The 7th London History Festival 2015

Here at Festival HQ (my lair in the archives) we’re all engaged in frantic last minute activity preparing for the 7th annual London History Festival which starts on Monday 16th October. We have another line-up of eminent historians who will be covering wide range of historical eras.

London History Festival 2015
London History Festival 2015

On the 17th Mark Morris and Thomas Asbridge will be interviewed by Sophie Ambler about their latest books. It is of course 800 years since the signing of Magna Carta, a good time to look back at this crucial part of British history The next evening Jessie Child looks at security threats, repression and radicalisation – but not in the modern world but the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The last event of the first week is also about security and intelligence – Max Hastings speaks about the secret war which went on behind the scenes in WW2.

In the second week we go back to Imperial Rome with Tom Holland who has written many books about the ancient world. Dynasty is about the early years of the Empire and the Emperors who ruled it. On the 24th November we return to the secret was with Sinclair McKay and David Boyle who will discuss Bletchley Park, its effects on the course of the war and the character of its most famous figure Alan Turing, the father of modern computing.

Finally Dan Jones and Helen Castor talk about a British dynasty – the Plantagenets and their struggle to take and retain power.

This year’s programme of author events is as good as any of the previous six programmes. If you’ve been before you know about the quality of the speakers and if you haven’t why not give one of the events a try? The Library service is committed to providing added value for regular users and visitors and what could be better than bringing together authors and readers for learning and entertainment.

The Tri-Borough Library Service of which Kensington and Chelsea is part has a million books in its stock available for users in three boroughs. For the Festival we are in partnership with Chalke Author, the freelance consultancy and publicity agency for authors, who provide the speakers, History Today, the best known British magazine devoted to history and Waterstones Kensington branch who will be selling signed copies of books by the speakers at all the events.

I’ve been associated with the London History Festival since it started. It’s always hard work and always fun (I tell myself afterwards.)

Dave Walker,
Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Local Studies Librarian


London History Festival 16 to 26 November

Welcome to the 7th London History Festival hosted by Kensington Central Library and Waterstones. It is a literary festival that aims to bring the work of the finest historians to the widest possible audience. The festival consists of a series of talks and discussions followed by book signings.

London History Festival 2015
London History Festival 2015

Part of us is amazed that we’ve got this far, but another part says it should be no surprise with the quality of speakers we’ve been able to present. This year’s programme has the same combination of eminent historians covering a wide range of subjects. Some veterans of the festival return – Max Hastings, Tom Holland, Jessie Childs, Helen Castor, Marc Morris and Dan Jones. But also some new names – Thomas Asbridge, Sinclair McKay and David Boyle. The subjects range from ancient Rome to World War 2 with much that is relevant to the world as it is today. A big thanks to the other Festival Director Richard Foreman. None of it would be possible without him.

If you’re interested in the history of Kensington and Chelsea, the most fascinating Borough in London, Local Studies Librarian Dave Walker writes a weekly blog, The Library Time Machine exploring aspects of the history of the Royal Borough through photographs, artworks and maps from the Local Studies Collection. Recently he has written about book illustrators and advertising, as well as adding some guest bloggers. There always seems to be something new to discover.

Please collect a programme from any of our libraries.

As well as hosting part of the London History Festival, we also have a fringe taster event.

Hoards (Greek & Roman coin hoards and Viking hoards) author talk by Eleanor Ghey

Ghey - book cover image
Ghey – book cover image

This was held on Monday 9th November, at Kensington Central Library

Hackney hoard - coins in a jar
Hackney hoard – coins in a jar

The talk focused on the hoards discovered in London including the Cheapside Hoard of exquisite Elizabethan jewellery, and the Hackney Hoard buried during the Second World War by a family fearing a German invasion. Eleanor Ghey is Project Curator in the Department of Coins and Medals at the British Museum.

Hackney hoard coins
Hackney hoard coins
Hackney Hoard Double Eagles
Hackney Hoard Double Eagles

Kensington Central Library – November 2013

Kensington Central Library
Kensington Central Library

Hello to you all from the staff at Kensington Central Library. It’s been yet another busy month here and we’ve lots to tell you about from displays, to events to service changes.

Who’s Who?

Dr Who display at Kensington Central Library
Dr Who display at Kensington Central Library

We  decided to honour the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who with a display of some of the many books we have in stock on this landmark TV series. 50 years! How did that happen? A blink of an eye for a Time Lord but a half century for us humans.

I have distinct childhood memories of the Doctor’s adventures through space and time, beamed to me via an old three channel Radio Rentals TV (Google it kids!) that stood in one corner of my childhood home. There are the Daleks of course but also the Cybermen as well as the dreaded, and to a six or seven year old me, utterly terrifying Sea Devils. “My” Doctor was Jon Pertwee, the dandy and expert in Venusian Aikido. Favourite Pertwee episode, “The Green Death” the one with the giant maggots!

Amazingly for such a popular and innovative show it was axed by the BBC for a number of years, a relief to me as it seemed that the later incarnations of the Doctor lacked punch and the storylines were laughable. Now of course it is hard to imagine the show being absent from the schedules given that new life has been breathed into the franchise once more. Eccleston, Tennant, Smith and now Malcom Tucker!

Who would have thought?

Mike Green
Mike Green

 Mike Green

Senior Customer Services Assistant

 London History Festival 2013

London History Festival 2013
London History Festival 2013

We’re really lucky to host the London History Festival for the fifth time at Kensington  Central Library – it’s such a fantastic opportunity to hear about our history spoken and debated about with such passion. Last week we had Sir Max Hastings speak about the First World War and Dan Snow and Marc Morris talk about medieval England.

Dan Snow and Marc Morris - signing books!
Dan Snow and Marc Morris – signing books!

Next week there are three events and a few tickets are still available:

  • Monday 25 November (TONIGHT!) – Antonia Fraser talks about The Great Reform Bill of 1832
  • Tuesday 26 November – Saul David and Col. Stuart Tootal discuss the British Army and its soldiers
  • Thursday 28 November – Artemis Cooper talks about the life and times of writer Patrick Leigh Fermor

There are more details on our events page – hope to see you there!

New displays

More new book displays this month include tributes to Doris Lessing and John F. Kennedy. Both these displays have items from our Biography Collection.

 Biography Collection – temporarily closed

And speaking of which – we will be getting new shelving in the basement where this collection is housed so we won’t be able to retrieve any items from later this month until February 2014. We’re really sorry for any inconvenience caused. Please speak to a member of staff if you need more information.

Jodie Green, Lending Librarian
Jodie Green

Jodie Green

Lending Librarian

The Brompton Blog – October 2013

Welcome to the Brompton Blog.

Brompton Library
Brompton Library

The last few weeks have been really busy here, as students return to start a new academic year and sign up for library cards while families and schoolchildren come to make use of our great junior section, browse the study guides and participate in our children’s activity sessions. We have also noticed a surge in visitors borrowing and returning books, possibly boosted by the upcoming Booker Prize competition and perhaps the return of cold weather. As they say in Game of Thrones: Brace yourself, Winter is coming… As we say at Brompton: Brace yourself, Winter is coming…So stock up on library books!

In addition to our usual services we have had some interesting events taking place. Our weekly computer classes for beginners take place on the first floor in the learning centre and we are also currently hosting private piano lessons that are available to anyone of any ability. If you are interested in these services either phone libraries line on 020 7361 3010 or pop into our branch and speak to a member of staff.

This month RBKC history buff Dave Walker and resident Librarian Stephanie Webb hosted a local history event in the Brompton meeting room:

Silver Sunday event

Earl's Court Road
Earl’s Court Road

On a Wednesday afternoon in the week leading up to Silver Sunday, Brompton hosted a local history event concentrating on Earl’s Court Rd at the turn of the 20th century and some of the highlights of Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre long before it became home to the Ideal Home Exhibition and stadium style rock concerts. Dave Walker (Local Studies Librarian) brought along some fantastic photographs and original postcards and answered questions from interested locals. We were very happy to welcome Councillor Mills to Brompton as she was the lead Councillor for Silver Sunday in this borough. After having a good look at the exhibits every one sat down and had a good chat about more recent changes to the area and, inevitably, how much property prices had changed!


One of our most popular displays recently has been our “Haven’t you read…?” pod display. It started off as a means to promote our Reading Groups Book Collection which usually languishes in our first floor office but contains some classic titles.

October 2013 display

We went on to use it to display modern classics which often appear on student’s reading lists (To Kill a Mocking Bird, Catcher in the Rye etc) and were surprised at how popular it turned out to be, however, it had to make way for our Mood Boosting Books display to support World Mental Health day.


This summer it was great fun for the children to create a book at Brompton Library in collaboration with an organisation called Celebrate My Library. They are a -not for profit- project created by library lovers Hilary and Victoria. They celebrate libraries and everything they do by speaking to people who love them most and through this show people who don’t yet use libraries just how great they can be. They collaborate with councils to inspire the widest variety of library lovers possible.

The children took part in two workshops in the library during Summer Reading Challenge and created the book, Creepy Library. This is a result of fun packed story writing workshops inspired by the children and illustrated by up coming illustrators. The children enjoyed every bit of it and so did the parents. They are proud to see their names as the authors of the book.

Creepy Library
Creepy Library

The children who attended our weekly Saturday Storyland and craft session read a crocodile story and got a chance to make some crocodile-puppets!

Earls Court Fete

The Library Service participated in a local street fete in Earls Court in late September. The fete gave opportunity for local businesses and services to showcase their activities. Penny Girling from Central Library and I (see photo) staffed a stall, where we promoted our services, activities and events. We engaged with over 200 local residents and were able to register many, as new library members.

Earls Court Street Fete
Earls Court Street Fete

As well as promoting our quarterly events calendar and the forthcoming London History events, I was able to engage with locals about our Earls Court and Brompton Local History Event on Wednesday 02 October. I had displayed some very interesting photographs of Earls Court in by-gone days, including the Great Ferris Wheel, built in the 1890’s on the site of the Exhibition Centre. These photographs attracted a lot of attention and inspired some to attend the local history event at Brompton.

It was a very enjoyable afternoon and wonderful to be part of a local community event. It would be great to do more.

As an aside, my daughter, Abigail, was also there, singing with a local jazz band. She was fabulous!

Earls Court Street Fete Jazz Band
Earls Court Street Fete Jazz Band


A reminder that books are not the only resource we have available. All the libraries across RBKC, Westminster and Fulham have a fantastic selection of audio books, music CDs and DVDs to borrow, as highlighted by resident creative guru and library assistant David Bushell:

Recently I was given the task of organising the CD collection at Brompton- my, what a selection of music we have!

All the pop is covered of course, plus an amazing diversity of other music- from Heavy Metal to the rhythms of the Congo, From Jazz to Country and Western, plus soundtracks for films and a selection of easy listening compilations. Then there are extensive classical recitals, famous composers and all the opera you’ll ever need.

At £1 for three weeks, it sure beats trawling the internet for that elusive download. You can admire the artwork and read the sleeve notes and lyrics while you listen, just like old times!

Also don’t forget that the Nour Festival of Arts runs from 1 October until the 30th November and the London history Festival will commence from 18th November with a range of fascinating talks from respected authors and speakers. Visit your local library for more information.

The London History Festival 2013 – fringe events

London History Festival 2013
London History Festival 2013

London History Festival

18 to 28 November 2013

Kensington Central Library and Waterstones Kensington

Kensington Central Library and Waterstones Kensington will be hosting the fifth London History Festival this autumn.

Sir Max Hastings will be talking about his new history of the First World War. We are also pleased to welcome for the first time Lady Antonia Fraser on the Great Reform Bill, Artemis Cooper on Patrick Leigh Fermor and Charles Moore on Lady Margaret Thatcher.

There are also events on medieval warfare, the British soldier and in our fringe events Bohemian Soho, the Suffragette movement and the history of the Arab peoples. The Festival is bigger and better than ever.

I will blog about the London History Festival events in more detail soon – in the meantime you can collect a programme from your local Kensington and Chelsea Library or check out the London History Festival events page on our website.

The London History Festival 2013 – fringe events

John McHugo: A Concise History of the Arabs

John McHugo
John McHugo

Tuesday 15 October, 6.30 to 8pm
Kensington Central Library

Join John McHugo who will talk about his recently published work A Concise History of the Arabs which deals with the political, social and intellectual history of the Arabs from the Roman Empire right up to the present day. He will cover the mission of the Prophet Muhammad, the expansion of Islam, medieval and modern conflicts, the interaction with Western ideas, the struggle to escape foreign domination, the rise of Islamism, and the end of the era of dictators. The book reveals how the Arab world came to have its present form, why change was inevitable and what choices lie ahead following the Arab Spring. This will be followed by a Q and A session.

This event will be hosted by Kensington and Chelsea libraries in partnership with Al Saqi Books and is part of the Nour Festival. Tickets for this event are £5 (£3 concessions) and are on sale at all Kensington and Chelsea libraries and via Librariesline on 020 7361 3010.

Sophie Parkin: The Colony Room: a history of Bohemian Soho 1948 – 2008

Sophie Parkin
Sophie Parkin

Thursday 17 October, 6.30 to 8pm
Kensington Central Library

Sophie Parkin tells the story of the Colony Room which opened in Dean Street in 1948. For sixty years it became a meeting place for some of the most creative minds of modern times in music, theatre, art, literature, comedy and espionage. Sophie has collected tales of high jinks and low tragedy over 50 interviews with the members of one of London’s unique institutions.
Tickets for this event are £5 (£3 concessions) and are on sale at all Kensington and Chelsea libraries and via Librariesline on 020 7361 3010.

Lucinda Hawksley: March, Women, March

Lucinda Hawksley
Lucinda Hawksley

Tuesday 29 October, 6.30 to 8pm
Kensington Central Library

Lucinda Hawksley will be talking about her new book, March, Women, March, which traces the voices of the women’s movement in Britain, from Mary Wollstonecraft in the 18th century through to the “Flapper Election” of 1929, when all adult women were finally permitted to vote. As well as the famous names March, Women, March also recalls the many brilliant campaigners whose names have been forgotten over the years. Come and hear the witty, inspirational and shocking stories of how the vote was won.

Tickets for this event are £5 (£3 concessions) and are on sale at all Kensington and Chelsea libraries and via Librariesline on 020 7361 3010.

Dave Walker
Dave Walker

Dave Walker

Local Studies Librarian, Kensington Central Library

Kensington Central Library – September 2013

Kensington Central Library
Kensington Central Library

Hello to you all from the staff at Kensington Central Library – we hope you’ve had an enjoyable summer. We’ve got that ‘back to school’ feeling with lots of new things happening at our library – from new events to new displays.

Bye bye to the Summer Reading Challenge

It’s been a fantastic summer for the kids at Kensington Central Library – along with our normal regular events for our youngest library members we had a weekly story and craft session on Thursday afternoons to support this year’s Summer Reading Challenge. During the last session – the kids made some great creepy houses out of a tissue paper which they really enjoyed.

We’re really proud of the children who’ve taken part in this year’s Summer Reading Challenge – at the last count over 250 children took part and just over 100 of them completed. That mean’s they read six or more books each – in fact we’ve worked out that over 660 books have been read!

Story and craft sessions
Story and craft sessions

As our story and craft sessions are so popular – we’ll now be having a regular weekly session every Saturday. So if your kids enjoy listening to stories and like to get creative – bring them along on Saturdays at 2pm!

New displays

We’ve got some new and diverse books on display at the moment – right by the library entrance so they’re easy to find:

  • A new series of The Great British Bake Off has recently started on BBC 2 so we have an amazing display of books for  anyone who’s been inspired to bake. (there’s more information about The Great British Bake Off on the BBC website)
  • To carry on the food theme – we’ve a healthy eating book display. We’ve included Jamie Oliver’s latest book which is to do with healthy eating on a budget – just perfect timing for students off to university.
  • We were very sad to hear about the death of Seamus Heaney so it was important for us to pay tribute to this important poet.
  • And finally some more treasures from our biography collection – this time we have some unpleasant characters for you to find out about.

New events

We have two new events programmes that can be collected from the library – events for all ages in September to December and the London History Festival. All of the events are also listed on our news and events page. Here’s a quick summary of what’s happening at Kensington Central Library in the next month or so:

Arthritis Care
Arthritis Care
Arthritis Care talk
Thursday 19 September, 1 to 2pm

Do you suffer with arthritis? Arthritis Care will give a talk on arthritis and pain – why you get pain and how to cope with it. There will also be a chance to ask questions.

Fashion event
Fashion event
Fashion – Press the Fast Forward Button
Tuesday 24 September, 6.30 to 8pm

Are you interested in the fashion industry? Thinking of starting a fashion business as a designer, retailer, importer or exporter? Then don’t miss this opportunity to hear from expert fashion management consultant David Jones and successful designer and entrepreneur Francesca Marcenaro. This session is in partnership with Colin Rutt from Portobello Business Centre.

Business information session
Business information session
Business information: professional resources made available for free from your library
Thursday 26 September, 2 to 4pm at Kensington Central Reference Library

At this session we will guide you through how to use two great business research websites which are available free through your library: Mint UK and also Cobra. Mint UK provides access to a wealth of company information including company data, directors, news and market research. Cobra is a continually updated information resource for anyone who is running a small business or thinking of setting up a business.  Here you will find practical information and advice such as start-up business ideas and profiles, guides to business support in different areas of the UK and much more.

You can book  a FREE place to any of these events at Kensington Central Library in person, by calling 020 7361 3010 or emailing

Jodie Green, Lending Librarian
Jodie Green

Jodie Green

Lending Librarian, Kensington Central Library

The Brompton Blog – November 2012

Brompton Library
Brompton Library

So, it’s our  third blog post and only about a month to go until Christmas now. I’m sure you have all bought and wrapped your presents already…oh you haven’t?

Don’t worry! If you need something to keep the kids quiet while you get on with the festive preparations, come down to Brompton Library where we have a selection of children’s Christmas books that should keep them quiet- hopefully for a few minutes!

The last month has felt progressively busier in the library as students of all ages return or start their studies – it feels like lots and lots of them have joined the library and we’re very happy about that.  They are making good use of the free computer access and wi-fi and hopefully they will be borrowing lots of books too!

At the end of October our new “Saturday Storyland” sessions for under-5s got off to a great start. I was very pleased to see mums and dads sharing the event with their children, listening to the stories, singing along with the rhymes and then playing with the dressing up costumes or drawing and colouring-in. Katie, Babita and Elisabeth, our Senior Customer Services Assistants will share the sessions along with Lisa, our great volunteer, who stays with us until midday to help keep the kids amused and engage with the parents to promote our other children’s events and the library service in general. And, best of all, she tidies up after they’ve all gone!

Samuel Johnson Prize for Non- Fiction- Shortlist
Samuel Johnson Prize for Non- Fiction- Shortlist at Brompton Library

I’m proud to say that, for once, Brompton Library was able to display the entire shortlist, including the winner, of the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2012. It’s the richest non-fiction prize in the UK, worth £20,000 to the winner. As I write, five of the six titles are still on display despite enthusiastic tweeting!

Stephanie Webb

Stephanie Webb, Lending Librarian

Information and Book Displays at Brompton Library

We have lots of  information on display from different organisations, library information, council information and current events such as:

– The Nour Festival of Arts, events are still happening this month
– The London History Festival, events are from 19 to 28 November
– The Winter Season at the Finborough Theatre and The Chelsea Theatre

We also have displays of new library books, recommended books to read and displays of books on different topics which are changed regularly.

New Books on Display at Brompton Library
New Books on Display at Brompton Library

 Pop in to see what we have or check the online library catalogue for new items coming in.

Elisabeth Brown
Elisabeth Brown

Elisabeth Brown, Senior Customer Services Assistant  

Book Break in Kensington and Chelsea

Book Break groups are small friendly shared reading groups provided by the award winning social enterprise, The Reader Organisation  in partnership with Kensington and Chelsea libraries.  The groups meet weekly to share great literature with others, with the odd cup of tea and biscuits too!

Groups read a wide range of short stories, novels, plays and poems.  Recently the groups have read:

  • ‘The old Man and the Sea’ by Ernest Hemmingway
  • ‘Cry the Beloved Country’ by Alan Paton
  • ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne Du Maurier
  • Poems by John Keats, Sheenagh Pugh and Charles Bukowski

There is no pressure to read aloud, some people prefer to listen to others read.  During the session words and thoughts in the story are discussed along with what they mean to us.  Everyone has a chance to respond if they wish to.

Come and join in with one of the many Book Break groups in Kensington and Chelsea:

  • Mondays 2 to 4pm New Horizions (50+ group), Sloane Square, SW3 5EZ
  • Mondays 6.15 to 7.45pm and Thursdays 3 to 5pm, Chelsea Library, Kings Road, SW3 5EZ
  • Tuesdays 10.30am to 12.30pm, Brompton Library, 210 Old Brompton Road, SW5 0BS
  • Wednesdays 10.30am to 12 noon, Kensal Group at St Charles Wellbeing Centre (ground floor entrance), W10 6DZ
  • Wednesdays 3.15 to 5pm, PCT Rooms, 15 Gertrude Street, SW10 0JN
  • Thursdays 1.30 to 3pm, Latymer Centre, 116 Bramley Road, W10 6SU

A warm welcome will be extended to you if you join us.  Please come along! For more information please contact:

Megg  on 077 8689 8814 or

Rosie on 078 0710 6815 or

Lost and Found at Brompton Library!

And as promised last month here is a list of strange items left in the library:

• Baby buggy ( no one missed it, as it was never collected)
• Domestos
• Walking stick ( due to the healing effect of books)
• Comb
• Driving licence
• Toilet plunger and toilet paper
• A bag of dry bread
• Lap top
• Framed old family photographs
• School bags
• Certificate

The London History Festival 2012

London History Festival Cover 2012
London History Festival 2012

 November at the Central Library means the London History Festival now in its fourth year.

We started the Festival in partnership with the literary agency Chalke Authors with the intention of improving our programme of author events. By concentrating on one subject (one of the most popular non-fiction topics) for two weeks we could get more authors and present them not only on their own but talking to each other in panel events. In the first year we covered Women in history (with Alison Weir, Sarah Gristwood and Claire Mulley), Greatest battles and war reporting but also had the time to devote a whole event to a serious academic history of the English Civil War by John Adamson, interviewed by the editor of History Today Paul Lay. History Today magazine has supported the Festival since it started and became a sponsor from the second year.

The success of the first festival enabled us to attract bigger authors to the event. In the second year Anthony Beevor made his first appearance discussing his blockbuster books about the Second World War with Roger Moorhouse another historian familiar with doing research into the war years. They spoke about how the opening up of East German and Russian archives after the fall of the Soviet Union has changed our view of the period.

That year we also had panel events on the always popular subjects of the Tudors and the Victorians.

Sometimes of course things don’t go according to plan. I was particularly keen to have an event on ancient history and we arranged for Tom Holland and Richard Miles to discuss their specialist subjects in Rome and Carthage. Richard Miles was unable to make it so Tom Holland had to carry the whole event supported by Paul Lay. Tom was surprisingly adept at covering both sides of the argument and the event was a success. The one disappointment for me was that I had been told that because Tom started his literary career writing vampire novels (pretty good ones too) he always got a couple of Goths at his events. But no Goths appeared so I was denied the chance to get a quirky photo.

In the third year we collaborated with Waterstone’s Kensington High Street branch and split the individual events between us. The Library presented the big authors. We had local resident Simon Sebag Montefiore talking about his books on Jerusalem and Russia. Max Hastings delivered a completely solo talk on his history of World War Two through the experiences of ordinary soldiers and civilians. Sir Max worked standing up and without an interlocutor, taking over the lecture theatre with his customary confidence. Our final night featured award winning biographer Claire Tomalin talking about her new biography of Charles Dickens. This was probably the most popular event the Festival has seen so far.

We think of the Festival as a way of giving something extra to our regular readers and as a way of bringing new users to the library. At a time when the publishing industry is changing due to the introduction of e-reading, and when many people get their books from online retailers, events like the Festival bring readers and writers together in an actual rather than virtual place. People can see, hear and talk to authors, which is good for writers, readers, publishers and librarians.

London History Festival cover 2011

Next week I’ll tell you what I’m looking forward to in this year’s London History Festival.

Tickets for this year’s Festival are available from all our Libraries and by phone from LibrariesLine (020 7361 3010). For further details see also the What’s on page on the Council website and the Libraries Facebook page.

Dave Walker
Dave Walker

by Dave Walker