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.

History of Printing exhibition

In support of the upcoming Rare Books Festival running from 16 to 25 March, we have an exhibition at Central Library relating to the history of printing.  The history of print is a vast and wide-ranging topic and the titles on show represent only a tiny fraction of the volumes about printing held by Edinburgh Libraries.

The Gutenberg Bible is widely accepted as the starting off point of printing in Western Europe.  Printing in England started with Caxton as the first English printer setting up business in 1476.  Then Chepman and Myllar were Scotland’s first printers, licensed in 1507.  The timeline of these famous printers shows the expanse and progress of printing history. 

The C.L. Psalmes of the Princelie Prophet David, printed in Aberdeen by Edward Raban in 1629

Whilst Central Library cannot claim to have original examples of these printers, it does hold works by the famous, infamous and the obscure.  Highlights include Scotland’s first complete Bible, the Bassandyne Bible, printed by the Edinburgh printer Bassandyne and finished by Arbuthnet in 1579, early works by the Aberdeen based printer Edward Raban, and ‘The Nuremberg Chronicle’ (Latin edition, 1493) printed by Koberger.  These are all available to consult.  Currently some early works are on display in our Reference Library.

The trade of printing flourished in Edinburgh and other towns and cities in Scotland.  The Edinburgh and Scottish Collection holds an array of material including the cheap, jobbing printing of posters, chapbooks, broadsides from early examples to modern times.  Some of these are highly collectable due to their ephemeral nature and often few copies have survived. 

We have on view a broadside from the printing house of Agnes Campbell. Unlike many of her fellow printers, Agnes Campbell made a fortune out of the trade, but for many profits were far from significant.

Sermon preached before the King, 1697 printed by “the Heirs and Successors of Andrew Anderson”, aka his widow, Agnes Campbell.

The art of the printer was and is a highly skilled trade encompassing all aspects from the paper to the embellishment.  Industrial techniques, new inks, papers and binding methods have changed the skills to be more computer and design based.  However, small and specialist presses have always existed through the decades and examples such as the artist’s book on display demonstrate the art of printing is far from dead.

Whether you are a bibliophile, a collector, a reader, or someone interested in all aspects of culture, visit the Edinburgh Rare Books Festival which is supported by many Edinburgh institutions through talks and exhibitions. 

Our exhibition can be found on the main staircase and in the Reference Library until 27 March at Central Library.

Central Library – a view from the top

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

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

View of Edinburgh Castle looking west from the roof of Central Library,

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

Stonework, Central Library,

witnessed the damage that nature can do –

Plant root removed from masonry, Central Library roof,

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

Looking into the Reference Library, from scaffold on Central Library,

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

Cinema and literature, screening of Out in the Open, part of the Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival 2022

We are delighted to be taking part in this year’s Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival and the venue for a screening of Intemperie, or known in English as, Out in the Open. The film is based on the 2013 novel written by the English PEN Award winner Jesús Carrasco.

Join us on Friday 4 November 2022 at Central Library for the screening, followed by a Question and Answer session with author Jesús Carrasco chaired by Professor Alexis Grohman (Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at the University of Edinburgh).

The event is a part of the ninth edition of the Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival (ESFF).

For more information and to book your free ticket for this special event, visit Eventbrite.

If you have any questions, please contact the Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival on

Czech footprints in Scotland

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.

Czech footprints in Scotland on display in Central Library

Time for change: Action not words – Black History Month at Central Library

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.

Cardboard placard painted white, yellow and black with red and blue flowers. It reads “I don’t want to get political but your ignorance kills real people”.
City of Edinburgh Council Museums & Galleries

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.

Cardboard placard which reads ‘Racism isn’t born it’s taught. Please keep 2 metres, keep safe!”
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.

Come to our Black History Month author events:

Monday 24 October, 6.30 – 7.30pm at Central Library
Join Kate Phillips, author of Bought & Sold: Scotland, Jamaica and Slavery

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.

Book your free place via Eventbrite for Bought & Sold: Scotland, Jamaica and Slavery

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.

Book your free place via Eventbrite for Hey America!

Nature and Self: Free National Poetry Day Writing Workshop

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.

New pocket books at Central library!

Pocket book collection at Central Library

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…

Take a look at the display in Central Library or browse the full pocket book collection online and reserve a title to pick up from your local library.

Commemorating the 200th anniversary of the visit of King George IV to Edinburgh in art

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.

Statue of George IV, George Street
by Andrew J L Ansell

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.

The landing of King George IV at Leith, 15th August 1822 by W. H. Lizars,

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!

George IV in kilt caricature,
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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.

King George IV in the Castle of Edinburgh, 22 August 1822 by James Skene,

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.

Available from the Art and Design Library is a publication by Gerald Finley studying Turner’s intentions for ‘the Royal Progress’ entitled Turner and George the Fourth in Edinburgh, 1822.

Turner and George the Fourth in Edinburgh, 1822 by Gerald Finley

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 The display runs in Central Library through August and September 2022.

Breaking the News at Central Library

Read all about it! Currently underway at the British Library is the Breaking the News exhibition.

Photo of new exhibition welcome panel in the Mezzanine area of Central Library

Alongside the British Library’s Breaking the News exhibition, pop-up displays are on view at 30 public libraries across the UK including Edinburgh Central Library. The displays draw upon each library’s individual collection and regional connections to celebrate the value of regional news in communities across the UK. 

Photo of glass display case containing newspaper exhibition material

We have delved into Central Library’s newspaper and periodical collections, with the aim to celebrate the value of regional news and champion the personalities, journalism and stories that have made a mark through the years in our local area.  

It is often the case that national news carries many negative stories, but this can sometimes be quite different when looking locally. Local and grassroots news publications have a wonderful variety of stories, they can speak truth to power and are often free from the restraints and impartiality that is evident in the large mainstream tabloids and daily publications. 

Our exhibition space will be dedicated to Breaking the News through the following themes: 

4 July  – 4 August 2022, Edinburgh: a city of firsts 

We are looking at the local achievements that have put Edinburgh on the map. From the pioneering women known as the Edinburgh Seven, who would not rest until they became the first females accepted into a UK university to study medicine, to modern scientific marvels such as God particles and cloned sheep. Edinburgh has been at the forefront of many significant achievements and breakthroughs, this is your chance to explore and see how these were reported at the time. 

During this month we also have a showcase of the many and varied local news publications that have been produced over the years.

Examples of local news publications included in the display

5 August to 29 August 2022 – Edinburgh: Festival City 

During the exhibition’s second phase, we are ready to celebrate. It is the 75th anniversary of the world-famous International and Fringe festivals in Edinburgh, we are using this period to review our collection of material to discover some key moments and breakthroughs from the festivals’ history.

Display of festival material in Central Lending Library cabinets, until 29 August 2022.

Due to the closure of the Mezzanine area in Central Library for essential building works, we are relocating the British Library’s Breaking the News pop up display to the library’s front hall. This is where the festival material is featured also. (The display in the Mezzanine cabinets will be available to view until Saturday 13 August.)

Pop into Central Library during August to have a look!

Breaking the News festival display in the front hall, until 29 August 2022.

Make Music Day 2022

Way back in 2019, Central Library put together a programme of interesting and talented local musicians for the Make Music Day celebrations of that year. We had groups in our Lending department and on the Mezzanine in our Music Library. We reflected at the end of the day about how we could grow on this success and how do we encourage our groups to come back and new performers to join us?

Then we went into the two Covid-filled years we have just had.

We, with the rest of the world, went online and put together programmes to be part of the day. In 2021, our online programme included original music for flute and piano, 3 local choirs, a film premiere and a performance of “Stand By Me” by members of staff – not to be missed!

This year, and my fingers are still crossed, we are back in the building and able to have a programme of live music with performances starting at midday and going on till 6pm.

Craigmillar, McDonald Road and Stockbridge Libraries are also hosting performances on Tuesday 21 June.

For the Central Library programme, we start our day by welcoming back the group who opened our programme in 2019, The Rolling Hills Chorus.

The Rolling Hills Chorus in May at the UK Barbershop Championship

Expect a superb programme of close harmony, a capella favourites from film, musical, folk and pop. The Rolling Hills Chorus are a busy group. This will be the first of two appearances on Make Music Day, as they have their own show in the evening, which I am sure they will mention.

Some quotes –
‘Fantastic show… Heart warming and uplifting’
‘Definitely feel-good 100% Distilled Harmony!’
‘The Rolling Hills Chorus just keeps getting better and this 5th Fringe appearance is a triumph!’
‘Wonderful Scottish songs sung in beautiful harmony’
‘My friend was so moved by “My Homeland” it gave her goosebumps!’

Two members of staff from the Music team, Michalina Pawlus and Fernando Bijos, have been working on a “jam” session for anyone to join in on. The session will feature new tunes by Fernando and Michalina and some jazz standards. If you have a few minutes to spare and your instrument and you are in the area, come and join the session at 12.45pm on the Mezzanine.

Another group returning to the library, are the artists formally known as “Play it again, Tam”. Now called Drookit they will be playing their folk-based selections in the Lending Library. 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.


We are thrilled to welcome musicians from the Tinderbox Collective to Central Library for the first time.

Tinderbox Collective

Tinderbox will be represented for this performance by some of their eclectic young talented players from this growing collective of musicians and artists. Edinburgh Libraries are pleased to be in partnership with the Tinderbox collective for their “We Make Musical Instrument Libraries” initiative, in which they will house musical instruments in various Libraries around Edinburgh and other towns and cities around Scotland.

Some quotes on Tinderbox Collective projects:
“Rave Culture meets last night of the Proms”, The Herald
“A trip on a grand, ambitious and stimulating scale”, The Scotsman
“Makes the consequences of globalisation personal, it’s impressively powerful stuff”, The Scotsman
“A spectacular modern band”, The Guardian
“An unusual and curious idea, this is a meeting of cultures that typifies the spirit of the Fringe”, Broadway Baby
“Clashes cultures on very personal and emotive footing”, **** fest
“A musical tour de force… This Tinderbox has already kindled something that dazzles”, The List

We are also pleased to say a big hello to the Edinburgh Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra in their first of hopefully many, visits to Central Library. EMGO’s programme will draw from their wide repertoire of musical genres, from classics to pop, baroque to bebop and striding across continents along the way.

Edinburgh Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra

Tenement Jazz Band are also making their first appearance in the library and we hope not their last. In their brief history they have played in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Dundee and as part of Glasgow Jazz Festivals, and performed their own hit show on the Edinburgh Fringe telling the story of the ‘Red Hot Roots of Jazz’ from turn of the century New Orleans and beyond.

Tenement Jazz Band

Some quotes:
“Brings a freshness and energy of youth to New Orleans style traditional jazz whilst also staying true to the original style”, Ron Simpson, The Jazz Rag, May 2019
“They’ve done their homework… The results are rich and multi-layered”, Joe Bebco, Associate Editor of The Syncopated Times. 

Bringing our day to a close, but not Make Music Day, are the Edinburgh Police Choir. Formed in 2008, as the Lothian and Borders Police Choir and then expanded to include members of the other emergency services and their family and friends, now the Edinburgh Police Choir has developed into a truly community choir. They have performed at the Royal Albert Hall for a concert in aid of Care of Police Survivors, at the Sage in Gateshead as part of Sky Arts Project and at Edinburgh’s St Giles Cathedral for a National Emergency Services Day event.     

Edinburgh Police Choir

Our Libraries around the city are hosting events and performances. Craigmillar Library has a busy day with performances starting at 10.30am in the morning with players from Castlebrae Community Campus followed throughout the day by programmes of guitar music by three very different performers, David Price, Danielo Olivara and Raymond Charles.

The Nelson Hall in McDonald Road Library will resound to the sound of music with the indie feminist punk band Suffrajitsu.

Our colleagues at Stockbridge Library will host performances form mezzo-soprano Ana Filogonio and from accordionist, Linda Campbell. 

All the music performances in Edinburgh Libraries will take place during the day, except for McDonald Road Library, where Suffrajitsu are due to play in the evening.

Wherever you spend 21 June, spend it musically! Make Music Day is a celebration of music, all events are free and open to the public. That is the same for all the events in the library service.

All of the events for Make Music Day for the Libraries, for Edinburgh and for the UK are listed on the Make Music Day website.

Don’t forget to follow Central Library on the day for coverage of all the musical happenings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Edinburgh Women’s Mural online

Earlier this week we announced the unveiling of the Edinburgh Women’s Mural at Central Library which celebrates Edinburgh’s trailblazing women, past and present. The mural will be on display in Central Library until 2 July 2022.

But what if you’re unable to visit, or you simply want a sneak preview?

Stencilled portraits from the Edinburgh Women’s Mural

Well, you can find a selections of the pioneer’s portraits in a new mini-exhibition on Capital Collections and in a new story on Our Town Stories!

Women and the environment: Activists, pioneers, and gardeners. 

Join us next month for an exciting programme of events celebrating women activists, pioneers and gardeners.

Part of the Harpies, Fechters and Quines 2022 events programme, Women and the Environment: Activists, Pioneers, and Gardeners is a collaboration with the Bonnie Fechters, Glasgow Women’s Library and Edinburgh City Libraries.

The Three I’s: Isobel Gunn, Isabella Bird and Isobel Wylie Hutchison
Tuesday 7 June at 2pm, George Washington Browne Room, Central Library

Jane George, a tutor in Scottish women’s history and a member of the Bonnie Fechters, will give a talk on The Three I’s: Isobel Gunn, Isabella Bird and Isobel Wylie Hutchison, three unconventional, intrepid and inspirational women whose lives spanned three centuries and whose enthusiasm for exploring and travelling in relatively unknown environments challenged the social conventions of their time.
Book your free ticket via Eventbrite.

“Scots women who chose to challenge”
Wednesday 8 June at 11am, George Washington Browne Room, Central Library

Jackie Sangster is a Learning Manager with the Learning & Inclusion team at Historic Environment Scotland – working across Scotland to bring people of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to discover, explore, understand, and be inspired by our historic environment. Mostly Jackie works with digital archive material from Scran – that’s ½ million records, not counting all the other HES archives such as Canmore. As a former teacher, she endeavours to make engagement with school and community groups as creative as possible. Allowing people to explore heritage in a meaningful and enjoyable way.

Her talk will explore archive material, meeting Scots women who‘ve made their mark in their respective fields whether in politics, law, medicine, the arts or the world of sport. Introducing some well know faces through archive photography and perhaps a few less familiar, but nonetheless inspiring individuals who chose to challenge their world.
Book your free ticket via Eventbrite.

Sister Earth – Story Café
Wednesday 8 June at 1pm on Zoom, a women only event

In these uncertain times, nature has become more important than ever to us as a source of calm, and healing. In this story cafe, we look to women’s writings and stories of action that celebrate our natural environment, from urban gardeners and wild walkers to women working together on issues of climate change and preserving and protecting our natural environment. We’ll be reading from poetry, prose and fiction about how ordinary and extraordinary women are getting to grips with the present and future of our precious landscapes.  Grab a cup of tea and bit of cake, then sit back and enjoy!
Book through Glasgow Women’s Library

An introduction to climate change and why it’s important that we do something about it.
Thursday 9 June at 2pm, George Washington Browne Room, Central Library

Kirsten Leggatt is a Climate Change Consultant for Arup and a tutor on the online Carbon Management Masters at the University of Edinburgh. She is heavily involved as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Ambassador in schools teaching students and young people about the causes and consequences of climate change. In January 2020, she presented evidence to the UK Climate Assembly on the solutions to reaching the UK Government’s net-zero emissions target by 2050 and has since represented young people on the Stewarding Group for the Scottish Climate Assembly.
Book your free ticket via Eventbrite.

The garden Ella grew – a Japanese garden in Scotland 
Monday 13 June at 11am, George Washington Browne Room, Central Library

The Japanese Garden, Cowden is a ‘wee’ gem, hidden amongst the hills of Clackmannanshire in Scotland. Created in 1908 by Japanese landscape architect Taki Handa, it was the dream of Ella Christie, independent traveller and explorer, who had journeyed to Japan herself the year before. In 2018 the garden opened to visitors after an extensive restoration project and today it’s unique beauty amongst the Ochil hills is available for everyone to see. 

Join us as we share its history and layout.
Book your free ticket via Eventbrite.

Ground-breaking: Women at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Thursday 16 June at 2pm, George Washington Browne Room, Central Library

Graham Hardy is a member of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s Library and Archives team. 

RBGE’s history has always been told from the vantage point of the Regius Keepers and Principal Gardens/Curators, because they leave the biggest historical record.  Tucked away in manuscript accounts and notebooks are the names of the men who were paid to do the work and also as time progressed from the middle of the eighteenth century women’s names start to appear.  

Using original source material from the collections, Graham will give an overview of some of the women who worked or were heavily involved with The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh from 1750 to the present. Their roles range from the anonymous women paid to weed to illustrators, tutors/teachers, gardeners, plant collectors, laboratory and herbarium staff, administrators, scientific researchers and research students. 

Graham’s research, undertaken when not working in his professional capacity, has been much helped by research both national and international on the topic and also by input and enthusiasm from colleagues, volunteers and research associates.  His research is ongoing.  There may be much for Graham and others still to unearth, but we will receive an excellent insight to how much has already been discovered.
Book your free ticket via Eventbrite.

All events, apart from the online Story Cafe, take place in the George Washington Room at Central Library. The George Washington Browne Room is accessible by stairs or the public lift.

Edinburgh Women’s Mural

During Women’s History Month in March this year, Central Library began work on creating a public mural celebrating Edinburgh’s trailblazing women, past and present. This was inspired by another project entitled ‘Work in Progress’ by the artists Jann Haworth and Liberty Blake which has been running in the USA since 2016.

We had a fantastic response from the local community, and we’d like to say a big thank you to everybody that contributed, whether you provided nominations for our list of unsung heroines, or helped spread the word, or attended one of our stencil workshops. Thanks also go to Creative Scotland, who awarded us funding for the project, and to local artist Madeleine Wood and graphic designer Greg Stedman.

The Edinburgh Women’s Mural is now finished and ready to display, at Central Library! See below for a sneak peek of one of the eight panels. How many people can you recognise?

Edinburgh Women’s Mural – detail

Please come in to visit us and have a look at the full mural. We’d love to hear your comments and feedback, and if any portrait on the mural inspires you to learn more about a particular individual or subject, staff will be on hand to signpost you to relevant books and other resources from our collections. There will also be a “who’s who” to help you identify each of the women depicted, and a supporting display of interesting material about the women of Edinburgh. 

Check out this short video about how we made the stencilled portraits:

As you will see, one of the women featured prominently on the full mural is the Rector of Edinburgh University, Debora Kayembe. She kindly took the time to speak to us about her inspiring life and varied career. Watch her video here: 

We look forward to seeing you at Central Library, and if you are interested in attending one of our upcoming mural-themed free talks and events, please watch this space, or keep an eye on social media channels! 

The Edinburgh Women’s Mural is on display at Central Library from 23 May to 2 July 2022.

Central Library’s Book Talk Group ‘Keep the Heid’ with a six-minute read-in in the Lending Library

Last Wednesday, three members of Book Talk, a group who meet fortnightly at Central Library had a ‘read-in’ in the lending library, to celebrate Keep The Heid.

Margaret, Lily and Kenneth from the Book Talk Group at Central Library

Keep The Heid, a Scotland wide initiative, saw over 400,000 people pledge to read for six minutes on the eleventh of May to promote health and wellbeing.

Before the read-in, group members Kenneth Macleod, Lily Johnston and Margaret Lobban spoke to library advisors about their group, libraries and why reading is important for so many reasons.

“We started off following an SQA,” says Lily, “but when we lost funding for that we decided we wanted to continue ourselves, so we moved the group to the library. We all work together, bringing texts and making suggestions of what we should read next. Margaret was a volunteer with the group, and when we moved, she chose to come with us.”

Lily from the Book Talk group at Central Library

The group have read books including a A Street Cat Named Bob and Greyfriars’ Bobby and often read short stories or a couple of chapters of a book together.

“It’s improved my reading a lot” said Kenneth, “I’ve been reading lots of books, I like science fiction, railways, music books.”

Lily agrees that reading with the group has hugely improved her confidence in her own ability both reading, and speaking publicly; “Quickreads have really encouraged me to do more reading, only if picking a book up for five or ten minutes. We read aloud in the group and it’s given me the confidence to do readings in church.”

“Reading out loud is really important”, agrees Margaret, “it gets across the fluency of the written word.”

“It’s a friendly group”, says Lily, “we give everyone the chance to do the reading and we help each other out, after we’ve read something we have a chat about it among ourselves. We’ve been doing this for ten years in some shape or form. It’s a great way to build up your confidence.”

Group members can bring in things other than books to share with the group, Lily has previously bought in some wordsearches she enjoys doing, another way the group can share their interest in words.

The group have found particular value in Quick Reads, short books and great stories by bestselling authors which provide a route into reading through accessible and easy to read writing styles and Journey For Learning books. The group also recommend titles in large print. “Large print books are magnificent”, says Margaret, “for those with dyslexia say, or people who aren’t confident and fluent readers”.

Margaret from the Book Talk group at Central Library

“We recently read a chapter from In My Life by Alan Johnson”, says Margaret, “and it was brilliant, it’s a music memoir, so everyone was saying, ‘Oh yes, I remember that year, what music were we listening to?’ And talking about it.”

“I like MC Beaton books”, says Kenneth, talking about writers the group has introduced him to, “Agatha Raisin [the detective] always arrives in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The group illustrate brilliantly the importance of reading for mental health and wellbeing, the key aim of Keep the Heid.

For the read-in, Lily has chosen Heidi by Joanne Spyri, which she reads on her ereader. Kenneth has chosen Red River Ransome, a mystery novel by Eric Wilson, while Margaret, a beekeeper, has chosen Dancing With Bees by Brigit Strawbridge Howard.

Kenneth from the Book Talk group at Central Library

As they move off to take position in the library, library advisor Fernando photographs them, and they read their chosen text for six minutes to show their commitment to Keep The Heid.

Margaret is eager to emphasise the importance of libraries, not only as a place for the group to meet and talk about books, but for everyone  – “you have more range here than any bookshop, I see over there, you have Urdu, Arabic, here you have large print and audio, there’s something for everyone, a library is such a gateway”.

Watch the video of the Book Talk group talking about books for Keep the Heid, Scotland’s Reading Moment on Wednesday 11 May.

Do you want to improve your reading in a friendly, supportive group for adults?  The Book Talk group welcomes new members.
They meet at Central Library every second Thursday from 2.15 to 4.15pm to read together and discuss their reading. If you’d like to find out more, please call Liz on 07922 416232.

Central Library staff pledge to Keep Their Heids this Mental Health Awareness Week

Keep The Heid is a campaign encouraging people to read for six minutes on the eleventh of May. It’s been proven by MindLab that just six minutes reading every day can reduce stress and improve sleep  – more so even than going for a walk or holding a steaming cup of tea.

I guess it’s not a surprise; reading takes you away from your anxieties, and for those six minutes you can be immersed in a world completely other than your own. Researchers are keen to emphasise that reading any book for pleasure will have the same effect.

Below our Library Advisors, Supervisors and Development Leaders share their #KeepTheHeid pledges, telling us which books they plan to immerse themselves in this week.

Bronwen, Art and Design and Music Library Development Leader, has pledged to read All Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison as part of #KeeptheHeid
The book I’m pledging to read is ‘All Among the Barley’ by Melissa Harrison which I’m reading just now with my book group.

I’m taking it slowly which is a deliberate choice to relish the book’s wonderfully descriptive portrayal of rural England in the autumn of 1933. Told through the character of Edie, then a teenager growing up on a family farm and with the Great War still casting a shadow over everyone’s lives, themes of class, folklore, changing rural traditions and patriarchy are explored. I’ll be reading my six minutes on the bus to work, I find it helps to distract me from thinking about the challenges of the day ahead and to bring me some stillness and peace despite the busyness around me.

All Among the Barley is available to borrow both as hardback, large print, talking book and ebook.

Joanna, Library Advisor in Art and Design and Music Libraries has chosen Children of Our Era, a poem by Wislawa Szymborska as her six minute read
I have chosen this poem because of its ideas about society, citizenship, and peoples’ and communities’ involvement in political subjects. Some people told me: ‘I’m not voting. I’m not interested in politics.’ Which is obviously a wrong decision. There is a saying: ‘you maybe have no interest in politics, but the politics easily becomes interested in you’.

Miracle Fair by Wislawa Szymborska is available to borrow and we also have several other collections of her poetry.

Natasha, Art and Design and Music Library Supervisor is reading Last Order at the Liars’ Bar: The Story of the Beautiful South
I came across this book whilst searching for items in our Music Library annexe. The Beautiful South have long been favourites of mine, so I was intrigued to find out a little more behind the catchy melodies and Paul Heaton’s sharp lyrics. The band’s music has been very beneficial to my mental health over the years so I thought it would be fitting to read this book for my pledge.

Last Order at the Liars’ Bar is available to reserve from the Central Music Store.

Ania, Library Advisor in Central Lending and Children’s Library has chosen to read Akin by Emma Donoghue
‘Akin’ is a tale of love, loss and family, in which a retired New York professor’s life is thrown into chaos when he takes his great-nephew to the French Riviera, in hopes of uncovering his own mother’s wartime secrets.

I very much enjoy reading it, taking part in their journey through beautiful Nice, its restaurants, cafes, galleries, watching them clash, fight but also learn from each other. ‘Akin’ is a quietly moving novel that shows us how little we know one another, but how little, perhaps, we need to know in order to care.

It has two things I love in a novel: a beautiful city you can imagine being in with the main characters and a complicated, deep but also fascinating relation between people who are so different from one another and yet manage to gain some mutual trust and respect towards each other.

Akin is available in paperback, hardback, large print, talking book on CD and audiobook.

Zoe, Library Advisor at Central Lending and Children’s is reading The Young Team by Graeme Armstrong
I’m reading ‘The Young Team’ by Graeme Armstrong, a book published in 2020 which tells the candid tale of a young man and his pals growing up in the housing schemes of Airdrie. I’m enjoying this book so much and can’t wait to find out what the wise and brave protagonist will do next. This is Armstrong’s first book, yet he writes with such unwavering confidence  – definitely one to watch. 

The Young Team is available in Edinburgh Libraries as hardback, paperback and talking book on CD.

Jeanette, Central Lending and Children’s Library Adviser is reading Thin Places by Kerri Ni Dochartaigh which was shortlisted for The Wainwright Prize
Getting out into nature, no matter how bad I feel, almost always lifts my spirits, and I am curious about the impact of nature on others. ‘Thin Places’ by Kerri Ni Dochartaigh is a mix of memoir, history and nature writing. Born in Derry, Ireland at the height of the Troubles, the author’s childhood was shocking and traumatic. Her account of how nature; moths, foxes, birds and ‘thin places’, contribute to her gradual recovery is magical. Nature is healing but so is reading, and this book has had me absorbed from the first page. Highly recommended.

Thin Places is available to reserve in hardback or paper back.

Emily, Library Advisor in Central Lending and Children’s has pledged to read Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun for #KeeptheHeid
For my pledged six minutes of reading for Keep the Heid, I will be reading ‘Klara and the Sun’ by Kazuo Ishiguro. This book is classed as a dystopian science fiction novel, and explores themes of faith, rationality, and love through the eyes of artificial intelligence. I’ve chosen to read this book as part of my pledge because I’ve only heard good reviews for it since it was published in 2021, and I have high hopes that it will challenge my thoughts and views on the themes seen throughout. 

Klara and the Sun is available to borrow as hardback, paperback, talking book on CD and ebook.

Hope, Library Advisor in Central Lending and Children’s is reading Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
The Swan Inn is known for storytelling. People come from miles around to hear tales told by Joe Bliss, the innkeeper’s husband. One winter night (the longest of the year) just as Joe says, ‘Once Upon a Time…’, an unknown and injured man stumbles through the door holding a child in his arms. The man collapses. The child is drowned, or is she?

It is a story of stories, of maybe ghosts and longing, of the river which feeds the land and its people, yet can take them as well. I’m loving this strange and twisting novel.

Once Upon a River is available to borrow as paperback, hardback, ebook and audiobook.

Doris, Library Advisor at Central Lending and Children’s, is reading Taste by Stanley Tucci
Having recently finished Ruth Ozeki’s second novel The Book of Form and Emptiness, I was in the mood for something lighter.
I immediately picked up Stanley Tucci’s new book Taste. I’ve been avidly watching his TV programme and was looking forward to tucking into his memoir, which has a similarly reminiscent and urbane style. Something light yet with substance and a book to be savoured.

Taste is available to reserve as a hardback.

Dawn, Library Advisor at Central Lending and Children’s, chooses Edinburgh – Jarrold Short Walks
I was posted to Portobello library during Central’s ‘glow up’ and there found a bountiful book of walks in and around the Edinburgh area and this has lead to some new-to-me areas of the Pentlands. These explorations in the wilderness are crucial to maintaining my mental health which, in truth, like so many of us, has taken a severe bashing over the last two years.  If I had to choose one of these it would be Edinburgh – Jarrold Short Walks.

Edinburgh – Jarrold Short Walks is a little yellow paperback, available in four of our libraries

Vesna,  Central Lending and Children’s Library Development Leader pledges Burning Questions, Margaret Atwood’s third collection of essays and occasional pieces, covering 2004 – 2021
This choice was the result of practising the art of serendipity: a book voucher gift from a friend with an instruction to let the book chose me! I’ll be reading my six minutes during my lunch break, and if the weather is fair, outside in the park.

I am not sure which piece’s siren call will be the strongest today.  Perhaps a call to courage in ‘We Hang by the Thread’ (2016)? Or the wonderfully punctuated, firmly titled piece from 2019 Just.Tell.The.Truth. The most burning question of them all: How to Change the World (2013)? There are tempting pieces about other writers too: Doris Lessing, Alice Munro, Marie Clair-Blais. Whichever piece it is, I know that Atwood’s masterful writing, with generous sprinkle of wicked fun, will bring me back to the joy of reading. I’ll walk back to the library a little wiser, calmer, readier to carry on!

Burning Questions is available to reserve as an audiobook or hardback.

What will you read today to Keep the Heid and Read?

On 11th May…

Music Library, Central Library

Central Library is undergoing some repair works, some of which has meant having to close for a couple of weeks, but tomorrow, we will be back open. 

Tomorrow is 11 May, and here are a few bits and bobs about 11 May. Firstly May, May is the fifth month of the year, likely named after Maia Goddess of Spring, embodying growth and fertility. May has 31 days and in the northern hemisphere is the last month of spring, ushering in the summer. 

11 May is the 131st day of the year, with 234 days remaining till Christmas, if Christmas is what you look forward to. If this were your birthday, your star sign would be Taurus. Salvador Dali was born in 1904, the IBM computer Deep Blue beat Chess Grandmaster Gary Kasparov in the final match of a six-game series in 1997. Gordon Brown resigned as Prime Minister ending Labour’s 13-year run in power. In Vietnam it is National Human Rights Day, India celebrates National Technology Day and it is Statehood Day in Minnesota, USA. 

These are a few things that happened in the music world on 11 May. 

Way back in 1963 the Beatles started a 30-week run at the no. 1 slot in the UK album Chart with their debut album “Please Please Me”. They were knocked off the no. 1 slot by themselves and their second album, “With the Beatles” which stayed at the top slot for 21 weeks. Looking at the history of the UK album charts, the Beatles are the only band holding four of the top slots in the run-down of most weeks at no. 1. Those four albums being Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, A Hard Day’s Night and the two previously mentioned, Please Please Me and With the Beatles.

Roger Miller had recorded King of the Road in 1964 and released it as a single in January of 1965. It eventually reached no. 1 on 11 May. I spent some time trying to check this information was true and it is but according to different chart histories, websites, and books there is a slight difference in when in May and for how long it stayed at number one. What we do know is that it has been covered by many different, disparate groups from REM’s shameful shambolic, drunken version to the Proclaimers chart-topping 1990 version. It has spawned comedy versions and an answer called the Queen of the House by country music star Jody Miller (no relation), who wrote a new lyric to Roger Miller’s music. 

According to The Top of the Pops Archive, The Bee Gees first ever performance on the programme was on 11 May 1967. Broadcast on a Thursday and presented by Pete Murray, the Bee Gees performed “The New York Mining Disaster 1941”. This was the first of 89 appearances on the programme. 

Born on 11 May in 1888, composer Irving Berlin came into the world as Israel Beilin, one of eight children, thought to be born in Byelorussia, the family immigrated to New York in 1893. Berlin had his first hit in 1911 with Alexander Ragtime Band. Variously described as “The Greatest Songwriter who has ever lived” by George Gershwin or by Jerome Kern “Irving Berlin has no place in American music – he is American Music.”  Berlin lived to the age of 101, dying in in 1989. 

Irving Berlin
Samuel Johnson Woolf, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Still rocking and rolling Eric Burdon of the Animals, famous for their hit “The House of the Rising Sun,” was born, or you could say – the son rose in the Burdon household – in Newcastle on 11 May 1941. 

Eric Burdon interviewed by Judith Bosch after performing in the Dutch TV programme Fanclub, 1967
Photographer: F. van Geelen, CC BY-SA 3.0 NL via Wikimedia Commons

On 11 May 2006, the late, great George Michael was discovered “tired and emotional” behind the wheel of his car and then was involved in his second small car smash in as many days, trying to evade the pestering paparazzi. 

Richard Harris
City of Boston Archives, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Dumbledore (Richard Harris) recorded and had a hit with the enigmatic Jimmy Webb song MacArthur Park, in 1968. Richard Harris could only magic up a number nine place in the charts. Ten years later Donna Summer had a no. 1 with her disco version. Bass trombonist and arranger Adrian Drover, who played with the BBC Scottish Radio Orchestra, scored a massive hit with his arrangement of MacArthur Park for the great Canadian trumpeter Maynard Ferguson and his band. There are several recordings of his arrangement at our Jazz streaming service Naxos Jazz.

Donna Summer performing at the inaugural gala at the Convention Centre in Washington DC, 19/1/1985
President (1981-1989 : Reagan). White House Photographic Office. 1981-1989 (Most Recent), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Reggae Legend Bob Marley passed away in 1981 from cancer. Exodus by Bob Marley and the Wailers was voted best album of the 20th century by Time Magazine. A 1984 compilation Album “Legend” became the best-selling reggae album ever with sales of over 20 million. 6 February, the day of Bob Marley’s birth, was made a national holiday in Jamaica in 1990. 

Bob Marley live in concert in Zurich, Switzerland, 1980
Ueli Frey, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you are reading this on 12 May, then you can celebrate with us the birth of French Composer Jules Massenet known mainly for his work in opera but probably most famous for the Meditation from Thais. This piece written for solo violin and orchestra is an entr’acte or intermezzo between scenes one and two in Act 2 of the opera. This work has a life of its own and has become the chosen encore of many of the world’s greatest violinists. It perhaps overshadows the opera it came from and probably all of the composer’s other works. Massenet was born in 1842 and died in Aug 1913.  

Jules Massenet in 1880
Pierre Petit (d. 1909). Tim riley at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

If you are reading this on 13 May then we can all celebrate the 81st birthday of the wonderful Joe Brown, entertainer, rock ‘n’ roller and ukulele player. His version of “I’ll see you in my Dreams” (written by Isham Jones and Gus Kahn), is the reason I took up the ukulele. 

Access our catalogue and search for books and music of The Beatles, Massenet, Donna Summer, The Animals and much more. Stream and download music from our two online collections: 
Naxos Music Library
Naxos Jazz.

Watch music documentaries, concerts, operas including 3 versions of Werther by Massenet and one production of his Manon, ballets, and masterclass at Medici TV

Welcome back (for tomorrow), come in and see us soon. 

Investing in Central Library

Edinburgh Central Library building works programme

During 2022 Central Library is undergoing a major £1.8m building works programme to make sure that our 130-year-old building will continue to serve our citizens for another 130 years.

Since January, scaffolding has been put up around the building to allow our contractors to repair parts of our roof, windows, and replace any stonework which is in poor condition.

Investing in Central Library – building works programme, 2022

Work inside the building includes upgrades to our electrical system, lighting and fire safety equipment.

We aim to make this work as disruption free as we can. However, for safety reasons we will have to close the Central Library from 25 April. It will reopen on Wednesday 11 May. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

Please check for information and details of alternative library locations and services.

Additionally, the Reference Library will be closed from 11 April to 17 June 2022 so that the lighting can be replaced. During this time

  • Study spaces – available in the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection and on the mezzanine
  • Resources – email us if you would like to consult any of our Reference Library resources.
  • Public PCs – reduced number available in Central Library or at other libraries.

This works programme is an important investment in the library’s future to ensure it can be enjoyed by generations to come.

Public mural project to celebrate women of Edinburgh

Edinburgh Libraries are celebrating International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month with a public mural project!

You’ll have noticed how few public monuments to women there are in Edinburgh, despite the tireless efforts of local groups such as the Elsie Inglis Campaign. Yet there are literally hundreds of notable women, past and present, whose contributions to our shared history and our city deserve greater recognition. At Central Library, we’ve decided to redress the balance by creating out own public monument to Edinburgh’s female pioneers and trailblazers. We put out a call to local women’s groups, charities, and organisations such as the National Library of Scotland, and asked for nominations for our mural. We asked local academics and campaigners to help us uncover the lives and stories of many of Edinburgh’s unsung heroines, and we did some digging into the Library’s own resources.

Particularly useful was a book by local author and activist Sara Sheridan, ‘Where are the Women? A Guide to an Imagined Scotland’ (2021) which describes an alternative cultural landscape, where streets, buildings, monuments and landmarks are all dedicated to women. Sara’s immense amount of research added many names to our list.

Borrow Where are the Women? via Libby

Sara kindly took the time to speak to us about a few of her favourite figures from Edinburgh’s history. Watch the video (subtitles available) here:

The mural project – what is it?

We have taken inspiration from a wonderful project which has been running in the USA since 2016. “Work in Progress” seeks to shine a spotlight on female pioneers across many fields and was devised by artists Jann Haworth and Liberty Blake. See a detail here, courtesy of Granary Arts, Utah:

Edinburgh Libraries have been granted permission to create our own version, and this is where you can help!

We are aiming to produce stencilled portraits of as many women as possible from our nomination list. Some of these are already being produced by students at participating Edinburgh high schools, and we invite Edinburgh residents to come to the Library and help us create more!

The workshops – what will we do?

Participants will come into Central Library on one of several dates for an afternoon’s guided stencilling session. No artistic experience is necessary, and the process will be fully explained. There will be over 100 head-and-shoulders images of nominated women ready printed, for people to select, cut, and stencil – resulting in beautiful, unique portraits. Library staff will then gather and collate all the portraits, using them to create a ‘crowd-scene’ mural. We aim to have this finished and ready to exhibit at Central Library and online by early May. Some linked activities, such as live talks, will also follow.

Who would you choose….?

If you would like to take part, please book a place at one of our Saturday afternoon workshops.

Please note, due to the use of sharp tools, this event is offered to over-18s only and due to Covid precautions, each event is limited to 15 participants.

Workshops will take place on Saturday 12, 19 and 26 March, with some potential for further sessions to be added.

Book for workshop on Saturday 12 March

Book for workshop on Saturday 19 March

Book for workshop on Saturday 26 March.

Women of Edinburgh

Edinburgh Central Library are celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March with a focus on the women of Edinburgh. We’re exploring women who have made contributions to various professions and fields of learning as well as the experience of ordinary women living in Edinburgh. We’re also celebrating Women’s History Month, by creating a stencilled monument to the trailblazing women of Edinburgh. Central Library will be offering guided workshops where members of the public can contribute to this celebratory mural in honour of our city’s women.

Stop by our Central Library Staircase display to view items from our collections and read about a selection of women represented in our collections.

Thea Musgrave, Chamber works for oboe, borrow from the Music Library

Thea Musgrave – composer
Born 1928 in Barnton, Edinburgh and after a boarding school education, Thea returned to Edinburgh to the University to study Medicine but changed to Music. After a long career in music composing classical music and operas and as Distinguished Professor at Queens College, City University of New York, Thea Musgrave is still working and composing. In an interview for the BBC in 2018, Thea Musgrave was asked about being a woman composer. She responded by saying, 
“Yes I am a woman, and I am a composer. But rarely at the same time”,
and asked in the same interview if she had any advice for young composers she said,
“Don’t do it, unless you have to. And if you do, enjoy every minute of it.”
A composer of over a dozen operas including Mary, Queen of Scots and Simon Bolivar, and a full list of works for solo instrumentalists, chamber groups and full orchestras including Loch Ness – A Postcard from Scotland (2012).

Listen to Thea Musgrave’s compositions on on Naxos Music Library or search for sheet music, books and CDs.

Anne Redpath – artist
Although born in Galashiels and spending much of her life in the Borders, Anne Redpath OBE ARA (1895-1965) is associated with Edinburgh through her study at Edinburgh College of Art (1913-1917) and her association with a pivotal group of artists known as the Edinburgh School. Anne Redpath lived in France from 1917 to 1934 and on her return lived first in Hawick and from 1949 in Edinburgh. Redpath is probably best known for her vividly painted domestic still lifes featuring familiar objects like a chair or a cup and using textiles like tablecloths and a scarf to add pattern and colour. As the daughter of a tweed designer she made a connection between her father’s work and her own, “I do with a spot of red or yellow in a harmony of grey, what my father did in his tweed.” Redpath was President of the Scottish Society of Women Artists 1944 to 1947 and was admitted as an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1947.

Find out more about Anne Redpath’s life and work.

Sara Sheridan – author and activist
Born 1968 in Edinburgh Sara Sheridan is a Scottish author and activist with a particular interest in female history. She has written more than 20 booksSara Sheridan is most famous for her two series of historical novels: one, the Mirabelle Bevan novels, noir mysteries set in 1950s Brighton, and the other exploring on real lives of late Victorian adventurers. Sara Sheridan’s first book Truth or Dare was nominated for the Saltire Prize and in 2015. Sara was named one of the Saltire Society’s 365 most influential Scottish women, past and present. Of interest is Sara Sheridan’s book `Where are the women? A Guide to an Imagined Scotland (Historic Environment, 2019) This is a fascinating book that re-imagines Scotland’s built environment bringing the women that have been ignored or side-lined by men to a different Scotland where women are commemorated in plaques, buildings and road names. This is a guide to that alternative vision where fictional streets, buildings, statues and monuments are dedicated to real women, telling their often-unknown stories.

Find books by Sara Sheridan available to borrow from Edinburgh Libraries.

Sophia Jex-Blake – doctor 
Sophia Jex-Blake (1840-1912) led the campaign to secure women access to a University education when she and six other women, collectively known as the Edinburgh Seven, began studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh in 1869. At this time English universities didn’t let women study medicine. Unfortunately Edinburgh reneged the places they had offered female students in 1873, so she completed her studies in Berne. Following qualification as a doctor, Sophia returned to Edinburgh and became the first practising female doctor in the city. She believed that poorer women and children needed access to medical services delivered by women and so opened a dispensary in Grove Street. She also established the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women in 1886.

Find out more about Sophia Jex-Blake and fellow doctor Elsie Inglis

Emmeline Liillian Vyner – poet, psychic, dog -lover
It’s not just famous women who have led extraordinary lives. It is particularly interesting and rare to learn about the lives of so-called ordinary women as they often leave little trace of their experiences and personal insights. The Central Library holds archives of Emmeline Lillian Vyner (born around 1876 in Halifax and died 1947 in Edinburgh)  consisting of papers, diaries and scrapbooks which show a fascinating glimpse into how an ordinary person lived through two world wars. Emmeline settled in Edinburgh with her husband and first daughter, she had five children altogether, She liked to write poems some of which were placed in Edinburgh and Leith newspapers featuring natural and romantic subjects but later moving on to first world war poems and the experience of women left behind to cope. Her papers also document her activities attending psychic sessions in various houses in Edinburgh and Leith. What also shines through all her journals and scrapbooks is her delight in children and dogs and in her job as a cinema pianist she took particular pleasure in playing her piano for the children’s features.

Find out more about Emmeline Lillian Vyner.

Robert Thorburn, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Susan Ferrier – author
Sometimes likened to Jane Austen Susan Ferrier (1782-1854) spent her life living in Edinburgh coming from a family well known in Edinburgh society. She wrote three acclaimed novels ‘Marriage’, ‘The Inheritance’ and ‘Destiny’ providing lively accounts of Scottish life and presenting sharp views on women’s education. Susan Ferrier kept her authorship a secret, at this time it was not considered appropriate for women to have a public role in their own right and women were expecting to play a supportive role to the men in their family.  Ferrier’s work ‘Marriage’, published 1818,  is hilarious – it recounts  the story of an English heiress, Lady Juliana, who elopes with an impoverished Scot, Henry Douglas, and has to adjust to living in a run-down castle in the Highlands. Life for Lady Juliana is far from what she expected and the novel portrays with humour the gap between her expectations and reality. Susan Ferrier’s work remained popular throughout the 19th century and deserves to be better known today.

Find out more about Susan Ferrier and read her novels.

Flora Stevenson by G. Watson,

Flora Stevenson – social reformer
Born in Glasgow in 1839, Flora Stevenson moved with her family to Edinburgh in 1854, Flora spent most of her adult life living at 13 Randolph Crescent along with her three sisters. Flora Stevenson was an active supporter of the suffrage and women’s rights movements along with her sisters. Even as a young girl, she recognised the importance of education and equality, teaching messenger girls reading, writing and arithmetic. She was an active member on several educational committees, eventually serving as chairperson on the Edinburgh School Board. Flora’s dedication to Edinburgh’s education system was respected and acknowledged. In 1899 a new primary school in Craigleith was named after her, In 1903 she was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Edinburgh, and two years later she was given the Freedom of the City in recognition of her service to Edinburgh’s philanthropic institutions and the school board. When Flora died in 1905, over two thousand schoolchildren lined the route of her funeral to the Dean Cemetery.

Read about the women’s suffrage movement.

Naomi Mitchison by MacRusgail at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Naomi Mitchison – author and social activist

Born in Edinburgh in 1897 into a wealthy family Naomi Mitchison was brought up in Oxford where her physiologist father, John Scott Haldane, was a Fellow. In 1916 she married the Labour politician Dick Mitchison, later Baron Mitchison, QC, and during their years in London she took an active part in social and political affairs, including women’s rights and the cause of birth control, joining the Labour party in 1930 and becoming active political campaigner throughout the 1930s. She took part in a Fabian Society expedition to the Soviet Union, and in 1934 went to Vienna to assist the socialists who were being persecuted by the Austrian government. In 1939, she moved to Carradale, Scotland, and became involved in the Scottish Renaissance. During her life Naomi Mitchison wrote some 90 books of historical and science fiction, travel writing and autobiography. She also wrote poetry. much of which is rooted in her Scottish background. She died in 1999 aged 101. 

Read some of Mitchison’s writings.

Elsie Inglis – medicine
No selection of women of Edinburgh would be complete without Edinburgh doctor, Elsie Inglis (1864-1917). She made her name as a pioneering surgeon and as a suffragette, and did much to improve medical care for women. Born in India where her father was in the service of the East India Company, Elsie on his retiral returned with the family to Edinburgh. Inglis went on to study medicine at the (then) revolutionary Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women under Dr Sophia Jex-Blake. After three years she went on to study under Sir William McEwen at the University of Glasgow. Here she first developed her interest in surgery qualifying as a licentiate at the Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons in Edinburgh and Glasgow in 1892. 

“The Chief” Dr. M. Elsie Inglis from Ethel Moir diary on

Unhappy with the standards of care for female patients in hospitals, Inglis decided that the way forward was to have hospitals run by women.

In 1894 she established a medical practice with a fellow female physician and in 1904 she set up a small maternity hospital for Edinburgh’s poor in the city’s High Street, staffed entirely by women. This later became the Elsie Maude Inglis Memorial Hospital.

Inglis had for some time been a member of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, and in 1906 she launched the Scottish Women’s Suffragette Federation.

At the outbreak of war in 1914, Inglis suggested the creation of medical units staffed by women which could provide aid to British forces on the Western Front, founding the Scottish Women’s Hospitals Committee and by December 1914, Inglis’s first medical unit staffed wholly be women was setting up the 200 bed Abbaye de Royaumont hospital.

In early 1915 Inglis accompanied a women’s medical unit to Serbia. She was taken captive by Austrian forces, but later released after the intervention of the United States Government, at that point still a neutral power. After being returned to Britain in 1916, Inglis immediately began raising funds for a hospital in Russia. She went to Russia later in 1916, and began her medical work in support of Serbian troops there, often having to flee advancing German forces. Inglis continued to work in Russia during 1917, but was becoming increasingly ill herself. Poor health forced Inglis to return to Great Britain and she died the day after the ship carrying her home docked in Newcastle. 

Find out more about the remarkable life of Elsie Inglis.

Women of Edinburgh are continuing to make their mark in Edinburgh particularly in the field of medicine and public health with University of Edinburgh staff Professor Linda Bauld and Professor Devi Shidhar contributing to the handling of the Covid pandemic.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this selection. Tell us, who are your women of Edinburgh?