Routes to Roots: adopting Scotland as a homeland exhibition

Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council’s Routes to Roots: Adopting Scotland as a Homeland project has been exploring the shared heritage of Scottish and diverse communities and mainstreaming the histories of minority ethnic communities in Edinburgh and the Lothians. Working with the South Asian, African, Polish, Spanish and Chinese communities in Edinburgh and the Lothians we have conducted and filmed interviews with 30 members of these communities about their experience of making Scotland their home and comparing cultures. These have all been compiled into a book, ‘Routes to Roots: Adopting Scotland as a Homeland’, and we have also produced a number of podcasts exploring the different heritage in the city and organised visits to various religious and heritage sites.

The multimedia exhibition shows photographs and extracts from these people’s stories of making Edinburgh and the Lothians their homes as well as a number of our videos and information about the communities. The exhibition, like the book, focuses on four distinct periods of their lives: their background and life before coming to Scotland, their arrival in Scotland and early experiences here, their current life in Scotland and, finally, their views on immigration as a general concept.

The exhibition will be on display at Central Library from the 2 to 30 June 2018.

If you can’t make it to the exhibition, you can watch some of the project interviews and podcasts online via Capital Collections.

Jenners: 180 years on Princes Street

On 1 May 1838, Kennington & Jenner opened its doors for the first time. Now 180 years later, Edinburgh’s famous department store still sits proudly on the corner of Princes Street and St David Street.

The business was founded by Charles Kennington and Charles Jenner, who had been dismissed by local drapers W.& R. Spence for taking the day off work to go to the Musselburgh races. Their advertisement in The Scotsman claimed that their establishment would offer the discerning customer, ‘every prevailing British and Parisian fashion in silks, shawls, fancy dresses, ribbons, lace, hosiery, and every description of linen drapery and haberdashery’.

View of Jenners Department Store, (later destroyed by fire in 1892) from East Princes Street Gardens

The original building that formed the department store was destroyed by fire on 26 November 1892. In 1893 Scottish architect William Hamilton Beattie was appointed to design the new store which opened in 1895.  Charles Jenner became the driving force behind the reconstruction and it was at his insistence the building’s caryatids – sculpted female figures – were to show symbolically that women are the support of the house. The new store also included technical innovations such as electric lighting and hydraulic lifts. Unfortunately, Charles Jenner died in 1893 and did not live to see the new store completed.

Jenners Department Store, view from Princes Street Gardens, c1900

The store continued to grow during the 1900s and by the 1920s it had cemented its reputation as the number one place to shop, becoming a local byword for extravagance and opulence. In 2005 it was taken over by House of Fraser. While other acquisitions by House of Fraser have been renamed, Jenners has managed to keep its identity.

In 1995, the Central Library acquired an archive of material from Jenners, including sales catalogues, photographs, news cuttings, invoices and correspondence.

A selection of material from the Jenners Archive is on display on the main staircase of the Central Library until 31 May.

Jenners Archive display, Central Library until 31 May 2018


Catching up with the BookCafé

Central Library’s BookCafé is a regular, women-only, shared reading group. Each month (on a Wednesday, 1 to 2pm) a short story by a woman writer is read out whilst the group drink tea and coffee or eat their lunch, then chat about whatever themes the story offers. There is no preparation required, no homework and no pressure to speak. The BookCafé is a welcoming and thriving group initially set up by the Glasgow Women’s Library at Central Library and is continued by staff member Sarah and volunteer Ro.

The intention of the group is to share writing from worldwide authors to find connections within women’s experiences – we have more in common than divides us – and introduce new writers to our group.

Sarah and Ro tell us that despite the lingering winter, the BookCafé has continued to thrive, bringing quality literature to this ever popular lunchtime group. With only a couple more dates left in the BookCafé calendar before the summer break they thought it was time to have a wee catch-up with this year’s readings and share some of their plans for the future.

“Since September the group has looked at traditional storytelling forms (some of which had very dark themes), more modern magical realism with respectful nods back to that tradition, and stories from other countries with familiar themes and emotions. We’ve had spooky stories, humorous stories, heart-warming stories and inadvertently topical stories. Authors have included Muriel Spark, Sophie Kinsella, Catherine Lim, Sarah Dyer, Alissa Nutting, Tove Jansson and Andrea Levy. Despite the diverse nature of the settings, we found women’s experiences to be similar or familiar at the very least, across time, age and geography, and it’s a joy to discuss the connections our members find with the texts.

We’ve had a couple of exciting meetings planning the group into next year. We’ve ordered some cracking anthologies from worldwide writers, looked into author visits, discussed non-fiction in the form of poetry and articles, and hope to set up a ‘BookCafé Recommends’ display in the library”.

Join them for the next sessions on 16 May and 20 June in the George Washington Browne Room at Central Library. Book your place if you can (so they know how many cups for coffee/tea to have ready) or just turn up. They look forward to welcoming you and discussing whatever the text brings to your experiences.

The BookCafé will then break for the summer and return in September 2018.

Interested in collage?

Edinburgh Collage Collective are displaying a new exhibition entitled Vinylism (11 to 30 May 2018) and hosting collage workshops during May on the Mezzanine, Central Library.

Vinylism is an international selection of collages from the Edinburgh Collage Collective 2018 Open Submission Project. The theme of this year’s project is the vinyl record. Like collage, vinyl is a physical analogue medium. It’s an art object and a vehicle for expressing ideas: this commonality is the basis for Edinburgh Collage Collective’s choice of vinyl as its subject.

Edinburgh Collage Collective will be displaying 30 of the vinyl collages in Central Library. The full collection will be displayed at the Tent Gallery, Evolution House, 78 West Port, Edinburgh EH1 2LE, 3 to 14 July.

Inspired by the vinyl record, Edinburgh Collage Collective are hosting two collage workshops at Central Library  on Saturday 12 May to run alongside the exhibition:
10.30am – 12.30pm – for ages 8-15
2 – 4pm – for ages 16 and upwards

If you like being creative and enjoy exploring materials this is the workshop for you! No previous experience is needed but please bring along any collage materials you have, e.g. magazines, record covers, coloured paper etc.

To reserve a free place on the workshop, go to or phone 0131 242 8040.

Edinburgh Collage Collective was founded in 2015 and is run by Rhed Fawell. Edinburgh Collage Collective was set up with the aim of connecting and working with collage artists, locally and globally, through online showcasing, open submission projects, exhibitions, workshops, and organised collaborations.

One Hundred Years of Beekeeping in Edinburgh

Varroa mites on a honey bee

This year beekeepers in Edinburgh are marking the Centenary of the Edinburgh Beekeepers Association. To celebrate, Edinburgh City Libraries are hosting an exhibition about Bees, Beekeeping and Edinburgh Beekeepers and will be running a series of talks and honey tasting sessions across the city from April until December. In addition, candle-making sessions will be available for children.

Although people in Edinburgh have kept bees for many years it was not until December 1918 that they came together to form the Edinburgh & District Beekeepers Association. Local Association meetings provided a time for discussion and learning, whether at the winter lectures or summer apiary outings.  In 1928, Edinburgh & District Beekeepers Association merged with the longer established Midlothian Beekeepers to form Edinburgh and Midlothian Beekeepers Association (EMBA) which continues to thrive today. EMBA has almost 200 members who have between 1 and 30 colonies of bees. Overall in Scotland, there are about 3,000 hobby beekeepers.

John Moir, a founder member of the Edinburgh Beekeepers Association, was not only an enthusiastic beekeeper, but also a prestigious collector of books on the topic and his collection is now housed in Fountainbridge Library with the rare items being held in the National Library of Scotland.

A century ago there were more than a million hives in the UK – today there are about 100,000 non-commercial hives. But we need more if we are to stop the honey bee’s decline. Our native bees are more endangered now than 100 years ago. They face threats from bees imported from abroad, from parasitic mites, and potentially from Asian Hornets. Increased use of pesticides in agriculture and loss of habitat also threaten our bees.

EMBA Apiary

If you want to find out more about bees and beekeeping, and what we can do to encourage bees, then why not visit our exhibition which is currently in the foyer of Central Library, George IV Bridge. In May it will move to Blackhall Library then to Stockbridge, Newington, Leith, Currie, Colinton, Corstorphine or Drumbrae, and Portobello before returning to the Central Library in December. At each Library there will be talks, honey tasting and candle making sessions organised. Details will be available via each library.

For more information about EMBA and beekeeping locally visit

EMBA is also affiliated to the Scottish Beekeepers Association (SBA) which is the national honeybee and beekeeping charity for Scotland. Details can be found at







Strangers from a strange land

The Rare Books Edinburgh festival is dedicated to rare, important books and the history of the book.

In support of the festival, Central Library is putting on a display of special books entitled ‘Strangers from a Strange Land’. The exhibition showcases books which started life in faraway places and have travelled to Scotland and found a home on the shelves of Edinburgh Libraries.

One of the highlights on display is a Latin edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle printed in 1493.

Visit the exhibition on the Mezzanine at Central Library until 26 March 2018 for a rare chance to see these gems from our collections.


Macmillan information and engagement event

We are delighted to invite you to Macmillan@Edinburgh Libraries first information and engagement event at Central Library.

Come along from 11am-2pm on Thursday 15th March to hear from Michaelagh Broadbent, author of My Daddy is a Superhero; and John Young, author of Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist;  talking about differing cancer perspectives.

A light lunch and refreshments are available throughout the day; along with information from a range of Macmillan programmes and cancer charities. Our programme team and some of our lovely volunteers will be on hand to answer any questions you may have about our programme, and copies of our annual report will be available on the day. We hope that you can find the time to drop in.

Please book your place on Eventbrite