National Libraries Day 2016- #artcore Takeover!

Saturday afternoon saw the Central Library Mezzanine buzzing as our friends from #artcore took over the Music Library to celebrate National Libraries Day.

#artcore is an Edinburgh-wide youth arts project based at Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Leith.  #Artcore employs 4 creative apprentices and  we asked them to devise, produce and deliver a takeover to showcase the great work that had been done by #artcore groups over the last year.   The apprentices did a fantastic job of planning and organising a fun, buzzy event that incorporated digital technology, music, theatre, animation, illustration, publishing and creative writing over three action-packed hours!

The team had been preparing all week but setup began in earnest on Friday evening when Ally and Mark got the PA set up, with everyone out of the building at 5 we were able to fire up the speakers and let rip!


The following morning everyone arrived early to set up and dress the Mezzanine for the Takeover.   Bethany and Nikki had worked hard on producing this beautiful Takeover guiding using the RisoPrinter at Out of the BluePrint (a print service run by #artcore). The Riso was at the heart of the takeover as it also produced the beautiful poster (designed by Out of the Blue Print trainee Ellis) as well as the zine Opposable Thumbs which showcased the phenomenal talent of #artcore comic artists.   #artcore groups can get great discounts and access valuable training opportunities in printing, design and publishing and other community groups can use this affordable print facility.


The team had also made beautiful bunting for the day and by the time the Library opened at 10am there was a real sense of anticipation that we were in for something special.

As the morning wore on more and more young artists began to arrive, excited about their performances and showcasing their work.  We kicked off at 12.30 with ProkFiscal (Joe Powers) playing his first ever gig and making a beautiful Japanese influenced sound piece based on music he found from the library collection. ProkFiscal’s chiming melodies rang out over the PA to a projected looped images selected by the #artcore team from our Capital Collections database.   Our Friday Animation group turned up to run an open studio and left behind a half hour showcase of work they’ve produced over the last 6 months.

Malky Duff and Colin McGuire both ran Zine/Comic and Creative Writing Drop-in sessions over the afternoon, this was to give people a flavour of what they could expect if they joined an #artcore group in the library or at Out of the Blue.

#artcore commissioned Graeme McKellaig to be artist in residence for the day and he spent the time exploring the collections and using his single-line technique to create beautiful illustrations of the building and the people visiting the library during the day.

Emma Milligan and Julia Hart both played beautiful, short acoustic sets before we were joined by a slew of young talent from Totally Sound and ReelMedia.  All the performers did a great job, mastering their nerves and turning in some spellbinding performances as young people captured photos, video and audio of the event.    Thanks to Totally Sound for coming along and contributing to such a positive and supportive atmosphere, we look forward to seeing you again (people were overheard talking about how “minted” the Mezzanine space looked!).  The music continued with #artcore DemoLite project winners Sight of Mind, now a duo, playing newly minted material for an appreciative audience.


In the Acoustic Pod David and Phil from Edinburgh Libraries’ Carnegie UK Innovation funded Digital Toybox project were building miniature synths and demo’ing Lego Mindstorms kits that being piloted in Morningside, Drumbrae and Moredun Libraries, visitors had dub sirens, alien noises and delays burbling and buzzing and whirring throughout the afternoon.


There was also a display of generative and 3d artwork from FreeMachines, an #artcore project based in Granton Library.  People were amazed by the disorientating virtual reality worlds created by the group and viewable through Cardboard, a simple, low tech virtual reality headset!


We were then joined by #artcore partners Creative Electric, a theatre group from the Bongo Club. Mark Hannah performed some fantastic monologues adapted from Alan Bissett’s “Boyracers”- dynamic performance and original sound design made for an electric performance.


The day ended as we began with ProkFiscal djing grime instrumentals and some roaring drum and bass, the music was loud and the library felt like it had been well and truly taken over!

In 2016 and the year of Architecture Design and Innovation Scottish Libraries want young people to ReaDiscover what’s available in libraries, as you can see below, we were delighted to work with #artcore to let young people take charge and share their amazing work.


#artcore is a partnership between 13 arts organisations across Edinburgh including Edinburgh City Libraries and Out of the Blue, it is funded by Creative Scotland’s Youth Arts Development Fund Time to Shine.

Could this be the first ever panoramic view?

Sometime in the mid-1780s, Robert Barker was out for a walk on Calton Hill when it occurred to him how it might be possible to record the cityscape – the entire 360 degree view from one spot. The idea was to use a fixed square frame, and to draw the view seen through it, rotate the frame and draw the next section and so on until returned to the starting point. And so, he instructed his 12 year old son, Henry Aston to draw the scenes.

Panoramic view from Calton Hill (section 6)

Barker discovered that the viewing experience was to be as important as the picture itself. He devised a circular viewing space which would display a large-scale painting made from Henry’s drawings. The space would be lit from above, with a fixed viewing platform in the middle accessed from below. He took a patent out on this ‘entire new Contrivance’.  At the second attempt, he secured financial backing for the project and a larger version of the image was painted on canvas measuring 25 feet in diameter. It first went on display in 1788 and was exhibited in different locations in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The principal established and patent acquired, this new way of seeing the world had arrived!

Barker turned his sights on London, where he hoped to establish a long-term enterprise. He sent Henry to draw the view of the city from a roof on the south side of Blackfriars Bridge. This time the depiction was to be bigger and better.

The London viewings were very successful and it was only then that friends of Barker coined the word panorama to mean ‘all embracing view’ and the invention was fully fledged.  In 1792, Barker built a rotunda according to his patent design, named the Panorama. It was able to exhibit two panorama paintings, one 90 feet in diameter on the ground floor and another 50 feet in diameter on the upper level. Spectators were charged one shilling per panorama. To a general populace unfamiliar with visual imagery or travel impact of the all-encompassing view must have been spellbinding.

The business thrived and Henry Aston, who was the chief artist for the panoramas made several trips abroad to record panoramic views of cities and depictions of battle scenes.  When Barker’s patent expired in 1801, other businesses were able to spring up and panoramas were exhibited in London, and other large towns and cities and toured to the United States. Henry Aston took over the business when his father died in 1806. He focused when possible, on topical scenes and his depiction of the Battle of Waterloo was so successful that it contributed to his early retirement at the age of 48.
Zoom into Panorama The version we have of the panorama from Calton Hill is a six part reproduction of the painting aquatinted by J. Wells dating from 1790. With the aid of 21st century technology our photographer has stitched the panorama sections together so that you can traverse the city scene from over 200 years ago! Zoom into the detail (by clicking on the picture with Capital Collections) and see if you can spot the women drying their washing on Calton Hill, the Botanic Cottage on Leith Walk, the pottery kilns at Leith and the strangely Modernist structures and neatly kept garden of the City Observatory.

Browse the sections and the complete panorama on Capital Collections.

Discover more about Barker’s Panorama phenomenon at The Regency Redingote blog.

Happy National Libraries Day everyone!


Have a good one! Here’s what we’ve got lined up. 

‘Vista’ – Scottish quick reads for adults

By a dyslexic library member

I discovered a series of 12 books recently called ‘Vista’.  Once I’d read one I wanted to read them all, and I did, at a rate of knots.  In this blog post I’m going to tell you about the ‘Vista’ books, how I find them, and how they help me.   I’m also going to signpost you to a resource that gives details of ‘Vista’ and more series like it.

The ‘Vista’ books:

  • were written between 2004 and 2007, by authors resident in Scotland
  • are aimed at adults with differing levels of reading skills, from the emergent to the accomplished
  • are available in a wide range of formats: traditional print, e-book, eAudio, CD, cassette, play script
  • include fiction and non-fiction forms e.g. crime, sci-fi, biography, journalism
  • feature a wide variety of themes e.g. football, trust, alcoholism

How I find the ‘Vista’ books 

The ‘Vista’ books help me because

  • they give me confidence and motivation to read other books

and also because they allow me to:

  • enjoy Scottish books (I love Scottish literature but mainstream books are often not accessible for me in print and not available in alternative formats)
  • try out new writers and styles at a reading level that is manageable for me
  • ‘overlearn’ each book by engaging with it in more than one format
  • develop my reading speed

Further information on ‘Vista’ and more series like it

There is a complete list of the Vista books at  If you read them all, sadly you will have to say ‘hasta la vista, Vista’ because the series is complete.  But the good news for ‘Vista’ fans is that there are many similar series available from Edinburgh Libraries.

You will find details, including some great support resources, in this Series of books for adults designed to be dyslexia-friendly.

Three ways to celebrate National Libraries Day


This Saturday (6th February) is National Libraries Day. Here are three ways you can get involved:

1. Use it!

We’ve got loads of fantastic events lined up for the day itself. Regular readers will know about Central Library being taken over for the day and Michelle McManus reading stories at Wester Hailes, but there’s lots more going on besides.

Check our events calendar, or take a look at your local library’s Facebook page to see what they’ve got planned.

2. Love it!

Use the  #librariesday hashtag to tell everyone what you love best about libraries and see what others are saying.

Better still, take a picture!

edinburgh 4

3. Join it!

Chances are if you’re reading this blog you are a regular user of the library service. But what about your friends, family and colleagues who aren’t? Why not take this chance to introduce them to the free books, films, music and everything else the library has to offer?

They don’t even need to leave the house to sign up!

Michelle McManus to visit Wester Hailes Library

Singer and presenter Michelle McManus is coming to Wester Hailes Library this Saturday (National Libraries Day).

Michelle McManus

Michelle will be joining us to launch the Scottish Government’s Read, Write, Count campaign and read two of her favourite children’s books: The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne.

Parents, carers and children in P1-P3 are invited to come along from 2 – 3pm for the readings, along with fun games and craft activities. Children will also receive a free book gift pack to take home and enjoy.

‘Read, Write, Count’ is a Scottish Government-led campaign which aims to improve key numeracy and literacy skills among young primary school children across Scotland. Visit for great tips, activities and ideas that make reading, writing and counting with children an easy, fun and positive experience.


An Edinburgh home guard mystery

When Marjory Langdon was sorting through her possessions in preparation for moving house she was not expecting to unearth a mystery hidden for over 70 years. In a spare bedroom cupboard she found a framed drawing of an exotic looking lady. She thought she’d check if there was any information about the sitter on the back of the drawing. What she found instead though, tucked behind the portrait, was an Edinburgh newspaper from 1940 which concealed a hand-drawn map of Edinburgh relating to the Second World War.
Local Defence Volunteers posts and road blocksThe map of the Mortonhall area was a detailed plan of Local Defence Volunteer (LDV) posts and road blocks. The LDV or Home Guard as they are better known had a strong presence throughout this city, but the map focussed on two platoons based at Mortonhall. It may have been felt that there was a greater need for the LDV to be based around this area as there was an army camp built here. The camp may have been a prisoner of war camp, but it is more likely that it was for displaced Europeans.

Home Guard 1940 Home Guards patrol a section of canal in Edinburgh in a motor boat armed with rifles and a mounted Lewis gun, 19 October 1940.

Home Guard 1940, patrolling the Union Canal. Image courtesy of Imperial War Museums –

Mrs Langdon was kind enough to donate her discoveries to Edinburgh Libraries along with some family photographs of Home Guard battalions. This sparked our imagination to find out more about Edinburgh’s own Dad’s Army. By 1940 4000 men had volunteered in Edinburgh and although often the butt of jokes i.e. that LDV stood for the Look, Duck and Vanish Brigade, they did serious work in Edinburgh such as creating the first Home Guard Anti-Aircraft rocket batteries and bringing down a German plane.

Edinburgh's 1st Battalion Home Guard, 1944

Edinburgh’s 1st Battalion Home Guard, 1944

See our Capital Collection’s Edinburgh’s Home Guard exhibition to read about what it was like to be a member of the LDV in Edinburgh and and to see the full suite of images including the mystery lady in the drawing.