10 Things To Do In A Library Other Than Reading

Libraries UK
Peckham Library

Don’t like reading? Then libraries are just the place for you. There is an abundance of classes, advice sessions, films to watch, talks, recitals and discussions, happening in our inner London borough libraries.

1. Film
Many libraries run film nights for free or for a small fee. In the borough of Lewisham the Library at Deptford Lounge, Forest Hill Library, Downham Library, and New Cross Learning Centre has between them Film Showings, Classic Film Showing, and Family Film Showings every week. They publish a guide to what’s on which you can pick up from the libraries in question.

In the borough of Lambeth, the Tate South Lambeth Library Film Club runs on the third Wednesday of every month (except in December). In the borough of Hackney, Clapton Library has a film club on the first Thursday of the month and Dalston CLR James Library has a children’s film club on the last Saturday of the month (2.30-4pm). As part of its film nights Primrose Hill Community Library is showing the sci-fi classic Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner on 1 September at 8pm.

And even though libraries are not libraries in the borough of Tower Hamlets, but Ideas Stores, Bow Idea Store has a film screening for ages 5-11 years on Thursday 27 August. Additionally, Tower Hamlets Council work alongside Rich Mix – an East London arts venue – to give Idea Store members access to films for just £5 every Monday and Tuesday. Information about that deal here.

2. Music
Blackheath Village Community Library service together with Age Concern – in whose building the library is housed – has free lunchtime concerts by the local Trinity Laban students, beginning on the last Friday of the month from 25 September to 27 November.

In Westminster Music library on 19 August, 6-7 pm, The Bishop Ensemble will play cello sonatas by Beethoven and Shostakovich. More information on the The Bishop Ensemble can be found on their Facebook page. Additionally, the Joint Force Singers (JFS) is a new, non-auditioned choir, in Westminster and they want your voice. More information can be found here on the Westminster Music Library events page.

3. Food
There is the Great Grub Club at Stamford Hill Library. The Belsize Community Library has a Be More Chef Cooking Club every Wednesday.

4. Exhibitions
Until 24 August there is exhibit by two Hong Kong artists – Hark Yeung and Fong So – at Westminster Reference Library. Following on from this (25 August-12 September) is a Nicola Wills exhibition that explores contemporary society and its values and depicts scenes of modern life through use of abstract and representative imagery. All of these are free and you don’t even have to be a member of the library. More information on the artists, Westminster Reference Library, and previous exhibitions can be found on the website.

In the gallery@Idea Store Whitechapel there is currently an exhibition by Ruth Franklin titled Curlers & Cuts: Exhibition of sculptures inspired by family professions. This runs until Sunday 30 August.

Staying in the borough of Tower Hamlets, on Thursday 10 September, 6-7:30pm, is the formal launch of the exhibition Whiffin’s East End at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives. William Whiffin (1878-1957) lived and worked in Poplar through two world wars. Pre-eminent in what today might be known as street photography, he captured daily life in the East End in the early- to mid-twentieth century. And the last thing you should know is happening at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives is History Hoppers. They offer you the chance to explore and discuss original historical library and archive sources that help to tell the story of your local area in Tower Hamlets. They meet the third Wednesday of every month, 2.30-4.30pm. The exact dates can be found on their website.

5. Talks, lectures and discussion
Staying with Whiffin and the Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives, there are events and talks to coincide with the exhibition. There is a talk on Whiffin’s life by historian David Webb, Thursday 24 September, 6-7:30pm; a East London Street Photography Photo Forum Panel Discussion, Thursday 1 October, 6:30-8:30pm; a Whiffin’s walk around Poplar; a talk Photographers of the East End, Thursday 29 October, 6-7:30pm and Chris Dorley-Brown gives a talk titled Revisiting Whiffin’s East End, Thursday 5 November, 6-7:30pm. There is also photography classes as part of the exhibition (see number 9) All information and contacts can be found on the website.

Within the borough of Hackney at Dalston CLR James Library and Homerton Library there are a series of TEDx talks every week from 16 September. This involves two pre-recorded talks from TED conferences and a discussion afterwards. Still in the same borough but at Clapton Library is the University of the 3rd Age (U3A). This is for people who are no longer in full-time employment, but believe that ‘learning is for life’. Details here.

Blackheath Village Community Library service has Joanne Eccleston of the London Wildlife Trust giving a talk on 20 November. And a more regular occurance is a discussion of current affairs in Bengali led by Aaj Kal, where on the table to be discussed is local and international news. It happens every Wednesday, 11-1pm in the Ideas Store Chrisp Street.

6. Arts and Crafts
In Hackney most libraries in the borough are running art awards which seek to help children and young people get interested in culture and the arts. Participating libraries and dates can be found here.

In the borough of Lambeth the Lambeth Carnegie library has its Craft circle on Saturdays 2-4pm. And there is the knitting and crocheting group at Tate South Lambeth Library on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month 10am-12pm. Swiss Cottage library has Arts and crafts activities everyday at 3.30pm until Thursday 27 August. A Saturday craft club happens every week at Catford library, and New Cross community library has its Knitting club every Saturday.

If comics are your thing then Dalston CLR James library runs Dalston comic club on the last Thursday of every month, 6.45-7.45pm (18+). For more info email dalstoncomicgroup@hackney.gov.uk

7. Health
There are many things happening health wise at Hackney Central Library: on Tuesdays, 1-3pm, there is the Allergy Support Group with Fredericka. This is for parents and carers of children who suffer with eczema and other allergies, offering parents help, support and a way to share experiences and useful tips in an informal setting. There is Punchy Brunch, 1-2.30pm, where you can share your ideas and tips for how we can live our lives at optimum health and make sure we balance body and mind (women only though). Health checks with TLC Care Services and the Stroke Project, fortnightly on a Wednesday, 11-4pm. There is also the Hackney Health Hub at Stamford Hill library, last Tuesday of the month, 1.30-3.30pm.

In the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham Hammersmith Library have a monthly community health event on the second Wednesday of the month. Finally there are yoga classes at Primrose Hill Community Library if that is your thing.

8. Law/legal/general advice
On Mondays, 2-5pm, Hackney Central Library has Hackney Community Law Centre pop-up shop with qualified advisors giving advice on housing issues. These are free, no appointments necessary, residents only.

Legal advice club Advice on consumer and employment law for people who live or work in Lambeth at Streatham Library 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month 3-5pm. You need to call for an appointment first 020 7786 5959.

In the Idea Store Chrisp Street they have PopLaw, a free legal advice clinic run by qualified solicitors who will offer initial legal advice on all areas of the law except family and immigration. This is a drop-in service, no appointments necessary. Tuesdays 6-8pm. Also in this library they have here the Citizens Advice Bureau Service, where you can get information and advice on all general enquiries in Tower Hamlets, Thursdays 9.30-1pm. Booking an appointment is necessary. To book an appointment call 020 7247 1050

9. Courses and lessons
Olà. This means hello in Portuguese. How could you know that? By attending one of the many language courses running in your library. There are Spanish & Italian Classes at Waterloo Library, Thursdays, 4-6pm. Portuguese/English conversation sessions at Tate South Lambeth Library, Friday 10am-12pm. These are conversation sessions for English speakers learning Portuguese and Portuguese speakers learning English.

Putting languages aside for a moment there is Speak Up at Primrose Hill Community Library. This a course increasing your skills speaking to an audience. If you want to try something a little less sedentary, there is folk dancing on the first Wednesday of the month at Stamford Hill Library.

Would your kid (9+) like the opportunity to learn coding? Well Lambeth borough gives them opportunity. Specifically at Brixton Library (every Thursday [term time] 4-5pm) and Streatham Library (every Wednesday [term time] 4-6pm).

And once again, thanks to William Whiffin, there is a talk on early photograph techniques, Saturday 17 October, 2-3:30pm and an Introduction to Street Photography on Saturday 19 September, 1-4pm, both at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives. For the latter places are free but you must book in advance.

10. Author appearances, readings and plays
Well, ok, maybe you might have to like reading a little bit for this last one. It always seems odd that there aren’t more author appearances or readings happening in libraries considering you’d think author readings and libraries are a perfect match. However, it is happening in some:

Paddington Library has Sophia Tobin on Wednesday 26 September, Penny Nair Price on Tuesday 22 September and Barrie Stacey on Wednesday 29 September. The author Chitra Soundra hosts one of York Garden Library’s weekly Story Time sessions, while Michela Wrong appears at Primrose Hill Community Library on Monday 28 September at 7pm. Finally, for all things theatrical, we have Storylines at The Library at Deptford Lounge on the 4 September, 7.30-8.30pm.

Paul Little

About Paul Little

Paul Little is a writer based in South East London.

Paul Little is a writer based in South East London.

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