In June 1940, a new volunteer force – the Special Operations Executive (SOE) – was set up to wage a secret war. Its agents were mainly tasked with sabotage and subversion behind enemy lines in the countries occupied by Nazi Germany. Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously said that they should ‘set Europe ablaze!’
Exiles from Czechoslovakia saw this as a way to support the resistance effort at home. The training of some three hundred Czech and Slovak agents took place at locations all over Scotland. A memorial to those agents who died in World War 2 stands near Arisaig, where many of them were trained.
The most famous operation carried out by Czech and Slovak agents trained in Scotland was Anthropoid – the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich.
You can find out much more about the relationship between the SOE, Czech and Slovak agents and Scotland at a special banner exhibition in the foyer of Central Library until 14 October.
Black History Month runs through October and this year takes the theme ‘Time for Change: Action Not Words’. A display responding to this theme has been installed in the Central Library staircase exhibition cabinets. We’re also running a short programme of author events on Monday 24 and Tuesday 25 October.
The summer of 2020 saw protests, demonstrations and marches across the world in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and in response to police brutality being witnessed against Black people.
Protests were also held in Edinburgh, including a static demonstration on Sunday 7 June, from which colleagues from Museums and Galleries Edinburgh acquired a large donation of placards, banners and signs. These placards and signs demonstrate the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement to Edinburgh residents and the wide-ranging impact of the movement on the city.
Taking the theme of Time for Change: Action Not Words, Central Library are displaying selected reproductions of some of these placards and banners collected by Museums and Galleries Edinburgh alongside books held in the collections of Central Library promoting the contribution of people of colour to society and recounting their experiences. The collections reflect our wish to offer a broad range of material including works related to or created by those from under-represented groups. All images are reproduced with permission of City of Edinburgh Council Museums & Galleries.
View more of the placards, signs and banners collected at the demonstration in Edinburgh in an online exhibition on Capital Collections.
Kate will talk about the powerful political elite in Scotland in the 1700s, who had investments in all aspects of the slave trade. How the anti-slavery campaign was pursued on the streets of Edinburgh, the devastating blow dealt by Henry Dundas, their member of Parliament, Home Secretary and leader of the Tory Party, in the spring of 1792. He proposed that ending the trade should be ‘gradual’ allowing his party colleagues to talk out the anti-slavery bill and the continuing capture and shipping of hundreds of thousands of African men, women and children into a life of enslavement and the propaganda campaign against black people which was then launched by vested interests here in Scotland to protect their business interests and how that white supremacist version of history became ours.
Tuesday 25 October, 6.30 – 7.30pm at Central Library Join author, broadcaster and journalist Stuart Cosgrove as he tells the epic story of Black music and the White House from his new book Hey America!
Hey America! is the story of how Black music came from the margins of American life in the early twentieth century through to the mainstream under Barack Obama’s presidency and then was mobilised as a force for radical opposition to Donald Trump’s administration.
Join Anna Fleming, author, mountain leader and rock climber for a workshop on writing the mountains.
In this creative writing session for young people, Anna will introduce you to the world of the mountains. She will bring climbing equipment and stories from her own experiences in Scotland, Norway and Greece.
Taking inspiration from other remarkable women writers and climbers, including Gwen Moffat, Nan Shepherd and Helen Mort, Anna will lead exercises that will help you to harness their strength and write your own mountain.
No previous knowledge of climbing or mountains is necessary – come with an open mind!
This session is aimed at young people aged 14-18 and will take place at Stockbridge Library on Monday 10 October from 5.30 to 7pm.
Places are limited so please book your free place via Eventbrite.
The October exhibition in the Art and Design Library is “Over and Under the Sea” a group show by the Hillside Visually Impaired Art Group based in Edinburgh.
Here they describe their work in their own words:
Hillside Visually Impaired Art Group is a group of blind and partially sighted people from all over Edinburgh. We meet at the RNIB’s headquarters once a week to pursue our love of creating artworks in all sorts of forms, shapes and sizes. We manage to achieve some wonderful works of art with the fantastic help of our volunteers and, of course, our experienced tutor, whose help is invaluable, in trying out different techniques and ideas. Some of us like to paint, mostly in acrylic, others like to model in clay and use a variety of textured, and hence tactile, materials.
One technique is using waxed string. This was developed as a creative activity for children, but we have found these to be incredibly useful in helping to draw lines that can be adjusted to achieve the desired image. Clay is a great material too as it can be used in different ways. There are many types to choose from, some of which are more suitable for certain activities than others. One type will be used for straightforward modelling, another used as a base for plasterwork, and some are suitable for using straight onto a picture.
This time as part of the exhibition, the group has come together to produce two projects. One is a series of panels, each one created by a different member. They were challenged to produce an image based on the theme of the sea. Each person has completely different ideas which have come together to create a fascinating display. For the second project everybody has created at least one papier maché sea creature ranging from a terrifying piranha to chunky starfish which form a whole aquarium of fish. The remainder of the exhibition consists of a diversity of individual works created by the members.
On National Poetry Day 2022 join poet Roshni Gallagher for a free poetry writing workshop delving into nature and the self. No previous writing experience is needed. Roshni will lead the group through several gentle writing prompts. This is a session to explore the joys of nature and poetry! Please book your free place on Eventbrite.
Maths Week Scotland is here and runs until 2 October! #MathsWeekScot is a celebration of the importance of maths in our everyday lives.
Lots of schools and businesses are taking part in Maths Week Scotland 2022, including some of our libraries, here are the details:
Leith Library are taking inspiration from artist Paul Klee who created over 10,000 pieces of art. He loved to create city landscapes with buildings, bridges and other structures using 2D shapes, such as squares and rectangles. Join them on Friday 30 September at 2pm to create a piece of art using coloured 2D shapes in the same style. How about creating an artwork of Leith, Edinburgh, or another favourite place!
Moredun Library are running an all day Maths Scavenger Hunt on Wednesday 28 September. They have number themed Bookbug sessions on Thursday 29 September at 10am and 11am and a Lego Maths challenge at 3.30pm. If that’s not enough for you, they are also have some activity packs you can take home.
Join us for a series of 8 fortnightly creative writing sessions led by poet Roshni Gallagher, winner of the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award 2022 and author of the pamphlet Bird Cherry (2023). Our next session is at 4pm on Wednesday 28 September in Meeting Room Two at Central Library. These sessions are a gentle and encouraging space to grow and explore your writing practice.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. No booking needed. All abilities welcome – from keen writers to complete beginners. You’re invited to bring along a short piece of your writing to our first session but please note that this is optional.
One of the main purposes of our website Edinburgh Collected is to not only to help build our digital collections, but to give people the opportunity to add their own images and memories to the site.
People put on pictures of their ancestors, school and childhood photos, others put on images of the ever-changing surroundings of their own neighbourhood.
One of our members of staff has been out and about and has taken some great photos of the demolition of the former Royal Bank of Scotland building in Dundas Street. You can see them all in a new scrapbook on Edinburgh Collected.
This building built in the Brutalist architectural style in 1968, had lain unoccupied since 2018 and is now in the process of demolition as part of a new development.
As many of you know, Edinburgh is a constantly changing city and at any given time there are what seems like dozens of building projects going on. So – can you help us record the changes in your area on Edinburgh Collected, our online community archive? Have a look around at any changing shops, buildings and street scenes and help us capture these views before they are lost forever.
On behalf of Edinburgh Libraries’ ‘Green Pencil’ Team, we would like to say “thank you” to all our schools, teachers and pupils, who took part in Green Pencil 2021, making it a truly successful competition.
Today we launch Green Pencil 2022 and hope for just as many fantastic entries!
Our environmentally themed creative writing competition, is open to all P4 to P7 aged children and young people in S1 to S3 in Edinburgh. The deadline for entries is 21 October 2022.
We’re taking the ‘Year of Scotland’s Stories’ as our theme. Are you a budding story writer? Could you write a story/ poem/ prose with an environmental theme? It could be about yourself, your pet, a special place or your favourite animal that relates to your life in Scotland. You could include Scotland’s landscapes, lochs, towns and villages. A story or poem that captures the reader’s imagination, piques interest and brings your writing to life.
Entries can be poetry, prose or story, all we ask is that the writing is the author’s own work and is no longer than one side of A4 paper.
For the first time since November 2019, we intend to hold our Green Pencil Awards night in person. Our 20 finalists and two guests each, will be invited to the Reference Library at Central Library for the awards ceremony on Thursday 24 November.
Each finalist will receive a £10 book token, our four highly commended pupils will receive a £30 book token, and the overall winner will receive a £50 book token and a £100 book token for their class.
Finalists will be notified by Monday 7 November. The four highly commended and the overall winner will be announced on the night.
The Art and Design Library are thrilled to have rising star of the contemporary art world, Molly Kent, as the September exhibitor with an exhibition of tapestry and weaving entitled “Dreams”.
Based in Edinburgh, Molly is a recent graduate of Edinburgh College of Art, where she received a Master of Arts with First Class Honours. She worked throughout her college years as a Library Adviser in the Art and Design Library, so the exhibition also marks a homecoming of sorts!
Molly is a textile artist concerned with representing notions of mental and physical health through mediums such as rug tufting and weaving. She portrays contemporary existence regarding social media and internet living and the effects this has on our perception of self. This stems from her personal experiences of her mental health condition CPTSD but also reflects on wider anxieties and fears that have come to attention as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the beginning of 2021, after experiencing an episode of ill mental health, Kent’s work shifted towards a new project Dream Weaving. Dream Weaving is a multi-award winning body of work that records dreams and nightmares experienced by the artist as a result of her mental health condition. This series of work features recurrent themes of falling, extreme weather and digital anxieties and offers a critical insight into how dream psychology can tell a lot about the inner workings of a person. The work is inspired by symbolism, mysticism, myths and legends alongside personal symbols of the trauma she suffered that led to her diagnosis. The Art and Design Library exhibition features work from this series.
Molly has exhibited internationally, having contributed to exhibitions such as WORD OF MOUTH at the Venice Biennale 2019, which then toured to Australia, as well as various exhibitions across Scotland and the UK.
Her artwork is held in public and private collections worldwide, including the University of Edinburgh’s Art Collection, and the National Museum of Australia amongst others. She is represented by newcube, and if you are interested in learning more you can contact them at email@example.com
“Dreams” opens on 2 September 2022 and runs through the month in the Art and Design Library at Central Library. We look forward to seeing you there!
We are delighted to announce, “Our Stories”, an exciting new series of free creative writing workshops in conjunction with Hannah Lavery, Makar of the City of Edinburgh.
2022 is also Scotland’s “Year of Stories”, celebrating the rich literary heritage of the country and looking ahead to future generations of budding writers and storytellers.
These informal sessions are a unique opportunity for those wanting to learn how to run their own creative writing sessions in their communities. They will focus on ways to support group members in sharing their stories and celebrate the themes and ideas that matter to them.
The programme will culminate in a showcase event attended by the Makar along with invited guest poets in April 2023. During this event all participants will have the opportunity to display their work.
The following three dates have been confirmed, however booking in advance is essential as attendance is limited to 15 people per workshop:
Group One – 14th September 22, 16th November 22, 15th February 23 at 11.30am to 12.30pm.
Group Two – 14th September 22, 16th November 22, 15th February 23 at 1.30pm to 2.30pm.
Makar Hannah Lavery said,“I am so pleased to be able to offer these workshops as part of my Makar-ship and I really hope to support groups across Edinburgh to explore creative writing as a way of telling their stories and the stories of the city, and I am especially looking forward to us all coming together next year to celebrate the writing”.
Councillor Val Walker, Culture and Communities Convener said, “In this Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022, I am delighted that this unique and exciting programme is taking place. ‘Our Stories’ reaffirms the capital’s status as a creative and literary centre. I am confident that these workshops will provide positive knock-on effects in communities around our city as more of our citizens experience the magic of creative writing and storytelling”.
“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” Maya Angelou
There is a space in Central Library, amongst the books, sheet music, CDs, DVDs and musical instruments where you will find people who have music as their passion – the Music Library.
Whether they are customers or library staff, they will be talking and researching about classical music, pop, rock, jazz, opera, experimental music, dance and also sharing many stories.
These daily encounters between people with a love for music was what motivated the creation of a group to exchange knowledge and stories about music, in all its aspects – cultural, social, emotional, etc.
Every last Wednesday of the month at 6pm we’ll meet for a lively and informal meeting.
Join us for the first session on Wednesday 31 August which will be held in the Music Room at Central Library. (Subsequent meetings will be held in the Music Library.)
We’re hoping to restart the sessions on a fortnightly basis, on a Saturday morning from 10.30am – 12 noon at 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 and foster curiosity, care, and consideration – and hopefully an ever more creative relationship with the world around us.
Today we hand over to Vicky, one of our colleagues from Museums & Galleries to tell us about a fantastic new story she’s contributed to Our Town Stories.
As a History Curator at Museums & Galleries Edinburgh, I’ve been working for some months now on ways to mark the bicentenary of the royal visit of George IV to Edinburgh in 1822. As part of the team looking after 13 venues and monuments across Edinburgh, I became intrigued by the way the city was altered in various places to make it ready for the King. I read that roads were changed to make processions easier and to enable good views of the King, while whole buildings were moved or even destroyed. When Clare at Libraries mentioned that there were images in the library collections of the weigh house on the West Bow that was demolished just before the royal visit, I knew we were onto something. Our Town Stories is the perfect way to show historic events and objects across the city, letting viewers browse different locations, events and objects. An story exploring how Edinburgh was made ready for the King was a perfect fit.
Museums & Galleries Edinburgh care for lots of objects that show Edinburgh being altered for the Royal Visit. These include items of tartan clothing worn in 1822 to fulfil Sir Walter Scott’s instructions to Edinburgh’s inhabitants on the way they should dress for the King. The brightly coloured diced woollen trews supposedly worn by a seven foot tall Highlander would certainly have captured the King’s attention!
In addition to people wearing new or modified dress for the visit, they were also instructed to alter their homes by hanging lamps on their facades, and attaching candle holders between the stones, illuminating a city that was also alive with bonfires and fireworks to celebrate the visit.
A painting from the City Art Centre collection shows people crowding Leith docks to catch a glimpse of the King on board his ship, while a theatre bill for the play ‘Rob Roy Macgregor’ highlights one of the many entertainments laid on by Edinburgh to keep the King amused and provide opportunities for the public to see him.
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!