“to evoke a wind that blows through Senate House library, opening books and prompting unexpected stories”


This year’s Bloomsbury festival contains a whole raft of events focused on what are, perhaps, the archetypal Bloomsbury institutions: libraries, museums, and archives.  Indeed there is something every day from the Tuesday (15th October) right through to the Sunday (20th October).  This post takes a brief tour of what to expect this year.

The library as enchantment and wonder

For an interesting and unexpected take on the act of reading check out Reading as Art: Turning the Pages of Psychology.  The event is all about Victorian psychology and promises to evoke a wind that blows through Senate House library, opening books and prompting unexpected stories.  Led by artist and writer Sharon Kivland and psychology librarian Mura Ghosh this evening of readings, performances, and art engages with the library’s collections in a whole new way.

On Friday 18th October,  poets Sir Andrew Motion and Professor Mark Ford will settle down in the wonderful Goldsmith’s Reading Room to discuss libraries as places of inspiration and enchantment in their work.  The evening will include readings from  Sir Andrew’s  collection, The Customs House, which  focuses on war poems from 1914 to the present day.


Reading and writing through the ages

With the weekend (19th-20th October) arrives a whole host of literary events reflecting modern, ancient and recent reading and writing practices. 

For example at 10am you could join the Bloomsbury Group Wiki-Edit-a-Thon and help to amend Wikipedia’s entries on the ‘Bloomsbury Group’ .  Alternatively you might wish to get up a bit later and join the Keats House ‘ poetry explorers’ as they draw upon stories of refuge and migration from the School of Advanced Study’s archives to create a new ‘living’ poem of Bloomsbury on this special festival day.

If you are more interested in learning about the history of the written word, then the events put on by the Museum of Writing may be your thing.  At 12.30pm on the 19th,  Alan Cole,  original creator of the Museum of Writing (containing a unique collection of writing materials and ephemera) and Professor Simon Eliot of the Institute of English Studies, will present a tour of the  written word  from c. 3000 BC to the present day.  Here is a chance to see this unusual  collection of writing materials and equipment  and learn more about the challenges that have always come with putting words on a page.  

Bringing these challenges to life, the  Museum is  also holding a ‘hands on’ second event on Saturday, where you will have an opportunity to write with quills or on a wax tablet using an original Roman Stylus (space is limited on these workshops: first come, first served).  


Myths and Legends

This year the Warburg Institute is bringing  30,000 Gods and Myths to the Bloomsbury Festival. Dr François Quiviger, the Warburg’s Curator of Digital Resources, will draw upon his ongoing digitisation of the Institute’s collection of images from classical mythology to lead an audio-visual and musical tour right into the heart of the collection.  Accompanied by jazz improvisations from Bloomsbury musician John-Paul Muir, this event takes place at 6pm giving you plenty of time to have a look around the other events before learning about ancient beliefs and legends.    


Archives Endangered!

Our exploration of Bloomsbury’s libraries, museums, and archives   continues on Sunday 20th with the Endangered Archives event.  Throughout history our written heritage has often come under threat.  The Endangered Archives Programme is one attempt to preserve and digitise some of the most fragile repositories worldwide.  In this talk held in Senate House’s Beveridge Hall you will have the chance to discover documents and photographs from Latin America and the Caribbean that are currently in the process of being digitised, and how the British Library is making these digital records of historical resources available online for the first time ever. The event promises to offer a new insight into the fragile nature of archived resources, and the importance of making these available to future generations.

15 October

5.30pm                 Reading as Art: Turning the Pages of Psychology

18 October

7pm                       Poets in the Library: Sir Andrew Motion in Conversation with Mark Ford

19 October

10am                     Bloomsbury Group Wiki-Edit-a-Thon

12pm                     Poetry Explorers – Finding Poetry in Bloomsbury

12.30pm               Museum of Writing – A History of Writing

3pm                       Museum of Writing – Quill Making and Wax Tablet Workshop

6pm                       30,000 Gods and Myths from the Warburg Institute

20 October

12pm                     Endangered Archives

The Bloomsbury Festival runs from October 15-20, 2013. The full schedule of events at the School of Advanced Study is available here. We are also running a series of exciting competitions in October. Follow us on @SASNews for festival news and updates.

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