Write your mountain!

Join Anna Fleming, author, mountain leader and rock climber for a workshop on writing the mountains. 

In this creative writing session for young people, Anna will introduce you to the world of the mountains. She will bring climbing equipment and stories from her own experiences in Scotland, Norway and Greece.  

Taking inspiration from other remarkable women writers and climbers, including Gwen Moffat, Nan Shepherd and Helen Mort, Anna will lead exercises that will help you to harness their strength and write your own mountain.  

No previous knowledge of climbing or mountains is necessary – come with an open mind!  

This session is aimed at young people aged 14-18 and will take place at Stockbridge Library on Monday 10 October from 5.30 to 7pm.

Places are limited so please book your free place via Eventbrite.

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!

Walking books collection

Stockbridge Library has a new walking books collection! Whether you’re an avid walker, an armchair walker, or an amateur, here’s a glimpse into what the collection has to offer…

Walking guides

Walking in the Pentland Hills: 30 Walks in Edinburgh’s Local Hills by Susan Falconer – if you’re looking for easy walks from Edinburgh this book is packed full of options. Including popular Pentland trails around Harlaw reservoir and Scald Law, this book also weaves through historical facts, literary connections, and folktale.

Or try somewhere further afield:

Exploring the Fife Coastal Path by Hamish Brown – this route stretches from Kincardine to Newburgh. The walk can be completed in day trips or in 9 – 10 days. Walkers may wish to spend longer in St Andrews or exploring the beautiful beaches and fishing villages along the way. You can even have a go at the chain walk (at your own risk!)

Walking The Dales Way by Terry Marsh – this book guides you on a 79 mile walk across the Yorkshire Dales, ending in the Lake District. A largely flat walk across rolling dales, riversides, and moor. It’s broken up by picturesque villages making it perfect for long distance beginners. Complete it over 4 – 7 days. 

Day walks in Northumberland: 20 coastal & countryside routes by David Wilson – explore Bamburgh, Hadrian’s wall, Lindisfarne and more. These walks cover wide sandy beaches, ancient ruins, and the rolling Cheviot Hills. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, whales, and seals along the way.

Books on walking

Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit – from social change to famous walkers: this is a meditation on walking, wandering, and writing. Solnit argues we’ve become too focused on the destination at the expense of the journey – when we give up on journeys we give up the opportunity to discover new things about ourselves and the world around us.

Just Another Mountain by Sarah Jane Douglas – after losing her mother to breast cancer, Douglas set herself the challenge to climb every Munro. Through mountain climbing she found solace, hope, and the strength to overcome.  A poignant and moving memoir on walking and grief.

Hidden histories: a spotter’s guide to the British landscape by Mary-Ann Ochota – ever wondered why some fields are bumpy? How to spot a Roman road? Or do you want to learn more about the history of our landscape, from quarries to ancient burial mounds? This beautifully illustrated book encourages you to ‘get out there!’ and find out.

Navigation Skills for Walkers – this book by the ordnance survey will help you build up your confidence or help brush up on old skills. It includes tips on map reading, using GPS devices, and using a compass.

Discover the full walking collection at Stockbridge Library or browse the Walking collection titles online and reserve for pick up at your local library.

And don’t forget to check out Libby for some more great walking-themed ebook, audiobook and magazine titles!

A centenary of reading with Jean

One of the greatest joys about working in libraries is the wonderful people you meet. One of these people is Jean, a lifelong reader, a library member and one of our beloved Library Link Group. Jean is 100 this month, born on 18 February 1922.

Jean was born in the year that the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) was formed and Howard Carter discovered the Tomb of Tutankhamun.

Books published in 1922 included Ulysses by James Joyce, Just William by Richmal Crompton, The Beautiful and Damned by F Scott Fitzgerald and The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle, the second Doolittle instalment from Hugh Lofting.

Other notable people born that same year were Doris Day, Hattie Jacques, Judy Garland and Christopher Lee.

Born in Nottinghamshire, Jean joined the Land Army during World War Two. Just before her birthday, Carol from Stockbridge Library and RVS Library Link volunteer Trish, who has supported the group for 15 years and all throughout Covid, popped up to see Jean to have a chat and ask her a wee bit about books and reading. They were honoured when she showed them her Land Girls’ medal and certificate she received from then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. This was in 2008. “Better late than never” said Jean, although “too late for some”. She worked with the Gas Board after the war, where she met her husband. They moved to Fife with their family, then eventually settled in Stockbridge, where Jean lives today.

Carol: What were your first memories of reading and books?

Jean: My father bought a set of Artemis Children’s Encyclopaedias, they sat on the bookcase at home.  I used to go straight to the stories at the end, these were my favourite. I must have been 6 or 7. I also used to make up stories to read to my sister, she was a bit younger than me. I made these stories up to put her to sleep. It worked every time. In Sherwood where I lived there was a subscription library. The first time I went in I borrowed Tarzan and the Apes. I thought this was marvellous and was only pennies to borrow. It took you to a different world from my own, a real adventure.

Carol: Have you got any favourite authors?

Jean: I like Mary Stewart, especially her adventurous heroines.

Carol: What about favourite books?

Jean: One of my all-time favourites is a Town like Alice by Neville Shute. Although it probably is a bit dated now, like many of the books I read when I was much younger. There was no questioning of race and how this was portrayed, especially how aboriginal people were treated in the book. Things have moved on.

Carol: What has influenced your reading over the years?

Jean: I’ve always been a reader. Apart from science fiction I’ll read anything. I’ve never been without a book. Often, I’ll be reading different books in different rooms in the house, sometimes reading 2 or 3 at the same time.

Carol: When you were in the Land Army, did you read?

Jean: I managed to keep reading, although the hours were long in the summer, especially during the harvest. It was really hard work, not just walking behind a plough, but putting the sheaves up on end.

Carol: Tell me a bit about you joining Library Link at Stockbridge Library?

Jean: I used to go to the library myself, then it became a real effort carrying books home. That’s when I joined Library Link, and I’ve been going for over 15 years. That was before Covid, and now I get books delivered to me at home. I hope to come back to the Library, I miss the chat with others and having a wander round the bookshelves. It was the highlight of my social calendar.

Read Jean’s childhood favourite for yourself, this classic is available in our always available e-book collection.

We also have a selection of books by Mary Stewart, including Madam, will you talk?, A Walk in Wolf Wood and Thunder on the right.

Our Library Link service is currently on hold but we hope to bring it back to libraries soon.

Library Link is run by a partnership between Edinburgh Libraries and Royal Voluntary Service (RVS). RVS volunteers go out on a minibus and bring a group of people who cannot make the journey themselves to their local library. While there participants can choose their own books, chat with library staff and the RVS volunteer and enjoy each other’s company over a cup of tea and a cake, before being returned to their homes again, again with the support of the RVS volunteer.

If you, or someone you know would benefit from this service when it resumes, please contact access.services@edinburgh.gov.uk

LGBT+ History Month 2022 with Edinburgh Libraries

Blurring Borders: A reading and Q&A with Andrés N Ordorica 
On 21 February at 7pm on the Edinburgh Libraries’ Facebook page, poet Andrés N Ordorica will perform work from his debut collection ‘At Least This I Know’. His collection touches on themes of ancestry, racism, nationhood, activism and queerness. This will be followed by a Q & A with the poet. This event is pre-recorded and will be available to watch back on Edinburgh Libraries’ YouTube channel.

Blackhall Library
Blackhall Library have created an LGBTQ+ information pack aimed at young people that will be readily available to anyone who would like it. They have a display in the library and keep an eye out for their activity on social media. From 14 Feb they will also run a themed quiz in the library.

Currie Library events
During February, Currie Library will be celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month. Throughout the month, in partnership with OurStory Scotland the library will display the Love Out of Bounds exhibition and will collect stories from library users about their experiences of love denied by society and prepare these stories for archive.

Currie Library will also be hosting a number of exciting events:
On 11 February 2022 from 7.30 – 9pm, artist Nick Askew will help participants to create a collaborative art piece for display in the library on the theme of ‘Coming back to our Communities’. Library Supervisor Hannah McCooke will discuss with Nick their working relationship as artists and poets within the Queer community, but participants may define their own communities.
Book your free place via Eventbrite

On 18 February 2022 from 7 – 9pm, Sigrid Nielsen and Bob Orr, founders of Scotland’s first LGBT bookshop ‘Lavender Menace’ will lead a presentation and talk on Iona McGregor, Edinburgh Author and Lesbian activist, and schoolteacher under Section 28.
Book your free place via Eventbrite

On 25 February 2022 from 7 – 9pm, Currie Library will host the Edinburgh Zine Library who will lead a hands-on workshop in the art of zine making.
Book your free place via Eventbrite

Portobello Library
Portobello Library will be hosting an OurStoryScotland display to collect ‘episodes’ (stories) from the LGBTQ+ community. We will provide a posting box for stories to be collected in. These will be collected at the end of the month, to be archived by OurStoryScotland and for Libraries’ Edinburgh Collected online community archive.

Stockbridge Library
Film screening of ‘Carol’ on Saturday 26 Feb at 2pm with discussion and refreshments at the end. The film is based on a book by Patricia Highsmith. It stars Cate Blanchett and is a 1950s set tale of forbidden love.
Book your free place via Eventbrite

Wester Hailes Library events
Wester Hailes will host a ‘Love Out of Bounds’ exhibition, partnered with OurStoryScotland, from 7 – 28 February.

This exhibition shows some of the ‘episodes’ (life stories) collected by OurStory Scotland and invites participants to reflect on their experiences of having a love that was not accepted by the people around them.

A story box is provided for visitors to the library to tell their stories and submit them to be archived.  And we’ll have accompanying book displays to browse and borrow from, celebrating LGBT+ authors, history and stories for all ages.

Love Out of Bounds is an innovative project that crosses the boundaries between communities and brings us together to share stories of loves untold. The project was supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland, and was developed by OurStory Scotland and Rachel Smillie with the Village Storytelling Centre. Love Out of Bounds brings together a diverse range of participants, including people from minority ethnic groups, irrespective of gender and sexuality. Participants may be LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer), straight, intersex, pansexual, curious, or undefined. Love Out of Bounds encourages people to tell their stories of love ignored or rejected by their family, community or culture. There are so many of us who have experiences of being told that the love we have is somehow wrong or misdirected. We are finding common ground between straight and LGBTQ+ people, and people from majority and minority ethnic communities. 

OurStory Scotland is a registered Scottish charity dedicated to collecting, archiving and presenting the life stories of the LGBTQ+ community in Scotland.

On Monday 21 February, 5.30- 7pm, Wester Hailes Library will also host a zine making workshop with our Youth Group on the theme ‘Love Out of Bounds’.

The Youth Group meets weekly on Mondays (during term time) for young people aged 12- 16.  Come along to chat and make friendships, join in with games, special outings and creative activities.
For more information and to register for the group contact us at Wester Hailes Library: westerhailes.library@edinburgh.gov.uk or 0131 529 5667

Edinburgh Reads
February’s featured “no wait” ebook title is ‘Queer: LGBT Writings from Ancient Times to Yesterday by Frank Wynne. Celebrate LGBT+ History Month with stories and poems from the world over.
Borrow your copy via Libby

Rainbow Collections
Edinburgh Libraries’ Digital Team have collaborated with colleagues from Museums to highlight a selection of items from the collections of Museums & Galleries Edinburgh which chronicle the LGBTQ+ story in Edinburgh. View the Rainbow Collections online exhibition on Capital Collections.

Community Libraries across the city will be hosting book displays highlighting our LGBTQ+ titles, some Bookbug sessions will be LGBTQ+ themed and there will be activities across our school libraries.

Winter wellbeing

January is a time of renewal, reflection, and looking forward to brighter days. Winter invites us to slow down and take stock. So, as we head into this new year, Library Resource Management have curated four Health and Wellbeing collections that will be available at Stockbridge, Morningside, Portobello, and Wester Hailes Libraries.

Whether you want to learn practical tips, take a more mindful approach to yourself and your wellbeing, or if you want to keep up with your new year’s resolutions, here is just a glimpse into some of the titles available…

Learn about the workings of the mind
This Too Shall Pass by Julia Samuel – Samuel is a psychotherapist and grief specialist. Her book is comprised of intimate portraits of the people she’s worked with. Charting their progress as each client goes through a hard but transformative period in their lives.

The Orchid and the Dandelion by W Thomas Boyce – This book describes how four fifths of children are ‘dandelions,’ and able to succeed in most environments, whilst one fifth fall into the category of ‘orchids.’ Orchids are more sensitive to the world and have a higher biological stress response, but if they’re nurtured sensitively then they have the potential for great success.

I’m Not Crazy I’m Just not You by Roger R. Pearman and Sarah C Albritton – Most of us know if we’re introverted or extroverted, but are you thinking or feeling? Judging or perceiving? Understand yourself on a deeper level by learning all about your specific personality type – from Myers Briggs to Carl Jung. Our personalities shape our values, how we move around in the world, and underpin all our relationships.

Learn practical tips
Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers – In this popular book Jeffers urges us to take risks, take responsibility, and realise that whichever direction life turns, ‘you can handle it.’

When Likes Aren’t Enough by Tim Bono – It’s been proven that with increased social media usage our happiness decreases. This book offers tips on ‘attention training’ and ‘time management’ to improve our overall happiness.

Why We Get Mad: how to use your anger for positive change by Dr. Ryan Martin – What is anger? And who is allowed to get angry? Everyone gets angry sometimes, yet anger remains an often misunderstood and stigmatised emotion. This book includes techniques and tools to help manage anger in a positive way.

Rest and be mindful
Niksen: Embracing the Dutch art of doing nothing by Olga Mecking – This is perfect if you’re a fan of The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking. Let go of worried thoughts and watch the clouds go by! The Dutch have proven that taking time out to do nothing at all helps with overall concentration and wellbeing.

The Art of Rest by Claudia Hammond – Hammond explores the top ten ‘most restful’ activities, from reading to watching TV to having a bath. Spoiler: Reading rates very highly…

Get out into nature
Wintering by Katherine May – If you find this time of year hard, learn to embrace the velvety darkness of winter with this book. A meditation on the quiet joys that winter brings and the importance of a season of rest and reflection.

By the Sea: The therapeutic benefits of being in, on and by the water by Dr Deborah Cracknell – Have you been for a dip yet this year? Many of us know the sea to have a replenishing, calming and even spiritual effect. Dive into this title and explore the emotional and physical benefits of being close to water.

Eat well
The dopamine diet by Tom Kerridge – Kerridge is a Michelin star chef, in this book he focuses on ingredients that are known to release dopamine (the happiness hormone) in your brain. Eating healthily doesn’t mean giving up the joy of food.

Broke Vegan by Saskia Sidey – Fancy trying Veganuary? Whether you’re a vegan or not, eating one or two vegan meals a week is proven to be beneficial for the environment. Sidey has compiled over 100 plant-based recipes for vegans on a budget.

Pop into one of the four libraries for the full selection or reserve a title online and pick up at your nearest reopened library.

Make Music Day 2021

Make Music Day is described as the world’s largest DIY music festival and takes place in over 125 countries on 21 June. Events in all those countries are free to attend and free to participate in.

Viggianesi musicians
Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Make Music Day is about making music, so as it says, it’s all about music – talking about music, listening to music, reading about music, creating musical instruments, watching music being performed. 

However you choose to be involved on the day, visiting the website of the organisers of Make Music Day will give you a load of ideas to how you could express yourself on the day. 

Last year, the Music Department of Central Library wrote a blog with lots of handy hints to being involved in the day, hopefully those hints remain useful this year.

Female musicians wedding of Aurangzeb
Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

We are all on differing timetables for our routes out of lockdown but one thing is clear, that this year, as last, most of the music making will be online with musicians round the country and the world, finding imaginative ways of using the internet and social media platforms to make a contribution to Make Music Day. The website of Make Music Day has a section about how you can be involved, from Doorstep Gigs to Window serenades, Global Folk Challenges and Drum Battles but perhaps most importantly is singing your version of this year’s Make Music Day anthem, Stand By Me. If you are moved to dust off your Tambourine and join the likes of Ben E. King, Mohammad Ali and the Kingdom Choir amongst a plethora of others, and give your rendition of Ben E. King’s classic then go to the get involved page of the Make Music Day website

Adolfo Farsari attributed – five musicians
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Stockbridge Library with Alan Govan, will be hosting a Trash Music Workshop, where you can take part in recording your own track using any household object you have to hand. To book a free place and find out more, visit Eventbrite. For further information on the event, contact Carol at Stockbridge Library:  carol.marr@edinburgh.gov.uk

Central Library will be presenting a short programme of music on our social media platforms including performances from Rolling Hills Chorus, Sangstream amongst others. 

Please decide to take part in Make Music Day in some way and we hope you join us at Central Library for part of your day. We hope you have a great experience, making music. 

For more information on Central Library’s Make Music Day programme contact music.library@edinburgh.gov.uk or douglas.wright@edinburgh.gov.uk 

And watch out for more news on our social media platforms… 

Six Edinburgh Libraries Reopen from Tuesday 6 October

The first phase of reopening libraries will see a selection of branches across the city opening on Tuesday 6 October.

The six branches are:

Central Library
Kirkliston Library
McDonald Road Library
Fountainbridge Library
Stockbridge Library
Newington Library

Initially at least, services will be restricted. As you might expect, numbers within buildings will be limited and social distancing measures will be in place. Face coverings are mandatory in Libraries.

From Tuesday 6 October you can:
return your books
pick up Hey Girls sanitary products

You will have to book a slot to:
browse and borrow books
use a public computer
apply for a National Entitlement Card (bus pass)
collect hearing aid batteries

For more information visit the Libraries Reopening page.

You can make your booking online here.

Or by phoning one of the six branches above.

We appreciate your support and look forward to welcoming you back.

Edinburgh Libraries are supporting NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect. To stop the spread of Coronavirus we’ll record your name, contact telephone number, date of your visit, time of arrival and departure. We have a lawful basis to process your information. Contacting people who might have been exposed to coronavirus is an important step in stopping the spread. Your information will be held securely, controlled by City of Edinburgh Libraries and will be destroyed after 21 days. Your information will only be used if requested by NHS Scotland or statutory partners. You have the right to have your data erased or corrected. Full Collection of Data Privacy Notice. 

What is a Death Cafe?

On 16 May 2020, Carol Marr, librarian at Stockbridge Library and Tamsin Grainger, writer and Shiatsu practitioner hosted a Death Cafe. It was initially planned as a live event in the hall at the library, but due to the COVID-19 lockdown situation, it was held online.

We asked Tamsin to explain what a Death Cafe is and how the library fitted in.

Certain places and times of the day or year are more poignant than others when we are managing loss in our lives. Photograph by Tamsin Grainger

“What is a Death Cafe?
A Death Cafe is a place where people can come to talk about death. Group directed discussion is supported by a cafe environment and everyone is there for the same reason. There is an emphasis on listening and sharing, and the focus is that life is finite and we want to talk about that. We all have interests and concerns about bereavement, loss, grief or dying, especially at this time when we are dealing with the Coronavirus.

The Death Cafe movement started in 2011 when Jon Underwood and Sue Barsky Reid held their first in London. Inspired by Swiss-born Bernard Crettaz, it was to open up discussion about death and death-related subjects. Thousands are now held all over the world with today’s list on the Death Cafe website standing at 2262 in the UK alone.

It is important to note that Death Cafes come with very clear guidelines: they are

  • accessible
  • respectful
  • confidential.

There is no set agenda, no objective or theme. It is not a grief support group nor a counselling session. There is no intention by the organisers to lead participants to any conclusions, buy any products or take any course of action. They are not religious, and are always ‘not for profit’ events.

A decade ago, not long after the death of his first wife Yvonne, Crettaz had come up with the idea of cafés mortels, informal gatherings where the sole topic of conversation was every living thing’s inevitable demise.

Sophie Elmhirst, Prospect Magazine

There is a history of Death Cafes in Edinburgh. Held at venues as diverse as Summerhall and the Love Crumbs cafe in West Port; organised by St Columba’s and the Marie Curie hospices; by individuals and through organisations such as the Just Festival (formerly the Festival of Spirituality and Peace) and Death on the Fringe.

The goal of the movement is to enable people to share their fears and hopes in a fashion which does not have to treat death as a taboo – that is, as something that needs to be addressed through euphemisms or abandoned in silence.

Maddie Denton, Reflections of the Self: Death Cafe and the Search for Personal Meaning (An exploration of death in modern society).

Tea and cakes
Without knowing how many would attend, research into former such occasions in Edinburgh lead us to believe that we might expect between 20-30 people who we would invite to sit around circular tables to promote equality of participation and exchange. Tea and cakes are an integral and vital part of a death cafe which aims to provide a convivial atmosphere for the open and honest discussion about death. It is over a cup of tea and a slice of cake that memories may be shared and thoughts exchanged in confidence. It can be easier to trust somebody with a cup of tea in their hand, and across the world sweet cakes are part of the tradition of a funeral tea.

Coliva – Greek food for mourners. This beautiful creation is made for Greek Orthodox mourners to eat after the interment. (More details available on the Walking without a donkey website.)

If we had been able to meet in person, we would have made a display of related books: first-hand accounts of dying, spiritual and practical guides to grief, accounts of death rites and ritual around the world, and so on. The charity, Macmillan Cancer Support has support and information services in some Edinburgh Libraries and so, leaflets and other information would have been made available, together with referrals for support should any attendee need one.

How did it go?
We publicised our Death Cafe via Eventbrite, the libraries website, through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and word of mouth. 15 places were offered for the meet-up which was held on a Zoom, online meeting forum and it was sold out. Ten people attended on the day – men and women of all ages – and although it was predicted that the live event would attract those local to Edinburgh, the ‘virtual’ Death Cafe drew folk from across the UK and Hungary.

We started together with an explanation of the event and its history, and then each of us introduced ourselves. The reasons for coming varied from a general interest in talking about death to specifics of end-of-life care. Some attendees deal with death-related topics in their work or study, and all were personally involved in planning or thinking about their own death. About half of the group had never been to a Death Cafe before.

After this, we divided into two smaller, private groups and everything was fully confidential. Discussion arose naturally. We looked at how tricky the current situation is: not being able to touch each other for consolation, and how hard it is to be unable to travel to visit dying relatives or attend funerals. We discussed what makes for a ‘good death’ and ‘advance decisions’ regarding preferred treatment when near death (ADRT). Some of us addressed the preparation of a Will, living funerals, and elective suicide.

While this latter is an important subject for discussion, a public Death Cafe is not the place for highly emotive, individual sharing on any subject, and the organisers would limit such (behaviour) at future events.

We are pleased to say that the online logistics were smooth, and immediate feedback indicated that those who attended found it refreshing to be able to discuss these topics openly and in a non-judgmental situation.

“I only wish it could have gone on a bit longer – another hour would probably do it. Is there any chance of a follow up session?”

“Saturday was a real success and I hope you do more of the same. Very revealing and thought provoking.”

Talking about death is not something that we all feel we can do with our families and friends, and yet it is something which is so often on our minds. Having a place to go where you can listen quietly or participate in a chat about bereavement, grief, dying, or even what will happen afterwards, is healthy. Hearing that others are concerned about the same things, knowing that you are not the only one who is nervous or fears death can be such a relief and can help manage the sort of worries that can only too easily spiral out of control and bring about mental health issues, such as depression, if they are not faced. Death Cafes are one way to tackle some of these issues in a trusting atmosphere, and the tea and cake are an added bonus!

The Death Café was part of Death Matters Week, Dying To Be Heard, 11-17 May 2020.”

Death leaves a gap in our lives and it takes time to adjust to this. Photograph by Tamsin Grainger

About Tamsin
Like most of us, Tamsin has personally experienced grief and loss with the death of her father from cancer, miscarriages, divorce, leaving home, pets dying and numerous other episodes involving change which were sad and raised questions about mortality. She is the writer of Death and Loss in Shiatsu Practice, works at a local hospice, and teaches workshops in Edinburgh and abroad on the subject.

Further reading

The Nine exhibition

A new photography exhibition illustrating the rich diversity of Scotland’s population is now showing in Stockbridge Library until 13 January 2020. The portrait exhibition will feature images of twenty people that were captured for the opening titles of the BBC Scotland channel’s flagship news programme, The Nine.

The library exhibition has been developed as part of a partnership agreement between the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) and BBC Scotland.

Public libraries are at the heart of our communities and are accessible to everyone, making them the perfect place to host this wonderful exhibition. It’s further demonstration of the range of activities on offer in modern libraries.

The Nine exhibition at Stockbridge Library

Next time, it could be you… here’s how to get involved.

Celebrating Libraries in a Digital World for Libraries Week , 7-12 October


There is only a few days to go until the start of this year’s Library Week.

There’s lots going on in Libraries throughout the week with digital drop-ins to help you get started using library online services, digital inspired craft sessions and lots more!  Here is a taster of some of the great events taking place next week.

Wester Hailes Library

Friday 11th October 2019
3.00 – 4.00pm
Stop Motion Animation
Learn the art of stop motion animation. We’ll show you how to create your own animated movies as part of our FUNgineers programme.
( 6 – 10 yrs)

Drumbrae Library
Friday 11th October
2.00 – 4.00pm
Game time taster session using playstation, VR gaming console virtual reality or Minecraft.

Newington Library

Monday 7th October
5.30 – 7.00pm
Game Programming
Ever wanted to know how to make your own computer game? Curious about what computer programming is? Join us for a quick taster session and tinker with some games to see exactly what is going on under the hood.
(Ticketed, 8+)

Wednesday 9th October
3.30 – 4.30pm
Building With Little Bits
Build electronic circuits and crazy devices with Little Bits. A light that automatically comes on in the dark? A musical synth keyboard? A sound activated fan that cools you down when you shout at it? Anything is possible! Just snap the pieces together and create.

Kirkliston Library

Monday 7 October
4.00 – 7.30pm & Friday 11 October 1.00-4.00pm
Come along to the library and experience VR in collaboration with the BBC VR Hub
13yrs+ Booking essential

Moredun Library

Monday 7th October
2.00 – 4.00pm
Digital Bracelets
Learn the basics of coding by making binary bead bracelets.
(ages 8-12 yrs)

Tuesday 8th October
2.00 – 4.00pm
Make your own robot
(5-12 yrs)

Central Library

Saturday 12th October
Digital fun day: introduction to coding

Ratho Library

Tuesday 8th October
Come along and try 3D Printing, 3D Scanning and 3D CAD Design.

Sighthill Library

Friday 11th October
Come along for an introduction to online family history resources including Find my Past.

Stockbridge Library

Friday 11th October
2.30 – 3.30pm
Borrowbox Audiobook Roadshow

These are just some of the events to tempt you into the Library during Libraries Week.  Check out what more is on offer at these Libraries and your local library.

Find out about all our digital services at Your Library.


Libraries Week 7-12 October


We are looking forward to celebrating Libraries in the digital world during this year’s Libraries Week which takes place in early October.

There will be lots going on in Libraries, visit Wester Hailes Library to try stop motion animation or Raspberry Pi or Stockbridge and Drumbrae Libraries for an introduction to Bolinda BorrowBox one of our great downloadable audio book services. Wester Hailes and Stockbridge will both run sessions to help you get started with our e-services whilst Drumbrae Library will host a game time taster session. These are just some of the events to tempt you into the Library during Libraries Week. Check out what’s on offer at  your local library.

In addition to these special events there will be the regular digital drop-ins in Central Library, on Tuesday 2-3.30 get help with Edinburgh Libraries’ downloadable ebook, audiobook, magazine or newspaper services and on Friday 2-4 get help from the University of Edinburgh’s Digital Ambassadors with any kind of digital problem.

Find out about all our digital services at Your Library.

Dark matter monster workshop at Stockbridge Library

Taking inspiration from this year’s Summer Reading Challenge Space Chase theme, children at Stockbridge Library created dark matter monsters in a digital media workshop last Wednesday.








If you haven’t yet seen the fantastical ink blot monsters and videos of artist and illustrator Stefan Bucher, you are in store for a wonderful treat! Stefan Bucher is the wacky, creative mastermind of The Daily Monster, and is a designer, writer, and artist living in California.

Using his ‘Daily Monster’ app for the iPad, children were hooked with the process of producing an ink blot creature digitally – the abstract shapes they generated came alive as cartoons and children explored ways of conveying personality, emotion, action, etc through adding crazy body parts, clothing and additional objects to their monsters.

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As you can see from their creations, these dark matter monsters are out of this world!

There’s still time to complete this year’s Summer Reading Challenge and to join in the Space Chase children’s activities taking place at your local library.

Digital Music

This session at Stockbridge Library will introduce you to the way the internet has radically changed how people find, organise and play music. Records and cassettes gave way to CDs and they have now largely been superceded by digital music. We will look at how you can buy and download/save music on a laptop, tablet or even a phone but will be concentrating mainly on services such as Spotify, Apple Music (and less well known ones such as Naxos) which allow you to ‘stream’ music, create playlists and save all your favourites. Then, of course, you can play your music on a wireless speaker/s. Come along for an introduction to this new world of Digital Music.


Join in with our audiobook group

Love audiobooks? Then come along to our monthly Stockbridge Library audiobook group starting on Friday 16 November, 2.30-3.30pm. You’ll get tea, biscuits and some lovely chat about our chosen audiobook! Our first title is Shaun Bythell’s The Diary of a Bookseller.

Shaun owns The Bookshop, Wigtown – Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop. In these wry and hilarious diaries, he provides an inside look at the trials and tribulations of life in the book trade, from struggles with eccentric customers to wrangles with his own staff. He takes us with him on buying trips to old estates, recommends books and evokes the rhythms and charms of small-town life.

This audiobook is available for you to borrow for free from our RBdigital service. Simply download to your phone, tablet or computer to join in. Full user instructions can be found on our RBdigital help pages or get in touch with the Digital Team if you need any extra help (informationdigital@edinburgh.gov.uk  0131 242 8047).

Have you heard a good book recently?

Do you enjoy listening to books? Want to meet new people? Enjoy discussion? Why not join our new Audiobook Group!

This monthly group starts on Friday 21 September from 10.30-11.30 at Stockbridge Library. At our first meeting we’ll be choosing the titles we are going to listen to and getting an introduction to the RBdigital downloadable audiobook service that the group will be using. You’ll need a smartphone, tablet or computer to use this service.

For more information contact 0131 529 5665 or email Stockbridge.library@edinburgh.gov.uk

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 www.edinburghbeekeepers.org.uk

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 www.scottishbeekeepers.org.uk







Stockbridge Library celebrates LGBT History Month

Stockbridge Library is delighted to be hosting Edinburgh City Museum’s Proud City exhibition. This celebrates LGBTQIA+ lives in Edinburgh. It incorporates material from the 2006 exhibition Rainbow City: stories from Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Edinburgh which opened at the City Art Centre.

The current exhibition revisits these collections, plus some new material has been added. Museums working with LGBT Health and Wellbeing chose objects for the new display, and some of the participants gave interviews for a film about their lives in Edinburgh in 2016.

Many thanks to Diana Morton, Outreach and Access Manager and her colleages from the City Art Centre. The exhibition runs through LGBT History Month until the end of March where Stockbridge Library also have a great selection of books on display too.



Edinburgh City Libraries is positive about dyslexia

Edinburgh City Libraries has an exciting programme on offer for Dyslexia Awareness Week,  6-11 November 2017.

Dyslexia Scotland logo

Central Library will have a one-off showing of the Film ‘Read Me Differently:understanding learning disabilities in family life ’ by Sarah Entine on 8 November.

Stockbridge Library will host an event on 9 November Can’t read won’t read…does this sound familiar? Where experts will be on hand to give advice on choosing dyslexia friendly books for kids and teens. Also on 9 November come along and join us for a special event for Dyslexia Awareness Week, Positive about dyslexia.  The MC is Paul McNeill, Dyslexia Scotland Ambassador and Regional Head for the Scottish Football Association who will introduce author Margaret Rooke talking about her new book ‘Dyslexia is My Superpower (Most of the Time)’ and musician and songwriter Adam Strachan. Dyslexia Scotland will also be launching the new ‘Dyslexia Unwrapped’ website for young people with dyslexia at the event.

There will also be events for schools taking place during the week.

Find our more, and book to join us at these these events.

Build a Robot!

robocode01Want to learn how to program your own virtual robot? Are you aged 10-17 and familiar with the basics of programming?

edinburghdojoIf yes, then sign up for Edinburgh CoderDojo’s new Robocode project. Robocode is an easy-to-understand, fun way to learn more about programming! The project starts on the 14th November and will take place at Stockbridge Library – it will last several weeks so make sure to book the first 4 week block now.