twins Phillip and Luke (7), Camilla (6) and Victoria (4) and many others, who had to leave earlier, spent a dynamic and creative afternoon with us.

Zvezdana, Chelsea Library

Black History Month – writers

Our Biography Collection at Kensington Central Library display for October marks Black History Month with a showcase of writers from around the world. From literary giants like James Baldwin and Langston Hughes to unjustly neglected writers like Bessie Head, our display is a starting point from which to explore black voices.

Among many from the Americas we have: Zora Neale Hurston, who portrays the harsh realities of life in the Deep South in nevertheless rich poetic language; Ralph Ellison whose prose urges the reader to confront the painful truths of political struggle; Maya Angelou and Alice Walker whose appearance on the literary scene in the 1980s offered a view of black women’s lives written from the inside.

African writers like Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe and more recent British voices like those of Aminatta Forna, Colin Grant and Jackie Kay investigate cultural dislocations and rediscoveries of heritage across continents.

We have interspersed our biographies this month with the works of some of these writers and hope you will enjoy both.

We are inaugurating a new strand of our displays this month, which will link some of the books in our Biography Store Collection to current film and TV, and also commemorate those famous people who have recently died. So this month, as the film “Goodbye, Christopher Robin” comes out, we have books on A. A. and Christopher Milne, and on Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe who are portrayed in the film “Borg vs. McEnroe”. Sad news of the death of Liz Dawn prompted us to display her autobiography.

The Biography Store Team at Kensington Central Library

Silver Sunday – 2017

This year’s Silver Sunday programme launches in the borough on Sunday 1 October.

Kensington and Chelsea residents who are 65 years of age or over are invited to participate in an amazing week long programme of mostly free activities and events to celebrate their contribution to community life.

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The aim is to increase health and well-being by reducing social isolation through introducing older residents to new activities, meeting new people and staying active and involved in their communities. Some activities are held regularly throughout the year and others are one-off events delivered specifically for Silver Sunday.

If you are not able to get out and about due to physical limitations or ill health, and want to join in from the comfort of your own home, the Phone Club is a free and friendly activity that you can take part in on Monday and Thursday during Silver Sunday week and throughout the year too. Topics include: current affairs, health, food and culture.On 1 October why not join in and –

  • take the opportunity of visiting the Design Museum, the world’s leading museum devoted to contemporary design, at its new location in Kensington High Street and explore your creative side with a range of design briefs (tea, coffee and cake provided)
  • grab your dancing shoes and join in the Open Age dance-a-thon with fantastic music and instructors
  • discover what goes on behind the scenes at the English National Ballet and take part in their artistic dance activity which improves physical and mental health and well-being through creative expression
  • join a tour of Lord’s Cricket Ground and then relax with an afternoon tea and watch a cricket match
  • add a little colour to your windowsill or balcony by planting up winter pansies and spring bulbs at Sybil Thorndike House in Earl’s Court (planter, compost and flowers/bulbs provided as well as refreshments)
  • visit 18 Stafford Terrace (the preserved Victorian family home of Punch cartoonist Linley Sambourne) and discover what life was like back then

These are just some of the events that you can choose from and you don’t have to go on your own – why not invite a friend, family member or carer to join you.

You can find the full programme of events on the borough’s website – most activities and events are free of charge, some have limited space and others need to be booked in advance.

You can also see what else is happening near by and right across the UK on the Silver Sunday website.

Midnight’s Parents – The Partition of India in 1947

This month’s display of books at Kensington Central Library from the Biography Collection store comprises works by and about figures who shaped events leading up to and during Partition.

While many of us will be familiar with major actors such as Gandhi, Jinnah, Mountbatten, and Nehru, staff researching for the display this month discovered that, for example, in 1905 Curzon, as viceroy, divided Bengal into two administrative divisions along roughly religious lines, though the resulting political crisis led to re-unification in 1911.

 

Also on the British ‘side’, a new viceroy, Minto, took over in 1906, and Kitchener was also involved in events around this time as British military chief in India.

Edwin Montagu, as Secretary of State for India, was responsible in 1919 for several reforms that gave Indians more influence in India.

Atlee and Cripps of the post-War Labour government were also involved, the former having been a supporter of Indian independence for years.

There were also many less well-known politically active individuals from the Indian ‘side’ at the time, including one woman, Sarojini Naidu, a poet, and the first woman to become the governor of an Indian state (United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, 1947-49).

Maulana Azad, the senior Muslim leader of the Indian National Congress, promoted Hindu-Muslim unity, secularism, and socialism, and was prominent in the development of education in India after independence.

Subhas Chandra Bose, another senior Congress politician, later fell out with other Congress leaders and tried to end British rule in India with the help of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan during World War II.

The Biography Store Team at Kensington Central Library

Dancing bunnies at Kensal Library

We just had to share these lovely pictures with you all – Kensal Library held a very special baby rhyme time on Friday last week to celebrate National Bookstart Week 2017.

There was lots of singing and dancing as prompted by Bookstart’s chosen book ‘Everybunny Dance’ by Ellie Sandall. Each child received a copy of the book plus a special rhyme sheet and a pair of cute bunny ears.

All the children had a fun time and loved the story followed by some great rhymes like Sleeping Bunnies and Jelly on a Plate.

Don’t worry if you missed out last week, Kensal Library’s baby rhyme time is every Friday, 10.30 to 11am – hope to see you there soon!

The staff at Kensal Library

Exploring other worlds with our children – it’s National Bookstart Week 2017

This week (Monday 5 to Sunday 11 June 2017), is National Bookstart Week and this year is an extra special celebration as Bookstart is 25 years old!

BookTrust, the organisation that administers the Bookstart programme, encourages children and families to read more. Over these 25 years, they have gifted more than 34 million books to children.

Bookstart currently gives free books and resources to every child in England and Wales, at two key ages before school, to help inspire a love of books and encourage shared reading.

This year’s special National Bookstart Week book is Ellie Sandall’s Everybunny Dance and many libraries will be reading this story and special rhymes to do with the great outdoors and we have many copies of this book to give away. Check out the times of the toddler mornings at your nearest Kensington and Chelsea library.

It’s never too young to share a story or a rhyme with your young ones so come along have some fun and start or continue your child’s journey to a life of reading for pleasure. Sharing stories is of huge benefit to children, particularly when done from an early age.

Children who regularly have books shared with them benefit in lots of ways:

  • better emotional health
  • children develop longer attention spans and wider vocabularies
  • it builds their language skills
  • and in the long term helps them to be better readers and learners.

All this by sharing a book together for a few minutes each day. Just 10 minutes spent sharing a story with a child each day can have a lasting impact.

You can hear Lauren Laverne read Everybunny Dance on the Bookstart website.

Nick Fuller
Tri-borough Libraries Children’s Services Manager