Green Pencil Award-winner 2022 is announced!

We’re delighted to announce the winning entry for the 2022, Year of Stories, Green Pencil creative writing competition is Lukas Bell of Boroughmuir High School with his poem, Foggy Bummer.

We invite you to listen to a special recording of Lukas’ poem read by poet, Roshni Gallagher –

Foggy Bummer by Lukas Bell from Boroughmuir High

You can hear all four of our finalists read their highly commended entries in yesterday’s blog post.

Green Pencil Award 2022

A big thank you to all the children and young people who entered the Green Pencil creative writing competition. We enjoyed reading all your writing.

For this year’s theme – Year of Scotland’s stories – P4-P7 aged children and young people in S1-3 were challenged to write a poem, piece of prose or story on the theme.

Once again, we were unable to hold an awards ceremony in Central Library, so here instead, you can listen to the finalists read their highly commended entries in these special Green Pencil videos.

Congratulations to all our talented finalists!

Hannah, St George’s: Can we stop it now?

Can we stop it now? by Hannah from St George’s School

Zara Shaw, Ratho Primary: The Difference We Can Make for Climate Change

The difference we can make for climate change by Zara Shaw from Ratho Primary School

Amber Rose Redpath, The Royal High: Mother Nature

Mother Nature by Amber Rose Redpath from The Royal High

Lukas Bell, Boroughmuir High: Foggy Bummer

Foggy Bummer by Lukas Bell from Boroughmuir High School

Come back tomorrow when the winner will be revealed…

Celebrating Robert Burns

Once again we hand over to Douglas from the Music Library, this time to tell us about the many composers who have been inspired by the works of Robert Burns.

Robert Burns – poet, lyricist, lover, fighter, farmer, exciseman – regarded by most as Scotland’s national poet. Burns was born 264 years ago on the 25 January 1759, a day celebrated near and far as Burns Night, with suppers given in his honour and much Irn Bru drunk and sugary tablet eaten, (or maybe that’s just my Burns Suppers).

Burns’ memory is toasted with the finest malt whisky and a dinner of haggis, tatties and neeps. The haggis is marched in, accompanied by a piper, and addressed by a guest speaker, before being served. Then songs are sung, dances are danced and the Bard’s poems are recited for the entertainment of the assembled diners.

The Music Library’s Burns display this year contains songs in settings Burns afficionados would perhaps not expect to see and hear. There are also settings that are perhaps less well known and a few select items from the collection of our neighbours, the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection.

Burns Night display in the Music Library
Music Library Burns Night display
Burns night display in cabinet in Music Library

The items in the cabinet are not normally the songs sung at a Burns supper – this small collection are a few of the less well-known settings of the ploughman poet’s work.

The cabinet contains settings by Pleyell, Haydn, Beethoven, Ravel, Britten, Vaughan Williams, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Shostakovich. Of the composers represented in the cabinet, Pleyell, Haydn, Beethoven and Schumann never visited Scotland, although Clara Schumann, composer, gifted pianist and wife of Robert, visited Scotland in 1867 on tour with the celebrated violinist Joseph Joacim. Robert Schumann revisited the lyrics and poems of Robert Burns a few times, the great romantic composer setting the works of the great romantic lyricist. In 1840, Schumann set some of Burns poems in his song cycle Myrten Op25 which was dedicated to his beloved bride to be, Clara. In 1846, Schumann wrote Five songs for Choir Op55 all with words by Robert Burns. There is also a jaunty little setting of My Love is like a Red Red Rose.

Felix Mendelssohn was much taken by Scotland when he visited in 1829. The 20 year old composer “did Scotland” top to bottom. His trip produced the Hebrides Overture and the 3rd Symphony. It also produced some fascinating letters to his family and excellent sketches. Starting in Edinburgh on the 26 July, Mendelssohn set off with with Karl Klingemann a diplomat stationed in London and a close friend of the Mendelssohn Family.

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, 1830
by Eckart Kleßmann, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Felix Mendelssohn had arrived in London on April 21 after a difficult channel crossing. He chose to initially perform only on piano and only in private houses at small functions. It was not until 25 May that Mendelssohn made his London concert debut with the RPO. He was to appear throughout the Summer as soloist in the Weber Concert-stuck and Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto. He also premiered some of his own works. When the London concert season finished, he was free to travel with Klingemann to their walking holiday in Scotland.

Described as inveterate reviser, the Hebrides Overture has several different names and a few different versions until Mendelssohn deemed himself “satisfied” with the work in 1832. The Scottish Symphony took longer to finish – a full 13 years, the same year as his Volksleid based on the poetry of Robert Burns.

Maurice Ravel,1912, unknown photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Maurice Ravel wrote his Chanson Ecossaise in 1910 and eventually managed to visit Scotland two years later, perhaps this is some sort of pre-inspiration. At the behest of Russian singer Marie Olenine d’Alheim and her so called Maison du Lied which she founded in Moscow in 1908. The Maison organised concerts and international competitions for song arrangements. Ravel entered one of these competitions. Four of his Chansons Populaire won first place, whilst other Russian, Scottish and Italian songs were never published. This edition of the Chanson Ecossaise is reconstructed from existing sketches.

Portrait of Dimitri Shostakovich
Deutsche Fotothek‎, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons

Shostakovich’s visit to the 1962 Edinburgh Festival was heavily policed by Russian authorities with all that he said and did being monitored by his state minders. What actual picture or impression of Scotland he got from this visit we cannot tell. Dimitri seems to have been criticised on all levels for all things. His 1962 visit to Scotland to the Edinburgh Festival, allowed every critic and letter writer to “have a go”. If he had had a twitter account, he would have been trolled out of the country.  He was unequally lauded and vilified. Individual critics were torn between carrying him through the streets as one of the great Russian composers or trying to find room on his back for one more knife. His crime was to stay alive during the Stalin era, an era in which to fall out of step with Russia’s tiptop tyrant, meant disappearance, banishment, or death. Shostakovich suffered none of these fates despite almost falling out of line, he always managed to pull himself back from the edge by writing works to please the Party. It was this music, the safe party music which drew most criticism and the behaviour of being seen as a sycophant rather than being dead, which also brought disfavour from the amateur and professional critic, and all the outraged letter writers of Edinburgh. 

The Shostakovich Six Romances on English Folk Tunes Op 62 were premiered in 1943, a difficult time in Russia’s history, it is hard to see how this could be anything other than Shostakovich the patriot, writing music for Russia and the Russians.

Benjamin Britten by
Szalay Zoltán, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Benjamin Britten – A Birthday Hansell (‘hansel’ is an old Scottish word for a welcome gift or present) was written in 1975 for the Queen Mother’s 75th birthday in 1976. The piece was commissioned by the late Queen Elizabeth II and became Britten’s last song cycle. It was given its first performance by Peter Pears, tenor and the harpist Osian Ellis, whose advice Britten often sought for the harp arrangements. In 1973 Britten had had a failing heart valve replaced successfully but he was never the most robustly healthy man. It was clear by he middle of 1976 that he was unwell and unlikely to get better. His Scottish nurse Rita Thomson organised champagne receptions where the dying composer could say his goodbyes to his friends and family.  Britten died on the 4 December 1976 and was buried in his beloved Aldeburgh in the church graveyard, there he was joined by his partner, Peter Pears on his passing in 1986.

Ralph Vaughan Williams was a great champion of indigenous music, much of his work revolved around English Folk tradition, in amongst all his many works are settings and arrangements of folk songs from other lands. Ca the Yowes is from 1922.

The works by Beethoven, Haydn and Pleyell come from a lucrative arrangement entered in to by them and the Edinburgh based, clerk, businessman, musician and composer George Thomson (1757 – 1851). Thomson was an attendee, but not a member, at the Edinburgh Music Society in their home in the St Cecilia Halls in the Cowgate. Here, he heard the “tasteful” renditions of Scots songs by the Italian Castrato Tenducci, a visitor to the society. This gave Thomson the idea of publishing collections of Scots songs in “tasteful arrangements”.

George Thomson
by Henry Raeburn, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Spanning a period of over 40 years, Thomson published six volumes and employed the services of eight composers – Pleyel, Kozelich, Haydn, Beethoven, Weber (briefly), Hummell, H.R. Bishop and G. F. Graham. From various records, Thomson paid between 2/4 ducats for an arrangement. In the time that Beethoven worked with Thomson he produced between 125 and 179 arrangements which almost all were requested by Thomson. This was a favourable arrangement, but disagreements flared between Thomson and Beethoven over the difficulty of the accompaniments. The publisher claimed the arrangements were too hard for the people buying his collections, Beethoven refused to compromise, notoriously ill-tempered. This was when Thomson and Beethoven parted company and Thomson moved on to his next composer. Thompson’s starting point for his volumes of song had been existing works and only Scottish works along the way. Thomson now commissioned works for his collection and expanded the collection to include works from Ireland, Wales and England. Thomson commissioned Burns to write 170 new works and it was Burns who persuaded Thomson to include the work of the other home nations. 

Whether completely new tunes to familiar words or surprising arrangements of well kent tunes. It is always interesting to find how far and wide Robert Burns words travelled, all the way from England to Russian and many stops in between.

There are many more perhaps surprising Burns works at both Naxos streaming sites, Classical and Jazz. Both the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection and the Music Library have many more Burns volumes than can be listed here.

Tumbledown Terrace – Ferniehill, Gilmerton

In early November 2000, a resident living in Ferniehill Terrace noticed a crack had appeared in her ceiling. By the next day, more hairline cracks had appeared. Council workers were notified and started to monitor the situation. By the following week, as property movement continued to be detected in the street, it was decided that residents needed to be moved out for their safety. Later in the month, there was a significant ground movement which affected more homes.

Subsided houses, walls and fences, Ferniehill Terrace, 2000 by Ann Sinclair via www.capitalcollections.org.uk

It was known that the houses had been built on the site of former limestone mines. The mines had been worked into the 1940s and records showed that there had been a cast limestone quarry near the houses to depths of between 15m and 20m.

During November and December 2000, 33 houses had to be demolished at Ferniehill and other nearby areas built on top of limestone mines were identified as being at similar risk of subsidence.

In 2022, Robert Carroll at Gilmerton Library undertook a local history project to record residents’ memories of the incident and how it affected local people. We’re grateful to Ann Sinclair who got in touch to share photos and her recollections of the time. In a new exhibition on Capital Collections, you can see her photos, official documents that were distributed to residents and hear her memories of the time in a specially recorded interview.

Get an Instant Digital Card

Do you know someone who would benefit from free access to ebooks, audiobooks and magazines, but who are not a member of the library? This New Year you can get free instant access to Edinburgh Libraries Libby service without a library card. Thousands of best-selling titles for adults, teens and children are available to read on your phone, tablet or computer. It’s a fantastic way to make the most of your electronic Christmas presents and to save money. Please spread the word to relatives and friends!
No library card? No problem! From the 10 January – 9 February 2023 if you are over 16 years old you can sign up for an Instant Digital Card in seconds. All you need is a mobile phone number and the access code – Library2go. To find out how to get started go to http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/IDC.
The Instant Digital Card gives you access to Libby for three months. However, you can keep on using the service for free by joining the library and receiving a permanent membership card. Join online through http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/joinourlibrary
Contact informationdigital@edinburgh.gov.uk if you have any questions about our downloadable services.

Tinderbox Orchestra launch We Make Music Instrument Libraries

Want to borrow a violin? Or perhaps you’d prefer a guitar or a clarinet?

We Make Music Instrument Libraries is a brand new initiative to get musical instruments into public libraries across Scotland. People can borrow these instruments for free, just like taking out a book. The programme is launching with nine libraries in Fife, North Ayrshire and Edinburgh, with the intention that it spreads further across Scotland in future.

Tinderbox Orchestra

Edinburgh Libraries currently hold collections of instruments in Craigmillar, Drumbrae, Moredun, Muirhouse, Wester Hailes and the Music Library at Central Library. We have a wide variety of instruments from guitars, keyboards and ukuleles, to violins, trombones and orchestral instruments. The Music Library also has two digital pianos, a full-sized keyboard and a drum kit available to use in the library.

We are working in partnership with Tinderbox Collective to deliver this initiative and what better way to launch this new service than to welcome Tinderbox Orchestra to perform in the library! Join us on the Mezzanine at Central Library on Saturday 28 January. Tinderbox Orchestra will play from 1:30 to 2:15pm and if you’ve been inspired, join us for an open mic session running afterwards from 2:30 to 3:30pm hosted by Tinderbox Collective.

Get your free ticket to see Tinderbox Orchestra on Saturday 28 January or drop in for a jam on the day.

Scottish literary prize winners past and present

Today, with thanks, we hand over to departing member of staff, Lauren from the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection and Reference team at Central Library, who writes about holiday limbo and Scottish prize winning books.

The Christmas rush is over – presents have been unwrapped, turkeys get a second lease of life as leftovers and stomachs and hearts are full. Now the lull of the no man’s land between Christmas and New Year is upon us and all plans have been abandoned. Now is the time, at least in my house, for ‘picky bits’ dinners, sinking into that new book and not having anywhere to be. Above all though, this limbo week is a time for reflection on the year just passed.

In the literary world, towards the latter stages of the year is often when the last of the book prizes announce their winners. No doubt whilst Christmas shopping in your local bookshop, you will have seen those little stickers shining out from the front of covers. ‘Shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize’ states ‘A Shock’ by Keith Ridgway, ‘The Arthur C. Clarke Award Winner 2022’ features on ‘Deep Wheel Orcadia’ by Harry Josephine Giles and, perhaps most coveted of all, ‘Winner of the Booker Prize 2022’ sits proudly on the cover of ‘The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida’ by Shehan Karunatilaka.

Scotland has a long and storied history with prizewinning literature, from her authors to books about Scotland, set in Scotland and even literary prizes aiming to find the next best thing in Scottish writing. So, in the spirit of reflection, the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection decided to look back on some highlights of the Scottish prizewinning best of past and present.

Wind back all the way to 1937 and the very first Saltire Society Literary Awards were launched, the first awards ceremony since the society’s inception the year before. Scottish novelist Neil M Gunn’s fourth novel, ‘Highland River’ won the inaugural Scottish Book of the Year Award. The title also won the James Tait Black Prize in the same year. Gunn wrote many other novels, including his first novel ‘The Grey Coast’ (1926), ‘Morning Tide’ (1931) and ‘Silver Darlings’ (1941).

Jumping forward 51 years, the Saltire Society Literary Awards introduced the First Book of the Year Award, presented to an author for their debut published book. The inaugural winner was Arbroath-born poet Raymond Vettese for his book ‘The Richt Noise and Ither Poems’ (1988), written in the Scots dialect and compiled of both new poems and ones that had previously been published in popular poetry periodicals such as Lallans and Chapman. His second collection, ‘A Keen New Air’, was published by the Saltire Society in 1995.

In 1994, Scots writer James Kelman won arguably the most esteemed literary prize, the then-named Man Booker Prize (now Booker Prize), with his Scots dialect novel ‘How Late It Was, How Late’. This caused huge controversy and uproar due to its extensive use of expletives, with one judge calling it a ‘disgrace’ and ‘completely inaccessible’. The novel however would go on to become one of the most celebrated books in the Scottish literature canon. An article from The Times (available to view via the British Newspaper Archive e-resource) featured an interview with Kelman (the first Scot to receive the prize) after his win, in which he admitted to journalist Julia Llewellyn Smith that he was unsurprised with the outcry: “I’m very glad it wasn’t a unanimous decision,” he says in his soft, Scots monotone. “Very pleased indeed, ye know. If it had been, I would have to examine what I was doing.’’

Although published in 1994, Christine De Luca’s debut poetry collection ‘Voes and Sounds’ won the Shetland Arts Trust Literary Award two years later in 1996. The collection was celebrated as ‘one of the best collections of poetry to come out of Shetland for 20 to 30 years’, by one of the judges. Since then, she has become an important contemporary voice for Shetlandic literature. The Edinburgh and Scottish Collection holds both the print collection and the audiobook cassette, read in Christine’s native Shetlandic dialect.

Coming into the 21st century now, Edinburgh played host to two literary prizes. The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, laterally known as the Commonwealth Book Prize, came to Scotland for the first time 20 years ago in April 2002, with events held at the Palace of Holyroodhouse and attended by Princess Anne. Author William Muir was one of the winners for his novel, ‘The 18th Pale Descendant’ (2001), a psychological tale that explores the implications of the death penalty.

As UNESCO’s first City of Literature, Edinburgh hosted the inaugural Man Booker International Prize in June 2005 and many events were planned in the city, alongside the official prizegiving ceremony itself. The prize was won by Albanian writer Ismail Kadare for his body of work, however bookshops struggled to buy his novels in for the prizegiving as Kadare’s work had previously been banned in his home country of Albania and had to be smuggled out of his country while under Stalinist regime.

Moving into 2020 and the shadow of the pandemic meant that Scottish writer Douglas Stuart became the second Scot to win the Booker Prize, in a ‘ceremony without walls’ that was broadcast online. Stuart’s autobiographical debut ‘Shuggie Bain’ is based on his own upbringing in 1980s Thatcherite Glasgow, and the novel was deemed ‘a book both beautiful and brutal’ by The Times. Stuart himself credited inspiration to the first Scottish Booker winner James Kelman for depicting the Glaswegian people and dialect on the page. In November 2022, it was announced that ‘Shuggie Bain’ would be adapted for a television series on BBC One.

In 2021, Maria Hayward’s ‘Stuart Style’ won the Saltire Society History Book of the Year in 2021, with her research book that looks at how the fashion of the 17th century Scottish royal Stuart family influenced the courts of England. It is the first detailed analysis to be published on elite male clothing in the 1600s in Scotland and centres on James VI and I, Prince Henry, Charles 1 and 11 and James VII and II.

Finally arriving in 2022, Billy Connolly’s much anticipated biography ‘Windswept and Interesting: My Autobiography’ was shortlisted for the British Book Awards Non-Fiction Narrative Book of the Year 2022. It is the first full-length memoir from the famous Scottish comedian and sits alongside his other books such as ‘Made in Scotland: My Grand Adventures in a Wee Country’ (2018) and ‘Tall Tales and Wee Stories’ (2019). Connolly has retired from live comedy due to a Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2013 and can now be found presenting travel documentaries and books on Scotland, still with the flair for storytelling that shone through his stand-up comedy.

So it is then, in this suspended period between Christmas and New Year, that I can be found nestled into the sofa with a cup of tea and the recently announced 2022 Saltire Society History Book of the Year, ‘Slaves and Highlanders: Silenced Histories of Scotland and the Caribbean’ by David Alston, now looking forward to the literary year ahead. Who knows what 2023 will bring, except exciting new Scottish books deserving of those little prize stickers.

Discover these and more prize worthy Scottish books in the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection at Central Library.

Some of our favourite books of 2022

Edinburgh Libraries staff tell us which were their favourite books of the past year.

Alannah from Wester Hailes Library recommends not a book of the year, but a trilogy!
The Hell’s Library series by A. J. Hackwith is an incredible journey that deals with budding friendships, coping with loss, and choosing your own family in this crazy, messed up world. The stories are written from the perspective of multiple characters, so you really get a good feel for the world Hackwith has created and the complex relationships that develop throughout the trilogy. I initially picked the first book as it was advertised as an LGBTQ+ novel, and the sincerity with which queer and questioning characters are portrayed is incredibly refreshing. If you’re looking for a series to make you laugh with joy, cry in despair, and bite your nails in suspense – sometimes within the span of a few pages – this is an adventure you will want to embark on.
The Hell’s Library series by A. J. Hackwith –
1st Library of the Unwritten (2020) is available to borrow in print
2nd Archive of the Forgotten (2021) is available to borrow in print
3rd The God of Lost Words (2022) is available to borrow in print

Enya from Newington Library would like to recommend I’m glad my mom died by Jennette McCurdy
The reason I picked this book up is the same reason most people do – I was intrigued by the title and cover. That has got to be one of the most intelligently provocative marketing I’ve ever seen! As someone who grew up watching iCarly on Nickelodeon I was familiar with Jennette McCurdy, but wouldn’t necessarily have been interested in picking up her memoir if it weren’t for that title. Celebrity memoirs can be a bit hit or miss, but luckily this one lived up to the expectations it raised! I could not put it down at all, the audiobook was beautifully narrated by the author and the writing style was clear and concise. She perfectly illuminates her complex relationship with her family, especially her mother and the volatile home environment she had to navigate as a child. Even if the title takes you aback at first, by the end of it, you’ll come away thinking “I would be glad, too”.
I’m glad my mom died is available to borrow as an ebook, audiobook and in print.

Roshni from the Resources Team recommends Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au
My favourite read of 2022, Cold Enough for Snow is a beautiful, evocative book that captures the small details of life and holds them up to the light. It follows a mother and adult daughter on a trip to Japan in the Autumn – exploring the daughter’s longing for connection and the subjectivity of their shared experiences. I love how atmospheric and textured the writing is. Au’s well-observed images stick with you – ferns through a thick mist of rain, light shifting through an art gallery, streets lit up softly like lanterns. It’s a thoughtful book filled with memory, art, and dream.
Cold Enough for Snow is available to borrow in print.

Heather from South Queensferry and Kirkliston Libraries says she’s a big fan of Scottish fiction and one of her favourites this year was Hear No Evil by Sarah Smith.
Historical fiction’s not a genre I’d usually go for, but this book is based on the true story of a landmark Scottish legal case, so I was intrigued to read it.
The book begins in Glasgow, 1817, where a woman is witnessed throwing a child into the River Clyde.  Jean is deaf and struggles to communicate with the authorities to tell her side of the story.  Robert Kinniburgh, a teacher from the Deaf and Dumb Institute in Edinburgh is called upon to translate and becomes involved with investigations.  He listens to Jean’s story at a time when the authorities are quick to dismiss those with disabilities.  I was fascinated by the way the author depicts the conversations between Jean and Robert in the early days of BSL.   
Sarah Smith paints such a vivid picture of Glasgow and Edinburgh that I felt like I’d been pulled right into the past!  A really interesting and important read.
Hear no Evil is available to borrow in print.

Susan from the Digital Team highlights The Edinburgh Skating Club by Michelle Sloan
I love a book set in Edinburgh, there is something that elevates the experience of reading for me when I know the streets and buildings that are described. This year I have finished the latest Ambrose Parry novel set in Victorian Edinburgh and devoured all four of the fabulous contemporary-set Skelf’s series by Doug Johnstone.
My last foray into the literary capital however was for Michelle Sloan’s The Edinburgh Skating Club. It is a gentle, enjoyable romp set in the contemporary city and in Enlightenment Edinburgh with something for everyone – romance, history, mystery, women’s rights and a very famous painting!  Sloan has taken real people for the historical sections of the book and created an interesting series of “what-ifs”, where the main character Alison Cockburn is able to break free from the social norms of the day in a very unexpected way.
The Edinburgh Skating Club is available to borrow as an ebook, audiobook and in print.

Clare from the Digital Team recommends A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
My most memorable book of the year began as a stop-gap read in between reservations. I was browsing the Libby catalogue and came across several titles by Bill Bryson, an author I’d not read in years. I decided on A Walk in the Woods, an account of Bryson’s attempt to hike the Appalachian trail, with his old friend, Stephen Katz. It’s rare for a book to make me laugh out loud, rarer still to find myself crying with laughter.
The Appalachian trail is more that a walk in the woods, it is almost 2200 miles of remote mountain wilderness. Together, Bryson and Katz faced scary animals, weather extremes, other hikers, tantrums and endless noodles. The book is a testament to enduring friendship, an inspiration for all armchair travellers and in parts, very funny.
A Walk in the Woods is available to borrow as an ebook, audiobook and print.

Mel from Corstorphine Library sneaks in two books of the year!
She recommends The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton
This was such a fun read. The book is set in an alternate Victorian Britain where there are pirates and assassins who just so happen to belong to a not-so-secret society of ladies who pull off heists and robberies in between attending balls and tea parties. The world that the author created was really interesting and the book had plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and one-liners. There is kidnapping, skulduggery, flying houses and a love story – it kind of has everything to keep you entertained!

Hedgewitch by Skye McKenna
This children’s book was an engrossing tale right from the start when the young protagonist Cassie runs away from her boarding school, is nearly kidnapped by goblins and then finds out that she is part of a family of witches who have been guarding the town of Hedgley and the border with Faerie.
I thought this book was exciting and a real page-turner. Cassie was such a likeable protagonist, and the story has broom-flying, talking cats, creepy forests, and a terrific band of friends. The second book in the series is out early in 2023 and I can’t wait to see what happens next to Cassie and her friends.
The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels is available as an ebook and in print.
Hedgewitch is available to borrow in print.

Doris from Central Lending says one of her favourite books of 2022 is At the Table by Claire Powell.
The novel focuses on the lives of the Maguire family and how they interact over the course of a year over a series of lunches, drinks and at times, awkward get togethers. Nicole is the daughter of Linda and Gerry and is the heart of the family, while her brother Jamie is the soul. Both react differently to the separation of their parents as they navigate their own lives and question the choices they make and the consequences of these decisions. The razor sharp dialogue is a joy to read and is a highlight of the novel.
At the Table is available to borrow in print.

Nicola from South Queensferry and Kirkliston Libraries book of the year was Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura.
I love Japanese books and find them to be fantastical and whimsical and this book did not disappoint.
This book is about a group of teenagers who are united by not being able to attend school, and are facing their own unique challenges and struggles. This storyline really resonated with me and had a personal connection, which made it an emotional and thought-provoking read. The teenagers are brought together through the magical portal of the mirror into another realm where they can leave their insecurities and anxieties behind and not be judged.
It has a lot to say about loneliness and anxiety and about the importance of being authentic and of reaching out to others. An unusual and captivating fairy tale, which is moving and unusual.

My favourite children’s book this year was Like a Charm by Elle McNicoll. Elle writes about neurodiverse characters in an empowering and positive way. This is a wonderful story set in a magical hidden world within Edinburgh, and I can’t wait to read the follow up which is coming out in February 2023.
Lonely Castle in the Mirror is available to borrow in print.
Like a Charm is available to borrow in print.

Bageshri from Stockbridge Library puts forward The Marmalade Diaries: The True Story of an Odd Couple by Ben Aitken as her book of the year.
I got attracted to the title of the book in the first place. It’s a charming book about a young man in his 30s and a lady in her 80s living together under the same roof during the strange period of Covid lockdown!
Although it doesn’t look like this inter-generational friendship is going to work at the beginning; but they end up having a heart-warming relation between them. The book is a light read full of warmth and humour. It speaks about the lockdown and the effect it had on people’s lives. You will relate to this story if you have or ever had an elder person in your life!
The Marmalade Diaries is available to borrow in print.

What was your favourite book of the year?

Hogmanay cheer

As we come to the end of another year, we’ve been looking through the pages of the wonderful resource, the British Newspaper Archive to see how Hogmanay was celebrated in the past.

Nowadays, New Year’s Eve, or Hogmanay here in Scotland, is full of big street parties and top line entertainers, but looking back things were on a much smaller scale.

Of course, you could still celebrate in style by attending a Grand New Year’s Eve Ball at The Palais de Danse. Where for a 10/6 admission you could dance in Scotland’s largest and most beautiful ballroom and listen to “Our Two Celebrated Novelty Jazz Bands” and compete for the prize for best ladies’ or gents’ costumes.

Edinburgh Evening News, Tuesday 28 December 1920 taken from the British Newspaper Archive

Or maybe you were staying in and having your own celebrations, in which case you’d need “delightful and seasonable party records that everyone enjoys…” from Beltona Records.

Evening Telegraph, Thursday 24 December 1936 from British Newspaper Archive

No Hogmanay party would be complete without New Year Cakes… currant buns, shortbread or rich cakes.

Linlithgowshire Gazette, Friday 29 December 1937 from British Newspaper Archive

And unlike today, trains ran over New Year. You could take advantage of “Cheap Day Excursions” to many different destinations!

Scottish Border Newspaper, Thursday 24 December 1925 from British Newspaper Archive

Take a look at all the millions of historical newspaper pages available from the British Newspaper Archive, accessible for free in all our libraries.

Teddy bears sleepover at Central Library

Last week there was a special teddy bears sleepover at Central Children’s Library.
When the children arrived with their teddies, they all enjoyed a storytime together.

Teddy bear story time for children at Central Library.

And then they went on a bear hunt… looking for a bear…One shiny nose, two big eyes…
Oh, no, it’s a …. bear!

Run, run, all the way home!

A story time at Central Library acting out a "bear hunt".

But not before there’s time for some bear crafts, making teddy bear bookmarks.

Children are sat around a table doing crafts.
A group of teddy bears are colouring in festive drawings.

And a tasty snack before bedtime.

The children had one last story with the teddies before putting the teddies to bed. Move over Santa Teddy and make some room for the others.

Teddy bears getting into their tent bed.


Night night Maisy
Night night Teddy
Night night Little Teddy and night night Busy Bee
Night night Santa Teddy and sweet dreams Maxie
Night night and sleep tight Kai.
We’ll come and get you in the morning.

All snuggled up for sleep…

AAhhhh. Sweet dreams –

But wait a second, what’s going on? The teddies have got out of bed and they’re playing board games and doing crafts.

A group of teddy bears playing board games.

Teddy switched on the computer in the craft room, what were you trying to find teddies?

A group of teddy bears gathered around a computer screen.

They played hide and seek. Busy Bee had a very good hiding spot!

A cuddly bee toy half hidden under a settee.

Then it’s competition time. Who can climb the highest?

A group of teddy bears sat or climbing onto a settee.

They made a new friend – Santa Penguin.

A group of teddy bears on book shelves positioned around a cuddly penguin toy in a Santa costume.

At last the bears are sleepy and they get ready for bed!
Little Teddy is making sure everyone is brushing their teeth!

Little Teddy watches over while the other teddies brush their teeth.

Finally, it’s back to the tent where there’s time for one last bedtime story.

The teddies gather round to read a story.

When the teddies were asleep they had a special visitor!  Santa came and brought some lovely books for everyone!

 A surprise visitor arrives in the library!

Night, night everyone, we can’t wait to tell the children what fun we’ve had.

Morning sleepy heads… it’s breakfast time.

The teddies are lined up to eat their breakfast cereal.

Let’s choose some books for children to borrow from the library. Maisy is stamping all the books with Madeleine.

A member of library staff helps to issue library books to the teddies.

And here they are, waiting for the children to arrive to take them home.

The teddies are sitting in a line on yellow chairs while they wait.

Central Library – a view from the top

As we look forward to the end of the building works programme at Central Library and the removal of the scaffolding, we thought we’d share some photos taken of the exterior works and the fantastic views from the scaffold.

Last month we got privileged access to take a hard hat tour of the scaffold from the Cowgate floor, climbing right to the top of the roof!

View of Edinburgh Castle looking west from the roof of Central Library, www.edinburghcollected.org

We saw some of the work that has been done to repair pieces of stonework –

Stonework, Central Library, www.edinburghcollected.org

witnessed the damage that nature can do –

Plant root removed from masonry, Central Library roof, www.edinburghcollected.org

and got some unusual perspectives on familiar places. Here’s a bird’s eye view of the Reference Library –

Looking into the Reference Library, from scaffold on Central Library, www.edinburghcollected.org

See the full set of images taking you from ground to sky, in our new scrapbook on Edinburgh Collected, Central Library – a view from the top.

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!