All about us

A post from our Service Development Manager, Angela Goreham – about what RBKC Libraries have to offer.

R Research for a project that interests you
B Booking a PC, a place at an event
K Knowledge as we all need this
C Connect (to others in the community and the wide world)

L Lending items for your pleasure or information
I Information that will help you with your day to day or forward planning
B Baby activities and information to help new parents
R Reading – a core skill and past time in any format
A Access us at any time and from anywhere
R Resources – varied and plentiful, in different formats to suit different needs
Y Young and old – we’re here for everyone

Are you 1 in 840,344? Or maybe you are 1 in 515,004? They’re odd numbers you might say, but the first one is the number of times the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s libraries were visited between April 2017 and March 2018 and the second is how many items were borrowed during the same period – how many did you account for?

104 people from our local communities supported the Library Service by volunteering with us and over 40,000 people came to one of the events that we held.

They are huge numbers but we always want to beat our previous year’s figures so please come along to one of our libraries, find out what we can do for you and you can help us pass last year’s numbers.

There are six libraries within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea – find out more about them and what we offer by either visiting us in person or our website or you can call us on 020 7361 3010.

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Interview with author Sarah Matthias – part III

We are very lucky to be hosting an event later this month with author, Sarah Matthias. This will take place later today (Monday 23 April), which happens to be World Book Night, at Brompton Library. For more information about the event and how to book, visit our website

Sarah has very kindly answered some of our questions about her book, ‘A Berlin Love Song’ and we will publish her responses in three parts – this is the second part and the third and final part will follow next Monday. You can catch up with the first and second part here

We hope you enjoy them, so over to Sarah…

A Berlin Love Song is about a travelling circus.  What’s so alluring about circuses?

I love the circus. I’ve always found it romantic although I’m a great animal lover and I’m very glad we don’t use performing animals any more. Research into the circus in Germany was one of the most enjoyable parts of my research for the book. It was light relief from the Auschwitz research and what it was like to be bombed and how it felt to be in a tank during a horrific battle. There was so much I had to read that was upsetting, so learning about how to fly the trapeze and ride horses bareback was something of a relief. I actually watched the most amazing film about the Flying Codonas called Swing High that you can see on You Tube so I have actually seen Alfredo Codona perform his triple somersault. I also saw him perform it in the film Vaudeville where the Codonas were doubles for the actors. I watched this particular sequence over and over again when I was trying to describe what it looked like and what it felt like to be up in the dome of the Wintergaten Theatre in Berlin about to swing out over the audience below. I also thoroughly enjoyed researching Fredy Knie, the owner of the Swiss Circus where my characters find employment during the war. His circus really did appear at the Wintergarten during the winter of 1942/43 when the Wintergarten was bombed. He really was in his twenties at the time and one of the most famous horse trainers in Europe. He had a reputation for kindness to animals and that’s why he got on so well with Lili and her family. I hope I’ve done his blessed memory justice in my fictitious portrayal of him.

The Flying Codonas

When I was a girl I loved the song: Gypsies Tramps and Thieves by Cher. I used to lie in bed at night listening to it on my record player and imagining the life of a travelling show. If you look at the beginning of the chapter in A Berlin Love Song called Circus Petalo you might hear strains of this great song:

I was born in the wagon of a travellin’ show

My momma used to dance for the money they’d throw

Papa would do whatever he could
Preach a little gospel
Sell a couple bottles of doctor good

Gypsies, tramps and thieves
We’d hear it from the people of the town
They’d call us gypsies, tramps and thieves
But every night all the men would come around
And lay their money down …

 My chapter entitled Circus Petalo begins: I was born in a wagon in the middle of a show, amid the smell of canvas and sawdust, greasepaint and cheap perfume …

What were the hardest aspects of creating this book? What were the most satisfying?

The hardest thing about creating this book was the amount of really gruelling research I had to do – research that kept me awake at nights and sometimes made me despair of human nature. Man’s inhumanity to man and what seemingly ‘normal’ people are capable of doing to each other is always horrifying and sometimes I felt I couldn’t read another word about the subject. My visit to Auschwitz was harrowing, especially as I had by that time read so much about the camp that my imagination was running riot.

Then when I started writing, I had the very difficult task of how to express this horror and suffering in a story that on the one hand shone a light on this ghastly subject but was also uplifting and hopeful. Because during my research into the Holocaust I also came across so many stories of heroism, true selflessness and hope in that darkest of times, that I felt I wanted to share with my readers. Working out how to combine together the two aspects of this heartbreaking time in a narrative, without belittling the one and over-romanticizing the other, was a real challenge for me. I hope I’ve succeeded. I hope it not only raises awareness about a topic I feel has often been overlooked, the Romani Genocide, but also expresses my own world view – that it is and has to be possible to find hope, wonder and love in the midst of despair, degradation and hatred.

The most satisfying and enjoyable parts of writing this book were possibly recreating the folk Romani tales. I read lots of wonderful Romani folk tales but none of them seemed to fit exactly into my story so I set about using authentic ones but amalgamating and rewriting them for my own story. I didn’t feel bad about this because the nature of folk tales is that people pass them on with their own embellishments for their own reasons. Folk tales often reflect the concerns of a particular people at a particular time and so mine, whilst firmly rooted in the Romani tradition, have my own stamp on them.  I really loved writing them. I also very much enjoyed writing the dialogue, particularly amongst the Hartmann children. I suppose as a mother of 4 young adults myself I have listened to countless family ‘disagreements’! I know how young people talk to each other and how merciless they can sometimes be in their teasing of each other – sometimes cruel. Writers usually have to use their imagination to create unknown worlds but I didn’t have to look much further than my own kitchen table for a rich source of dialogue for the Hartmann children!

We hope you enjoyed our interview with Sarah, and hope to see you at the event this evening. Do book a place – it’s free- via the link at the top.

Happy 40th anniversary Chelsea Library

Today, Thursday 12 April, marks Chelsea Library being in its current location on the Kings Road for 40 years. Over to the staff there to tell us more…

After having spent its youth and most of its middle years in Manresa Road, Chelsea, one fine spring day in 1978 a new library for the now “Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea” opened here at Chelsea Old Town Hall.

At the time of the relocation the King’s Road was arguably a much more diverse place and the vibrant and challenging, fashion and music scenes of the time were very much in evidence along the road.

Some local faces and places were captured for posterity by an ex-member of staff and quite a few of her images are included, with gratitude, in a display here at the library. Also included are some images of the library as it was when it was first opened.

To mark this anniversary we will be running a birthday card making workshop with 70s fashion theme in the style of designer Celia Birtwell as the library has an amazing Costume and fashion collection.

The workshop will take place today in Chelsea children’s library 3 to 5pm with some refreshments. We will also have some games, musical chairs, pass the parcel…come and help us celebrate!

Edited to add – if you’d like to see photos from the celebration, take a look at our Facebook page

Forty years young at Chelsea Old Town Hall!

Interview with author Sarah Matthias – part I

We are very lucky to be hosting an event later this month with author, Sarah Matthias. This will take place on Monday 23 April, which happens to be World Book Night, at Brompton Library. For more information about the event and how to book, visit our website

Sarah has very kindly answered some of our questions about her book, ‘A Berlin Love Song’ and we will publish her responses in three parts – the first part is today and the second and third will follow on the next two Mondays. We hope you enjoy them, so over to Sarah…

The fate of the Romani people in WW2 has been called the ‘forgotten holocaust’. Why do you think it’s important that we don’t forget what happened to them?

Many people have little or no knowledge that the Roma were targeted by the Nazi regime on racial grounds and that up to half a million Roma died during the Second World War.  Despite the welcome opening of the beautiful memorial in Berlin’s Tiergarten Park by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, in 2013, today the Romani community remains one of the most disliked and least tolerated minorities in Europe. And alarmingly, anti-Romani hostility is on the increase, aggravated by growing far-right extremism. The Roma are still scapegoats, frequently victims of prejudice and racially motivated attacks, hate speech and hate crime, and facing discrimination in nearly every country where they live. I believe that now more than ever we must stand up against prejudice and hatred when we see them in our own communities. The Holocaust all happened a long time ago, and yet millions of men, women and children have been murdered since in genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. In today’s world, racial abuse and hate crime is still very much in the news so it is more important than ever, as the people who witnessed the Holocaust during WW2 are growing older and dying, to keep the memory alive of what can happen when prejudice and hatred are left unchallenged.

Roma in a WW2 concentration camp

A Berlin Love Song also reflects on what happened to normal German families at the time and the difficulties they faced. Was it important to include this perspective?

Since A Berlin Love Song is set entirely in Germany and about Germans, I felt it was essential to make sure that the story was told exclusively from the German point of view. I was very careful not to read anything about the home front in England to make sure that my characters had an authentic German feel. There is so much written about the home front in England that it would have been very easy for me to rely on those sorts of books, but I was very careful not to be tempted. It wasn’t too difficult as there are lots of diaries and memoirs written by Germans who lived through the war years and many of them are published in translation. I have schoolgirl German but I was very relieved I could read most of them in English. I did have to tangle with a couple of books in German that I couldn’t find in translation and it was very time consuming. I was also very careful to try to write without the benefit of hindsight. The challenge of writing historical fiction is that the characters cannot know what happens next even though the writer does, and you need to bear this in mind when you are writing, so that events from the war years feel contemporary and authentic, and that conversations and people’s reactions to events feel right for the time.

We’ll be back next Monday with part II, and please do book your free place for our event with Sarah, link at the top.

Q&A with author Katherine Arden

Katherine Arden is the author of the Winternight trilogy, three books based on fairy tales set in snowy, medieval Russia. She will be at Brompton Library on Thursday 5 April and she will read from her new book, The Girl in The Tower and answer questions about her stories.

It’s a free event which is suitable for children aged 14 and over, book via Eventbrite

As we’re so excited about this – Katherine has answered some questions already! Over to her…

What books would you like to read this year?

Working on Barkskins by Annie Proulx next up is News of the World by Paulette Jiles. I don’t really plan my reading year.

What is your favourite fairy tale?

Sivka-Burka, King Frost, Vasilisa the Beautiful, the Snow Queen

If you were a character in one of your books, what type of character would you be?

A bard, possibly with magic powers. This is a future book that I haven’t written, but hey I have time.

How often do you write?

The goal is five days a week, 2K words a day when I’m drafting.

You have lived in many places, what is it about Russia that so inspired you?

Everything! The people, the weather, the landscape, the history, the literature.

What is your favourite book?

It’s a series, but The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett.

If you could give your younger self advice about writing a book, what would it be?

Don’t give up. You can do it.

You have said that writing is lonely, how do you deal with that and keep writing?

Take time for friends, keep people around.

What do you most love about being a writer?

The ability to travel when I want and set my own schedule.

What was the last thing you watched on Netflix?

Don’t have a Netflix subscription. It’s a giant time sink.

What do you most like to do when you are not writing?

I like to hike, ski, swim, and read!

If you could live in any book world, which would it be?

Redwall Abbey. I’d be a badger or a hare and just eat all day.

Thanks again to Katherine for taking the time to speak to us, and don’t forget to book a place to meet her on Thursday 5 April.

Fiona at Brompton Library

Harry Potter Book Night at Chelsea Library

On Thursday 1 February 2018, Chelsea Library joined hundreds of other libraries and schools in celebrating a special Harry Potter Book Night: Fantastic Beasts at Chelsea Library. It was a challenge to organize such event on a Thursday, after school, when children have arranged activities, but we had a great turnout. Suddenly, we had several Harry Potters, Gryffindor girls, wand duelling in the biography section under the watchful eye of J.K. Rowling (and alerted parents), toddlers who wanted to join in (and got a chance to colour Hedwig). A fantastic start!

 

We prepared a selection of exciting activities to mark this unique event: from arts and crafts, quizzes and games, word searches, and our photo competition ‘Magical creatures and architecture’. Although the idea was to place Harry Potter enthusiastic fans into various Hogwarts houses, we soon gave up as most of them wanted to be with their friends in Gryffindor. They all got house stickers and, after the welcoming introduction, we began with the first activity: decorate your magical creature.

I sketched the outline of four magical creatures – dragon, phoenix, griffin and hippogriff – four groups of children around four tables, had a task to decorate in 30 minutes their beasts to win reward points. Colouring pencils, crayons, feathers, felt tips and all sorts of collage papers were available. The team work was exceptional; and the parents got involved as well! While me and my colleagues, Christian, Colette ran around checking their progress. With so much fantastic creativity and effort, it was a very difficult task to choose the winners.

Luckily, we were able to declare all four groups the winners since so many of the local shops and restaurants in the King’s Road – Habitat, Pizza Express, Tiger, Venchi and Waterstone’s– had generously donated prizes and Waitrose had donated food for the event. The library almost looked like Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes shop. What a joy! I felt great giving out the presents to cheering children.

These are the final masterpieces!

Lots of entries for our photo competition, ‘Magical creatures and architecture’ arrived two weeks before the closing date. I’ve noticed that many of us take for granted beautiful architecture we pass on our way to work, to school, to the local park etc. J. K. Rowling’s magical creatures – dragons, griffins, hippogriffs, snakes, witches, mermaids, fairies, nymphs, sphinx … well they can be seen everywhere in London. When Christopher Wren designed St Mary-le-Bow church in Cheapside, after the Great Fire of London, he probably did not have Harry Potter in mind. Nevertheless, on the tall church spire a huge dragon holds a golden sphere! If you haven’t seen it, go and check for yourself.

Four judges – Roberta, Liam, Silva and Shaun – came, seriously observed the photographs and decided that Tabitha’s entry was the best. Maximilian, Carla, Max, Arthur, Lorenzo, Marko, Mateo, Jacopo, Tristan, Jack, Fredie, Maya, Noeleen, Leon, Leonella, Mila and another Leon were other successful competitors. All the children, who were rewarded by points from out judges, received prizes.

It was time for a quick snack and to get ready for the master quiz. While some younger participants needed to move from ‘watching films’ to reading Harry Potter books, several children showed admirable knowledge. Colette was very impressed!

We finished the party by playing musical-magical-statues and had great fun.

There were more activities ready in my ‘sorting hat’, but we didn’t have enough time. Next time! Meanwhile, don’t forget:

“Never Tickle a Sleeping Dragon.”

Zvezdana, Chelsea Library

 

 

Author Katherine Arden to visit Brompton Library

We are very excited to announce that in April author, Katherine Arden will visit Brompton Library. Katherine is the author of The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, the first two books in the Winternight trilogy. She will read from the third book in the trilogy, The Winter of the Witch, which is due to be published in August this year. The trilogy is inspired by the fairy tales and folklore of medieval Russia that Katherine read while living there, and set in its snowy landscape.

To celebrate her visit, we will be reading the first two Winternight novels during February and March. Join us on Thursday 8 February when we will be discussing The Bear and the Nightingale which has been described as haunting, lyrical and a beautiful deep-winter story full of magic and monsters.

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya, these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…

‘Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.’

These books are suitable for children aged 14 years plus. Katherine says:

“My absolute favorite thing to hear from a reader: ‘I read your book and then I gave it to my daughter.’”

To get your copy, please visit Brompton Library, or email libraries@rbkc.gov.uk to get a copy sent to your local library.

If you’d like to attend the special reading group meeting in February, please book a place via Eventbrite

Edited to add – the next meeting of this special reading group will be on Thursday 8 March where they’ll discuss the second book in Katherine’s trilogy, ‘The Girl in Tower’. For more info or to book your free place, please visit Eventbrite

Fiona at Brompton Library

Winter Fair at Kensal Library

On Thursday, there was a very special event at Kensal Library – over to the staff there to tell us more –

We had so much fun at Kensal Library’s Winter Fair. There was a lot to keep everyone busy from decorating gingerbread men, having your photo taken via the photo booth, arts and crafts, guessing which stocking had the prize, drinking some tasty hot chocolate from the hot chocolate bar, a lucky dip and writing letters to Father Christmas.

The lucky dip proved to be very popular and we’re going through the letters to Father Christmas before posting them to the North Pole to find the best one which will win a prize.

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We believe we made a few new friends and we hope to see you all again throughout the new year!

Thanks to all our helpers: Ayoub, David, Kate, Eve, Isabelle and Sundus.

Merry Christmas from all the staff at Kensal 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

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