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

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Free Comic Book Day on Saturday 6 May 2017

Pop in to your local Kensington and Chelsea library on Saturday 6 May for Free Comic Book Day!

Free Comic Book Day is an international celebration of all things comics – taking place on the first Saturday in May, it is a day where new titles are released, and comic shops giveaway free issues – we are also taking part, courtesy of the grand folks at Forbidden Planet who are providing the comics.

Free Comic Book Day is perfect for both hard-core collector fans and those whose interest has been piqued for the first time.

Enthusiasts of the comic book / graphic novel form will tell of the inventive artwork to stun and amaze – the array of characters, from superhero to regular Joe. The different universes on offer and running plot lines that will be hard to forget.

Explore all this and more at one of our libraries, please ask staff for your free comic book. We have three titles to give out, while stocks last – head on in before missing out.

Discover characters including Wonder Woman, DC superhero girls plus look out for the Forbidden Planet exclusive variant of the Doctor Who title too, featuring the Doctor with new assistant, Bill.

Why not check out the graphic novel selection or the DVDs available while you are there and see what else your local Kensington and Chelsea library has to offer?

[Matthew]

Christmas overload already?

Escape the tinsel, mince pies and mulled wine madness with a good book- tell the family you’re off to wrap some presents, disappear into the spare room with a cup of tea (or g&t) for a couple of hours, and let them get on with Christmas  while you lose yourself in a bit of reading…

Yes, we have got the odd Christmas Romance

 

And some familiar faces

 

But if you want to get away from the whole yuletide thing, try something different

 

Or how about learning a few words of Japanese, Greek or Italian to wow everyone over the turkey?

 

We’ve got plenty of eBooks if that’s your thing!

ebooksxmas

 

Classics are always a comfort in times of stress

 

And if all else fails –

You can always go it alone

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

New books for August

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Girl on the Train

YOU DON’T KNOW HER. BUT SHE KNOWS YOU.

Rear Window meets Gone Girl, in this exceptional and startling psychological thriller
Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same s even started to feel like she she calls them. Their
life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on,
but it’s enough.
Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives
she’s only watched from afar.
Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train … Continue reading “New books for August”

Brompton Library Graphic Novel Reading Group

Hello and welcome to the Brompton Library Graphic Novel Reading Group. We talk about comics, graphic novels, web-comics and pop culture.

For August’s session (Thursday 4th, 6pm), we will be discussing cult classic ‘GHOST WORLD’ by Daniel Clowes. The book was made into a film featuring Scarlett Johansson, Thora Birch and Steve Buscemi in 2001. Continue reading “Brompton Library Graphic Novel Reading Group”

Brompton Library Graphic Novel Reading Group – July

For July’s session (Thursday 7th, 6pm), we will be discussing the graphic novel behemoth that is ‘WATCHMEN’ by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons:

WatchmenGN

“In an alternate world where the mere presence of American superheroes changed history, the US won the Vietnam War, Nixon is still president, and the cold war is in full effect. ”

Watchmen begins as a murder-mystery, but soon unfolds into a planet-altering conspiracy.

In the mid-eighties, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons created Watchmen, changing the course of comic history and essentially remaking how popular culture perceived the genre. Popularly cited as the point where comics came of age, Watchmen’s sophisticated take on superheroes has been universally acclaimed for its psychological depth and realism.”

If you have any other suggestions for the reading list then please let me know and we’ll try our best to accommodate.

So far we have the following for consideration:

  • Ghost World
  • Transmetropolitan
  • Sandman
  • 20th century Boys
  • Promethia
  • Fight Club
  • Swamp Thing
  • Democracy
  • Trees
  • Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • Miracleman
  • Hip Hop Family Tree
  • Pride of Baghdad
  • The Bad Doctor
  • Y: The Last Man

The reading group takes place on the first Thursday evening of every month.

See you there! Bring snacks!

David Bushell
Customer Services Assistant
Brompton Library

Calling all comic fans!

Save the date – Saturday 7 May is free Comic Book Day! And libraries are taking part, courtesy of the lovely folks at Forbidden Planet who are providing the comics to us.

FCDRBKC

Across North America and around the world, comic shops will be giving away free comics.

Free Comic Book Day is the perfect occasion for newcomers to comics as well as those who have been reading them for years to celebrate comics and discover new titles that debut on the first Saturday in May,” said Free Comic Book Day spokesperson Dan Manser.

You can collect yours from your local library! Why not check out their graphic novel collections while you are there and see what else your library has to offer.

There is a Dr Who title, a Superhero Girls title and selected libraries will also have Suicide Squad (suitable for teens and over only).

Look for the posters in participating libraries, or see the list below. One title per customer, while stocks last.

Kensington Central, Notting Hill Gate, Kensal, Brompton, North Kensington

 

Agatha Christie’s 125th anniversary

Malcolm Batten, Librarian, writes:

Outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare, Agatha Christie (15.9.1890 – 12.1.1976) is the best-selling novelist of all time. She is best known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections, as well as the world’s longest-running play – The Mousetrap.

Death on the Nile, by Agatha ChristieDescribed as the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie was born in Torquay, Devon in September 1890. Educated at home, she taught herself to read and was soon writing poems and short stories.

It was during the First World War that Agatha turned to writing detective stories. Her debut novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles took some time to finish and even longer to find a publisher. She started writing partly in response to a bet from her sister Madge that she couldn’t write a good detective story and partly to relieve the monotony of the dispensing work which she was now doing.

It was not until 1919 that a publisher, John Lane of The Bodley Head (the fourth to have received the manuscript) accepted The Mysterious Affair at Styles for publication and contracted Agatha to produce five more books. She chose a Belgian refugee detective, Hercule Poirot as her sleuth – Belgian refugees were a common feature in England during the war.

Subsequent books introduced new characters – Tommy and Tuppence and Miss Marple who were to feature in many further titles.

Witness for the prosecution, by Agatha ChristieRecommended reading from RBKC library staff:

Susie:

“I choose the play ‘Witness for the prosecution’. I think Sir Wilfred is one of the wittiest characters she has written and I love the ending.”

Kate:

The mirror crack'd from side to side, by Agatha Christie“I like ‘The mirror crack’d from side to side’ – it was the first Agatha Christie I ever read aged 11 or maybe even younger and I was hooked from the start. I then went on to ‘Sparkling cyanide’. I just love her characters, the ‘bad boy’ who must have done it because he is mad, bad and dangerous to know – talking of which, I think perhaps my all time favourite is ‘Taken at the Flood’ a truly wicked plot.”

Maarya:

AC_brownsuit“I discovered Agatha Christie shortly after my twelfth birthday and read every title available in my local library. Hercules Poirot was my favourite detective – of course! Tommy and Tuppence were fun, and Miss Marple had her moments, but Poirot was, and remains, the quintessential eccentric/ genius detective. An honorary mention must go to the glamorous and fun thriller, ‘The Man in the Brown Suit‘ (with a really great female lead!)”

Christie’s first marriage ended in divorce in 1928. She travelled to the archaeological site of Ur where the following year she met Max Mallowan who was to become her second husband. Several books were influenced by their travels in the Middle East such as Death on the Nile and They came to Baghdad.

From 1928 Agatha also wrote non-crime novels under the pen name of Mary Westmacott. She continued writing through the war and post-war period, although now there was much time-consuming work with theatrical productions which limited the time Agatha could devote to writing.

Agatha Christie writing as Mary Westmacott

On 3rd December 1926 Agatha Christie’s life featured a real life mystery when she left her home alone. Her car was found abandoned the next morning several miles away. A nationwide search ensued. The press and public enjoyed various speculations as to what might have happened and why but no one knew for sure. It eventually transpired that Agatha had somehow travelled to Kings Cross station where she took the train to Harrogate and checked into the Harrogate Spa Hotel under the name of Theresa Neale, previously of South Africa. She was eventually recognised by the hotel staff on 14th December, who alerted the police. She did not recognise her husband when he came to meet her. Possibly concussed but certainly suffering from amnesia, Agatha had no recollection of who she was. An intensely private person, made even more so by the hue and cry of the press, Agatha never spoke of this time with friends or family.

Agatha Christie died in January 1976 and is buried in the churchyard of St. Mary’s Cholsey, near Wallingford.

Find Agatha Christie books in your library by checking our new reading list.

Fashion for the People: a history of clothing at Marks & Spencer

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.

From the archives
From the archives

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.

 

Picture from M&S Magazine, Christmas 1932 Womenswear advert with three women and two young girls
M&S Magazine, Christmas 1932 Womenswear advert © M&S Company Archive
M&S Fashion advertorial with a series of women in M&S clothes
M&S colour supplement in ‘Woman’ magazine, May 1958

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.

M&S Fashion 4
A Marks and Spencer’s window display of St Michael Terylene skirts, Swansea store, 1957, taken from Fashion for the People, by Rachel Worth

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.

M&S hosiery advert
Lycra hosiery, The M&S Magazine, Autumn/Winter 1988, taken from Fashion for the People by Rachel Worth

 

M&S Fashion 6
St Michael News, July 1953 taken from Fashion for the People by Rachel Worth

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.

Picture of a large window display unit with knitwear suspended from the top
Window display of St Michael Orlon knitwear, 1950s

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:

Ambassador Magazine, 1967 taken from Fashion for the People by Rachel Worth
Ambassador Magazine, 1967 taken from Fashion for the People by Rachel Worth

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:

Vogue, July 1996
Vogue, July 1996


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.

Chris Riddell Display at Brompton 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.

Beautiful and intricate drawings from Riddell
Beautiful and intricate drawings from Riddell

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.

Our tribute to Chris Riddell
Our tribute to Chris Riddell

You can find more titles by Chris Riddell on the library catalogue.