Inspired by... blog

9 posts from August 2012

28 August 2012

Fay Godwin's stunning photography archive

I was born in the north of England, sandwiched between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, and, despite living in London, have always felt most at home in the moutains.

One of my favourite photography collections at the British Library is our Fay Godwin photograph archive. Fay was a photographer who produced fabulous black and white images of the British countryside and later on, portraits of well-known writers. She was also a keen hiker and environmentalist.

Her archive, which includes around 11,000 exhibition prints, the contents of her studio were given to the British Library in 2008. Quite a few of her photographs are available on our Art Prints website, and I’ve picked out some of my favourites:









Win tickets for the Premiere of Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina image 2

Some good news for you after the Bank holiday weekend! The Library has just announced an event on Mon 3 September with Academy Award-nominated producer Paul Webster (Atonement, The Motorcycle Diaries) where he’ll be talking about his new film, Anna Karenina, based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy. As well as hearing from Paul, you can meet our curators and see some of our amazing Russian collections.

As part of the event, there will be a prize draw for two pairs of tickets for the London Leicester Square Premiere on 4 September.

The British Library holds a good deal of material on Tolstoy: from manuscript material related to his life and works to the latest editions and translations of his novels; from photographs to the core monographs on him; from the score of a waltz composed by Tolstoy to audio books and recordings of theatre performances based on his plays and novels.

22 August 2012

How the British Library can help film-makers

If you are involved in making and researching films, we can help you in lots of ways:

Be inspired by our collections
If you need to check your facts or find new strands to a story, we have lots of amazing collection items which you can come and see.  We have oral history recordings, newspapers, magazines, diaries and letters, photographs, maps, science and social science collections, moving image and all the latest journals and news.

We have one of the largest sound collections in the world, holding over 3.5 million recordings which cover the entire range of recorded sound from music, drama and literature, to oral history, accents and dialects and wildlife sounds.

We also have a collection of around 60,000 moving images. As well as news programmes, it includes ethnomusicological films and videos, video recordings of experimental theatre, oral history recordings on video, and television programmes (mostly music-related) from the 1980s and 1990s.

Anyone is welcome to use our collections, you just need to gain a free Reader Pass and come and use our Reading Rooms in London. To get a pass, you need to bring the correct ID to the Library and have an idea of what types of material you would like to see.

Image: networking event in our Business & IP Centre

Networking and business support
We run regular events with partners such as Sheffield Doc/Fest to help you meet other film makers. You can also come and use our Business & IP Centre for advice on either working for yourself or setting up a small company, for example, finance, tax, business planning, marketing, branding and intellectual property. The Centre is based on the first floor of the Library.

Screening and promotional activities
We are always interested in working with talented film makers who have used the Library, and we’re happy to show off their work either at screenings at the Library or via our website and social media channels.

Future Shorts Festival
Image: Future Shorts Festival screening

Film screenings at the Library
We hold regular screenings at the Library aimed at the public. Recently we showed the summer season of Future Shorts Festival films, and we are running a screening with Tilda Swinton and a preview of On the Road this autumn.

Filming at the Library
For a fee, you can apply to film at our building. This is something we have done a lot with other organisations, including the BBC.

Working in partnership
We’re really keen to work with partners on collaborative projects. We currently work with the BBC, BFI, Future Shorts, Sheffield Doc/Fest, Focal and Ideastap - to name just a few.

Have you used the British Library to research for your films?  If so, get in touch with me at

21 August 2012

Your favourite films from our Future Shorts Festival screening

Last night we ran our first ever Future Shorts Festival screening at the British Library, and it was a LOT of fun! 

The crowd was great (lots of clapping and cheering between the films) and the shorts were excellent.  Our Auditorium turned into a cinema and it gave us the chance to show off our sound system to its full effect. It was also funny experiencing blood, gore and lots of swearing in a place that is usually a lot more reserved!

We asked members of the audience to pick their favourite film, and the clear winner was ‘Guest’.

Guest 01

Directed by Yoon Ga-eun, it tells the story of an angry, screaming teenager who has discovered that her father is having an affair. She barges into his mistress’s house, to find only her two small children at home.  She then proceeds to spend hours with them, learning about how they survive on their own without their parents in the house. The story is very much told through the eyes of the children – they don’t really know why the girl is there, or the history with their mother.

Guest 02

Guest 04

Your second favourite was ‘Notes on Biology’ by Will Madden. In contrast with ‘Guest’, it was a stop-motion animation lasting just 6 minutes. Based in classroom, a student’s doodles come to life and explode all over his notebook. It was also the winner of Best Short at SXSW.

Notes on Biology 01

Notes on Biologoy 02

We’re definitely going to be screening more of the Festival Shorts at the Library, so watch this space.

16 August 2012

Behind the scenes on the London 2012 website

When I decided to apply to be a volunteer during the Olympics a few years ago, I had no idea if I’d be successful or what it would involve. When I heard that I was going to spend two weeks in the London 2012 web and social media team I couldn’t believe my luck – it’s been one of the best experiences I’ve had.

Press centre 2
Image: Inside the Main Press Centre

The scale of the project was mind boggling: over the period, the London 2012 website had over 431m visits, 109m unique visitors and 4.73bn page views! That’s three times as many as the BBC’s pages.

Press centre
Image: Inside the Main Press Centre

Press centre 3
Image: Our web team

For the website and mobile apps, I got to make sure the results were showing properly (some days we had over 25 sports taking place at any one time), write news articles and pull together photo galleries. The Getty database of images which we could choose from was incredible and for major events like the men’s 100m final, photographs appeared on the site within a couple of minutes of Bolt crossing the line. One of the highlights was creating some of the ‘best of’ galleries on the site when sports had finished, including Beach Volleyball, Road Cycling and Judo.

Run 2
Image: RUN in the Park

Aquatics centre
Image: The Aquatics Centre

Walking through the Park every day meant I got to really soak up the atmosphere. I loved walking past the Aquatic Centre in the first week when you could hear the roar of the crowds, although it was quite frustrating knowing that there was something going on that I couldn’t see! Equally, I loved exploring the Park at different times of day. It looks stunning at midnight when the Stadium is lit up in red, and also at 6am before the crowds arrive, when the sun is still coming up and you can spot athletes going out for a morning jog. There were lots of hidden corners to the park which take a while to find.

Park 4
Image: Games volunteers gathering for their 7am briefing

Olympic park at night
Image: Travelling through the Park at midnight

Coca cola
Image: The Coca Cola building at night

There were lots of other perks during the two weeks. I got to hold a gold medal (see my photo), go to the practice run of the Opening Ceremony and I had tickets for basketball and women’s wrestling. If you haven’t yet got tickets for the Paralympics, I’d definitely recommend it!

Image: Cheering at women's wrestling

I also sat in on a few press conferences with athletes; on my first shift I got to go to one with American gold medallist and swimmer Dana Vollmer who smashed the world record in the 100m butterfly. It was a bit strange seeing athletes close-up – somehow you expect them to look superhuman, but she just looked pretty normal and was still blown away by what she’d managed to achieve.

15 August 2012

Meet our jewellery designer in residence: Sarah Warsop

The British Library’s first ever designer in the programme is Sarah Warsop, a successful choreographer and jewellery maker. Her residency will take place from September 2012 to March 2013, and she will be delving into our collections to research music, notation, drawing, sound and multimedia content around performance to gain inspiration for a new piece of work.


She is interested in how movement and dance can be mapped through dynamic drawing processes, capturing its essence through jewellery, communicating a sense of the rhythm, direction, speed and flow of the original piece of choreography.

As a dance artist she has worked for the past 20 years with Rambert Dance Company and then Siobhan Davies Dance. She recently collaborated with artist Idris Khan to make the film Lying In Wait (2009), and with artist Tracey Rowledge creating What isn’t Here Hasn’t Happened (2011), a series of large graphite drawings.

Her jewellery work has been supported by the Arts Council and the Crafts Council. It has shown at Origin and with Goldsmiths’ and is in public and private collections. Sarah also has a BA (Dance) from the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance, and an MA Design (Jewellery) from Central St Martins.

She will be researching pre-20th century music and dance notation and attempts to transcribe composition and performance. In the 21st century, many composers and choreographers like John Cage and Trisha Brown experimented with notation as an art object in itself – a third object outside composition or performance, rooted in transcription, functioning as art.

An important part of the residency is the support Sarah will receive through our Business & IP Centre to commercialise her work. She will get advice on areas such as copyright, manufacturing, pricing and costing.

At the end of the residency, she will create a new piece of work which can be sold commercially.

14 August 2012

What’s On: Tilda Swinton, hypnotists and On the Road

We’ve just launched our latest season of events on our website; this is my personal pick of the best. Having recently read it for the first time, I'm really excited about our film preview of 'On the Road', and yours truly is organising our session on artist's books.


Inspired by Artist's Books
Tue 4 Sep 2012, 16.00-17.30
See some of our unique artist’s books from around the world, including a book made out of tin and Gilbert and George creations. This event is aimed at designers and makers.


Ways of Listening

Fri 7 Sep 2012, 18.30 - 20.00
This one’s all about the big names! Colin McCabe and Tilda Swinton will present a new film of conversations with John Berger.


Jubilation! Celebrating 50 years of Jamaican Independence

Fri 5 Oct 2012, 18.30 - 20.00
Enjoy an evening of poetry, songs and readings marking the 50th birthday of Jamaica's independence.

On the Road_239x150

On the Road - film preview
Wed 10 Oct 2012, 18.30 - 21.00
A special preview of On the Road, Walter Salles's long-awaited adaptation of Jack Kerouac's great American novel.


Late at the Library: Mughal Nites

Fri 9 Nov 2012, 19.30 - 22.00
Enjoy an extraordinary night of music, performance and spectacle inspired by a party at a Mughal palace. This ties in with our upcoming exhibition.


The Singing Hypnotist

Thu 29 Nov 2012, 19.30 - 21.00
An entertaining evening of music and mesmerism with performer, writer and cabaret star Christopher Green, the British Library's Artist in Residence 2012.

You can check out the full list on our website

07 August 2012

Cockpit Arts on fake fur monsters, Mary Portas and wallpaper

This year I’m really excited about partnering with Cockpit Arts on a range of events and activities. They’re local to us in King’s Cross and have a history of working with CreateKX and the Library’s Business & IP Centre.

Emma from Cockpit is going to be an expert at our next ‘Make it, Sell it!’ event in September (watch this space).  She answered some of my questions…

Can you sum up Cockpit Arts for us in a nutshell?

In a nutshell, we support extraordinary craftspeople who create exquisite work! We are an award winning creative business incubator tailored to support talented designer-makers. We work with a broad range of different craft disciplines such as textiles, jewellery, ceramics and glass and we provide designers with affordable studio space, business support and selling opportunities. Since we first started in 1986 we have helped thousands of craftspeople to grow their businesses, many of whom have gone on to achieve national and international success. Twice a year we also open our doors to the public for our renowned Open Studios events. Visitors love to see behind the scenes in the studios, discover new work and buy designer pieces direct from the makers.

You’ve got 165 designers and makers working in your studio spaces across London. Can you tell me about a few of them?

Here’s just a taste of what some of our diverse group of designer-makers are up to:

Lena Santana 2Lena Santana 1 

Fashion designer Lena Santana's Inspiration collection features silk screened African brocade fabrics in pastel shades and techniques ranging from intricate pleating to hand-knitting. Lena’s approach to fashion is bold and playful which she puts down to her South American background. She has a strong focus on ethically sourced materials and her garments are hand draped, cut by hand and made in the UK. Lena is developing a plan for business growth and recently benefited from Cockpit’s ‘Commercialising Creative Content’ project funded by the ERDF, to help improve and streamline production. We also connected her with a UKTI advisor to help take her export plans to the next stage. Stockists in London, Brazil, Budapest and Japan could be just the start!

Lizzie Allen 1Lizzie Allen 2

Lizzie Allen has gained an enviable reputation as a designer: she launched her vibrant wallpaper collection at 100% Design in 2006 and it became an instant best-seller. Her wallpapers are stocked in Liberty, John Lewis and independent stores in UK, France, Germany, Netherlands and New Zealand. She has designed the Spring/Summer 2012 main print on a range of homewares for Habitat using her signature style, and the products have just hit the shops. Lizzie’s designs are all hand screen printed in small batches using hand-mixed inks, and are all made in London. In addition to her witty wallpapers, Lizzie has expanded her range to include colourful printed textiles, sold by retailers such as Liberty and Paul Smith. Other high-profile commissions include a Royal Wedding design for Marks & Spencer and a stunning 60th anniversary Festival of Britain wallpaper for the Southbank Centre. Lizzie has enjoyed tailored one-to-one business coaching with the Cockpit Business Development Team. She also benefitted from our ‘Commercialising Creative Content’ project, funded by the ERDF, where she worked closely with a manufacturing expert to explore new product development and strategic planning.

I’ve had a quick peek around your studios in Holborn and it was fascinating to get a feel for what people are making. What’s the most unusual piece of work you’ve seen someone create?

Paul Vincett 1Paul Vincett 2

Work by Paul Vincett of Stitches and Glue is very unique and always draws a crowd during the Open Studios. For Paul, working with monsters is a passion that he has turned into a successful career. All the critters that come out of his Monsters Workshop are meticulously hand-crafted from premium quality fake fur and are collectors’ items. Paul has worked for many years in film and theatre. Most notably he has worked on X-Men First Class and Tim Burton’s recent release, Dark Shadows. He is currently working with Handspring UK, the acclaimed puppet company behind the South Bank’s War Horse production. Paul has taken advantage of our one-to-one business coaching and his work enjoys a growing international reputation. In 2010, he won the New York Times’ Puppet of the Year and he also produces bespoke art toys for Urban Outfitters US. Paul exports to France, Japan, China and Russia and has launched a new online shop.

Mary Portas recently came to one of your events. Can you tell us a little bit about that?


Yes, we were thrilled that Mary Portas came to our summer Open Studios this June. She really enjoyed the experience and the we all enjoyed meeting her. Mary is a huge supporter of British made work and she spoke very passionately about the importance of what we do at Cockpit Arts. She said on camera "I like shopping this way. It feels like a wonderful, spirited, creative environment. We are at the heart of great talent and community spirit - I think that’s very British. For me this is somewhere I would like to drag 25 pals back to. Actually when is your next Open Day?" We’re looking forward to seeing her again!