Make Music Day, 21 June 2023

It’s that time of year again when we throw the door of libraries across the city open and welcome musicians to join us for a day of Music Making. Fete da la Musique, Make Music Day has been celebrated across the world almost from its inception over 40 years ago. Make Music Day was born from a wish to see participation in music making at all levels.

In France under President Mitterrand’s Socialist Party, Maurice Fleuret was appointed at the French Ministry of Culture as Director of Music and Dance with a responsibility for festivals and events. He immediately saw that there was a discrepancy in the number of children and adults able to play musical instruments and the numbers who participated in any form of music making. The plan became that a day each year should be dedicated to music, with no barriers to people playing and enjoying live performance. 

Fete da la Musique (Make Music Day) was born. Fleuret’s statement “Music is everywhere and the concert is nowhere” rang loud and the mission statement for the day was set. Amateur and professional musicians should give of their time freely and all performances should to be free to attend. Forty years on those statements are pretty much the same. The three “rules” of Make Music Day are

1. Events and activities must be free to take part in and watch

2. Events must take place or premiere on 21 June

3. Events must involve music.

Year on year the festival has grown, and not just in France. By the early 90s the festival had become an event in approximately 80 countries and now the number stands at around 126 countries around the world. The date, 21 June, was chosen as it is normally the longest day of the year or the summer solstice. If you wished, and some people do, you could have musical events from the early hours when the sun rises to when it sets late in the evening, and those performances could be anywhere – street corners, driveways, concert halls, libraries, bandstands, telephone boxes. Anywhere and everywhere, performed and watched by anyone and everyone.

Our Make Music Day celebrations have grown too, with more libraries hosting events. This year Corstorphine, Craigmillar, Gilmerton, Muirhouse, Portobello and Stockbridge Libraries, to name a few, all join in the celebrations.

Wednesday 21 June
Central Library

At Central Library, the foyer and lending library will ring to the sounds of music from 2pm on 21 June. Our programme is a mix of old friends – Drookit, the Folk Band, Edinburgh Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra, Sangstream (who have not been with us since 2019) and the Edinburgh Police Choir – and new friends – University of the 3rd Age Ukulele Band, Folk Duo, Alex and Jane, Little Big Horns, Derrick Vellera and Nicolas Chim.

2pm – University of the 3rd Age Ukulele Band
Members of the Third Age University are mostly retired or working part time. They have been together for 7 years. Most have very little music experience to start with!  They love to play and sing and perform at care homes, markets and festivals. 

Group of musicians sat around a park bench on a walkway in front of a blue expanse of sea.
University of the 3rd Age Ukulele Band

2.30pmAlex and Jane
Alex and Jane are so middle of the road, it’s a wonder they haven’t been run over!  Country, some humorous, some classic pop – just an easy-going mixture of guitar and harmonies.

Head and shoulder portraits of a man and woman photographed separately. Both are wearing glasses.
Alex and Jane

3pm Drookit
Drookit members initially came together in a Scots Music Group mixed instrument ensemble, playing distinctive folk tunes chosen and arranged by Sarah Northcott.

The six-piece band was created after the musicians performed in the 2018 “Big Tune Machine”, an Edinburgh Festival event organised by fiddler Amy Geddes and guitarist Donald Knox.

Since then they’ve played at the Edinburgh Folk Club, St Giles, for Ukrainian and Polish associations, the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Music on the Mezzanine and for various Charities. They are also appearing in this year’s Canal Festival.

Drookit are Alastair (mandolin/ banjo), Diane and Jim (flutes), Ian (guitar), Fiona and Fiona (fiddles)

4pmEdinburgh Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra
The Edinburgh Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra (EMGO) is a plucked string orchestra of mandolins, mandolas, classical guitar and bass. Their repertoire of light classical, film and world music is drawn from many countries and traditions. They play concert and recitals several time each year, whether in small group surroundings or large concert venues.

A group of musicians sit in a library playing music from stands placed in front of them.
Edinburgh Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra

4.30pmDerrick Vellera
Derrick is a piano player, he is 9 years old and has just started preparing for his piano grade exams. 

4.45pm Nicholas Chim
Nicholas is in S2 at Boroughmuir High School, He is taking guitar lessons at school and has been playing for 3/4yrs.

Sangstream: a Scots Folk Choir is based in Edinburgh, with weekly rehearsals taking place at James Gillespie’s High School.  The choir is open to everyone and there is no audition to join. The repertoire is mainly Scots folk songs, both traditional and modern which are sung in harmony and unaccompanied. Currently the Musical Director is the wonderful Scots singer Robyn Stapleton.  Amongst her many accolades, Robyn was the 2014 BBC Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year. Since starting in 1997, Sangstream has had the privilege of being led by some of Scotland’s finest traditional musicians – Christine Kydd, Jenny Clark, Mairi Campbell and Corrina Hewat.

A choir of women and men wear red and pose for a group photograph.

5.30pmLittle Big Horns
Little Big Horns is a saxophone quartet  perhaps  unusually made up of 5 members (plus guests on occasion) who bring a depth of musical talent and experience with them. Little Big Horns are  based in Edinburgh and are a group who enjoy each others company and playing a wide range of music. From jazz to the charts, swinging past classical and TV/film on the way, variety (and fun) are the only constants.  

Three saxophones are placed on stands in the aisle of a church.

6.15pmEdinburgh Police Choir
Edinburgh Police Choir (also known as EPC) is a high quality, hard working and friendly contemporary choir, based in the west of Edinburgh. The choir was established in 2008 by members of Lothian and Borders Police but has since developed into a true community choir.

This year there are more of our community libraries taking part and there are music programmes available in Corstorphine, Craigmillar, Gilmerton, Leith, Muirhouse and Stockbridge.

Edinburgh Police Choir

Leith Library is playing host to the Girls Rock School, with performances from Suffrajitsu and Elsie MacDonald from 6.30 to 8pm.

Four women in t-shirts and jeans stand leaning against a black metal wall or shutter.

Suffrajitsu are a Leith based feminist punk band. They are well known in Edinburgh for their dancey singalong songs.

Head and shoulders photograph of a woman in glasses seen from the side singing into a mic stand.
Elsie Macdonald

Elsie Macdonald is an Edinburgh based folk punk singer with songs which encompass the current political and their own personal world.

Portobello Library is hosting AmaVoxAz and Bria Mason from 2.45pm.

Elsie Macdonald

AmavoxAz, was scheduled to be with us last year but was felled by the Covid bug. We are looking forward to his hearing his ambient guitar sounds in Portobello.

Bria a traditional singer songwriter who sings in Gaelic and English.

Corstorphine Library have a visit from local choir the Corstorphine Singers recently formed for singers from the Corstorphine and Drumbrae areas of the city from 3pm. The choir is helping combat isolation and improve health and wellbeing with their programmes of positive and upbeat songs.

The library is presenting two events hosted by Edinburgh singer songwriter Craig Lithgow from 4.30pm. An Electronic Music Workshop which will introduce the attendees to writing catchy hooks and laying down some beats, putting them all together in the workshop’s Hit Factory.

Craig will also host the Edinburgh artists showcase – The Scrapyard, which will highlight works by local artists.

Stockbridge Library sees a return of the Professors of Logic, and before them alumni of the Scots Music Group, Elspeth Porter and two of her colleagues play a programme of traditional music. Music starts at Stockbridge Library from 1.15pm.

Later at 7pm, Gilmerton Library will provide some music to help you to the end of the day from Polonez.

There are Make Music Day Bookbug sessions at Drumbrae, Newington and Portobello at 10.30am, Wester Hailes at 11.00am, and Piershill and Corstorphine at 2pm.

If you’re passing Corstorphine, Craigmillar, Gilmerton, Muirhouse, Portobello, Stockbridge or Central Library, stop in and enjoy some live music!

If you’re inspired by what you see and hear, you can join us next year as a performer.
And did you know that libraries across the city now have musical instruments to borrow?
Please ask any member of staff to explain more about our instrument lending scheme.

Trams to Newhaven – a record in pictures

Today, with thanks to Brian Patton, a library supporter and lifelong tram enthusiast, we mark the opening of the extension of Edinburgh’s tram network with a new Capital Collections exhibition, Trams to Newhaven.

Brian has been dedicated in his quest to record the construction phase over the full length of the new tram line from York Place to Newhaven. He has kindly donated his collection of photographs to Central Library’s collections which provides us with a fantastic record of this significant civic infrastructure project.  

View of curved road closed for construction at Ocean Terminal
Curved road closed for tram line construction, Ocean Terminal by Brian Patton
Construction workers and vehicles working on section of curved tramline at Ocean Terminal
Construction of curved tramline at Ocean Terminal by Brian Patton
Two trams and a bus sharing road on curved section at Ocean Terminal
Trams and bus on curved section of road at Ocean Terminal by Brian Patton

Brian’s love of trams stems from an early age:
“I was born in Glasgow, to families who came from the Isle of Bute and the north of Ireland. This naturally resulted in many trips on Clyde and MacBrayne steamers and on the Irish ships, usually Lairds Isle. It also brought close acquaintance with the tramways of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast and, later, Dundee, Aberdeen and south London. These were then all efficient people movers and, as a wee boy, I was surprised and indeed horrified later to learn that Manchester and Dublin had scrapped their trams and that Belfast, Liverpool and London were following suit.

During a boring English lesson, a friend showed me, under a desk, a magazine that dealt with trams and so I became an avid reader of ‘Modern Tramway’ and an enthusiastic member of the publisher, the Light Railway Transport League (or the Light Railway Transit Association as it is now known).

Despite the enthusiasm, the later 1960s and the 1970s were barren times for the supporters of the tram. Edinburgh’s last tram ran on 16 November 1956 and Glasgow’s on 4 September 1962. But by this time, foreign travel, with camera, was possible. Sometimes the foreign travel was for work and the Erasmus scheme brought much experience of tram travel in the former eastern bloc, with daily commuting on trams in Gdansk, Prague and Szeged in southern Hungary, to name only a few systems. Meanwhile, home cities began to reverse earlier decisions and Edinburgh saw trams again on Princes Street in May 2014. 

This collection of photographs of the building of Edinburgh’s second tram line is my first attempt at such a record. I would like to thank the workers who built the line and who showed a friendly interest in the work, no matter the weather. I would also like to thank the staff from Central Library for their part in the production.”

All things must pass – Art and Design Library exhibition, June 2023

The June exhibition in the Art and Design Library is “All Things Must Pass”, a display of landscape photography by Hamish Hamilton.

Garage by Hamish Hamilton

Hamish is an Edinburgh-based photographer with a few years of exhibiting experience including a collaboration with an amateur theatre company, and contributions to several group shows in the National Trust for Scotland’s Gladstone Gallery, as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and at the Eastgate Arts Centre in Peebles. His photographic interests are broad-ranging, and he is currently working on a wide variety of projects and photo essays.

In his own words, this is how he contextualizes his new Art and Design Library exhibition:

“This new exhibition has its origins in a decision, made some years ago, to abandon digital photography in favour of using film, predominantly 35mm black and white. That was at the tail end of the transition from the kind of chemical, mechanical picture making that had been around since the industrial revolution to a new kind of electronic imaging, born of the computer revolution. The change had seemed so swift and so all-encompassing that for a while it looked as if film was in imminent danger of disappearing altogether. It would take a luddite to deny the many benefits that digital photography can bring – there’s no need to go into it here but suffice to say that there are good reasons why it became so dominant so quickly. Equally, though, the old ways haven’t quite yet vanished altogether, and there may still be some value in pursuing them while it’s still possible.

Lamp Post by Hamish Hamilton

After working with film for a while, it began to appear that its demise could be seen as a metaphor for transience in general, and Susan Sontag’s well-known quote came to mind: “All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” The pictures shown here, in one way or another, all “testify to time’s relentless melt”. From things as fleeting as a shadow, a reflection, or a passing cloud, through 19th century carved graffiti on a neolithic standing stone, back to rock formations created hundreds of millions of years ago, the images all address impermanence, change, decay, and the inevitability of time’s passing. As the photographer Richard Misrach points out, “Whatever else photography is about, it’s about time.” And as George Harrison noted, “Sunrise doesn’t last all morning”. If that sounds a little downbeat, think of the pioneering humanitarian photographer Dorothy Bohm, who died recently at the age of 98, who said that photography, “makes transience less painful.” She tried, in her work, “To create order out of chaos, to find stability in flux and beauty in the most unlikely places.” What photographer could hope to do more?”

The exhibition runs from 3 June to 29 June – we hope to see you there!

Wicker by Hamish Hamilton

Edinburgh Collected – looking back and moving forward

We’ve recently relaunched our Edinburgh Collected online community archive with a fresh, vibrant design and enhanced features. This has prompted us to look back to some of the earliest memories added when the website was originally launched some 8 years ago.

Our colleagues from Museums and Galleries Edinburgh added some fabulous objects from their collections such as a Box Brownie camera, a whip and peerie, a steam kettle and games from the past. These social history objects are all really useful for reminiscence and project work. Perhaps you remember some of them?

Subbuteo football box and figures on a white surface beneath a window.
Subbuteo figures from 1975, shared by Museums and Galleries Edinburgh

Sticking with the football theme, From There To Here of Wester Hailes added a joyous photo of the Hailes United Ladies FC from 1989. Apparently, they won several international tournaments in the 1980s and 1990s. Maybe you saw them play?

Players from a women's football team and coaching team standing on steps celebrating with a trophy raised aloft.
Hailes United Ladies FC, 1989 shared by From There To Here

Thanks to colm.linnane we have a record of the demolition of the former Shrubhill House, a 1960s office block which stood on Leith Walk. This kind of photo showing change in action is just the sort we love to get on Edinburgh Collected and helps us record the changing face of the city. What changes in your neighbourhood can you share with us?

A crane and half demolished tall building are almost silhouetted against a cloudy sky.
Demolition of Shrubhill House, 2014 shared by colm.linnane

SKerr also shared some great photos, this time of the jubilant Jazz festival parade travelling up Lothian Road in 1987. Some of us like to think that 1987 wasn’t that long ago but this is exactly the kind of ‘recent’ history photo we’d love you to add to our community archive.

We also received this image of a flour bag from contributor CV. It records Thomson’s prize medal oatmeal and a piece of Edinburgh’s industrial history. It shows that images don’t have to be photos. All kinds of items can be evocative of the past. You can add letters, documents, postcards, objects, posters, leaflets or… flour bags!

TheLibrarian shared photos of her family including this fantastic one of her father, an apprentice joiner shown here with his work colleagues from the Henry Robb shipyard in Leith.
Edinburgh Collected is a great place to record and share your family’s history and connection to the city. You can organise your pictures and research into a scrapbook and tell the full story.

Henry Robb Shipyard, Leith, 1955 shared by TheLibrarian

And sometimes, the only reason you need to share your memory is a beautiful day and a great view! Contributors have shared hundreds of wonderful views of Edinburgh, both the picture postcard scenes and the more hidden personal places that are special to them. This blue sky day is thanks to Will o’ the Wisp.

A beautiful day in Edinburgh, 2015 shared by Will o’ the Wisp

Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to Edinburgh Collected so far. We’ve now over 8000 memories on the site! We look forward to seeing the community archive continue to grow over the coming years.
And if you haven’t yet, why not join us and make history by sharing your memories?

150 years of the Edinburgh Evening News

With the 150th anniversary of Edinburgh’s foremost newspaper, Edinburgh Evening News, on 27 May 2023, there is no better time to highlight that ease of accessing current and historical newspapers with your library membership. Along with Pressreader and microfilm holdings in our Edinburgh and Scottish Collection, a vast online archive of newspapers is available at the British Newspaper Archive website, including Edinburgh Evening News editions up to 1955. You can access British Newspaper Archive for free whilst using a library computer or on the library wifi.

In preparation for a display celebrating this important anniversary for the Evening News, staff within Central Library’s Edinburgh and Scottish Collection used the British Newspaper Archive to find articles on significant events within the city during the late 19th to early 20th century – from the inception of Edinburgh’s public library system to Edinburgh as a battleground for RAF fighters during World War Two.

The British Newspaper Archive is a partnership between the British Library and Findmypast to digitise the British Library’s vast collection of newspapers from 1710-1955. It’s an invaluable resource for everyone interested in history, and especially for family and local historians. Access is available at any one of our Edinburgh libraries with a library membership by clicking on the ‘Register’ link from the top of the main page and creating an account. Once signed in with your account, you’ll have access to view all pages on the entire database for free.

The Evening News articles we read up on offer a timeline of Edinburgh’s history from the late 19th century to World War Two. In a society where it is common for journalists to generalise and seek the bigger picture, the Edinburgh Evening News reports on an Edinburgh and Lothians’ local perspective on news, culture and events. The newspaper was founded by John Wilson and was first published in 1873. Its main competitor, the Edinburgh Evening Dispatch was subsequently first published in 1886, then becoming the Evening Dispatch in 1921. These two newspapers merged to form the Edinburgh Evening News & Dispatch in 1963, which became the Edinburgh Evening News in 1967.

Newspaper clipping from the British Newspaper Archive entitled Jubilee Celebrations, Edinburgh

One of the major news events the paper reported on in the 19th century were the celebrations that took place throughout Edinburgh for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. It appears as though events were similar to what we are used to today when a royal occasion comes about. Public offices and stores closed to commemorate the day, and people took advantage of the public holiday and good weather to travel into the country by train (a relatively exciting phenomena at the time!)

News clipping from the British Newspaper Archive entitled The Edinburgh Free Library, opening ceremony today.

The newspaper also commemorated the opening of our very own Central Library in their issue published on the 9 June 1890. The first public library in the city, the newspaper reports on the significant sum of £50,000 offered by Andrew Carnegie for the building of the library after the passing of the Free Libraries Act. The article offers a wealth of information on the library’s inception, such as the appointment of George Washington Browne as architect and his choice of a French Renaissance architectural style for the building. It also sets out the departments open to the public – the lending library, the newsroom and the reference room. With the expansion since then to include departments focusing on art, music, children’s literature and Scottish history, the article demonstrates how much the library has adapted to give more representation to the arts and local studies.

News clipping from the British Newspaper Archive entitled "Well Done, Hearts!"

Fast-forwarding twenty-four years, the Evening News was at the forefront of the reporting on Scotland’s role and experience in World War One. There is a clear patriotic tone to the article “Well done, Hearts!”, with evident pride being directed towards the sixteen players from Heart of Midlothian F.C. for enlisting for active service. The players “have done the right thing” the reporter states and it is of his opinion that other teams and fans will follow suit and also take up arms. Enlisting in the army may even make them more skilled football players according to the reporter, as “they will chase the ball with easier minds, for they have done their duty”. It is apparent that journalism had an important role to play in encouraging national unity and participation in the war effort.

News clipping from the British Newspaper Archive entitled "Leith's "Last Day", hope of resurrection".

With the end of World War One, we see the Evening News mark the end of the independent burgh of Leith on Monday 1 November 1920 when Edinburgh swallowed in the old port and four Midlothian parishes within Midlothian. The small article has a somewhat sombre tone, perhaps in a bid to show empathy to Leithers who were overwhelmingly in favour of their town staying separate from Edinburgh. The bailie of the burgh is quoted as saying that Leith had been “done to death against the express wishes of the citizens” and that “if it were put to Scotland, Leith would yet arise from the ashes and be a separate burgh”. Over 100 years on, Leith has stayed true to its distinct and independent character while also embracing modernity to become one of the most dynamic areas in the city.

News clipping from the British Newspaper Archive entitled "Over Dalkeith".
News clipping from the British Newspaper Archive entitled "Sure to crash".
News clipping from the British Newspaper Archive entitled "M.P.'s impressions, Admiration for the R.A.F fighters".

The Evening News was also invaluable in its covering of the events of World War Two. This article, subtitled, “Over Dalkeith”, reports on the first German aircraft to be shot down over Britain after being attacked by RAF fighters over the River Forth in October 1939. We once again see attempts to stir national pride, with the paper including the sentiments of M.P. Mr Robert Boothby who expresses his admiration for the British fighters in displaying both speed and efficiency. The newspaper’s long-standing ability to find citizens with first-hand accounts is clear, through evidence given by two local citizens who saw the enemy planes being chased by RAF fighters over southern Edinburgh. For readers, the article will have been a frightening indication of what was to come over the subsequent war years.

In 1956 the paper bid farewell to a familiar feature in the lives of many Edinburgh citizens when Edinburgh’s electric trams stopped service after thirty years. The article recognizes the progress of cities’ public transport services over the years – from the sedan chair to the stage coach, then from the horse bus to the horse tram, from the cable-car to the electric tram, and then finally buses replacing them all. With trams being a regular sight again in our city sixty-seven years on, it clearly wasn’t a permanent goodbye after all!

These are just some of the millions of articles you can access on the British Newspaper Archive, so make the most of this brilliant resource by visiting one of our libraries. You can browse through significant moments in the history of Scotland and the world, or discover if your ancestor appears in the births, marriages and deaths notices, or even in a news story.

Pop into Central Library’s Edinburgh and Scottish Collection to find out more about the Edinburgh Evening News through their current anniversary display and also discover the various means of accessing it through your library membership.

Bookbug Week is here!

Starting today, Edinburgh Libraries are celebrating Bookbug Week, and this year’s theme is Bookbug’s Big Shoogle. We have a range of events happening all over the city that will get you up, jumping and shoogling as you sing.

Please check your local library’s Facebook page for details on how they are celebrating and or find information about Bookbug activities happening this week online.

Scottish Book Trust also have loads going on this week, with lots of quizzes, competitions and activity ideas. Find more information about the Bookbug’s Big Shoogle! and join in!

Mental Health Awareness Week and coping with anxiety

Today’s blog comes from the Art and Design Library, who share a few things from their collections to mark Mental Health Awareness Week. The allotted dates are the 15 to 21 May, and the theme for this year is anxiety.

Anxiety is something we all know well. It is a normal emotion that all of us experience, but of course, anxiety can also get increasingly worse, and become a problem.

What can we do about it, and how can we better cope with these unhelpful feelings? The Mental Health Foundation has a really helpful webpage on anxiety – and tips and advice for coping with feelings of anxiety. They list some suggestions which might help. Or some of which might help; of course, people are different, and feelings are different. Please do seek appropriate medical help if you feel it is urgent.

In coping with anxiety, the Mental Health Foundation first suggest a focus on the breath, and breathing.

They have guides for breathing techniques that help to relax our bodies, as well as links to pages on mindfulness which some people might find useful.

Thinking about breath and air, a few artists come to mind: John Constable and J.M.W. Turner for their cloud and sky studies; and Peter Lanyon. I first came across Peter Lanyon’s work when I started at art college. His painting is expressive and abstract, and I remember clearly the book from the college library. We have it in our library too.

There is a particular painting in it called Soaring Flight which he made in 1960, a year after he began gliding. The experience of gliding fed into his painting. It deepened his thoughts and feelings about the Cornish landscape, and Soaring Flight  (for me anyway) very much soars…

Soaring Flight by Peter Lanyon from Air, land & sea
(A well-used page.)

Also, in that first year of art college, we had a tutor who told us to always remember to look up. We were to treat learning to ‘see’ seriously – and he urged us to look at things in as many different ways as we could. I’ve never been gliding, my legs wobble at the thought of it, but I can imagine it must have felt wonderful. Space – air – and breath, are wonderful things.

Next on the list comes exercise.

Photograph by Edith Tudor-Hart in a book showing children demonstrating her 'Moving and Growing' practice for childhood development.
Photograph by Edith Tudor-Hart in a book showing children demonstrating her 'Moving and Growing' practice for childhood development.
Photographs by Edith Tudor-Hart

It needn’t be vigorous; it can be gentle and contemplative even. These photographs by Edith Tudor-Hart have always filled me with a sense of joy in relation to movement. They are part of a much larger series, which can’t be reproduced here, but in 1950 she was asked by the Ministry of Education to take a body of photographs for an introductory work on primary education called Moving and Growing. Childhood development had always been a keen interest for her and before she studied photography she trained as a Montessori kindergarten teacher.

Keep a diary says number 3. It’s important not to ignore worries, but to allot them their time, and perhaps, if we can express our worries, we can help to understand and manage them better.

Many artists write as well as draw, and we have many many books of artists’ sketchbooks, letters, and writings…

Two books related to artist, Louis Bourgeois from the Art and Design Library.
Titles related to artist Louise Bourgeois from the Art and Design Library
A display of art books laid with front covers upwards on a table.
A selection of art books from the Art and Design Library

Challenge your thoughts, says point number 4.  Anxiety can make us think about what is worrying us again and again. Catch these thoughts and worries if you can, and challenge them.

Norman Ackroyd is an artist and printmaker that I hugely admire. He makes etchings of landscapes and the natural world, and often the landscapes are harsh and wild – Orkney, St Kilda, Shetland, the sea… They are about the power of the natural world and our place within it. They remind me that our world can be a turbulent one, and so can our journey through it.

Two art books on the etchings of Norman Ackroyd, one with the front cover displayed and the other held open.
Books related to Norman Ackroyd from the Art and Design Library

Number 5 is seek support for worries. Are you claiming the benefits you’re entitled to? Speak to organisations like Citizen’s Advice and Stepchange. Connect with people and talk about how you’re feeling.

Hands by Louise Bourgeois

These hands were made by the artist Louise Bourgeois. Often she depicts hands in her work and they are symbolic of support and friendship. 10am is when you come to me shows her own hands and the hands of her assistant and friend of 30 years, Jerry Gorovoy. 10am was when their day together started and it’s a piece that documents this daily support and friendship. How do we support those that we love, and how is it that they support us?

Number 6, spend time in nature…

Hard to do sometimes if you live in the very centre of a city, but there are always pockets of nature, and somehow these can feel all the more interesting and intense in busy built-up areas.

Art books on the theme of nature displayed on a wooden table.
A nature table of books from the Art and Design Library

Number 7, try to eat a healthy diet.

Not always so easy a thing to do.

The front cover of The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle illustrated in another book.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

And lastly,

number 8, try to rest and sleep.

Reclining Mother and Child II by Paula Modersohn-Becker

This beautiful painting is by the German painter Paula Modersohn-Becker.

Please do come into the library and explore our collections, or have a look online.

The Big Library Read!

Join millions of others around the world in reading a fantastic biography during the Big Library Read, the world’s largest digital book club. From 3-17 May, readers can borrow and read the ebook and audiobook versions of Tastes Like War by Grace M. Cho on  Libby. Borrow this award-winning book with no waiting lists on the Libby app or by visiting our Libby website.

Grace M. Cho grew up as the daughter of a white American merchant marine and the Korean bar hostess he met abroad. They were one of few immigrants in a xenophobic small town during the Cold War, where identity was politicized by everyday details—language, cultural references, memories, and food. When Grace was fifteen, her dynamic mother experienced the onset of schizophrenia, a condition that would continue and evolve for the rest of her life.

Part food memoir, part sociological investigation, Tastes Like War is about a daughter’s search for the roots of her mother’s schizophrenia. In her mother’s final years, Grace learned to cook dishes from her parent’s childhood in order to invite the past into the present, and to hold space for her mother’s multiple voices at the table. And through careful listening over these shared meals, Grace discovered not only the things that broke the brilliant, complicated woman who raised her—but also the things that kept her alive.

The book is available on the home page of the Libby app and the Libby website with unlimited downloads so is perfect for discussing with your friends and family. You can even discuss the book online or use #biglibraryread on social media from the 3-17 May for a chance to win a Samsung Galaxy A7 Lite tablet, Libby goodies and signed books by the author. Full instructions for using Libby can be found on our Your Library website.


Celebrating 150 years of Henry Dyer

2023 marks the 150th anniversary of the Scottish engineer Henry Dyer’s appointment as Principal of the Imperial College of Engineering in Tokyo in 1873. We are marking this occasion with a display of prints of items from the Henry Dyer Collection of Japanese Art in the Central Library staircase cabinets and an opportunity to view this collection in person.

Following graduation from Glasgow University, Dyer was invited by the Meiji government in Japan to this post of Principal of the Imperial College of Engineering to educate young Japanese engineers to support the rapid modernisation and industrialization of Japan.

On returning to Scotland in 1882, Dyer was honoured by the Japanese for his academic input and awarded with the Third Class of the Order of the Rising Sun (the most esteemed Japanese award for foreigners) by the Emperor Meiji. Returning home, Dyer brought back with him numerous artworks. At home in Glasgow, Dyer continued to contribute to engineering education and was awarded both an honorary DSc and LLD from the University of Glasgow.

Henry Dyer died on 25 September 1918 at his home in Glasgow. After his death a substantial bequest was given to the Mitchell Library, Glasgow, which included papers relating to his roles as engineer and educator, and included Japanese artworks and artefacts. Musical instruments were also donated to Glasgow Museums. In 1945 and 1955 Edinburgh City Libraries received two donations of art works from Dyer’s collection via his daughter Marie Ferguson Dyer.

The Edinburgh City Libraries bequest consists of 50 loose Japanese woodblock prints, a number of bound woodblock printed volumes, painted scrolls and a collection of nineteenth century Japanese photographs, attributed to Baron Raimund von Stillfried. The collection also includes the 13 metre long painted handscroll Theatres of the East by the artist Furuyama Moromasa on loan to National Museums Scotland and available to view in their Exploring East Asia Gallery on Level 5.

Mimeguri Shrine, Sumida River by Sadahide

The Central Library display takes a cherry blossom theme. Referred to as the Sakura Season in Japan, which takes place late March to April, the display aims to reflect the symbolic and traditional beliefs relating to blossom in Japanese culture. Cherry blossom is known as the ‘National Flower of Japan’ and is unsurprisingly a popular motif in the Japanese artworks. Unique for their short blooming period, cherry blossom is thought to mark the end of Winter and proclaim the start of Spring, whilst symbolizing the transience of life. The flower is associated with a time of renewal and optimism in Japanese culture. Traditionally, the Japanese take time to view cherry blossom during its flowering period, and it has been customary to hold ‘flower watching’ parties known as Hanami, since as far back as the eighth century. The ephemeral beauty of cherry trees is celebrated in Japanese culture and the Sakura Season today is still a poignant time for reflection and appreciation of Japanese music, poems, literature, and art.

Under the Cherry Blossoms (Hana no En) Chapter 8 from the series “A Modern Collection of Genji in Colour Prints” (“Ima Genji nishiki-e awase”) by Kunisada I (Toyokuni III)

We are also offering a rare opportunity to view items from the collection on Wednesday 24 May guided by staff from the Art and Design Library. We are running two sessions from 2 to 3pm and from 3.30 to 4.30pm. Drop in at any time during your allotted hour. Book your free place via Eventbrite.

And don’t worry if you can’t see the artworks in person, much of the fantastic Dyer Collection is available to browse online at Capital Collections.

Coronation fever

As media coverage mounts for the Coronation of King Charles III, we thought we’d delve into the pages of the British Newspaper Archive and see how the celebrations were recorded 70 years ago for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Coronation allowed businesses and manufacturers to join in both celebrating the Coronation and promoting their goods.

What better way to celebrate than by getting a new fireplace….?

An advert from the Arbroath Herald telling readers to commemorate the Coronation with a new fireplace.
Arbroath Herald, 29 May 1953

Or maybe a bicycle….?

Advert from the Daily News promoting the commemoration issued Hercules bicycles.
Daily News, 3 June 1953

Now was the prime time to get a television to watch all the splendour……in black and white. This advert claims that “with a Marconiphone, you’ll see the real thing. You will take your place with the expectant and excited crowds lining the route of the Procession.. You will sit awed and enthralled in the ageless beauty of the Abbey…” With this “pedigree” television it will be as if you’re there! This could be yours with immediate delivery for only 62 guineas – something like £1500 in today’s money!

Advert for a Marconiphone television from the West London Observer.
West London Observer, 15 May 1953

Or you could visit a cinema instead and see it in colour…

Advert for 'A Queen is Crowned' coronation film showing at the Rio in Kirkcaldy.
Fife Free Press, 6 June 1953

Take a look in the pages of British Newspaper Archive and see what treasures you can find.

Edinburgh Libraries are delighted to host the Scottish launch of National Crime Reading Month

Join us on Thursday 1 June at Central Library at 6.30pm for the Scottish launch of National Crime reading month!

Banner logo for the National Crime Reading Month from the Crime Writers' Association in partnership with The Reading Agency.

Leading forensic scientist and author Professor Jim Fraser will be the guest speaker at the Scottish launch of the Crime Writers’ Association’s National Crime Reading Month (NCRM) in Central Library on Thursday 1 June. Professor Fraser will talk about NCRM, his high-profile career and his work as an author.

Professor Fraser spent his career as a forensic scientist and ‘cold case’ reviewer. He has been involved in many high-profile investigations, including the murders of Rachel Nickell, Damilola Taylor, Lin and Megan Russell, the serial child killer Robert Black, and the death of Gareth Williams, the GCHQ codebreaker. As a member of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, he has also reviewed many notable cases, including the Lockerbie bombing.

As an author, his books include Murder Under the Microscope – A Personal History of Homicide (Atlantic Books), Forensic Science – a very short introduction (Oxford University Press) and The Handbook of Forensic Science (Routledge).

The evening will be chaired by Jess Faraday from the Crime Writers Association. Jess trained as a linguist and worked as an educator, lexicographer, and Russian translator before selling her first story, a high fantasy murder mystery, to a teeny, tiny, now-defunct ‘zine. She now writes historical mystery and suspense, sometimes with supernatural elements, and sometimes without. Her work has won or been shortlisted for numerous awards, including the Rainbow Award, the Lambda Literary Award and the Golden Crown Literary Society Award.

Don’t delay – free tickets for this exciting event are available to book now via Eventbrite!

Making music and deafness

Today, in the run-up to Deaf Awareness Week, we hand over to Douglas from the Music Library.

There are those who become deaf mostly because of their jobs. Ear protectors are now common in loud workplaces, but this was not the case just a few short decades ago, and ear protectors were never the chosen costume of the rock ‘n’ roller. There are others for whom deafness is thrust on them by illness or accident.

I am one of those for whom deafness is an unwelcome visitor and now companion till the end. Whether through a past life as a musician or illness in my younger years is unclear but I keep illustrious company. Scanning the list of musicians and composers who suffered hearing loss, it seems to be the case that most like me, were born with some or all their hearing and either through work or illness lost some or all of their hearing. 

The list of rock stars for whom some form of hearing loss is part of their job, a part for which their younger selves didn’t sign up for, includes Dave Grohl, Huey Lewis, Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Danny Elmann, Mick Fleetwood, Sting, Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne. This list goes on with more being added all the time and they all cite their jobs as a factor – live music, standing on stage in front of huge walls of speakers.

There are some in the rock and roll world for whom deafness came through illness or accident. Eight year old Brian Wilson’s youthful misadventure, being hit on the head with a lead pipe by a “friend” lead to the complete loss of his hearing in his right ear. The Japanese popstar Ayumi Hamasaki was diagnosed with Meniere Disease in 2006 and by 2008 had completely lost the hearing in her left ear.

Two rappers changing or challenging perceptions of Deaf culture and the music business are Matt Maxey profoundly deaf since birth and Sean Forbes who lost most of his hearing at the age of one through illness. Both are carving successful careers and recently performed as part of the prestigious half-time entertainment at NFL’s Superbowl LVI 2022 in the SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, California.

The composer Ralph Vaughan Williams late in life, 1954,
uncredited press photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Ralph Vaughan Williams lived a long and good live. His hearing loss can be directly linked to his work in the Ambulance/Medical Service during World War 1. The continual bombardment by heavy artillery resulted in his profound deafness in later live. In most photographs or portraits of Ralph Vaughan Williams in later years he is always pictured with a hearing aid in his left ear. In one, he is seated in front of a large speaker during the recordings of his works.

It seems likely, but not conclusive that composer, Bedřich Smetana’s deafness and then eventual death was the result of syphilis. What he described as a rushing in his ears plagued him until his death. The onset of his deafness from 1874 signalled a great artistic period producing the tone poems Ma Vlast, the opera the Kiss and his great E minor string quartet “From my Life”. In his very last years, his deafness contributed to the severe decline in his mental health.

Beethoven’s deafness is well documented and thought to be complete by the time of the appearance of his 9th symphony. Beethoven carried day books, journals in which he would write his conversations. From some of the surviving daybooks, a snippet of a conversation suggests that he perhaps had more hearing towards the end of his life than was thought. The Heiligenstadt Testament is a letter written to his brother in which Beethoven acknowledges more to himself than to his brother that the “illness”, his deafness, will never be cured.

English composer and suffragette Ethel Smyth (1858-1944), dated 1922
George Grantham Bain Collection; restored by Adam Cuerden, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Understandably, when one realises their hearing is on the wane a musician might despair of their loss. Not so, the indefatigable Ethel Smyth on a diagnosis of something called “Distorted Hearing” she says, “So Goodbye Music”. Perhaps a huge denial, Smyth just before and just after this remark in her biography “As Time Went On” writes on how being able to read a score is not enough and it is easier and more important to hear it. And of composing, she says that she could continue to compose without being able to hear her work, but she also says, “half the fun of composing has always been hearing what one has written”.

In one of those cruel quirks of fate, composer William Boyce achieved the job of his dreams, master of the King’s Music only to have to resign from public life, few short years later, due to his increasing deafness.

Similarly, French composer Gabriel Faure retired from his post as head of the Paris Conservatoire and public life due to his deafness and his increasing frailty.

The composers mentioned above are all available at our streaming sites. We also have lots of CDs and DVDs available to borrow.

Explore classical music and jazz music via Naxos, our music streaming and download service.

Or enjoy the world’s largest collection of classical music, opera and dance videos including recordings of concerts, operas, ballets and documentaries and master classes via all for free with your library card.

Recording historic moments

With the Coronation of King Charles III only a few days away we thought we would start our own celebrations by looking back at the coronation of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.

Looking through our online community archive, Edinburgh Collected, we’ve found a scrapbook by one of our regular contributors, Stuart Laidlaw, who shares with us some of the celebrations held in the Sighthill area in 1953.

Coronation Party ticket, from Stuart Laidlaw’s scrapbook on

The photos show that many street parties were held, and this was just one small area of Edinburgh! All the adults and children dressed in their best clothes, smiling to the camera, and it seems as if a great time was had by all.

A large group of people sit along one side of a large u-shaped table in front of a block of flats.
Coronation Street Party on Parkhead Grove shared by Stuart Laidlaw on

Will you be celebrating the Coronation next weekend? Perhaps, you have other plans. Whatever you’re up to, remember you can help us record the atmosphere and events in Edinburgh all year round! Just login to Edinburgh Collected and share your photos and memories.

King’s Coronation bank holiday – Monday 8 May 2023

Libraries will be closed on Monday 8 May 2023 for the King’s Coronation bank holiday.

Poster giving notice of the bank holiday Monday on 8 May 2023 for the coronation of King Charles III.

Remember, Your Library is always open online to borrow ebooks, audiobooks, magazines and newspapers.

Supporting student work experience placements in the Art and Design and Music Libraries

Work experience placements alongside study can be a key to opening up career opportunities and in the Art and Design and Music Libraries, Central Library, we have been lucky enough to support two student placements over the winter term. I say lucky because often students give back far more than they take, bringing enthusiasm, new ideas and a chance for us to review our library service through their eyes.

Cue Holly and Molly. Holly came to work in the Art and Design Library and Molly in the Music Library. We were interested to find out more about how our students viewed their placements and whether they might have any tips for us in how we can develop our library service so we put together a series of questions.

Describe yourself, where you are in your studies and how this work placement fits into your coursework. 

Molly –  I’m Molly – I’m originally from New York but I am currently studying a MSc in Information and Library Studies at the University of Strathclyde. This work placement took place during my second semester of classes over the course of 11 weeks.   

Holly – My name is Holly and I am in my third year of studying History of Art at the University of Edinburgh. Having joined the University in 2020, the first two years of my degree were taught virtually via online platforms such as Zoom. Despite this challenge, 2023, the third year of my studies marked my first opportunity to attend seminars and lectures face-to-face within the University campus. With that in mind, I was delighted when offered the opportunity to engage with a work placement, which gave me an opportunity to take my education in art history beyond the classroom and put theory into practice at a cultural institution. The Art and Design Library placement has given me the chance to work independently from the University alongside industry professionals and develop my skills whilst experiencing what a career beyond my degree might look like.

Describe what you have been doing in the library and what you have learnt.

Molly – I’ve mainly been helping reclassify the music library’s stock with the correct Library of Congress classifications. I’ve also had the opportunity to experience a wide variety of other library duties, including working on the desk, helping out with library events, and creating displays for the library.  

Molly setting up a display in the Music Library

Holly – Throughout my time working at the Library I have been under the supervision of the Library Development Leader Bronwen Brown, who has introduced me to the Library management system and tasked me with specific projects to complete. I have learnt how to engage with the public in checking in and out of books, and how to run the online city-wide reservation service, as well as shelf checking the library’s stock. At the start of February I was tasked with creating an LGBTQ+ display to exhibit the libraries support for February as LGBTQ+ History Month. This involved finding and organising certain books that celebrated queer and heterosexual artists to display alongside relevant images of contemporary marches. The process of creating my own display on a theme that is very prevalent to our current society helped me learn about the library’s dedication to contemporary stock planning. I have experienced how the collection is up to date with the new trends in art publishing and the representation of marginalised groups in society.

How do you think this placement will help your career aspirations? 

Molly – This placement has given me the experience of what it is like to work in a specialist library within a public library. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education, so working in a music library is definitely something I would be interested in! This placement taught me a lot about classification and cataloguing which are skills that are very important for my future career as a librarian, no matter what field I may end up in.  

Holly I believe this placement has contributed to my career aspirations for its ability to push me out of my comfort zone into an area of art preservation and education that I had no previous experience with. Being able to witness the day to day running of the Art and Design library has prepared me for a realistic and professional approach to a career in an art institution. The warm welcome I received from the workers at the library and the time spent with them has left me with a positive attitude towards a career with like-minded people in this industry.

Do you have any general comments or tips for the library? 

Holly – At the start of my placement, Bronwen asked me if throughout my time here I could think of any ways that the library could improve its availability to a younger generation. Over the previous weeks, the main aspect I have noticed is the lack of awareness younger people have of the library’s existence. Thus my greatest advice would be to focus on advertising methods, either through posters and flyers around the city in student orientated places like the Edinburgh College of Art University buildings, or through social media platforms keeping people up to date with the monthly exhibitions that take place in the Art and Design Library. I believe this would result in an increase of a younger demographic, as the library is an amazing facility with vast amounts of art and architecturally valuable books that younger people, definitely students like me, would be keen to use.

What have you enjoyed the most during your placement? 

Molly – I really enjoyed my experience at the Music Library, and I am very grateful I got this opportunity. I most enjoyed getting to see how public libraries, and specifically music libraries, operate and how many different services the library provides.  

Holly looking at Dyer prints in the Art and Design Library

Holly – The Art and Design Library’s Special Collections has been something which I have enjoyed learning about the most throughout my placement. In particular, I was honoured to look at Central Library’s Henry Dyer Collection of Japanese Art, which Bronwen kindly let me handle, under safe protocol with protective gloves during one of my days at work. I was able to view the fifty loose woodblock prints, several bound woodblock volumes and case of nineteenth-century Japanese photography that was donated to the library in the 1940s and 50s. This experience was fascinating and is one that I won’t forget. I was also able to take time to visit the National Museum of Scotland to view the forty-foot long painted handscroll scroll Theatres of the East by the Japanese artist Moromasa, which is on loan from the Library’s Dyer collection. As 2023 marks the 150th anniversary of Dyer’s trip to Japan, I have helped with the organisation of a display to commemorate this collection. This has included finding and selecting images from Capital Collections, Edinburgh Libraries’ online image library, writing name labels to accompany them, and writing a general introduction to the display. The trust and responsibility of such a task has been incredibly rewarding and I feel proud to have contributed, however small, to the final display that will take place in May in the Central Library staircase cabinets.

Thank you Holly and Molly. We have enjoyed your company, your contribution to our work and your feedback. If you are looking for a work experience placement have you considered the Library service? We consider requests from all stages of life from school pupils through to Masters’ students.

Take a peek at our new look Edinburgh Collected website!

We’re delighted to let you know that Edinburgh Collected, Edinburgh Libraries’ online community archive has relaunched with a vibrant and user-friendly design.

Edinburgh Collected website home page design

Edinburgh Collected is a fantastic website for exploring the city’s past. Since the website was first launched in 2015, our contributors have added over 8000 picture memories of Edinburgh! The many varied personal memories and candid snapshots combine to give a truly unique collective view of Edinburgh’s past. Anyone can browse and enjoy the memories and scrapbooks on the site, or if you sign up for an account you can join Edinburgh Collected and add your own memories of Edinburgh, helping us to preserve the city’s rich history.

With the majority of uploaded material dating from the 20th century onwards, it’s also a great tool for reminiscence and educational projects.

Dr Bell’s Primary School class portrait, 1956 shared by Living Memory Association

Take a look at Edinburgh Collected and you’ll find it also has enhanced functionality and additional features including –

  • an improved search, allowing filtering on results
  • search by type – picture or written memories, or scrapbooks
  • an easy to use, in-built comments feature
  • full screen view of larger images
  • discovery of related scrapbooks from memory pages
  • a new ‘draft’ status allowing you to save memories and scrapbooks in draft while you work on them
  • filter options in your account area to organise by content type and status (draft/published etc).

The website is fully compatible with all screen sizes. It’s easy to add picture memories from a tablet or phone and with in-built cameras on these devices, you can record events or places and upload your memories on the go!

A long line of young people jumping in the air on a sandy beach.
Portobello Mon Amour shared by Missjilly71

If you already have an account on Edinburgh Collected, you’ll need to reset your password before you can login to the new website. Once logged in, you’ll have access to all the content you’ve added in your account area.  

And if you’ve not yet joined Edinburgh Collected – join us and help us record history today!

Edinburgh Women’s Mural on Our Town Stories

During Women’s History Month in March last year, Central Library began work on creating a public mural celebrating Edinburgh’s trailblazing women, past and present. Participants at workshops produced stencil portraits of these unsung heroines.  During this year‘s celebration of women’s history and with funding from Creative Scotland we have begun to add portraits of some of these remarkable women with an Edinburgh connection to Our Town Stories.  Many more will be added over the coming months to complete an online version of the Edinburgh Women’s Mural.

Find out more about the Edinburgh Women’s Mural project.

Easter opening hours for libraries, April 2023

Our opening hours over the Easter holiday are:

Friday 7 April – closed
Saturday 8 April – open as normal
Monday 10 April – closed
From Tuesday 11 April – open as normal

Remember, Your Library is always open online to borrow ebooks, audiobooks, magazines and newspapers.

Happy Easter!

Big book sale and family fun day at McDonald Road Library

Join McDonald Road Library this Saturday 1 April 2023 for their Big Book Sale and Family Fun Day!

Poster for McDonald Road Library Big Book Sale and Family Fun Day on Saturday 1 April.

Their book sale is back by popular demand and will have hundreds of of pre-loved, ex-library books for sale.

Once Upon A Raindrop will be providing a sensory storytelling experience for toddlers in a funny, cheerful walk-through performance for wee ones and their grown-ups with lots of sensory games and… magic!

Under 5s and their parents and carers can enjoy songs and rhymes with not just one, but two Bookbug sessions on the day. Spaces for these are limited and are sure to go quickly, so reserve your tickets via the McDonald Road Library Eventbrite page.

And enjoy a special, extended version of Saturday Lego Club from 11.30am to 4pm. Create your very own cool creations, or help build some amazing dinosaurs in preparation for our very exciting Wednesday matinee on 5 April. Plus, there’ll be competitions, crafts, badge-making, and even more.

Drop into McDonald Road Library on Saturday and join the fun.

Postcards from Ukraine

Until 22 May, Edinburgh Central Library will be displaying an exhibition of photographs called “Postcards from Ukraine”. This project aims to record and demonstrate the damage caused to the Ukrainian culture because of the bombings and shelling of buildings during the war that Russia initiated against Ukraine on 24 February 2022.

Palace of Culture ‘Youth’ in Mariupol

Russian troops have destroyed many of Ukraine’s historical, architectural and archaeological monuments. Museums, memorials, university buildings, cinemas, churches, temples, cathedrals, TV towers and monuments have all been destroyed. In the process, Ukraine’s cultural heritage, which dates back thousands of years, is being destroyed.

The 23 images on display show buildings before and after they were destroyed.

The project was developed by the Ukrainian Institute with the support of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and in cooperation with the creative agency Green Penguin Media. You can find out more about the project and also see the images online at the Ukraine Institute, Postcards from Ukraine.