Christmas and New Year library opening hours

All libraries will close at their usual time on Saturday 24 December 2022 and reopen on Wednesday 28 December 2022.

red snowflake on white background

All libraries will close at their usual time on Saturday 31 December 2022 for Hogmanay and reopen on Wednesday 4 January 2023.

Don’t forget, you can download ebooks, audiobooks, magazines and newspapers throughout the holidays from Your Library.

Very best wishes to all for a lovely festive season.

Mythic heroes of the Irish – December exhibition in the Art and Design Library

The December exhibition in the Art and Design Library is a tribute to some of the people who inspire the Irish according to Scottish-based Irish artist, Greag Mac a’ tSaoir. “Mythic Heroes of the Irish” is a series of 14 oil-painted portraits of such luminaries as Elvis, John F. Kennedy and Sinead O’Connor. Greag’s pantheon is a broad church, and the subjects might raise some eye-brows! 

Here is how Greag himself describes the exhibition:

“The starting point for these paintings was a previous body of work that dealt with memory and loss. I looked at a lot of photographs of Irish homes in the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and noticed that these often featured pictures of cultural icons. That got me thinking about how people choose their heroes because many of the icons weren’t straightforwardly heroic. They were often flawed characters, and even failures. For me a hero, at least in the Irish sense, is someone who has succeeded against the odds, or failed. It’s the journey, not the destination.  This group of 14 paintings is an extract from a continuing project.”

Here is a little taster of the works, with the artist’s own descriptions:

Edna O’Brien

Edna O’Brien wrote unabashedly from a young woman’s perspective at a time when Ireland was still in the chokehold of conservative political forces and the Catholic church. She was banned in her own country, the ultimate accolade to the prophet she undoubtedly was. She held her nerve and kept writing stunning works which still have a rare emotive force. A visionary and a hero.

Edna O’Brien by Greag Mac a’ tSaoir

George Best

George Best was good looking, stylish and a supremely talented footballer but he blew it all, drinking his way through two liver transplants and fizzling out before he got old. Deep down, quietly and in secret many of us probably acknowledge that we would have done exactly the same. He has an airport in Belfast named after him though.

George Best by Greag Mac a’ tSaoir

Samuel Beckett

If the possibility of failure is central to the notion of heroism, then Samuel Beckett is John the Baptist preaching its gospel in the wilderness. ‘Fail again, fail better’ is the mantra of the existentialist hero. That craggy demeanour and ineffable cool make him a perfect subject too.

Samuel Beckett by Greag Mac a’ tSaoir

The exhibition runs throughout December, in the Art and Design Library, finishing on New Year’s Eve. We hope to see you there!

War through children’s eyes – photo exhibition

Central Library is proud to be hosting a photo exhibition presenting children’s photos of the aftermath of the war in Ukraine. The images were taken with disposable film cameras and capture their everyday lives.

Image from the ‘War through children’s eyes’ photo exhibition

At the end of February 2022, two young Brand Managers from Kyiv – Dmytro Zubkov and Artem Skorokhodko – found themselves sheltering from Russian bombs in the basement of their newly opened pizzeria. Surrounded by strangers, also looking for refuge, two dogs and some friends, they decided to turn their restaurant into a charity kitchen for those in need. Their premises quickly turned into a full-blown volunteer centre and the reach of their help has spread to the nearby villages.

Having befriended local children from recently liberated villages, the idea for a photo project, later called Behind Blue Eyes, came naturally – alongside toys and colouring books, local kids were offered disposable cameras, which they were free to use, as they please, to capture their everyday lives and show the rest of the world what growing up during wartime is like. The portraits of friends and pictures of flowers and pets comfortably coexist with images of destroyed houses, burnt military equipment and rocket shells. Each of the shots, at times illuminated or defocused, tells a story. Artem explains:

“It seems that when you look at these photos, you understand that children perceive everything differently. There is no tragedy there, they cope with it. It forces me to rethink my vision and attitude toward some things. It is what I would exactly like to transmit.”

Image from the ‘War through children’s eyes’ photo exhibition

This exhibition includes the works by nine children from Lukashivka, a village near the city of Chernihiv, which survived World War II, but was all but destroyed in 2022 as a result of Russian occupation. The photos present children’s untouched candid accounts of life after liberation.

Councillor Amy McNeese-Mechan says,

“I am so thrilled that Edinburgh’s fantastic library service have been able to play host to the exhibition of photographs taken by Ukrainian children, entitled ‘War Through the Eyes of Children’. I would encourage everyone to come and see this free show.

Although it is a difficult subject and some of the children’s own comments and observations are truly heartbreaking, what emerges from it is a sense of the resilience of these young people and of the universal nature of childhood – with concerns, dreams and wishes revolving around favourite pets, their siblings, playing with friends, and the annoyance of having school homework and chores around the house!”

This must-see exhibition is available to view at Central Library until Friday 16 December.

Beautiful game and beautiful music

The World Cup, beautiful music, dangerous defenders and recreational drumming – all the meanderings of a lapsed football fan.

It had been a long time since I have watched a football match. The opportunity arose on Saturday 22 October, for me to take myself to the newly refurbished Meadowbank Stadium and watch the mighty F.C. Edinburgh take on the pride of Lanarkshire, Airdrieonians. This is not a football report but to explain why my mind wandered away from football, to music to film and video and prawns. I should explain that the result, despite Airdrieonians equalising in the 47th minute, wasn’t a game that Edinburgh ever looked like they were going to lose. Another reason for shutting down and meandering through the back corridors of this old head, was the accompanying drumming. That, and the predictable goings-on on the pitch meant my mind wandered (a lot).

In the olden days, I used to attend Meadowbank to watch football in an amiable silence marred only by an off or on the ball incident which elicited some response from the crowd. When I say crowd, I mean the few hundred diehards who frequented the stadium of a Saturday afternoon.

Back to the F.C. Edinburgh v Airdrieonians and my meanderings. Like flicking through channels on the TV with a remote control, I move back and forward through years of stored rubbish in my head. Whilst the young footballers attempted to gain the upper hand on their opponents and the young drummers recreate the word Ed-in-burggghhhhh. I stop off at a point many years ago…

Bill Boaden / Concert at the Meadowbank Stadium

For a time, I was a member of the Edinburgh Cine and Video Club. For one Halloween night, many Halloween nights ago, the members were charged with the task of producing a film/video of things that scared us. I had collected a lot of video clips to cut together a kind of ‘pop’ video of scary things  such as heights and prawns, and scariest of all, Dave McPherson scoring an own goal in the 1993 Rangers v Hibernian Scottish League Cup Final at Hampden – a low diving header into the corner of his own net. At the other end of the park this would have been a stunning goal. Thankfully for Mr McPherson, his team scored two goals to cancel out his error. All of this and more were set to the soundtrack of a hauntingly beautiful work by the 17th century Italian composer Lotti, his Crucifixus a8. It was maybe a bit obvious to set ugly, scary images to beautiful music, but I like it and it worked. I managed to enrage one member who walked out, I still don’t know whether it was heights, prawns or Dave McPherson which maddened him.

Crucifixus a 8 by Antonio Lotti available via Naxos

Antonio Lotti was born in 1667, he lived most of his life in Venice, beginning and ending there, his middle years were spent in Germany. The Crucifixus is perhaps his most well-known work. There is some confusing information out there about Antonio Lotti and writings on the composer spending more time, bafflingly, talking of the things he didn’t do and the works he didn’t write, rather than the things he did. Apart from his middle years in which he wrote many secular works, mostly for the theatre, most of his output is devoted to the church and his last 20 years at San Marco in Venice was devoted to his sacred writings.

It is half-time and the score remains 1-1. During the break, as Meadowbank does not have a Tannoy, I read the scores for all the other Scottish football matches played today.

The second half resumes.

A short 12 minutes later my attention was drawn back to the events in Meadowbank, what should be an easy clearance for the Airdrie keeper spun off his glove and into his net. 2 – 1. 

As mentioned, Meadowbank does not have the joy of a Tannoy system. Or if it does, they didn’t inflict it on us during this match.

Football teams around the country use Tannoy systems to play music to usher teams onto the pitch or onto success. The music used could be described as from the sublime to the ridiculous, a cliché well worth trotting out at this point and as this is a blog about football and music, both no stranger to the odd, overused cliché.

Just a short hop from where I sit at my kitchen table writing this, is Easter Road, home of Hibernian F.C. Often heard there is the evocative “Sunshine on Leith” by the Proclaimers. It is unexpectantly moving to hear that song sung there by a near capacity crowd, men, women and children all giving voice to their anthem.

Hibernian’s arch-rivals across the city at Tynecastle park, Heart of Midlothian or as the song says, “H-E–A-R-T-S, if you cannae spell it then here’s what it says, Hearts, Hearts, glorious Hearts”. This song has welcomed teams to Tynecastle for very many years, recorded by Hector Nicol and the Kelvin Country Dance Band. Hector and his band also recorded “Glory, Glory to the Hibees”, for Hibernian F.C., “the Terrors of Tanadice” for Dundee United FC and “Dark blues of Dundee”, for Dundee FC. Hector was prolific in the football song department. St Mirren-supporting Nicol (1920-1985) was a Scottish born singer and composer of football songs, successful and admired as an actor and comedian. His tragic personal life almost prematurely ended his performing career.

150 years of the Black Dyke Mills Band available via Naxos

Leicester City have been marching, or perhaps galloping on, to the Post Horn Gallop. This work by German born cornet virtuoso, Herman Koenig, has been a staple at the King Power Stadium.  Koenig was a composer and designed a cornet which still bears his name. Koenig was well known to London audiences as a member of Louis Jullien’s Drury Lane Orchestra, with which he toured America in 1853.

Themes from The Phantom Menace and Other Film Hits) (Royal Scottish National Orchestra) available via Naxos

For some reason Tottenham Hotspur enter to the portentous Duel of the Fates from “The Phantom Menace”, part of the Star Wars Franchise. 

Strangely, Watford FC and Everton both use the theme from the 60s TV favourite Z-Cars.

Find a version of When The Saints Go Marching In on this album by Louis Armstrong via Naxos

Rather predictably Southampton, known as the Saints march on to “When the Saints, go marching in”.

There are many more.

Things at Meadowbank are coming to an end with the score stuck at 2-1. Airdrie are trying to find a goal to salvage something from a bad day and Edinburgh are defending, somewhat comfortably, with forays into their opponents’ half with the hope of extending their lead. The citizens are happy and drumming to show their delight. Airdrie fans are winding their way home perhaps having given up on a last-minute equaliser. 

With moments to go in the match at Meadowbank, I think perhaps I should concentrate more on what’s happening in front of me but I am distracted by the thought that we are in a World Cup year. I replay some of the golden musical moments of World Cups past. For someone of my years, Scotland’s appearances at World Cups are a distant memory and we are only left with the hope that one day it might happen again, we might just qualify. Not this year though. For those that intend to watch, this year’s controversial World Cup starts on 20 November.

Nessun Dorma available via Naxos

Soon the broadcasting companies will unveil their branding for these shows and music which, in past years, has become famous for introducing World Cup highlights and no doubt this year will do so again. Something will rival Nessun Dorma or The Pavane by Faure.

The pick of the BBC’s theme music over the years was in 1982, when they used from the musical, Cats by Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Jellicle Cat.

West Side Story available via Naxos

For the 1990 opening credits they used Nessun Dorma from Turandot by Puccini.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, in 1994 for the World Cup in America, the BBC chose the Aria America from Leonard Bernstein’s musical West Side Story.

For the 1998 World Cup in France and the last time Scotland appeared, the BBC chose the Pavane by Faure sedate, poised and for some, typically French.

Pavane by Faure available via Naxos

Jump forward one World Cup, to the 2006 finals in Germany and the BBC chose the music of a German born naturalised Englishman, George Fredrich Handel and a chorus from Judas Maccabaeus. 

Judas Maccabaeus by G. F. Handel available via Naxos

Probably one of the biggest add-on events of the World Cups was the concert(s) by the Three Tenors, Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras with the conductor, Zubin Mehta. An open-air extravaganza which took place on the eve of the World Cup final in the Baths of Caracalla. This live broadcast event spawned an industry which would continue till their last concert together in 2003. The three sang together in the next World Cups and toured stadia around the world.

Carreras, Domingo, Pavarotti in concert available via Naxos

At Meadowbank Stadium, the 90 minutes have come and gone and we are in extra time. With each attack by the plucky Airdrieonians, they are left dangerously open at the back and in the 95th minute Edinburgh take advantage of the gaps and score a third. And as Kenneth Wolstenholme said 56 years ago at the World Cup at Wembley, “come on ye, F. C. Ed-in-burgghhhhhh!”

No, he didn’t. He famously said, “some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over. It is now”.

It is over for F. C. Edinburgh, and it is over for Airdrieonians. No one was on the pitch and there was no great surprise at the outcome. The drummers drummed and the players left the pitch to muted applause, and we all wind our merry ways home. Sometimes at football grounds you are sent home to the sound of music, sometimes to the sound of the Tannoy announcing the scores from around the grounds, but on Saturday 22 October at Meadowbank Stadium it is a general hum of quiet conversation.

A lot of the music mentioned is available at our streaming site Naxos Music.

Maybe the next article will be classical composers, singers, musicians, songwriters and Popes who were footballers or avid fans of the game, like Shostakovitch, a lifelong supporter of Zenit Leningrad. Until then, check out these football related albums at Naxos, including an album called “Good Sport! nostalgic music for the armchair athlete”.

Good Sport! available via Naxos
Soundtrack to The Match available via Naxos
45 Minutes of Music on the Subject of Football available via Naxos
Living Football by Hans Zimmer available via Naxos
Bend It Like Beckham original cast album available via Naxos

New pop-up exhibition in Edinburgh Libraries explores British Chinese communities and culture alongside British Library exhibition

Opening on Friday 18 November, the display draws on personal stories and moments of national significance to ask what it means to be Chinese and British.

Inspired by the Chinese and British exhibition at the British Library (18 November 2022 to 23 April 2023), the display celebrates the lasting impact of Chinese communities in the UK, from wartime service and contributions to popular cuisine to achievements in literature, sport, music, fashion and film.

You can find the display in the following libraries:

Friday 18 November to Friday 16 December 2022 – Newington Library

Monday 19 December 2022 to Saturday 14 January 2023 – Leith Library

Monday 16 January to Saturday 18 February 2023 – Central Library

Monday 20 February to Saturday 18 March 2023 – Forrester High School*

Monday 20 March 2023 to Saturday 22 April 2023 – Blackhall Library

From the first recorded individuals arriving from China in the late 1600s to Liverpool becoming Europe’s first Chinatown in the 1850s, Chinese people, who trace their heritage to regions across east and southeast Asia, have played an active part in British society for over 300 years.

Edinburgh Libraries are one of over 30 library services across the UK highlighting the rich history of Chinese British communities as part of the Living Knowledge Network, a UK-wide partnership of national and public libraries. The Living Knowledge Network are hosting a series of events showcasing Chinese culture in the UK, including:

  • the launch of Chinese and British livestreamed from the British Library featuring Helena Lee, journalist and founder of East Side Voices, and Dr Wei Yang, internationally renowned town planner and urban designer, on 17 November 2022
  • an evening exploring the history of UK Chinatowns, on 28 November 2022
  • a celebration of the Lunar New Year with British Chinese authors and artists discussing literature and storytelling livestreamed from Liverpool, Europe’s first Chinatown, on 21 January 2023. 

Liz White, Head of Public Libraries and Community Engagement at the British Library, said: ‘People and their stories form the core of the Chinese and British exhibition in London and the displays in local libraries across the UK. The Living Knowledge Network partnership enables us to connect with people across the country so this is a great opportunity to celebrate the lasting impact of Chinese communities in the UK and uncover more stories along the way.’

Chinese and British has been curated by Dr Lucienne Loh at the University of Liverpool and Dr Alex Tickell at the Open University in collaboration with the British Library.

The Living Knowledge Network streams free events, exhibitions and workshops from libraries across the UK through www.LKN-events.co.uk.

*The display boards will not be available to view by the public whilst at Forrester High School.

Book Week Scotland – Edinburgh Reads title

To celebrate Book week Scotland we have a cracking Scottish multi-access ebook available on Libby by a fabulous Scottish author!

The Bad Fire by Campbell Armstrong is available to download until the 30th November with unlimited copies. In this page-turning, atmospheric thriller a police detective returns to Glasgow to investigate his father’s death. Detective Eddie Mallon is coming home to Glasgow for the funeral of his father, whom he barely knew. Decades ago, the Mallon family split down the middle, and Eddie went to America with his mother while his sister stayed with their father, Jackie. Now Jackie has been murdered and Eddie has no choice but to conduct his own investigation, which takes him into the shadowy history of his father’s past and present and into something bigger and more disturbing than one man’s death.

Libby can be used on your tablet, phone of computer. Full instructions for using Libby can be found on our Your Library website.

Celebrating the Art and Design Library Artists’ Books Collection

Central Library are excited to invite you to the new exhibition on the Mezzanine: a showcase of the Artists’ Books Collection held by the Art and Design Library. The Art and Design Library Artists’ Books Collection comprises over 200 artists’ books and is part of the library’s contemporary special collections.

Artists books display on the Mezzanine at Central Library

The collection includes a significant range of works by Scottish artists, and artists working in Scotland.

The Art and Design Library began collecting artists’ books in the 1990s and has been gradually adding to the collection, with a more recent focus on the Scottish holdings. The Scottish artists represented include Douglas Gordon, Elaine Fullerton, Joanna Robson, Susie Wilson, Kate Whitford, and the late Ian Hamilton Finlay.

A selection of works by Susie Wilson
“Dr Jekyll and My Hyde” by Joanna Robson

The collection also includes many international contemporary artists’ books. Some of the earliest examples in the collection are those produced in the 1960s by the renowned Pop artist Edward Ruscha and celebrated Conceptual artist Sol LeWitt. Indeed, many sources cite Rusha and LeWitt as pioneers of this art form. The Library’s collection contains a range of examples of their work, some of which are simple collections of photographs in a book form. Other prominent international artists represented in the collection include the Abstract Expressionist painter, Helen Frankenthaler, and the Conceptualist artist Joseph Kosuth.

“Every Building on Sunset Strip” and “Some Los Angeles Apartments” by Edward Ruscha

As you will see throughout the display, artists’ books are diverse in form and concept. This diversity makes them difficult to define, although typically, these books are printed on a small scale and with limited editions. Sometimes they are produced in a conventional book-type form, but some can be produced as scrolls or concertinas, and even paper sculptures handcrafted in unique editions. They can feature unusual materials: glass, tree bark, ceramic, and textiles. The display showcases the wide variety of forms contained in the Art and Design Library collection and runs until the end of December 2022.

“Mysterious Ink” by Li Huang

It’s tapestry month this November at Central Library

Golden Threads reawakened – weaving a legacy

Central Library are delighted to be displaying through November an amazing community woven tapestry, Golden Threads, created by a group of amateur weavers based in Edinburgh. Find this beautiful display in the main staircase cabinets at Central Library.

The tapestry has a very interesting story taking its name from the golden threads it uses that were collected by the German Jew Hedwig Philip and that have not seen the light of day for some thirty years. Hedwig and her husband left Berlin in 1941, narrowly missing the Holocaust, travelling to join family in Pennsylvania.

Photo of Hedwig and the contents of her needlework box not opened for 70 years

Hedwig was a skilled needlewoman: she collected golden threads and embroidered a Torah Mantle for the local synagogue. In 1951 Hedwig travelled with all her belongings to Britain to join her daughter in Newcastle, dying not long afterwards. Hedwig’s box of threads, unopened, was passed from her daughter to her granddaughter, Cathie Wright.

Photo of Golden Threads tapestry

Cathie wanted something purposeful and interesting to be done with the threads. This secular tapestry pays homage to Hedwig’s story using her historic golden threads woven together with contemporary red and gray yarns. The tapestry Golden Threads is divided into sixteen panels designed by the sixteen amateur weavers Judith Barton, Sandra Carter, Sarah Clark, Barbara Clarke, Sylvia Davidson, Jackie Grant, Elspeth Hosie, Joan Houston, Kirsteen Kershaw, Joan MacLellan, Irene McCombe, Francesca McGrath, Lindi McWilliam, Serena Naismith, Anita Nolan, Hilary Watkinson and Ann Smuga. Together the panels pay homage to Hedwig’s story but the quantity and beauty of the threads, the heritage and the journey travelled, called for something more. The result is a modern, secular tapestry incorporating these historic golden threads, drawing on themes of Jewish heritage, refugee travel and survival, conflict avoidance, building bridges and seeking a better world with hope for a brighter future.

To quote from Cathie,

“This is a community enterprise that takes the threads from one spiritual tradition to universal themes that celebrate life and survival”.

The tapestries are woven with contemporary materials (wools and cottons) supplementing the old golden threads. They are joined with an overlay of golden braid which also came from Hedwig’s box. The overall size of the composite tapestry is 30 inches square. Thanks also to professional tapestry artists Joanne Soroka and Jo McDonald.

Supporting the display of the Golden Threads tapestry are books on tapestry weaving from the Art and Design Library.

Art of Tapestry author talk with Helen Wyld

If you enjoy looking at the Golden Threads tapestry and want to learn more about the art of tapestry come and hear author and Senior Curator of Historic Textiles at National Museums Scotland, Helen Wyld, deliver a free illustrated talk about her new book The Art of Tapestry. The book explores the National Trust’s collection of historic tapestries and brings new perspectives to the history of tapestry across Europe.

The Art of Tapestry with Helen Wyld will take place on Tuesday 22 November from 6:30 to 7:30pm in the George Washington Browne Room at Central Library.
Book your free ticket via Eventbrite.

Hermitage of Braid

If you’re looking for a bit of history and geology together with beauty, then look no further than the Hermitage of Braid, the focus of our latest online exhibition on Capital Collections.

Hermitage of Braid by Kevin MacLean

Situated in the south of the city, here you will find Hermitage House, built in 1785 together with its Doocot which once contained nearly 2000 sandstone nest boxes. While further along beside the disused Blackford Quarry, you will come across Agassiz’s Rock, a site of Special Scientific Interest.

Hermitage House

Why not have a look at the exhibition on Capital Collections, it might make you want to visit this special greenspace for yourself!

Did Scotland invent Halloween?

Did you know Scotland celebrated Halloween thousands of years ago? Of course, it wasn’t called that back then. Samhain (pronounced ‘sow-in’) was a Gaelic or Pagan festival marking the end of the harvest season which, of course, fell at the end of October. The name roughly translates as ‘summer’s end’ and the festival was celebrated and mentioned in Celtic literature over two thousand years ago.

Halloween colours – i.e. orange – stem from the fact that the event was originally held to mark the shift in seasons and the arrival of Autumnal colours in the foliage.

Until relatively recently, ‘trick or treat’ was unknown in Scotland. Instead, children dressed up and pretended to be evil spirits and went ‘guising’ (or ‘galoshin’). Children arriving at a house so ‘disguised’ would receive an offering to ward off evil. As well as dressing up, they would also perform a party trick – a song or a dance, or recite a poem, before they were offered a treat which could be fruit, nuts or more commonly nowadays, sweets.

Looking through the pages of the British Newspaper Archive which is available to use for free from all our libraries, we have found some articles that show how Halloween was celebrated across Scotland through the years.

In this article, from the Edinburgh Evening News on 5 November 1874 we know that even Queen Victoria joined in celebrations at Balmoral.
“Celebration of Halloween at Balmoral Castle
Hallowe’en, the observance of which has for some years past fallen into neglect in Scotland, especially in the Lowlands, was celebrated on an extensive scale at Balmoral Castle on Monday night. Preparations had been made for days beforehand and tenants and others assembled on the night named from miles around…
Her Majesty and the Princess Beatrice, each bearing a large torch, drove out in an open phaeton, and a procession, consisting of the servants and tenants on the Royal estates, all carrying lighted torches, was formed. They marched through the grounds and round the Castle – the sight as they moved onwards being very weird and striking.”

Edinburgh Evening News, 5 November 1874

Looking for something to wear? Look no further! Here the Courier and Advertiser advertises children’s party frocks and cloaks for sale at Henderson MacKay’s of Dundee.

The Courier and Advertiser, 25 October 1938

No Halloween party would be complete without ‘dooking’ for apples. There’s not a pumpkin in sight in this photo from the Aberdeen Press and Journal in 1929.

Aberdeen Press and Journal, 1 November 1929

Why don’t you delve into the pages of the British Newspaper Archive and see what you can find. We’ve used articles from Scottish newspapers, but there are millions of pages to explore covering all of Britain and Ireland.

Cinema and literature, screening of Out in the Open, part of the Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival 2022

We are delighted to be taking part in this year’s Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival and the venue for a screening of Intemperie, or known in English as, Out in the Open. The film is based on the 2013 novel written by the English PEN Award winner Jesús Carrasco.

Join us on Friday 4 November 2022 at Central Library for the screening, followed by a Question and Answer session with author Jesús Carrasco chaired by Professor Alexis Grohman (Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at the University of Edinburgh).

The event is a part of the ninth edition of the Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival (ESFF).

For more information and to book your free ticket for this special event, visit Eventbrite.

If you have any questions, please contact the Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival on info.esff@ed.ac.uk.

Felix Yaniewicz and the first Edinburgh music festival

Felix Yaniewicz (1762-1848) was a celebrated violin virtuoso and composer who settled in Britain and co-founded the first Edinburgh music festival in 1815. 

Painted portrait of Felix Yaniewicz alongside his signature

He was born in Vilnius, and rose to prominence as a musician in the Polish Royal Chapel. His career took him to Vienna, Italy, and Paris before he fled the French Revolution and came to Britain. After spells in London and Liverpool, and touring concerts up and down the country in fashionable cities such as Bath, he made his home in Edinburgh. 

The Friends of Felix Yaniewicz have kindly shared the story of his life and times in Edinburgh in a new story on Our Town Stories. Read the story and find out about his role in Edinburgh’s first music festival!

Brilliant fiction to celebrate Black History Month

To celebrate this year’s Black History Month, the Resource Management Team have curated a list of brilliant fiction from Black authors. Featuring a mix of historical and classic titles alongside the best contemporary fiction from exciting new voices.

5 books to pique your interest

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson
Set in East-London, this is an elegantly told love story between a dancer and a photographer. As the book unfolds Azumah Nelson explores the nuances of race and masculinity whilst celebrating community and Black culture.
Borrow Open Water from the library

Love in colour by Bolu Babalola
A beautiful collection of short stories – Love in colour retells iconic love stories from around the world. It’s a sweeping collection drawing inspiration from West African folktales, Greek myths, and the present day.
Borrow Love in colour from the library

Assembly by Natasha Brown
A short, powerful novel about a Black British woman navigating life marred and stifled by racism and the legacies of colonialism. Told in sharp and sparse vignettes.
Borrow Assembly from the library

People Person by Candice Carty-Williams
The second novel from the bestselling author of Queenie. People Person is a warm, engaging story about messy families, connection, and carving out your place in the world. It follows the story of Dimple Pennington as she gets to know her four half siblings.
Borrow People Person from the library

Lote by Shola Von Reinhold
The luxurious debut novel by Scottish author Shola Von Reinhold. Lote explores the pursuit of beauty and pleasure as a radical act. It follows protagonist Mathilda as she uncovers the life of Hermia Druitt a fictional Black poet lost to the archives.
Borrow Lote from the library

Access the full Brilliant fiction by Black authors collection and reserve a title to pick up from your local library.

Edinburgh’s literary women recognised

Edinburgh City of Literature Trust and Historic Environment Scotland (HES) are honouring five of Edinburgh’s overlooked women writers.

The five literary women were also social reformers, champions of women’s rights and instrumental in shaping Edinburgh’s history.  Plaques have been awarded through Historic Environment Scotland’s Commemorative Plaque scheme for three of these women, and the Trust have hopes for a further two, on buildings in the city associated with Mary Brunton, Christian Isobel Johnstone, Elizabeth Sanderson Haldane, Lady Margaret Sackville and Rebecca West.

Free podcasts have been created and copies of books written by all five women are being donated by the Edinburgh City of Literature Trust to fifteen of our libraries.

A set of five books, one from each featured author, is being donated by the City of Literature Trust with the support of funding from HES, to libraries across the city. From next week, you’ll find the titles at Balgreen, Blackhall, Corstorphine, Craigmillar, Currie, Drumbrae, Fountainbridge, Leith, McDonald Road, Morningside, Newington; Portobello, Piershill, Stockbridge and South Queensferry Libraries.

Each set contains –

Self-control by Mary Brunton
Mary Brunton (1778 – 1818) was a highly acclaimed Scottish novelist whose career rivalled Jane Austen’s. She championed women’s intellectual, creative and religious pursuits and her three novels prioritise sense over sentimentalism, labour over laziness and normalised the idea of the independent, educated, hard-working woman. Her wildly popular first novel, Self-Control, was selected to be included in Richard Bentley’s illustrious ‘canon-forming’ Standard Novels series in 1831 – before Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility, which was published in the same year. Her life was cut tragically short and she is remembered with a plaque on her home at 35 Albany Street.
Reserve a copy of Self-control online

The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West
Rebecca West’s debut novel The Return of the Soldier documents the aftermath of the WW1 from a woman’s perspective.
Cicily Isabel Fairfield (1892-1983) wrote novels and worked as a journalist and travel writer under the pen name Rebecca West. She is best known for her prolific and daring journalism career, which included writing for most major Western periodicals of the day, including The New Statesman, The New York Herald Tribune, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Times, Harper’s Bazaar and Vanity Fair. Famously she reported on the Nuremburg Trials after the Second World War and was described by US President Harry Truman as “the world’s best reporter” and by Time Magazine as “indisputably the world’s number one women writer”.  She is remembered with a plaque on her childhood home, 2 Hope Park Square.
Reserve a copy of The Return of the Soldier online

Clan-Albin by Christian Isobel Johnstone
Clan-Albin engages with themes on British imperial expansion, England’s economic and political relationship with Scotland and the role of women in public life.
Christian Isobel Johnstone (1781 – 1857) was a prolific writer, not just a novelist but also a non-fiction writer, investigative journalist and a creator of The Cook and Housewife’s Manual, publishing the latter under the pseudonym Margaret Dods. Her prestigious career rivalled that of Sir Walter Scott and she was the first woman to serve as a paid editor of a major Victorian periodical. Johnstone was a true Renaissance woman in Edinburgh’s literary scene who used her considerable skills not only to entertain and educate, but also to advocate for political and social reform. She is remembered with a plaque on her home at 12 Buccleuch Place.
Reserve a copy of Clan-Albin online

Selected Poems by Lady Margaret Sackville
Lady Margaret Sackville (1881 – 1963) published her first book of poetry when she was 19 and over her lifetime published around 40 books, mostly volumes of poetry but also plays, children’s stories and essays. A great supporter of the literary community, and in particular other women writers, she was a devout Roman Catholic and a pacifist, and from the beginning of the First World War was a member of the anti-war Union of Democratic Control.  She was also a supporter of the women’s suffrage movement and member of the British Committee of the International Women’s Congress.  She moved to Edinburgh and became the first president of Scottish PEN and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. An HES plaque will be installed to recognise her life and work at a location to be confirmed.
Reserve a copy of Selected Poems online

Mary Elizabeth Haldane: A record of a hundred years by Elizabeth Sanderson Haldane
A memoir of the writer’s mother.
Elizabeth Sanderson Haldane (1862 – 1937) was an eminent writer, translator, public figure, philosopher, suffragist, nursing administrator and social welfare worker. In her 20s she embarked on the ambitious project of translating the work of German philosopher Georg Hegel – a three volume edition which is still recognised and relied upon today. In addition, she wrote biographies on significant intellectual and cultural figures including the philosophers James Frederick Ferrier and Rene Descartes, and the writers George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell. She became the first female Justice of the Peace in Scotland in 1920.  An HES plaque will be installed to recognise her life and work at a location to be confirmed.
Reserve a copy of Mary Elizabeth Haldane: A record of a hundred years online

Find out more about these remarkable women through ‘Building Stories’, a series of podcasts profiling their lives, careers and major works created by in the Edinburgh City of Literature Trust and HES. Researched and produced by I Am Loud Productions, the podcasts can be found at cityofliterature.com/building-stories-podcasts/

Built on baskets – selling in the streets

When you go out to get your weekly shop, what do you do? Perhaps you shop at the local supermarket or have it delivered to your doorstep. It would have been a different experience in early nineteenth century Edinburgh where hawkers and weekly markets remained an important source of food for many residents. Their presence recorded in both songs, stories and images created in their wake forming a part of Edinburgh’s streets-life. The lives and work of these women are crucial to the daily routines of Edinburgh as described in a new story for Our Town Stories.

One such artist whose work frequently featured such characters was the London artist Samuel Dunkinfield Swarbreck. While not achieving wide fame, Swarbeck achieved moderate success with his watercolours and lithographic prints, exhibiting in the art societies and galleries of Norfolk, Liverpool and eight times at the National Academy and 14 times at the British Institution. His success lay in his architectural artwork, with the Morning Advertiser in 1856 describing that he “has much talent” in this particular genre. Yet his most enduring work was arguably his earlier collection of 26 lithographs of Edinburgh originally published at £4 4s in 1839, around £250 in today’s money. 

Edinburgh Castle from the Grassmarket by Samuel Dunkinfield Swarbreck

Despite Swarbeck’s focus on architecture, hawkers, fishwives and figures such as Highland soldiers abound in his works, depicted walking the streets of Edinburgh. With interest in romantic prints and images of Scotland fed by Queen Victoria’s love of the country and her almost annual trips, the presence of these figures acted as a clear indication of which city was being represented. The Newhaven fishwives known for their distinctive dress and their creel, ubiquitous and specific to Scotland and parts of northern Ireland, visually ground the images in Scotland.

The High Street, Edinburgh by Samuel Dunkinfield Swarbreck

Yet these works were exactly that, a romantic ideal. The hawkers with rosy cheeks and full lace bonnets and fishwives in their gala best were not a wholly accurate picture. They present a tidy, picturesque image of these workers glossing over the harder aspects of their labour. Women such as those recorded in the Edinburgh List of Poor Relief, namely Elizabeth Weatherley at 40, widowed with 5 children, hawked fruit to support her family. Or Margaret Davie who was also widowed at 50 with ill health and bad legs still hawked her wares in the street. These were the real women who fed Edinburgh. While Swarbreck’s work shows in many ways how crucial sellers were to Edinburgh’s streets, it does so very firmly through rose-coloured glasses.

We’re grateful to Freya Purcell who has kindly contributed this blog post and the brilliant Built on baskets – selling in the streets story on Our Town Stories.

Freya Purcell is a historian of design interested in researching social history through material culture. She is currently a researcher in residence for the Archival Network Women Make Cities which looks to examine how women worked to shape urban spaces in Scotland.

Ralph Vaughan Williams – an English composer

On the 150th anniversary of his birth we celebrate the long life of composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, with a small display and this sweeping and painfully short, on detail, summary of his 86 years. 

Ralph Vaughan Williams ca. 1900., artist unknown, via Wikimedia Commons

Remembering the life of Ralph Vaughan Williams, hereafter known as RVW, there is a temptation to just quote the facts and figures of a life well lived. So here goes.

Display of RVW material in the Music Library

The symphonies, like many great composers he managed nine. Some are named, and again like his fellow great composers, were spread out over his life, till the final 9th symphony, finished just before his death in 1958. RVW, like Beethoven was very hard of hearing. Unlike Beethoven, RVW could sit beside a very large and powerful speaker to hear his works, technology not available to Ludwig van Beethoven. His symphonies, 1 and 2 are respectively the London Symphony and the Sea Symphony, the 7th is Sinfonia Antartica. For some of a certain vintage, the 6th symphony will be forever known for the theme music to Family at War, a Granada Television series which ran from 1970 to 1972. They used a noble theme from the end of the 1st movement. Other Orchestral music includes the two Norfolk Rhapsodies and perhaps one of his “greatest hits”, Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.  

Film composing is a splendid discipline, and I recommend a course of it to all composition teachers whose pupils are apt to be dawdling in their ideas, or whose every bar is sacred and must not be cut or altered.
RVW in The Royal College of Music Magazine

RVW composed works for the stage and screen, produced Operas, religious and secular choral works, concertos, instrumental and chamber works. His instrumental works include a Romance for Harmonica and Orchestra written for and first performed by Larry Adler. Adler gave the first performances in 1952 in New York and then at the London Proms. Two years later, RVW wrote a Tuba concerto for the Principal Tubist of the LSO Phillip Catelinet. This work was premiered in 1954. For this 150th year RVW’s intention, never carried out in his lifetime, of arranging the Tuba Concerto for the Euphonium, a slightly smaller and slightly higher pitched relative of the tuba, has been realised. On hearing this arrangement, I like to think that RVW perhaps revisited his thoughts on this arrangement and decided against it.
It just doesn’t work.

Concerti work for his favoured viola – Flos Campi for Viola, wordless chorus and small orchestra and a Suite for Viola and Small Orchestra, The Lark Ascending for Violin and Orchestra, an oboe concerto and a piano concerto.

Operas include Sir John in Love, based on the Merry Wives of Windsor by his beloved Shakespeare; Hugh the Drover, a romantic ballad opera; Riders to the Sea, a play by J M Synge. RVW used practically the complete play as his libretto, commentators on the works of RVW list this opera, Riders to the Sea, as his most complete.

His ballet music often written for full orchestral forces plus chorus and vocal soloists. A masque adapted from A Christmas carol – On Christmas Night, The Running Set- Traditional Dance tunes for Orchestra and Job: A Masque for Dancing.

Oxford University Press, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A wealth of choral music both secular and sacred, of which perhaps the best known are Towards an Unknown Region, Fantasy of Christmas Carols and Five Mystical Songs.

Like most British composers of the time, RVW was encouraged to work in film for which he produced several scores, some of which are now maybe not the most well known of films, they are important none the less.  His most prolific time was during the war, including the films the 49th Parallel and Coastal Command. His score for the film Scott of the Antarctic, became the bases for his own 7th symphony – Sinfonia Antarctica.

A son of the manse but described as an agnostic humanist, RVW was retained as the editor of the English Hymnal published in 1906, for which he also composed new works.

Having succumbed to the temptation to quote facts and list works, here are some more. If this is the who, what, where, and the why of RVW, this is maybe the who and maybe the where.

Ralph (pronounced Rafe) Vaughan Williams was born on the 12 October 1872 to Margaret and Arthur Vaughan Williams, in the Gloucester village of Down Ampney. Down Ampney is rightly proud of their famous former resident and have a display to him in the All-Saints Church. This is the church in which Ralph’s father was minister and is buried.

Arthur Vaughan Williams, father of Ralph Vaughan Williams.
https://rvwsociety.com/comprehensive-biography/, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Reverend Arthur Vaughan Williams was the son of a family of distinguished lawyers. Unfortunately this influence on RVW’s life was cut short as Arthur died when Ralph was two. It can never be properly imagined how a child/adult’s life changes when a parent is lost, that is true for RVW. We do know that Down Ampney was important to RVW even though it was only home for two years. For the English Hymnal published in1906, one of RVW’s four original hymns was entitled Down Ampney.

Arthur’s death left his mother Margaret, the sole devoted parent, she moved the family, Ralph and his two elder brothers, to her family’s home in Leith Hill Place. Leith Hill Place was the family home of the Wedgewood family, Josiah Wedgwood III bought the house in 1847, after it had been a school run by a Reverend Rusden. The house was built in the 16th century and remodelled and reskinned in its better known Palladian aspect in the 1700s. 

Margaret Vaughan Williams, mother of Ralph Vaughan Williams
https://rvwsociety.com/comprehensive-biography/, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Margaret Vaughan Williams was the daughter of Josiah Wedgewood III and Caroline Darwin. In their long biography of Ralph, the RVW society, use the slightly ominous phrase “the Wedgewood and the Darwin families often intermarried.” Ralph could count in his forebears the grandparents of the writer of The Origin of the Species, and head of one of the world’s major potteries companies. All of RVWs forebears could be considered to be forward and radical in deed and thought.

RVW’s first musical training was from his Aunt Sophy Wedgewood, his mother’s sister.

The idyll of his childhood at Leith Hill Place came to an end when he was sent to boarding school first to Rottingdean, from there he went to Charterhouse, in Godalming, Surrey. At Charterhouse he was allowed, by the Headmaster to put on concerts and, unheard of till RVW,  permitted to change boarding house to the house of a master whose interest was music. Today, the School of Music at Charterhouse is named after RVW.

Leith Hill Place, Surrey, childhood home of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams
Rob enwiki, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

After Charterhouse, RVW entered the Royal College of Music to study composition with Sir Hubert Parry, then two years later went to Trinity College Cambridge to gain his BMus and his History degree. He returned to RCM to continue his studies with Parry. On Parry’s elevation to the Head of the Royal College of Music, RVW’s compositional studies were continued with Charles Villiers Stanforth. Whilst at RCM he met and befriended Gustav Holst a companionship which would last till Holst’s untimely death at the age of 59 in 1934. He also met and married his first wife Adeline Fisher, a talented cellist and pianist. Adeline, a first cousin of Virginia Woolf, is described as having a lively and keen intelligence, someone who could be considered another forward-thinking influence on the young RVW.  

Ralph Vaughan Williams 1917 with his wife Adeline Fisher in Barton Street,
unknown artist, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

During this time, in his early married years RVW travelled in Europe, to study and to expand his musical language. He spent time in Germany studying with Max Bruch and later in Paris learning composition with Ravel, who was to become a friend and often stayed with the Vaughan Williams’ when he visited London.

RVW’s only salaried appointment was a position as Organist at St Barnabas Church in South Lambeth, London.  A position which he held from 1895 to 1899. When he resigned this position in 1899 he had tried to interest his close friend Holst in taking over from him. His description of the job is less than favourable but his list of the duties, describes a fairly easy week. 

It is during this period that RVW – the English composer starts to appear. RVW was a lifelong champion of the English folk song, and the music of Elizabethan and Tudor England, and also a great supporter of amateur music making.  Ralph had met the composer and folk song collector Cecil Sharp. It was this meeting that initiated RVW’s work in collecting folk song. These threads would inform his music and RVW understood a need to be an English composer demonstrating his own voice.

This music and these interests were to shape his output for the rest of his life. It is these threads, folk song, the music of Elizabethan and Tudor England which informs arguments about RVW the English composer, with voices on both sides pushing and pulling the discussion to suit the side of the fence on which the one sits. RVW the English composer, nationalist or internationalist. A modernist pushing form, structure and tonality, or a pastoralist, idolising the pre-industrial, merrie old England. RVW did both and throughout his life he demonstrated all of these aspects and more in  the works in which he is said to “embrace the marginalised and the dispossessed” – the tragic lives of the sea folk in the Opera Riders to the Sea, the Pilgrim in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the voices of the peoples of London in the last movement of, what was said to be his own favourite work, his 1st symphony, a London Symphony.

“In former times, musical England came to grief by trying to be foreign; no less surely shall we now fail through trying to be English… the national English style must be modelled on the personal style of English musicians.”
Ralph Vaughan Williams

Just mentioned, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress was a work which was to occupy RVW almost all his life – as an early one act opera, The Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains from 1921, incidental music for a BBC radio dramatization of the Pilgrim’s Progress in 1942 and finally his Opera or Morality as he called it, which premiered in 1951. For this version RVW had prepared his own libretto, which included interpolations and Bible excerpts by his 2nd wife, the poet and writer Ursula Wood. 

Jumping back and forward in the list and facts of the life of RVW and having just attested to his “natural socialism”, a description by the conductor Roger Norrington. In 1935 RVW was contacted by Buckingham Palace and asked to consider accepting an Order of Merit. The Order of Merit was initiated by Edward VII in 1902. There are only ever 24 in the order and it is an order recognising distinguished service in the armed forces, science, art, literature, or for the promotion of culture. Recipients include Florence Nightingale, Thomas Hardy, Sir Edward Elgar, Henry James, M R James, Lord Baden Powell, Sir Edward Lutyens, Benjamin Britten, William Walton, Sir John Gielgud. RVW was uncomfortable with awards such as this but was persuaded to accept the Order Of Merit.

The next major happenstance of RVW’s life was meeting Ursula Woods, a writer and poet, Ursula had heard Job: A Masque for Dancing and vowed to meet RVW and work with him, which she achieved in 1938. Thus began a close working and personal relationship which lasted for the rest of RVW’s life. Ursula was married to Michael Wood, an army officer and RVW was married to the ailing Adeline. On Michael’s death in 1942 Ursula’s relationship with the Vaughan Williams’ become closer when she took on some duties as Adeline’s carer. In her biography, Paradise Remembered, published in 2002, Ursula describes lovingly, the strange afternoons of this artistic threesome. Warm autumnal tea sessions in the garden with RVW reading, writing, snoozing, Adeline wrapped warmly and in her highbacked chair sleeping or reading and Ursula, a poetic commentator, caring for both her aged lover and his wife. In her biography, Ursula remembers the death of Adeline recalling her “little and derelict body” whose influence could still be felt throughout the house. 

For the rest of RVW’s life and indeed for the rest of her own life, Ursula became the protector and guardian of RVW and his legacy.

His last few years were busy and productive. The 8th and 9th symphonies showing a composer still experimenting with form and tonality, a violin sonata and the tuba concerto. He produced songs and another Christmas work. He had begun to compose Thomas the Rhymer in collaboration with Simon Pakenham. Along with his conducting and visits to America to premier and perform works or just to be an invited, distinguished guest at performances.

Ralph Vaughan Williams died peacefully in his sleep on 26 August 1958 and despite his age, his death was unexpected. Ursula and all who surrounded him considered him “invincible”. 

This a celebration of the lIfe and work of the great composer. It is short on detail but more can be found with the help of the list below –

The Ralph Vaughan Williams Society has a lot of great resources on their website, and we have a number of printed biographies of RVW including Ursula’s biography –  Paradise Remembered.

We have a collection af CDs, scores and sheet music of many of RVW’s major works. Search our library catalogue.

Or listen to all your favourite or your new favourite RVW works at our classical music streaming site, Naxos.

Together We Read 2022

We are holding another UK Together We Read digital book club, giving unlimited access to a popular ebook and audiobook until 20 October. Access it through the Libby app or Libby website.

This year’s brilliant title is How to Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie which is  outrageously funny, compulsive, and subversive. A wickedly dark romp about class, family, love… and murder.  They say you can’t choose your family. But you can kill them. Meet Grace Bernard. Daughter, sister, serial killer…Grace has lost everything. And she will stop at nothing to get revenge.

As usual the ebook can be accessed on tablet, smartphone, computer or ereader (except regular Kindles!) and full instructions can be found on our Libby help pages. Why not encourage your friends and family to read it too and host your own book group get-together!

For further information contact informationdigital@edinburgh.gov.uk

John Groat family album on Edinburgh Collected

One of the great features of Edinburgh Collected is being able to create online scrapbooks. This is the opportunity to gather together images you have found or put on the website into one place to tell a story.

One of our latest contributions is from our friends at the Living Memory Association who have collated lots of lovely photographs to tell the story of John Groat (1924-2018) and his family.

John’s first job at 14 was as a “hammer boy” at Brown Brothers’ Engineering Works near Rosebank earning 8 shillings.

John Groat aged 3 years

In 1946 John joined the RAF, where he was posted to Egypt remaining there until 1950.

After leaving the RAF John joined the Nursing College in Castle Street where he met his future wife.

John continued his career in Edinburgh as a District Nurse, where he remembered that one of his patients used to keep a pony in the bathroom!

Take a look at the full John Groat scrapbook on Edinburgh Collected and if you’ve enjoyed hearing a little about John’s life and looking at some of his family photos, why not gather some of your own together and create your own scrapbook on Edinburgh Collected?

Czech footprints in Scotland

In June 1940, a new volunteer force – the Special Operations Executive (SOE) – was set up to wage a secret war. Its agents were mainly tasked with sabotage and subversion behind enemy lines in the countries occupied by Nazi Germany. Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously said that they should ‘set Europe ablaze!’

Exiles from Czechoslovakia saw this as a way to support the resistance effort at home. The training of some three hundred Czech and Slovak agents took place at locations all over Scotland. A memorial to those agents who died in World War 2 stands near Arisaig, where many of them were trained.

The most famous operation carried out by Czech and Slovak agents trained in Scotland was Anthropoid – the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich.

You can find out much more about the relationship between the SOE, Czech and Slovak agents and Scotland at a special banner exhibition in the foyer of Central Library until 14 October.

Czech footprints in Scotland on display in Central Library

Time for change: Action not words – Black History Month at Central Library

Black History Month runs through October and this year takes the theme ‘Time for Change: Action Not Words’. A display responding to this theme has been installed in the Central Library staircase exhibition cabinets. We’re also running a short programme of author events on Monday 24 and Tuesday 25 October.

The summer of 2020 saw protests, demonstrations and marches across the world in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and in response to police brutality being witnessed against Black people.

Cardboard placard painted white, yellow and black with red and blue flowers. It reads “I don’t want to get political but your ignorance kills real people”.
City of Edinburgh Council Museums & Galleries

Protests were also held in Edinburgh, including a static demonstration on Sunday 7 June, from which colleagues from Museums and Galleries Edinburgh acquired a large donation of placards, banners and signs. These placards and signs demonstrate the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement to Edinburgh residents and the wide-ranging impact of the movement on the city.

Taking the theme of Time for Change: Action Not Words, Central Library are displaying selected reproductions of some of these placards and banners collected by Museums and Galleries Edinburgh alongside books held in the collections of Central Library promoting the contribution of people of colour to society and recounting their experiences. The collections reflect our wish to offer a broad range of material including works related to or created by those from under-represented groups. All images are reproduced with permission of City of Edinburgh Council Museums & Galleries.

Cardboard placard which reads ‘Racism isn’t born it’s taught. Please keep 2 metres, keep safe!”
City of Edinburgh Council Museums & Galleries

View more of the placards, signs and banners collected at the demonstration in Edinburgh in an online exhibition on Capital Collections.

Come to our Black History Month author events:

Monday 24 October, 6.30 – 7.30pm at Central Library
Join Kate Phillips, author of Bought & Sold: Scotland, Jamaica and Slavery

Kate will talk about the powerful political elite in Scotland in the 1700s, who had investments in all aspects of the slave trade. How the anti-slavery campaign was pursued on the streets of Edinburgh, the devastating blow dealt by Henry Dundas, their member of Parliament, Home Secretary and leader of the Tory Party, in the spring of 1792. He proposed that ending the trade should be ‘gradual’ allowing his party colleagues to talk out the anti-slavery bill and the continuing capture and shipping of hundreds of thousands of African men, women and children into a life of enslavement and the propaganda campaign against black people which was then launched by vested interests here in Scotland to protect their business interests and how that white supremacist version of history became ours.

Book your free place via Eventbrite for Bought & Sold: Scotland, Jamaica and Slavery

Tuesday 25 October, 6.30 – 7.30pm at Central Library
Join author, broadcaster and journalist Stuart Cosgrove as he tells the epic story of Black music and the White House from his new book Hey America!

Hey America! is the story of how Black music came from the margins of American life in the early twentieth century through to the mainstream under Barack Obama’s presidency and then was mobilised as a force for radical opposition to Donald Trump’s administration.

Book your free place via Eventbrite for Hey America!