The film clips show a 1960s Edinburgh in black and white, but alive with activity and excitement for festival shows and performers. View the hustle and bustle of festival preparations, residents and tourists, and famous faces including Marlene Dietrich arriving at Edinburgh Airport, Tom Courtenay performing Hamlet and Yehudi Menuhin receiving the freedom of Edinburgh.
Commentators reflect on the effects the festival’s first twenty years have had on the city and its citizens, its “cosmopolitanisation” and its new-found “creature comforts”, claiming a new status for Edinburgh as one of Europe’s cultural capitals.
This exhibition is part of a wider project in collaboration with the British Library and the Living Knowledge Network of libraries on the theme of Breaking the News. We’re grateful to the BBC for supporting the project and allowing us to host the film footage on Capital Collections.
Want to find the perfect summer read? Designed to be taken on the go, a new collection of pocket-sized books are ideal for holidays, picnics, or lunchbreaks. The smaller the better. From novellas to short stories, this collection offers readers titles that are short in length but big on content.
Here are a couple of classic titles on offer –
Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Explore the mysterious and fanciful world of the chocolate factory. This is a dark children’s classic to be enjoyed by adults too.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde This classic gothic tale from the celebrated Scottish author is an enduring masterpiece. Are people both good and evil? Follow the tale of respectable Dr Jekyll and his alter ego Mr Hyde.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper The gripping and claustrophobic feminist classic follows one woman’s descent into madness when prescribed ‘the rest cure’.
John Steinbeck’s The Pearl A heart wrenching and moral short story about the danger of greed. When a pearl diver discovers a valuable pearl he is thrust into the shadow of the evil it attracts. And many more…
Standing at the intersection of George Street and Hanover Street stands a statue commemorating the visit to Edinburgh in August 1822 of King George IV by the English sculptor Sir Francis Legatt Chantrey.
In commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the visit, Central Library is displaying an exhibition of items from their collections capturing how artists recorded this momentous occasion.
In an era of 24/7 multi-media news coverage, it can be hard for us to imagine the excitement that was brewing in Edinburgh in anticipation of the visit of King George IV in August 1822. No reigning monarch of Great Britain had visited Scotland since 1651 when Charles II attended his Scottish coronation. The King’s visit was recorded in detail by the London newspaper reporter Robert Mundie in his ‘A historical Account of His Majesty’s Visit to Scotland’. This and other contemporary printed accounts including pamphlets, books, and ballads were brought to life by the pictorial records of the many artists drawn to capturing the pageantry and festivities around this historically significant event.
George IV arrived by way of his ship the Royal George at Leith on the Firth of Forth on the 15 August and stayed in Scotland till 29 August. This engraving by W. H. Lizars shows the King arriving at Leith and the throng of crowds waiting to welcome him. Delayed from disembarking by one day due to bad weather, George IV did not disappoint the throng of assembled crowds; he arrived wearing the full dress of a British Admiral and had a twig of heath and heather on his hat in deference to his Scottish subjects.
Tourists flooded to Edinburgh hoping to catch a glimpse of the monarch as he was ushered through the streets of Edinburgh following his arrival in a parade weighted with pageantry, regimental might and Highland chieftainship.
King George IV’s visit was largely orchestrated by the author Sir Walter Scott along with David Stewart of Garth. Spreading the spirit of romanticism throughout Scotland, Scott had carefully prepared an entire programme of pageantry. It was the display of tartan that was to have a lasting influence, with the kilt elevated to national dress and an essential component of Scotland’s national identity.
An enduring image of George IV’s visit captured in many contemporary newspapers is the monarch dressed in a kilt finishing above his knees with pink tights covering his bare legs! This is a contemporary caricature of King George IV in kilt during his visit. No pink tights but definitely fashioning the mini kilt now popular today!
The visit followed similar lines to a visit by the monarch today with a programme of visits and crowd-pleasing appearances. The weather was mostly terrible but despite the rain the people came out in their thousands to get sight of the King with a whole industry growing up of souvenirs and money paid to get the best viewing spots. The main events included the state entry into the city, courts held at Holyrood, a banquet and attendance at St Giles, attendance at a ball at the Assembly Rooms and a military review held on Portobello Sands where King George rode a grey charger along the lines while the military bands played God Save the King. Though it was undoubtedly the State Progress of the King from Holyrood to the Castle with the regalia of Scotland before him that provided a spectacle never seen before or since.
This watercolour by James Skene shows King George IV in the Castle of Edinburgh, 22 August 1822. The angle of the painting with the battlements of the castle rising steeply to the sky affirms the majesty of both King and Castle with the throngs of crowds lining the streets below hoping to catch a glimpse of the King.
Artists of differing capacities and ambitions who resided in, or came to Edinburgh were caught up in the heady atmosphere that August. To witness and record this historically significant occasion presented a rare artistic challenge and artists keen to make their mark included J.M.W. Turner who envisaged a major series of paintings ‘the Royal Progress’ inspired by the royal visit. The series never materialised but two pencil sketchbooks have survived. Selections of Turner’s sketches can be viewed at Tate online.
More locally, James Skene of Rubislaw, friend of Scott, W.H. Lizars and Sir David Wilkie recorded the visit. Other artists drawn to Edinburgh included William Turner of Oxford and J.C. Schetky and Denis Dighton, who held appointments as military and marine painters to the King. What an artistic melting point this must have been!
We are fortunate to hold in our Central Library collection watercolours and engravings by some of these artists that brilliantly capture the atmosphere of this most auspicious occasion.
Included in our display is an engraving of the landing of George IV at Leith, 15 August 1822, by W.H. Lizars, a watercolour by James Skene of King George IV in the Castle of Edinburgh 22 August 1822, and a lithograph by David Wilkie showing His Majesty King George IV received by the nobles and people of Scotland, upon his entrance to the Palace of Holyrood House, on the 15 August 1822. The illustrations show the pomp and ceremony and the great crowds gathered to catch sight of the King. We also include a selection of books from Central Library on some of the artists who recorded the visit of George IV as well as more general books on this monarch.
All prints on show in our display are reproductions with originals held in the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection at Central Library. All images are also available to view on Capital Collections, our image library at www.capitalcollections.org.uk. The display runs in Central Library through August and September 2022.
With the city ready to welcome visitors back again both from home and abroad for the Festival, our latest addition to Our Town Stories features some must-see performances from previous years and well-known faces who went on to become household names.
Did you know for example, that one of the smash musicals in recent years both in London and Broadway had its first production in a hotel in the Grassmarket?
Or that a TV programme that won a British Academy Award, three Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards started life in a small venue in the Cowgate?
And what do a parody about Upper Clyde Shipbuilders and one of Scotland’s best known comedians have in common?
The August exhibition in the Art and Design Library is “Embrace the Elemental” by Edinburgh-based artist and musician, Burnt Paw. It features experimental watercolours, oil pastel paintings and charcoal impressions. He found inspiration from a recent trip to the United States, where he explored the Rodin Museum collections in Philadelphia and the Renaissance art collections in the National Gallery in Washington D. C. Closer to home, he found inspiration for this new body of work within the pages of some of the Art and Design Library’s own books. He has renewed his fascination with Georgia O’Keefe’s stunning colour-dream paintings in the many books on her work held in the library, as well as Alfred Stieglitz’s portraits of O’Keefe’s elegant hands, which feature in books in our photography collection.
The artist explains his art and vision in his own words:
“Within the realm of the elemental, the body becomes an unknown landscape, colour is a sacred energy, drawing is an act of transformation. I move between figurative and abstract images to open up spaces of sensory and psychic exploration. My images dissolve and drift outwards from the edges of body and landscape into luminous encounters with elemental energies. My quest is a search for images. As both an artist and musician, my practice is a constantly shifting exploration of creative energy to seek realms of illumination, healing and the potential for transformation.”
Burnt Paw’s work has been shown in exhibitions in the United States as well as the UK. As a resident of Edinburgh, he is a regular participant in the Colony of Artists exhibitions in the Abbeyhill Colonies. He describes himself as a “fingerstyle psychedelic-folk musician” and has collaborated with many inspirational sound makers in countless music gigs.
The exhibition runs from 2nd to 30th August in the Art and Design Library. We look forward to seeing you there!
On 15 August 1822 King George IV landed in Leith and began an historic visit to Edinburgh and the Highlands. The visit increased the King’s popularity in Scotland, and it was thanks in large part to Sir Walter Scott who stage-managed the event and promoted a romantic image of Scotland.
Our latest addition to Our Town Stories is all about Sir Walter Scott and follows him from his childhood spent with his grandparents in the Borders where he heard stories of folklore and traditions which were to have a profound effect on him.
After studying Law and becoming an Advocate, Scott started writing poetry and his early work consisted of poetic romances such as The Lady of the Lake which sold 25,000 copies in eight months, breaking records for poetry sales and brought its setting against the picturesque Loch Katrine to the attention of the newly emerging tourist industry.
In 1814 and already an established poet, Scott published the first Waverley novel, anonymously amid uncertainty over how it would be received. He needn’t have worried, it was a publishing phenomenon, with 1,000 copies being sold in the space of two days. It was the first of 27 novels which included classics such as Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, and The Heart of Midlothian.
Despite all his success he was heading for a tremendous crash. Read about what followed and some more stories of Sir Walter Scott in Our Town Stories.
Shining a light on South Asian histories and identities – South Asian Heritage Month was founded in 2020 and runs from the 18 July to 17 August. This year’s theme is ‘Journeys of Empire.’ Journeys like the odyssey of indenture in the Caribbean and East Asia, the ones taken by Indian Ayahs paid to travel to Scotland in the 19th century, South Asian migration to Britain, and many others.
Here are a few books available at your local library to explore and celebrate South Asian Heritage Month:
Fiction: Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, translated by Daisy Rockwell This beautiful translation from Tilted Axis press was the winner of the 2022 International Booker Prize. Set in Northern India, 80 year-old Ma an unlikely protagonist travels to Pakistan to confront her past. It explores big themes like the trauma around partition, feminism, and grief all with a light touch. It’s a sweeping book which defies the borders of language, gender, and country. BorrowTomb of Sand in print
Somebody Loves You by Mona Arshi This lyrical work of fiction follows Ruby and Rania, two young British Indian sisters. Growing up in a society rife with racism and sexism, one day Ruby just stops speaking altogether. Arshi is an acclaimed poet and writes in a poetic language that is in turns unsettling and tender. Borrow Somebody Loves You in print or audiobook
Non – fiction: Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera A bestseller recently made into a documentary for channel 4. This book aims to tell the lesser-known histories of empire – for example the story of millions of Indian soldiers who fought for Britain in WW2. This book explores how these histories continues to shape today’s England and Scotland. Borrow Empireland in print or ebook
Coolie Woman: the Odyssey of indentureby Gaiutra Bahadur This is a unique book which charts South Asian women’s journeys of forced indenture under British colonial rule in the late 19th century. The history of indentured women is specifically hard to unearth as there’s little documentation about their lives. (Note, ‘Coolie’ in the title of the book is a racial slur.) Borrow Coolie Woman in print
Brown baby by Nikesh Shukla Written after the death of his mother and addressed to his two young daughters, this is a memoir of race, family and home. What does it mean to bring a brown baby into the world today? How do we live with hope and joy? Borrow Brown Baby in print
Poetry: Let Me Tell You This by Nadine Aisha Jassat This incredible collection tells us stories of family, of belonging, and of being mixed race. Jassat is an Edinburgh based poet and is featured on the Edinburgh Women’s Mural. This collection explores what it is to be a woman of colour in Scotland today. Her writing is mesmeric, powerful, and moving. Borrow Let Me Tell You This in print or ebook
How to Wash a Heart by Bhanu Kapil The winner of the T.S. Eliot prize 2020, this is a sharp and poignant poetry collection which explores the themes of immigration, boundaries and borders, and what it means to be a guest. Borrow How to Wash a Heart in print
Reserve any of these titles for collection at your local library.
From bombs to visiting elephants, Leith Library has seen its fair share of events.
This month marks the 90th anniversary of the library opening and we celebrate the anniversary with a new exhibition on Capital Collections of photographs going back to 1932.
The exhibition features among many fascinating images, one of the original architect’s plan, dated from 1927. The library was badly damaged in an air raid in April 1941, but was restored and reopened in 1955.
Join millions of others around the world in reading a fantastic historical novel during the Big Library Read, the world’s largest digital book club. From 12-27 July, readers can borrow and read the ebook and audiobook versions of The Girl in his Shadow by Audrey Blake from our Libby by OverDrive service. Borrow this suspenseful historical novel with no waiting lists on the Libby app or by visiting our Libby website.
An unforgettable historical fiction novel about one woman who believed in scientific medicine before the world believed in her. Set in London in 1845, orphan Nora Beady is raised by the eccentric surgeon Dr. Horace Croft after losing her parents to a deadly pandemic. While other young ladies were raised to busy themselves with needlework and watercolours, Nora was trained to perfect her suturing and anatomical illustrations of dissections. Women face dire consequences if caught practicing medicine, but in Croft’s private clinic Nora is his most trusted – and secret – assistant. That is until the new surgical resident arrives and Nora must learn to play a new and uncomfortable role—that of a proper young lady.
The book will be available on the home page of the Libby app and the Libby website from the 12 July and with unlimited downloads is perfect for discussing with your friends and family. You can even discuss the book online or use #biglibraryread on social media for a chance to win a Samsung tablet and goody bag.Full instructions for using Libby can be found on our Your Library website.
The July exhibition in the Art and Design library is in full swing. “I didn’t know Robert Motherwell made prints” is an exhibition of unique prints by Dilal Singh, an Edinburgh-born art student.
Dilal is in his 3rd year studying Fine Art at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee. He has been exploring a variety of traditional printmaking techniques in recent months and the exhibition is the culmination of this work. Featuring prints made using Chine Collé, screen printing, waterless lithography and woodcut printing, the exhibition explores ideas and metaphors that mark Dilal’s evolution as an artist. He originally trained and worked as a gas fitter for 10 years, and in his own words, he states:
“This series of images evoke a very personal journey of self-realisation after the Covid-19 pandemic and a reflection of my journey to art and the freedom it has given me. The more abstract prints are inspired by the metaphor of a smashed mirror and my journey of becoming the person I want to be rather than what I thought society wanted. My evolution as an artist began with three years of life drawing evening classes taught by Paul Muzni and Claudia Petretti and some of the prints on display include human features and figures layered over abstract prints. As I progress through my degree, I plan to continue working with printing techniques alongside my painting practice, which is influenced by Kandinsky, Matisse, Joan Miro, Banksy and more. The title of the exhibition is a reminder of how much I still have to learn in the world of art.”
The exhibition is on display for the whole month of July and is well worth a visit to the Art and Design Library to see.
Our latest online exhibition features photographs held in our Edinburgh and Scottish Collection by Edinburgh-born photographer, James Good Tunny (1820-1887).
Tunny started his early career following in his father’s footsteps (quite literally) as a shoemaker, but by 1852 he changed career and became a very successful photographer with several photographic studios throughout the Southside of Edinburgh. At the peak of his career he had a studio on Princes Street.
Our exhibition of fourteen photographs are all dated 1854, in the early days of photography, when Tunny had not long started his professional career and show many familiar sites of Edinburgh which are still recognisable today. Some are less so, photographs of Grange Loan are very different to what we can see now.
A big thank you to everybody that came to see Central Library’s beautiful Edinburgh Women’s Mural while it was on display in the foyer, and another big thank you to the people that attended our short series of Mural Talks.
Here, below, are the wonderful Iffat Shahnaz and Roshni Gallagher in conversation last week, talking at a sold-out event about their life experiences and insights as women of colour living in Edinburgh.
Central Library says goodbye to the Edinburgh Women’s Mural as it embarks on a short summer tour of community libraries, where local people will be able to visit the Mural on display and take part in related events.
Alongside the British Library’s Breaking the News exhibition, pop-up displays are on view at 30 public libraries across the UK including Edinburgh Central Library. The displays draw upon each library’s individual collection and regional connections to celebrate the value of regional news in communities across the UK.
We have delved into Central Library’s newspaper and periodical collections, with the aim to celebrate the value of regional news and champion the personalities, journalism and stories that have made a mark through the years in our local area.
It is often the case that national news carries many negative stories, but this can sometimes be quite different when looking locally. Local and grassroots news publications have a wonderful variety of stories, they can speak truth to power and are often free from the restraints and impartiality that is evident in the large mainstream tabloids and daily publications.
Our exhibition space will be dedicated to Breaking the News through the following themes:
4 July – 4 August 2022, Edinburgh: a city of firsts
We are looking at the local achievements that have put Edinburgh on the map. From the pioneering women known as the Edinburgh Seven, who would not rest until they became the first females accepted into a UK university to study medicine, to modern scientific marvels such as God particles and cloned sheep. Edinburgh has been at the forefront of many significant achievements and breakthroughs, this is your chance to explore and see how these were reported at the time.
During this month we also have a showcase of the many and varied local news publications that have been produced over the years.
5 August to 29 August 2022 – Edinburgh: Festival City
During the exhibition’s second phase, we are ready to celebrate. It is the 75th anniversary of the world-famous International and Fringe festivals in Edinburgh, we are using this period to review our collection of material to discover some key moments and breakthroughs from the festivals’ history.
Due to the closure of the Mezzanine area in Central Library for essential building works, we are relocating the British Library’s Breaking the News pop up display to the library’s front hall. This is where the festival material is featured also. (The display in the Mezzanine cabinets will be available to view until Saturday 13 August.)
Edinburgh Libraries are proud to partner with Edinburgh Zoo and City Fibre on the Giraffe about Town project.
Giraffe About Town is a free art trail featuring more than 40 magnificent giraffe sculptures that will take you on a journey across Scotland’s capital this summer from 1 July to 29 August.
In partnership with Wild in Art, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Edinburgh Zoo is delighted to share this exciting trail with local people and visitors to help our city recover after lockdown and raise much needed funds for wildlife conservation.
Each incredible sculpture has been sponsored by amazing organisations and businesses. They have been decorated by artists, communities and school children to celebrate Edinburgh’s extraordinary heritage and cultural diversity, and to encourage everyone to explore our city’s hidden gems and iconic locations.
Edinburgh Libraries are hosting –
Edi-B in Balgreen Library
Richie in Craigmillar Library
Salam in Leith Library
Clovie in Oxgangs Library
Gemma in Piershill Library
Gertie-GiGi in Sighthill Library
Skittles in Westerhailes Library
Come along and visit our giraffe guests and keep an eye out on our Libraries’ Facebook pages for workshops and events to celebrate The Wee Herd during their stay in our libraries.
The Giraffe about Town website, has an interactive map and a host of information to help you discover where all the Giraffes are located in Edinburgh.
After the trail itself, there will be a fantastic ‘farewell’ weekend with the entire herd of tall and small giraffes together at the zoo. In October the giraffes will then be auctioned to raise money for wildlife conservation.
Edinburgh Libraries are proud to be part of the Living Knowledge Network with the British Library and are hosting various events and competitions across the city.
Edinburgh Libraries are proud to be part of the Living Knowledge Network with the British Library and are hosting various events and competitions across the city.
Breaking a news story is the perfect day for any journalist, none more so than Ciaran Jenkins.
Edinburgh School Librarians gave pupils the opportunity to ask prize-winning journalist Ciaran Jenkins (Scottish Correspondent for Channel 4) questions about what it means to cover a story and break the news. Pupils from Broughton High School, Liberton High School and Wester Hailes High School took up the challenge.
Watch the video here –
The British Library are currently hosting the Breaking the News exhibition and displays are touring around the UK to Living Knowledge Network libraries, including at Central Library in Edinburgh. Drop in to our exhibition to see highlights from our collections alongside contextual information about the history and importance of news coverage from the British Library. Our exhibition will run from Monday 4 July to Monday 29 August 2022.
Inspired by the diverse wildlife, histories and geographies of the Union Canal, we’ll use art to imagine a more planet friendly future.
Free artist-led workshops for children and families across the city – and on the water – will take you on a journey filled with sensory fun and big environmental questions. Use your creativity to rethink local green spaces and waterways and dream up a better world. Get set for adventures – exploring sound, movement, sculpture and sustainable art-making. Book for these workshops viaedinburghartfestival.com.
Shapes in the city – invent, construct, climb! Make huge, recycled sculptures inspired by bridges, tunnels and waterways! Created for ages 5 – 12. Parents of under 8s must book a place.
Tuesday 2 August, 10.30am – 12.30pm Central Library, George IV Bridge, EH1 1EG (SOLD OUT)
Wonder on the water – investigate, make, fly your flag! Set sail on a boat along the canal as we create maps and flags inspired by the history of our waterways. You might even spot some wildlife! Created for ages 4 – 10 and their families.
Friday 5 August, 3 – 5pm, departs from Union Canal at Leamington Lift Bridge, Leamington Road, EH3 9PD, wheelchair friendly and toilet onboard
Art Buds Collective is a social enterprise dedicated to the delivery of sustainable arts education for children across Edinburgh. Creativity, the creative journey and protecting the planet are at the heart of their workshops. Follow Art Buds Collective on Instagram at @art_buds_collective
Everyone likes a good story, right? Well, how would you like to have access to over 50 million, yes million, pages of newspaper stories?
One of our online resources, the British Newspaper Archive celebrated publishing it’s 50 millionth page a couple of months ago, so already that figure has been surpassed.
We’ve been delving in and finding some articles that are close to home. The Royal Highland Show celebrates its 200th year later this week and we’ve managed to find an article of the very first show which was held in 1822 in the grounds of Queensberry House in the Canongate. It describes the “Fat Stock Show” where between sixty and seventy fine cattle were exhibited on a day when the weather was “most favourable”.
In a couple of months, the Edinburgh Festival will be with us again, and when searching for the very first Festival in 1947, we came across a picture of the city in preparation for the event showing city gardeners putting finishing touches to the clock at the West End of Princes Street.
So why not have a look and see what you can find? After all, there’s over 50 million pages of historic newspapers from all over Britain and Ireland to explore!
We’re hoping to restart the sessions on a fortnightly basis, provisionally on a Saturday morning from 10.30am – 12pm at the Central Library. Term-time sessions to begin on the 10 September 2022.
Our plans are for a free programme of creative play and learning – a time to explore art-making – build curiosity, kindness, and wellbeing – and hopefully foster an ever more creative relationship with the world around us.
We look forward to hearing from you!
We’re also running three summer workshops at the beginning of July:
People will be able to borrow an instrument for free, just like taking out a book. The programme is in libraries in Fife, North Ayrshire and Edinburgh, and across other areas in future. In Edinburgh, there will be six libraries taking part covering different areas of the city: Craigmillar, Drumbrae, Moredun, Muirhouse, Wester Hailes and the Music Library at Central Library.
The libraries will stock a wide variety of instruments from guitars, keyboards and ukuleles, to violins, trombones and orchestral instruments, as well as music software and midi keyboards so people can make music on library computers. Each library is paired with a local music project or the local authority’s instrumental music service, and all of the libraries are keen to build links with other local music groups, schools, community projects and venues.
The project has launched a crowdfunding campaign,with a call-out for donations of both money and musical instruments, to help fill the libraries with as many musical instruments and learning resources as possible. All money will go towards buying, repairing and servicing donated instruments so they are in good condition for the libraries, as well as music software and midi keyboards for making music on library computers. They also want to offer music workshops and introductory lessons, develop online resources and organise live music events in and around the libraries. The more money raised, and the more instruments people donate, the more new music libraries will open up around Scotland!