Inspired by... blog

Fashion, film, design and all things creative at the British Library


Spotlighting collections you would’ve never thought would be in a library and the creative people who use them. Follow us @BL_Creative. Find inspiration for your next creative project in our exhibition Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK - 2 May – 19 August 2014. Read more

British Library x Arts Thread Comics Unmasked competition


To enter visit

Dear Readers, I am very excited to announce our Comics Unmasked competition in partnership with the good people at Arts Thread.

This is a fantastic opportunity for budding illustrators and artists to get their work seen by big names in the comic world including award-winning comic book artist Dave Gibbons (Watchmen, 2000 AD), managing director and publisher Emma Hayley (SelfMadeHero), journalist Paul Gravett and author John Harris Dunning. 

The winner will receive a cash prize of £1,000 for creating an original comic inspired by our upcoming Spring exhibition Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK - the UK's biggest exhibition of British comics. 

The Trials of Nasty Tales, 1973, cover art (c) Dave Gibbons

Co-curator John Harris Dunning says, “This show is a call to arms – we’re trying to encourage creative disobedience that challenges the status quo. Comics have never been more influential.”

The brief:

Create a 9-panel comic exploring one of the six themes in the British Library's Comics Unmasked exhibition.

The themes:

Mischief & Mayhem - The public expectation of ‘comical’ comics and familiar characters – a look at the more subversive side of humour, from gentle slapstick right through to the boundaries of acceptability with blasphemy, gratuitous violence and gore.

To See Ourselves - Social class and prejudices have frequently been explored in comics – whether seriously and humorously. Comics are sometimes one of the few places where certain social groups can see themselves in print.

Politics: Power and The People - Comics have been used to political ends: to illustrate an ideology or movement, to radicalise society and to attempt to attract members to a party or pressure group.

We Can Be Heroes - 18th and 19th century popular literature often presented criminals as romantic heroes, a seditious tradition that continues into comics. British comic book heroes today can surprise: they’re often not the expected muscular straight white male, and their values may be far from wholesome. In recent decades British comic writers and artists have worked in the USA, where they have re-interpreted the superhero genre, adding new twists to well-known characters and creating others that question the All-American dream.

Let’s Talk About Sex - Earliest British erotic comics date from the 1940s and 50s, and draw on earlier traditions of pornographic illustrated books. We look at the progression from mail-order titillation through to comics strips in ‘girlie magazines’, semi-legal gay male comics, and obscene underground titles.

Breakdowns - There is a long relationship between drug taking, magic, and comics, resulting in stories that move into other dimensions and artwork that explodes out of the traditional panel structure. Experimentation has led to cross-fertilisation with other art forms; new possibilities are opening up with the move into digital publishing.

Entry requirements:

Location: open to applicants worldwide. 

Age: 16+

Experience: Student, graduate or anyone working professionally for less than 3 years in the design industry.


Sunday, 20 April 2014, Midnight GMT

For the full brief and to enter, visit


17 April 2014

Curator's choice: fine art prints from the British Library's archives

Add comment Comments (0)

Malini Roy is our Visual Arts Curator and one of my favourite people at the Library. She looks after an exquisite collection of prints and drawings from South and Southeast Asia. She's chosen some of her favourite prints for our latest Curator's choice collection of fine prints (which you can purchase here) and I've chosen my favourites from her collection! We're often cooing over the same prints of fuzzy mammals, intricate patterns and brilliant fish - wishing someone would design a frock, pajamas or a handbag using these images so we could wear them.

We have indeed welcomed designers to our Print Room to view original prints for inspiration. If you're interested in seeing these beauties and more, you can register for a Reader Pass and make a viewing appointment here

Some items from Malini's Curator's Choice are on display in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library right now - pop by, it's free! 


Sloth Bear by Haludar. I have seen the original up close and his fine hairs are quite impressive. I also like that he looks as if he's had an electric shock. 


Moloch Gibbon by Halundar. These profiles just make me smile. He looks a little silly but also bored and/or sad.  


Asian Cheeta by Halundar. I do love spots and stripes and this fine feline wears them beautifully. 


Shawl embroiderer, anonymous. I love these vibrant colours and the careful placement of the items on the page. The mustache profile is cute too.  

Elephant bearing howdah

An elephant bearing a howdah, anonymous. More spots! 

14 April 2014

Spring Festival highlights - Inspired by... vinyl records

Add comment Comments (0)

When we hosted a show and tell of our vinyl record collection back in November the feedback was so positive I knew we had to run it again. I love spotlighting our massive vinyl collection (over 240,000!) because it always surprises people who think we're just a very serious library full of books (which is only partly true). So in the spirit of Spring Festival, creativity, discovery and inspiration our curator of pop music Andy Linehan dug deep into our archive and brought out some real gems to illustrate the history of the album to an audience of graphic designers, filmmakers and curious music lovers. 

Spring Festival 2014 Inspired by vinyl 4507

Those tubes are wax cylinders - developed by Thomas Edison in the late 1880s. 

Spring Festival 2014 Inspired by vinyl 4530   Spring Festival 2014 Inspired by vinyl 4483

Left: Jeremy Deller’s English Magic EP, the musical soundtrack to a film made by Dellar for the British Pavilion at the 2013 Biennale di Venezia. Limited triple vinyl edition, ours is #78 of 300 hand-signed and numbered by Deller with sleeve artwork designed by Deller including a 10x10” photographic print hand tipped on the front cover.

Right: An LP by Man, a 1970s Welsh rock band, with a fold-out hand-drawn map of Wales with features and places important to the band. (Photographs by Luca Sage)

Andy also showed us these two weird and wonderful albums:

Atom Earth Mother Ancient Faith    Sounds of Silence

Left: Atom Earth Mother’s Ancient Faith, a double LP plus CD and insert housed in a hand-built, fire-branded wooden box. Limited edition of 250 copies. (Via boomkat)

Right: Sounds of Silence, a compilation of “silent” tracks from various artists including Crass, Andy Warhol, John Lennon and Orbital which puns on the title of a Simon & Garfunkel LP and rips off its cover. (Via dummymag)

Yes, you can listen to vinyl at the British Library - simply need to register for a Reader Pass. Find out more about our Listening and Viewing Services and our Sound Archive.

More good stuff:

Watch this video of radio presenter Tom Ravenscroft visiting our basements where we store our vinyl collection. 


07 April 2014

Spring Festival highlights - Telling stories on Twitter

Add comment Comments (0)

We ran an experimental storytelling workshop as part of Spring Festival called History Relived. We wanted to explore a new way of telling stories using digital platforms and archives so we used The British Newspaper Archive and Twitter. The result: eight stories ranging from a murder mystery, a divorce case and one that involves a horse ruining a dinner party. You can view them all here

Spring Festival History Relived_31 03 2014_CrossoverLabs_Chris Dymond_3992

Here's Chris Dymond from Crossover Labs explaining the day's activities. 

Spring Festival History Relived_31 03 2014_CrossoverLabs_Participants_4078

Exploring the British Newspaper Archive. Some groups also used the Library's Flickr photostream which includes over 1 million images that are free from copyright restrictions. 

Spring Festival History Relived_31 03 2014_CrossoverLabs_Bill Thompson_4071

BBC tech writer Bill Thompson joined us!

Spring Festival History Relived_31 03 2014_CrossoverLabs_Participants_4172

This group had a lot of fun - you could hear them laughing from anywhere in the Conference Centre. (Their story is the one with the horse in it.) Filmmakers, television producers, creative writing students and other creative practitioners took part. 

Spring Festival History Relived_31 03 2014_CrossoverLabs_Participants_4144

Creating new Twitter accounts. This is Heinrich Weichmann @HeiWei93 a cigar-loving German who moves to Kansas with his wife Birgit Weichmann @BirgWeich. A whirlwind affair unfolds involving #schnitzel, #RailroadCommencementGala and complications with a family inheritance. Inspired by a newspaper article from 1893.

Spring Festival History Relived_31 03 2014_CrossoverLabs_Participants_4309

In the end every group presented and we looked at their story's Twitter feed. Lots of laughter again.

Whether you're working in film, television, documentary, writing fiction or non-fiction, The British Newspaper Archive is a fantastic resource for exploring histories and getting inspiration for new work. I could see a lot of BNA articles translated into Downton Abbey episodes, e.g. or a period feature film like Sherlock Holmes. The archive is massive - over 240 titles and 7 million pages - so it can be overwhelming. I recommend checking out the BNA's blog to get  a flavour of what's available. Enjoy!

Many thanks to our partners Sheffield Doc/Fest and Crossover Labs and the British Newspaper Archive for giving us free access to the service. 

 All photos by Luca Sage