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!


Stay Well This Winter!

Winter Wellness
Winter Wellness

We have blogged in the past about the ways that libraries are good for your health and wellbeing: increasing social and community cohesion with events and book groups, improving literacy and life skills, providing information about CV sessions, interview skills, job opportunities, housing issues and helping with digital inclusion with free online access through PCs and wifi, adult learning, children’s book sharing and of course a wide range of regular health sessions, talks and stalls for all ages – all these aspects of library life are good for our health.

We rely on close partnership work with the NHS to guide us so that we can keep you informed as to priorities in healthy lifestyle behaviours. At the moment Public Health England and more specifically our CCG, West London Clinical Commissioning Group, are urging us to ‘Stay Well This Winter’.

Here are the answers to some questions you may have about one aspect of ‘Stay Well this Winter’ – the flu vaccine:

Stay Well This Winter  – the Flu Vaccine

The NHS has been encouraging everyone to Stay Well This Winter by taking a number of steps to minimise the risk of falling unwell during the colder months – you might have seen posters and information displayed in libraries throughout Kensington and Chelsea. There are also videos to raise awareness:

Importantly, free flu vaccines are available to a number of groups of people including older people aged over 65, children aged 2-4 and in school years one and two, pregnant women, people with long-term health conditions and carers. Most GPs and pharmacies will be providing free flu vaccines until the end of January or February so it is still not too late if you, a friend or a family member has not yet had yours. If you are eligible for a free flu vaccine your GP will be able to organise one for you, so it’s worth asking about.

To help understand why getting the flu vaccine is important we spoke to Dr Sarah Wallace, Public Health Registrar:

Why do we worry so much about preventing flu?

Flu is a strange illness.  People so often confuse it with a cold, but in reality they are very different.  Most of those who have had flu need no convincing to have the flu jab. You can be ill for up to a week, and it isn’t just the sniffles, shivering and sore throat that you have with your average cold. People will generally be in bed with high fevers, muscle aches, profound tiredness and other symptoms and will be completely unable to complete their normal daily activities.  This means time off work or school – it may be up to seven days before you feel better.

We particularly worry about certain groups of people getting the flu, who for various reasons have an immune system which can’t fight the flu as well as others can. These people include those aged 65 and over, people with other long-term medical conditions (such as asthma, heart disease and many others), pregnant women and young babies. Because these people may have a weaker immune system they are more likely to end up in hospital as a result of the flu, with complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis or rarely meningitis.  Sometimes flu can have incredibly severe consequences and Public Health England estimates that around 8,000 people die of flu every year in England and Wales.

Will having the vaccine guarantee that you won’t get flu?

The flu is a virus which is constantly changing and there are many strains; however each year the most common flu strains are different, and so the vaccine changes yearly.  Although the vaccination can’t stop all flu viruses, and it is not a 100% guarantee that you’ll be flu-free,if you do get flu after having the vaccination it’s likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would otherwise have been.  There is also evidence to suggest that the flu jab can reduce your risk of having a stroke.

Can you get flu by having the flu vaccine?

There are lots of myths about the flu vaccine.  Contrary to many people’s belief the flu vaccination will not give you the flu.  Some people feel a bit tired and achy, but this is simply your immune system working.

How can you get a free flu vaccine if you think we might be eligible?

Free flu vaccines are for these eligible groups are available until the end of January; not only from GPs but in London many pharmacies are also providing the flu vaccination for adults, which may be more convenient for some.

What if a child doesn’t like injections – can they still be protected against the flu?

The flu vaccine for children is particularly easy – it is just a simple and painless nasal spray.  There have been many people asking why they should vaccinate their healthy child against the flu.  It not only helps to reduce the likelihood of them getting sick, but also helps to stop them spreading the flu to others in the community particularly people who are vulnerable.  Flu is generally spread in the community by children.  They might be visiting elderly or sick relatives over the holidays, or those with young brothers or sisters. 2015 is the first year that children in school years one and two across the country are included in the programme.

Why is it important people in Kensington and Chelsea receive the flu vaccine?

Unfortunately we know that historically in Kensington and Chelsea flu vaccination uptake has been low, below the London average.  I urge those who are eligible for a flu vaccination to make an appointment with your GP today, or if you are over 18 visit your local pharmacy.  More information on how to Stay Well This Winter can be found at  The flu vaccination will be available at most GPs and pharmacies until the end of January or February, please don’t put it off.

Your local library and children’s libraries will have hard copy Stay Well this Winter and Flu Vaccination leaflets.

[Dr Sarah Wallace, Public Health Registrar;
Kate Gielgud, Health Information Coordinator]

Kensington Central Library – January 2013

Kensington Central Library in winter
Kensington Central Library

Welcome to our first blog post of 2013 and let me wish Happy New Year to you from all the staff at Kensington Central Library.

I’m aware that our last post didn’t contain anything from our reference library so this month we have two members of the reference team introducing themselves and telling us a little more about what they do. First up is Colin Clare who tells us about the borough’s A to Z Director, followed by Nina Risoli who tells us about her job as a reference librarian.

Make the most of your local community – the RBKC A to Z Directory

I work in our reference libraries at Kensington Central and Chelsea libraries. I am part of a small team that maintains and update all the entries in the  borough’s A to Z directory.  

Need to find a local doctor or dentist or perhaps find out about your local leisure centre, Councillor or school? Well you can, by logging onto the local information database for the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea,  and look for the A to Z Directory. This is a valuable source of information containing details about clubs, organisations and Council services as well as charities, youth organisations, voluntary organisations, sports clubs and much more.

It is the definitive source that will enable you to get the most out of living in the Kensington & Chelsea area and to find instant details about your community. The database receives over 65,000 visits each month making it one of the most popular sections of the website.

If you would your organisation added to this database please email us at

Colin Clare
Colin Clare

Colin Clare

 Triborough Reference Senior Customer Services Assistant

Kensington Reference Library

What does a reference librarian do?

When they hear I work as a librarian people often say to me: “How lovely, you must read a lot at work!”, and I try to explain that reading is not really a major part of my working day.

I am a reference librarian in Kensington Central Reference library and my main duties include answering enquiries from visitors to the library and those that arrive via post, email or telephone. This is the interesting part of my job as people come with a huge variety of questions and requests. I am also responsible for managing stock, making sure we have the right books on the shelves, that they are in good condition, in date and relevant to our users. I also spend a lot of time promoting library services and our online resources, as well as training staff and public to use these resources – I’ve  recently written for the blog about some of our online resources. I also organise tours of the library and events to promote special collections such as Chelsea’s fashion and costume collection for library staff, students and visitors.

Although in truth there is rarely time to do any reading at work, I do love my job for the variety it offers and the opportunity to learn something new each day.  

Nina Risoli
Nina Risoli

Nina Risoli

Triborough Reference Librarian

Kensington Reference Library

Hollywood glamour in the library

This month the books we have on display from our biography collection are stars from Hollywood.

Hollwood stars on display
Hollywood stars on display
More Hollywood stars on display
More Hollywood stars on display

If you’re interested to see more of our biography collection then book a place on one of our tours. They are on the following days and times:

  • Tuesday 15 January, 2 to 3pm
  • Thursday 17 January, 6.30 to 7.30pm
  • Friday 18 January, 2 to 3pm

To book a place please call 020 7361 3010.

More information about these tours and our other upcoming events can be found on our website.

How to make a robin out of paper plates

We were very lucky to have a local story teller, Laura Collins come to the children’s library on 2 January. She told a group of children the story how the robin got his red breast – the children really enjoyed this tale. They enjoyed too making their very own robins out of two paper plates with a red breast out of tissue paper!

Me and my colleague, Gemma Baker  made a robin each to show the children what to do. The ones the children made were much better!

Paper plate robins!
Paper plate robins!

We have story and craft sessions during every school holiday – look out for posters in the children’s library for the next session and on our website.

Jodie Green, Lending Librarian
Jodie Green

Jodie Green

Lending Librarian

Kensington Central Library

The Brompton Blog – December 2012

Brompton Library
Brompton Library

Welcome to our fourth blog post from Brompton Library!

Reading Aloud


A Little Loud book cover
A Little Loud

On Sunday I was preparing supper and listening to Radio 4. This group of Irish poets were reading out their poetry and discussing it amongst themselves. It immediately brought me into their environment, their history and above all, their imagination. I do hope that our display does offer something a little bit different to our reader’s here at Brompton Library.

Katie Collis
Katie Collis

Katie Collis

Senior Customer Services Assistant

Christmas plans at Brompton Library

With only a few days till Christmas you would think that the amount of people using the service would be reducing, but our lovely library is still full of users borrowing books for the Christmas holiday period (including Christmas themed cookbooks, fiction and audio books to curl up with on the cold winter evenings, Christmas themed children’s books and our selection of festive audio CDs and DVDs for all the family). There are also lots of people making use of our computer and study area, completing end of term coursework assignments, booking flights, and exchanging seasonal greetings with friends and family members via social networking sites and email.

So we will be running a full service until Christmas Eve when we will close for three days and open again the day after Boxing Day (27 December).

Brompton Chatterbooks


 Chatterbooks is a very popular reading group for children in Brompton Library. It is fun and free. The group focuses on reading and talking about books, but some sessions include word games, quizzes, plays or other book related activities. The children love reading and it is an ideal opportunity for them to enjoy books. The group meets once a month after school on Mondays. There are eight regular members of the group. There is generally a theme for each month. This month the group met on 17 December and the theme was Christmas.

Chatterbooks is an ideal way to promote a love of reading. Sessions are designed to give children confidence in speaking, writing and reading in a group, choosing books for themselves, and talking about what they like to read. It is fabulous to hear them enthusing over their reading and recommending books to other children.


Bitter Truths – Author Event

Bitter Truths author event at Brompton
Bitter Truths author event at Brompton

On a bitterly cold evening on 29 November Brompton hosted its first author event (in my living memory, anyway!). One of our reading group members has published her first trilogy of novels, collectively called the Samurai Revival, and gave a very professional presentation relating to the first in the series – Bitter Truths.

We had an audience of ten who were very appreciative and I think for our first venture into author events which was great.

Stephanie Webb
Stephanie Webb

Stephanie Webb

Lending Librarian

Christmas in London For Kids

This is a guest blog post from Kensington Mums – they’ve put together a list of some fantastic things you can do with your kids in London this festive season. Many thanks to them! They’ll be blogging for us again in the New Year – all about themselves and how they use our libraries.

A quick reminder about the free Christmas children’s activities we have in our libraries:

  • Making Christmas Cards and Tree Decorations, Thursday 13 December, 3 to 5pm at Chelsea Children’s Library.
  • Christmas Crafts, Thursday 20th December, 3.45 to 5pm at Brompton Library.
  • Winter Story Telling, Tuesday 2 January, 2 to 3pm at Kensington Central Children’s Library.

What’s on this Christmas for you and your little ones

 If you are staying in the capital this Christmas, you will find loads of things to keep little and older ones entertained and happy this festive season. Just wrap up warm and enjoy the fun! Here is a run down on what’s on. Wishing you all a lovely Christmas and a prosperous New Year!

Keep Calm logo

Christmas with the animals!

Meet Santa and London’s reindeer herd at London Zoo.
Running until 24 Dec 2012. Come and visit Santa at his winter lodge, a custom-designed grotto built in the fairytale setting of London Zoo’s memorial gardens –and also visit London’s very own reindeer herd! Suitable for children 10 years and under.
Visit the London Zoo website for more information.

Christmas festive fun at Battersea Park Children’s Zoo.
More information click to download a PDF of the event.

Meet Father Christmas!

Santa’s Grotto at the Duke of York Square, SW3. 23 December 2012. FREE

Meet Santa at Whole Foods Kensington
The grotto is open Saturdays 11am to 7pm and Sundays 10am to 6pm. There are only six family slots per hour so book early!
Email for more information.

Ice Skating!

Ice Skating
Ice Skating

If you and your kids fancy ice skating- there are lots of rinks in the capital for Christmas:

  • Westfield London (Shepherds Bush) and  Westfield Stratford City both have ice rinks and Santa’s Grotto.
  • Hampton Court Palace ice rink opens Saturday 1 December 2012 – until Sunday 13 January 2013. Great for a festive family gathering.
  • Skate at Somerset House. Celebrate the festive season in style at London’s most glamorous ice rink.
  • Natural History Museum’s Ice Rink is now open. Embrace winter in their 950-square-metre ice rink.
  • The Tower of London Ice Rink. London’s most dramatic open-air ice rink returns to this spectacular setting. Located in the moat, the ice rink is set against the magnificent fortress battlements!
  • Head to Canary Wharf  for their ice rink and during the festive season. They also have free festive activities for kids all weekends in December and Christmas Eve throughout Canary Wharf’s malls including art and craft workshops, festive face painting and a magical treasure hunt.  There’s also Santa’s Grotto.

Christmas in the Museums!

Winter Wonderland workshops at the National Gallery,
Friday 14 December. For more information visit the National Gallery website.

Horrible Histories Christmas Special at the National Portrait Gallery,
Saturday  15 December. Come and celebrate the festive season in Tudor style. Pop into the theatre to meet cast members from Horrible Histories – Barmy Britain and find out all about Tudor life.  For more information visit the Horrible Histories – Barmy Britain website.

Christmas workshops at Lauderdale House,
Saturdays 15, 18 20 and 21 December. Booking essential.
Visit the Lauderdale House website for more information.

Mirror Mirror’s Christmas Magic Lantern Show at the Museum of Childhood,
Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 December 2012. Join Victorian sisters Anna and Bea for their annual family magic lantern show – an atmospheric tale of mystery and adventure!
More information visit the Museum of Childhood website.

Jigsaw Japes at Bank of England Museum,
17  to 21, 24, 27, 28 and 31 December and 2 to 4 January.
Children of all ages can draw their favourite Museum object on a pre-cut jigsaw to take home. More information visit the Jigsaw Jape and the Bank of England website.

Santa vs. the Snowman 3D (U) at the IMAX, Science Museum.
Showing every weekend in December. For only £5 your little one will enjoy watching duck snowballs, elves and jet-propelled reindeers as Santa takes on a lonely snowman who wants nothing more than to take over Christmas and become the world’s most beloved festive character. For more information visit the Science Museum website.

Kids’ Zone at the National Army Museum.
Kids Zone is great for children aged 0-8 with forest and arctic themed climbing frames for kids to scale, slide and run through. There is also a soft play area for babies, toys, and arts and crafts. For only £2.50 per child this is a great way for little ones to let off some steam. Please note the Museum is not open on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Adults are FREE. For more information visit the National Army Museum website.

Christmas Crafts and Seasonal Stories at Museum of Childhood,
Saturdays 15, 22 December, Sundays 16, 23 December. Thursday 27 December to Sunday 6 January Excluding New Years Day 10.30am to 4pm. FREE Find out how families celebrated Christmas 100 years ago! Enjoy a creative re-telling of The Nutcracker and create seasonal crackers, baubles, retro decorations and cards with help from the Retired and Senior Service Volunteers. For more information visit the Museum of Childhood website.

Festive Performance at Victoria and Albert Museum,
Saturday 29 December 2012 to Sunday 6 January 2013. Watch the dance of ‘The Nutcracker’ on weekends or see a fun gallery play during the week.  Create imaginative Victorian Christmas decorations. Suitable for ages 4+. For more information visit the Victoria and Albert Museum website.

Christmas Storytime at the Museum of London Docklands,
Thursday 27 December, 10.30 to 11am, 11.30am to 12 noon and 2 to 2.30pm. FREE.  Enjoy a festive story together, told using puppets, museum objects and music – then come and play in the Mudlarks children’s gallery if you have energy to spare! For more information visit the Museum of London Docklands website.

And the rest….!

Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park
Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.
This is probably one of my favourite winter events. It is absolutely wonderful, its got everything from roller coaster rides, circus, Santa’s land, Magical Ice Kingdom to name just a few and one of the best Christmas markets I have been to. This year’s ice ring is Ice Age 4. Just make sure you wrap up warm! Winter Wonderland is free to enter. However you will need to buy tickets for the attractions & rides. For more information visit the Winter Wonderland website.

Christmas at Kensington Palace,
1 to 23 December 2012. Prepare to be spellbound as Kensington Palace is transformed into a unique palace-sized Advent Calendar this December. For more information visit the Kensington Palace website.

LEGO’s countdown to Christmas with the LEGO advent calendar.
This is really impressive work. Head to South Hall of Covent Garden at 4 pm every day until Christmas to witness a special guest opening a door of the giant LEGO advent calendar.  While you are there, don’t forget to Meet a real life Rudolph every Saturday at Covent Garden Piazza from 12pm to 4pm. Kids will love to hand-feed and pet them.

London New Year’s Day Parade
This will be taking place on the 1st January 2013. The Parade starts at 11.45am on Piccadilly at the junction with Berkeley Street outside the Ritz Hotel and finishes around 3pm at Parliament Street. For more information visit the New Year’s Day Parade website.

Kensington Mums Christmas

To be kept in the loop with the local scoop with the latest in children activities, playgroup and family outings, join Kensington Mums where you get free updates with what’s on for you and your little one(s). You are welcome to connect with other Mums to share your tips and recommendation and capture all those invaluable word of mouth recommendations.  It’s a fantastic support network! Kensington Mums also organises Mummy and baby outings as well as Mums Night out and pamper events! Visit The Kensington Mums website for more information.

Winter Kimonos

The books on Japanese costume in Chelsea Reference Library’s costume collection have caught our eye this week.  Although the early 20th Century saw the decline of the kimono as the everyday attire of Japanese people, we have discovered that this beautiful garment continues to inspire and influence Japanese culture and modern fashion around the world.  And as the nights get longer and colder, we have been looking at the kimono in winter. 

Traditionally, the choice of kimono reflects the season not only in how they are made, but also by the patterns that adorn them.  We were fascinated to learn about the many levels of significance that the motifs used on kimonos hold.  The natural world is the source of many motifs and symbols, many of which have a seasonal significance.  There is a Japanese belief in the figurative and also literal power of images, which makes the pattern and colour of a kimono very important for its wearer.  Winter kimono patterns include bamboo, pine trees and plum blossoms because they signify wealth and luck for the New Year.  The plum blossom in particular is popular for suggesting that it will be Spring soon.   Here are two amazing patterns depicting some of these things that we found in a book filled with images of patterns used on kimonos, called Kimono & the Colours of Japan.

Kimono Patterns
Kimono Patterns

 And here are two motifs depicting wintery scenes:

More Kimono Patterns
More Kimono Patterns
Yet More Kimono Patterns
Yet More Kimono Patterns

In winter time extra layers and heavier fabrics are used to keep warm, and cotton padding is added between each layer.  Here are some images we found in Kimonos by Sophie Milenovich of kimonos worn in the winter. Milenovich’s book focuses on how kimonos are worn in the present day.  The shape of kimonos has not changed over time, unlike some other things:

Wearing a Kimono at the Airport
Wearing a Kimono at the Airport
Clashing Kimono Patterns
Clashing Kimono Patterns

We were interested to find out about how much Kimono patterns have in the past reflected the social conditions of the time.  Wintery scenes can be a mark of a time of austerity, as with this photographed in Japanese Costume: and the Makers of Its Elegant Tradition by Helen Benton Minnich.  This kimono depicts grasses covered in snow, and was made in a time of Kimono austerity in the Kyoho era under the eighth Tokugawa shogun (1716-36):

Black and White Kimono
Black and White Kimono

As we read more, we discovered different examples of how kimonos reflect a culture based on ideas very different from those of Western culture.  In Beauties of the Four Seasons by Mitsuko Watanabe, we found out about how the clothes worn by women were not made to emphasise the shape of their bodies, as is the emphasis in the West, belying a very different relationship between clothes and their wearer.  In Japanese woodblock prints, beautiful women were not depicted for their bodies, such as can be found in Western art, but for the gorgeous kimonos that they wore.  Here is a print by Kitagawa Utamoro (c.1753-1806), The courtesan Madoka of the Tamaya-nai in which Madoka is wearing a winter kimono with lots of layers and padding:

The Courtesan Madoka of the Tamaya-nai
The Courtesan Madoka of the Tamaya-nai

During the Meiji period (1868-1912), Japan started to be influenced by foreign cultures and the Japanese government encouraged people to adopt Western style of clothing.  So today the kimono is worn mostly for special occasions, but it continues to influence fashion design and is deeply rooted in a Japanese aesthetic.  Here is something we found in Making Things by Issey Miyake, who’s designs are heavily influenced by the kimono:

Kimono by Issey Miyake
Kimono by Issey Miyake

And here is an image of the fashion designer Kenzo Takada that we found in Kenzo by Ginette Sainderichin about the amazing clothing brand that he founded:

Kenzo Takada
Kenzo Takada

Gillian Nunns,  Tri- Borough Reference Librarian

Chelsea Reference Library

Gillian Nunns, Reference Librarian
Gillian Nunns