Welcome to our new blog, where we hope to entertain and inform you about everything to do with Kensington and Chelsea’s libraries! Sign up for posts about fun things that that we do, events that we’ve organised, what our bookclubs think about their current read, and more. We’ll also be posting regularly about our special collections, so you can find out more about the treasures we have on our shelves…
Creativity was in abundance at an event in Kensington Central Children’s Library last Friday, when author and illustrator Jessica Spanyol visited to inspire some eager young artists. Jessica began by reading some of her picture books and talking about how characters take shape in her imagination. She introduced us to Clive, the hero of her new series of colourful books, and also read us the story of Carlos the giraffe’s exciting first ever visit to the library – a story she said she first wrote and illustrated when she was six, proving it’s never too early to start!
Next, sheets of paper with abstract shapes printed on them in different colours provided an amazingly fruitful starting point for the budding illustrators. Have you ever played the game where someone does a random scribble or doodle, and someone else has to make it into a recognisable thing? Or looked up at the clouds and seen the shapes of animals? This worked in the same way, and it didn’t take long before seemingly random shapes had become a range of amazing creatures. These newly-invented characters were embellished with collage made from lots of coloured paper, stick-on googly eyes and enthusiastic colouring-in. It was amazing how different people could transform the same shape in completely different ways.
Jessica gave some great advice about creating characters for stories, which should come in useful for all aspiring authors: try starting with a picture, and building the words around it, instead of the other way around – and think of a name for your character (which might be based on someone you know in real life – Jessica confided that “Moshi cat” in the Clive books is named after her own cat, Moshi)!
All in all this was a really enjoyable event and I was so impressed with the beautiful creatures – and some quite scary monsters! – the children produced.
Laila El-Boukilli, Senior Customer Services Assistant at Notting Hill Gate Library, writes:
It’s been a storytelling season here at Notting Hill Gate Library- we’ve had Michelle Sami, who enlightened us with her animated, creative and charismatic stories, aimed at our younger readers; Sarah Deco, who spooked us out with her winter storytelling, along with friends; and recently Marcel Feigel, who read his book, Ollie’s Big Surprise. Marcel delighted us with a fantastic reading and all the children met Leo the mouse and found out about his love for cheese!
His enthusiasm filled the room and he encouraged everyone to participate in a competitive game of matching the cheese with the country (sounds delicious!)
Marcel proved to be a popular man: children and parents were lining up to get a signed copy of Ollie’s Big Surprise, with their complimentary Hummingbird Bakery cupcake.
We are very grateful for Marcel taking the time to do this event and appreciate all the effort and wish him the best of luck for the future. We had a brilliant time with Ollie’s Big Surprise and we hope to see him again at Notting Hill Gate Library soon!
We would also like to thank The Hummingbird Bakery for all the cupcakes they have kindly donated to our library and for all the support they have given us for our events this year.
It’s 4am and Cathy Mason is watching dawn break over the Lovelace Estate. By the end of the day, her community will be a crime scene. By the end of the week, her city will be on fire. In this gripping thriller by Orange Prize-shortlisted author Gillian Slovo, ten unpredicable days of violence erupt from a stifling heatwave. And, as Westminster careers are being made or ruined, lives are at stake.
Ten Days is about what happens when policitcs, policing and the hard realities of living in London collide.
Have you heard of Cityread yet? Cityread is a London-wide initiative by Stellar Libraries CIC which aims to get Londoners reading a book – the same book – for the month of April. This year’s chosen title is the gripping Ten Days by Gillian Slovo.
And we’re lucky enough to be hosting the author herself at Chelsea Library on Tuesday 19 April from 2 to 3.30pm: free copies of the book will be available for attendees. You can book a free place online, by emailing us (email@example.com) or by phoning Librariesline on 020 7361 3010.
Don’t miss out! A range of free events are listed on the Cityread London website. Our favourite so far: have a look at the interactive digital storytelling installation Stories from the City in Foyles on Charing Cross Road. Immerse yourself in the first vital 72 hours of Ten Days which lead up to the book’s explosive riots through a Police Control Centre; examine evidence relating to disturbances in Rockham which are rapidly escalating and have begun to spread across London; select an item of evidence from each scene and place it on the designated control panel, unlocking audio extracts from the story taken from the audiobook; explore themes and analyse evidence.
Go on- get lost in a good book with the rest of your city. It might even give you something to talk about with your fellow commuters…
The phrase ‘One Love’ is a part of the philosophy of Rasta. The centre piece is an artwork, entitled ‘Mama Africa’ by Mortimo Planno. History on Mortimo Planno is featured in ’s book ‘ Sledge: The Soul of Notting Hill’
M G Robinson came to Shepherds Bush library on the 19th December 2015 to talk about her book Sledge: The Soul of Notting Hill
Sledge was an iconic figure of the famous Portobello Road and part of the rich cultural history of the area.
Robinson wrote this book to document the life and times of her father; Sledge. Her book reveals the very significant transnational connection between Jamaica and London, in terms of culture, music and ideology.
Her talk at Shepherds Bush Library attracted an eclectic audience; multicultural; young and old. It was a real delight to see people coming together to discuss local history; contributions from the audience were welcomed, memories were shared and questions asked. A few people took notes to do follow up research.
The significance of the talk lay in the fact that local history was being verbally imparted from a woman who had actually lived it. Robinson has taken the time to record and share this knowledge with a wider audience to inform and educate.
An awesome slideshow put together by Tom Vague, (local historian and pop journalist) accompanied the talk featuring amongst others, photos of Sledge, the band Aswad, and shots of the Portobello and All Saint’s Road, over the years.
Considering the times we live in, bringing people together to share experiences, to learn and realise their common interests and stories serves to strengthen community spirit and helps us acknowledge the greater historical interconnectedness of all of our lives.
M G Robinson’s next talk will be:
- North Kensington Library
- 108 Ladbroke Grove,
- London W11 1PZ
- Saturday March 5th 2.30-4.30pm
Book your free place via Eventbrite
Senior Customer Service Assistant, Shepherds Bush Library
John McHugo headlined Kensington Central library on Tuesday 20th October with a talk based around his book ‘Syria: A Recent History’ as well as addressing both current and future concerns for the country and putting them in a wider context.
130 people attended this inaugural event of the Nour Festival which concluded with an intensive and thorough Q&A before John signed copies of his book. It was all made possible through partnership working with Saqi books who also sold copies on the night and Nour who continue to have an excellent range of events and provided assistance on the day.
We were especially pleased to invite John McHugo back after his appearance in 2013 as part of The London History Festival. This year’s festival runs for 10 days and commences on 16 November with the line-up including Marc Morris, Jessie Childs, Max Hastings, Tom Holland, Helen Castor, Dan Jones and more.
Our next event at the library which was also part of the Nour Festival was on Saturday 31st October, entitled ‘Site Unseen: Safeguarding MENA (Middle East and North African) Cultural Heritage.’ It was a panel discussion with 4 academics about the ongoing crisis of preserving Middle East heritage, looking at the current state of archaeological sites and artefacts, the laws on the protection of heritage during conflict, the illicit trade of artefacts, and rescue and educational remedies in the field.
Chatterbooks, as we all know, is the national reading group for children and this year 11th – 18th October is Chatterbooks Week.
We got in a few days early with a great event from the very popular children’s author Steve Cole. Steve is the author of, amongst other things, the Astrosaurs and Cows in Action series, has taken over the Young Bond series from Charlie Higson and has also written episodes of Dr Who.
Over 100 KS2 pupils from local schools witnessed the most energetic author event I’ve ever seen, with Steve leaping on and off the stage and running up and down the aisles taking questions. When I asked the Reading Agency if he’d be bringing any equipment with him (I was thinking laptop, usb stick) I was told no, just his ukulele! His songs had the children screaming along with the choruses.
Steve was really strong in exemplifying the role of imagination in storytelling, improvising stories from the names of children’s (and teacher’s) pets, playing with words and making it all such fun.
The Chatterbooks reading groups are a great forum for children who enjoy reading to meet up and talk about their reading experiences, recommend books to each other and maybe do some fun activities related to reading and books like word searches and quizzes.
They are held monthly at most of the RBKC libraries – check here to find the nearest to you.
Reference librarians Karen and Gillian write:
Recently, Rachel Worth, Professor of Dress and Fashion at Arts University Bournemouth, delivered a presentation on the history of Marks & Spencer at Chelsea Library. This post is based on what we learnt about the high street giant from Rachel’s fascinating and insightful lecture.
From very humble beginnings in a Penny Bazaar stall at Leeds Kirkgate Market in 1884, Michael Marks and – from a partnership that began in 1894 – Thomas Spencer together built a company that would become Britain’ s biggest clothing retailer.
Today, Marks & Spencer is a company synonymous with quality, reliability and customer care, but do we associate it with fashion?
Well – yes! Marks & Spencer was at the forefront of bringing accessible and fashionable clothing to the masses, at the same time being a pioneer in using new textiles, displays techniques and marketing methods – including the use of “supermodels” before the word was ever invented.
In the 1890s most working class people made their own clothes, and initially the market stall sold haberdashery (dressmaking materials). The sales slogan of “Don’t Ask The Price, It’s A Penny” summed up the business model. By the outbreak of World War One the company had expanded considerably and had diversified into homewares, but clothing remained at the heart of the business.
Marks & Spencer revolutionised how we bought clothes and also how clothes were sold, focusing on ready-to-wear affordable goods; high quality, well designed and fashionable clothing. In the 1920s M&S was ahead of most other retailers in its marketing and retailing methods setting an upper price limit on clothes. It also accepted the return of unwanted items, giving a full cash refund if the receipt was shown, no matter how long ago the product was purchased, which was unusual for the time.
It entered into long term relationships with British manufacturers, and sold clothes of the “St Michael” brand, introduced in 1928. As the company dealt directly with manufacturers it was able to keep prices low and to maintain input in the design and quality of clothes sold in its stores. It was one of the first companies to introduce standardisation in sizing. It also aimed to cater for all members of the family; children’s clothing and ready-to-wear suits being particularly popular.
Pioneering methods included having its own textile laboratory to enable the testing of fabrics and dyes before mass production, and the use of rainmaking machines to test water repellent fabrics. New synthetic textiles were particularly popular between the 1950s and 1970s. These included Tricell which was first used in 1957. Another synthetic fibre called Courtelle was first launched, nationally, by Marks & Spencer during the 60s as was Crimplene and Terylene.
These fabrics were easy to wash, often drip dry, easy iron and held their colour or shape. Terylene, for instance, meant the fashionable 50’s woman could have a permanently pleated non-iron skirt. The introduction of Lycra in the 1980s revolutionised hosiery, swimwear and underwear because of its elastic properties.
Marks and Spencer has always been design conscious, and no more so than in the 1950s when designs were Paris-inspired with an interpretation of the New Look being all the rage. Colour coordinated clothing and jersey knitwear enabled the fashionable women on a budget to change her look , updating key pieces when on a tight budget.
Display and marketing was always a key element of the presentation of M&S fashion ranges. Before the days of mass advertising it was the window display that dominated; these were eye catching and innovative (see above). Early advertising concentrated on the opening of new stores, but post-war the company began to employ models in print media using the well know faces of the day, including Twiggy in the 1960s:
The heyday of this form of mass marketing was the 1990s when M&S began to use supermodels such as Linda Evangelista and Claudia Schiffer. Here is Vogue’s front cover of July 1996 with Amber Valletta wearing a Marks & Spencer shirt, which we found in our archives at Chelsea Library:
If fashion is a concept based around our attitudes to clothing then Marks and Spencer is part of its fabric: with its high quality/ good value ethos, innovative and strong relationships with customers, and its technological innovations it led the way in fashion for the masses. Our thanks to Rachel for revealing some of the secrets to the success of the company over the last hundred years.
Rachel’s book, Fashion for the People: a history of clothing at Marks & Spencer is available to read at Chelsea Reference library.
Christian, Brompton Library Customer Services Assistant, writes…
Chris Riddell was appointed Children’s Laureate in June in recognition of his prolific body of work as an illustrator and writer of children’s literature. Originally a political cartoonist for The Economist and currently The Observer (check out his drawings of Putin on the Iron Throne and other disturbingly accurate caricatures of our politicians), he is now best known for his beautifully detailed illustrations of strange characters, monsters and fantastic creatures in books for kids, most notably the Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart.
We wanted to pay our respects to this home-grown talent with a humble display showcasing some of the books available in our libraries that feature his work. Resident library assistant and fellow illustrator, David Bushell created the poster and found a great selection of titles which have proved to be popular with the younger readers.
You can find more titles by Chris Riddell on the library catalogue.
Senior Customer Services Assistant, Nahid, writes…
Both children and parents were delighted by a reading of “Sam’s Pet Temper” by author Sangeeta Bhadra at Notting Hill Gate and Kensington Central libraries on Saturday 30 May.
In the story Sam’s temper is initially great company, and so he decides to take it home as a pet. Before long, however, it becomes too hard to handle and he begins to wish it would leave him alone…
Sam’s temper in the story is a real life naughty creature adorably illustrated by Marion Arbona. At the end of the reading, the children were invited to take part in a fun creative activity where they imagined and drew their own tempers.
Sangeeta visited Notting Hill Gate and Kensington Central libraries as part of a whistle-stop libraries tour with her debut children’s book, which has been published in Canada, in English and French, and will soon be published in Italy and South Korea. Sangeeta kindly presented Notting Hill Gate and Kensington Central libraries with signed copies of the book for our readers to enjoy.
Many thanks to Sandeep, Gaynor and of course Sangeeta for a great event!