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The London History Festival returns – 14-24 November 2016

Join some of Britain’s leading historians at Kensington Central Library in November as the London History Festival returns for the eigth year from 14-24 November.

With an excellent variety of subjects ranging from World War I to the Peasant’s Revolt and the Silk Road, each talk will offer fresh perspectives and perhaps a few surprises.

Tickets for each event are £5 (£3 concessions) and are on sale at all Kensington and Chelsea libraries.

For a full schedule, including interviews with authors and information on other library events, please download the London History Festival programme [pdf]. Highlights include:

Game of Queens – Tuesday, 15 November, 7pm: Kensington Central Library

The sixteenth century was an Age of Queens, when powerful women ruled huge swathes of Europe. Sarah Gristwood, author of Game of Queens, discusses queens regent and regnant from Castille to England and asks what the challenges they faced have to teach us about the present day.

Heroes and Villains – Thursday, 17 November, 7pm: Kensington Central Library

Dan Snow talks about his favourite heroes and villains from history, including Richard I, General Wolfe, Napoleon and Wellington. Dan will also take questions about his adventures, television programmes and podcasts.

The Somme – Monday, 21 November, 7pm: Kensington Central Library

Bestselling historian Hugh Sebag-Montefiore talks about one of history’s most iconic battles and how the Somme encapsulated the tragedy and stoicism of the Western Front.

Further details can be found at For any questions regarding the festival please contact the Royal Borough’s libraries at


Remembering Humphrey Firman, VC – 25 April, South Kensington Station

Residents and visitors to the Royal Borough are invited to join the Council in remembering local war hero Humphrey Osbaldston Brooke Firman VC at a special ceremony on Monday 25 April.

Starting at 11am on the paved square outside South Kensington station, the focus of the ceremony will be the unveiling of a special paving stone to commemorate Firman’s action at the Siege of Kut on 24 April 1916, for which he received a Victoria Cross.

Born in Kensington on 24 November 1886, Humphrey Firman was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy during the First World War. He was 29 when he volunteered to lead the crew of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve SS Julnar on a mission to get 270 tons of supplies through to forces besieged in Kut-el-Amara, in present day Iraq.

The unveiling is part of the nationwide campaign to honour Victoria Cross recipients from the First World War by laying commemorative paving stones in their birthplace on the centenary of their awards.

There’s wizards, war and more at your local libraries in February…

Witches, Wizards and Muggles come see; it’s Harry Potter week at North Ken Library!

From 1 – 7 February 2016, there’s fun for all the family as North Kensington Library turns into a mini-Hogwarts to celebrate all things Harry Potter:

Wizard VFX: Tuesday, 2 February, 6pm-7.30pm, North Kensington Library.

Join Klaudija Cermak, whose credits include Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to find out more about the weird and wonderful digital effects that brought the films to life.

Magical Craft: Make a magical diary cover, Wednesday, 3 February, 3.30pm-4.45pm, North Kensington Library

Harry Potter Book Night, Thrusday, 4 February: 3.45pm-5pm at Brompton Library and 4.00pm – 7.00pm at North Kensington Library, Saturday, 6 February, 2pm-3pm at Kensington Central Library.

Knit a Hogwarts scarf, Saturday, 6 February, 11am – 12.30pm, North Kensington Library (please bring own wool and needles – minimum size 5mm)

Magical Craft: Make your own Weasley family clock, Saturday, 6 February, 2pm-3pm, Kensington Central Library

Booking is only required for Wizard VFX and Knit a Hogwarts scarf and can be done by visiting your local library or through the eventbrite page.

And for grown-ups there’s much much more on offer at your local library, including: 

An Underground Guide to Literary London, Tuesday 2 February, 6.30pm – 8.30pm, Kensington Central Library

Travel the tube network from the comfort of the Central Library and follow the footsteps of Dickens, Shakespeare, Holmes and many other people and characters of literary importance. This is a virtual tour illustrated with pictures and readings.

Chelsea Pensioners talk, Tuesday 16 February, 4pm-5pm, Chelsea Library

The iconic faces of Chelsea and Britain’s army veteran community, the Chelsea Pensioners  talk about their experiences and what it means to be a solider through recent history.

“It’ll all be over by Christmas!” – a brief history of World War I, Thursday, 25 February, 6.30pm-7.45pm, Brompton Library

At the start of the Great War, most expected a short and decisive conflict, but it turned into four years of stalemate that claimed the lives of millions. Find out more about the timeline of World War I through poetry and illustrations at this informative evening.

For complete listings of library events, do visit the Kensington and Chelsea Libraries eventbrite page, or telephone 020 7361 3010. 

Honouring the Borough’s Victoria Cross recipients: Richard Bell Davies

With last year marking 100 years since the start of the First World War, Kensington and Chelsea is honouring eight residents who were awarded the Victoria Cross.

A commemorative service will be held on the centenary of the act they were awarded the VC for. The next commemoration will be to honour Richard Bell Davies VC CB DSO AFC who was awarded his Victoria Cross for the first combat search and rescue by aircraft in history. The service will be held at 11am on 19 November 2015 at Sloane Square War Memorial.

“Squadron-Commander Davies descended at a safe distance from the burning machine, took up Sub-Lieutenant Smylie, in spite of the near approach of a party of the enemy, and returned to the aerodrome, a feat of airmanship that can seldom have been equalled for skill and gallantry.”

To read more of Richard Bell Davies’ story, visit the RBKC First World War Centenary web pages.  For the latest First World War commemorative events, visit the Armed Forces webpage

Organisations: Grant Opportunities in the Royal Borough

There are a number of grants that are currently open via external organisations and trusts that may well suit voluntary and community groups that work and operate within the Royal Borough.

The Community Engagement Team would advise voluntary and community groups to always keep their ear to the ground for information about new grants that could fit in with an organisation’s aims and objectives. A good way of doing this is looking at grant database, looking at the funding section of the Social Council’s website or signing up to the Council’s own external funding e-bulletin by emailing

Some of the funding streams currently available include:

Westway Trust Community Grants

Westway Trust are making a total £100,000 in grants available to fund projects by local organisations supporting the community. Grants of up to £2,500 will be on offer for projects which celebrate North Kensington’s culture and heritage; make the most of the local talent; improve health and well-being in the local community; or improve economic opportunity.

Deadline: Monday 14 September 2015

Email:                      Website:

Armed Forces Covenant Fund

The Ministry of Defence’s new Armed Forces Covenant Fund has £10 million each year to support the Armed Forces Covenant by funding projects which address specific priorities, namely:

  • Community integration;
  • The coordination and delivery of support to the Armed Forces community; and
  • Former Service personnel in the criminal justice system.

There are two funding routes, which are small grants (applications up to a maximum of £20,000) and large grants (applications of between £20,001 and £500,000).

Deadline for EOI: 17 September and 17 December


First World War: Then and Now

Communities that are looking to explore, conserve and share local heritage of the First World War, particularly that relating to the Battle of the Somme, are encouraged to apply for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s (HLF’s) First World War – Then and Now grants scheme ahead of the 2016 Centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

Not-for-profit organisations and partnerships led by not-for-profit organisations in the UK are eligible to apply as long as they have a constitution and a bank account. Applicants could include charities, trusts, clubs, interest groups, community and voluntary groups, community and parish councils, faith groups, history groups, schools, colleges, social enterprises, residents’ associations and youth groups.

Grants of between £3,000 and £10,000 are available for community projects that explore, conserve and share their First World War heritage and deepen their understanding of the impact of the conflict. Projects should make a difference to people and be completed in less than two years.


Rosa’s Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Small Grants

Grants of between £500 are £5,000 are available for projects that deliver training, mentoring, research, networking, as well as advice and support services to tackle FGM. The grants will help funded organisations to:

  • become more confident, more knowledgeable and more skilled in tackling FGM within their communities;
  • improve their skills in engaging with, and lobbying, statutory bodies to encourage appropriate responses to FGM;
  • contribute to a unified movement across the UK bringing together a range of organisations engaged in tackling FGM.

Deadline: Monday 14 September 2015, 17.00

Email:         Website:

World War One and the Royal Borough: Ancestry and Creative Writing Workshops

As part of the First World War Centenary, the fantastic Local Studies Team based in the borough’s libraries are hosting a number of workshops for those with a Kensington and Chelsea connection to explore the lives and actions of their relatives through the period, delve into the archives and reflect on the sacrifices made during the Great War through creative writing….

Workshop: Research your World World One ancestors and Curating WW1 memories   

Kensington BatallionMonday, 27 April: 2.00pm-4.00pm, Chelsea Library 

Tuesday, 12 May: 2.00pm-4.00pm, Kensington Central Library

Friendly staff will be on hand to help to help you use Ancestry to discover fascinating original documents relating to your family in World War One. You will then have the opportunity to create a permanent memorial to your relatives by adding the information you uncover to our Kensington and Chelsea World War One Project website and the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War. Do bring artefacts, photograph and any other items and we’ll be happy to help you upload these, create scans and produce digital copies for you to keep.

Also, do you also fancy yourself as a digital curator or do you simply have an eye for a catchy recruitment poster or striking photograph? Help us choose what should feature on the Kensington and Chelsea World War One website. All participants will have the chance to learn about the website, add material they’ve selected and put up personal responses.

Workshop: WW1 Reading and Creative Writing Group

Tuesday, 28 April: 2.00pm-4.00pm, Chelsea Library

Tuesday, 19 May: 2.00pm-4.00pm, Kensington Central Library

‘Waterlogged trenches, the bodies of the dead lying rotting, their faces hidden from the day that they will never wake to see – these are our surroundingPaul Destrube

Old CountryLetters, poems and other materials from our archives will be set alongside better-known World War One poems and texts in order explore their creative content and contextual influences. This will allow participants to reflect and share thoughts relating to World War One on both a local and wider scale, and to forge more personal connections to the material.

Participants will then work on their own World War One inspired creative writing. This will involve learning new techniques, working alongside a professional writer and devising pieces of writing which reflect upon and respond to the material in our archives.

February at The Mosaic Rooms

This month, The Mosaic Rooms (226 Cromwell Road, SW5 0SW) are offering up a number of artistic treats to amaze and move you. For a full list of their offerings, do visit their website, but here are a few picks that may be of interest…

UnmannedPanel Discussion: Unmanned, Thursday 5 February, 7.00pm: The Mosaic Rooms (Free)

Join The Mosaic Rooms for a timely panel discussion reflecting on the growing use of armed drones in modern warfare –  one of the most controversial and opinion dividing elements of modern conflict. Our panel of speakers, including Chris Woods and Julian Stallabrass will provide an invaluable, and often shocking insight into the use of drones in on-going armed conflicts around the world as well as their growing use in civilian surveillance closer to home.

War At A DistanceFilm Screening: War at a Distance, Wednesday 11 February, 7.30pm: The Mosaic Rooms (£5)

In 1991, when images of the Gulf War flooded the international media, it was virtually impossible to distinguish between real pictures and those generated on computer. The image is no longer used only as testimony, but also as an indispensable link in a process of production and destruction. This is the central premise of Harun Farocki‘s “War at a Distance”, setting out in effect to define the relationship between military strategy and industrial production and shedding light on how the technology of war finds applications in everyday life.

Banned books of GuantanamoBanned Books of Guantánamo, Thursday 19 February, 7.00pm: The Mosaic Rooms (Free)

Guest speakers, including Andy Worthington, Ian Cobain and Cori Crider, will discuss the list of books banned in Guantánamo, as well as the wider issues pertaining to this-censorship, the politics and perceived threat of literature, and the use of indefinite detention

RajaRaja Shehadeh: Language of War, Language of Peace, Wednesday 2 February, 7.00pm: The Mosaic Rooms (Free)

Award-winning author Raja Shehadeh explores the politics of language and the language of politics in the Israeli Palestine conflict, reflecting on the walls that they create – legal and cultural – that confine today’s Palestinians just like the physical borders, checkpoints and the so called ‘Separation Barrier’.

From above and beloweFrom Above and Below, Saturday 28 February, 12.00pm: The Mosaic Rooms (Free)

‘From Above and Below’ brings together a series of investigations into the shifting parameters of contemporary warfare. With the intention to not only convey the position or physical viewpoint — from above — which the state apparatus has been utilizing during modern day conflict, exemplified by the use of armed drones and aerial bombing. In particular this event focuses on the position — from below — mobilising the domestic arena as the platform, material and human register of this perceivable external threat.

Upcoming events at The Mosaic Rooms: “Mouths At the Invisible Event” and “Drone”

davidbirkinmainTomorrow at the Mosaic Rooms sees a talk with David Birkin who will discuss the works featured in his first public solo exhibition, “Mouths At The Invisible Event”, with Michaela Crimmin.

“Mouths At The Invisible Event”, brings together a series of works dealing with issues of censorship, spectatorship and the legal and linguistic frameworks underpinning war. Crimmin and Birkin will discuss these works and reflect on the broader themes raised in the exhibition, looking at both the failure of images and the failure of truth, the blurring of the private and public domain in modern surveillance, and the manipulation of legislative language to suit political expediency. The discussion will offer compelling insight into Birkin’s practice revealing both the thematic and pragmatic premise behind his work. For more information available on the website

The event is free, but please RSVP to

On January 28th, watch the compelling documentary Drone. Directed by Tonje Hessen Schei and produced by Flimmer Film, the documentary is about the CIA drone war. It follows people on both sides of the drone technology. The unique access to drone victims in Waziristan is juxtaposed to drone pilots who struggle to come to terms with the new warfare.

Tickets are £5 and can be purchased on the website

The Mosaic Rooms

226 Cromwell Road,



Heart of the Community: Portobello Road Arts Project launches

Continuing our growing trend of community reporting, here we have James Yabut with an exclusive report on the latest Portobello Road Arts Project.  Thanks James!  Keep them coming!

Artist, Peter Dunn

The latest installation of the Portobello Road Arts Project has been unveiled by artist Peter Dunn.“Heart of the Community” is made up of thirteen photomurals which explore the relationship between collective memory and cultural identity. This playful and imaginative take on the tradition of historical painting sees various figures and events bursting through the brickwork on Portobello Road’s north wall to remind visitors and passers-by of their contributions to life in the local area.

Opening the exhibition, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning Policy, Transport and Arts, Councillor Tim Coleridge, said the installation showed “what’s most important: that it’s people who make the community what it is.”

Peter Dunn walking the crowd through his work.

Keen not to celebrate only the great and the good, Dunn includes, amongst others, Notting Hill Carnival founders Claudia Jones and Rhaune Laslett-O’Brien, and pupils from Bevington Primary School alongside images of author George Orwell and photographers Roger Mayne and Charlie Phillips.

As Dunn explained: “I focused on the extraordinary acts of ordinary people who rose above the challenges life dealt them to create something of value for us all.”

Trading Streets
Trading Streets

The idea of the broken brickwork revealed itself early on during the research stage. Having learnt that Portobello Farm was once located behind the north wall, Dunn decided to uncover as much local history as possible. With the assistance of members of his Open Age Arts Group and the council’s local archives team, he soon found he had a wealth of material at his disposal.

After selecting and, where necessary, recolouring the images, trying to accurately match the colour of the real brickwork proved one of the trickiest parts of the project. Once Dunn was happy with the results the images were printed onto plasticized paper, mounted on aluminium frames, and then finally coated with an anti-graffiti film.

InMyShoes Walk
InMyShoes Walk

The result is a colourful tour through local history that takes viewers from the founding of Notting Hill through to the present day via the two great wars, the arrival of the Windrush, the opening of the street markets, and the breakthrough of punk and reggae. Dunn says: “I hope visitors enjoy seeing the history on display and are encouraged to find out more.”

The installation will remain on display till June 2015. You can read more and see images from the Portobello Road Arts Project on the RBKC website and Facebook page.

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