Inspired by... blog

8 posts from March 2014

28 March 2014

Spring Festival: History Relived - Storytelling workshop

As part of Spring Festival we are hosting History Relived a storytelling workshop with our friends at Sheffield Doc/Fest and Crossover Labs. 

Throughout the day participants will be tweeting their stories from the point of view of fictional characters they create inspired by the British Newspaper Archive. 

You can follow along and help tell the story! The official Twitter account is @History_Relived and we're using the hashtag #HistoryRelived 

The stories will be curated on Storify

More info about the workshop:

Twitter in the 1890s – what would it look like? What events would people tweet about?

We are surrounded by digital platforms that we use every day, to check what's new, to share pictures and films, to comment and recommend. But what happens when you use them to tell stories? We will challenge participants to use items from the Library's British Newspaper Archive (BNA) as a starting point for entertainment that they will create using twitter accounts to re-enact historical events.

This is a highly entertaining activity that often forms part of a Crossover Lab, the day will be fun and competitive - but it also has a point: we will be examining the nature of interactive media, lifting the lid on where creativity comes from and exploring techniques for telling stories across multiple platforms whilst opening up the archives to give the participants, and people following along, a glimpse of its treasures.

Here's an example of what may come out of the workshop using an aritcle from the Illustrated Police News dated Saturday 15th October 1892

History Relived_sample image_BNA

About the British Newspaper Archive (BNA)
The British Newspaper Archive provides online access to local and regional newspapers from Britain and Ireland, dating back to the 1700s. The newspapers are fully searchable and can reveal fascinating forgotten stories from the past. The website is a partnership project between the British Library and DC Thomson Family History.

The BNA have kindly given workshop particpiants free access to the archives for the day. All images used are published courtesy of the BNA. Hat tip to the BNA! 

In partnership with Sheffield Doc/Fest, Crossover Labs
Supported by The British Newspaper Archive 


25 March 2014

Live webcast: Puttin' on the Glitz - Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age

Our Spring Festival Puttin' on the Glitz - Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age talk is sold out but the good news is you can tune in via live webcast! Just click here to sign up and watch the talk for free (from the comfort of your glamorous pad - like the mademoiselle below!) on Friday, 28 March from 18.30 - 20.00 London time. 

If you're on Twitter, send us your questions with the hashtag #BLSpring and follow me @BL_Creative.

Minuit_Images Online D40039 14
Paris in the 1920s via Images Online

There are still tickets available for the cocktail party afterwards here. The 'always well-dress, not always well-behaved' Vintage Mafia are hosting. 

Step into our boudoir and get your hair done in Jazz Age style by Pretty Me Vintage before getting snapped in Hanson Leatherby’s Travelling Portrait Studio. The Vintage News will be interviewing the glitziest guests and Alex Mendham & His Orchestra - the UK’s foremost deco era dance band – will make you Charleston the night away!

Alex Mendham & His Orchestra 

24 March 2014

Winner of The Sound Edit short film competition: Honeycomb (Plodge)

Back in October we launched our second short film competition The Sound Edit: British Accents and Dialects at the London Film Festival with IdeasTap. In January we short listed ten entrants who were given £500 to make a film inspired by our sound archive and today I'm very happy to announce the winning entry. Drumroll please....

James Spinney for his film Honeycomb (Plodge). 

Plodge_Sound clip from British Library Evolving English WordBank

James's boldly experimental short wordlessly captures the dialect term ‘plodge’ both visually and sonically. We were captivated by his  quietly innovative and meditative visual method and we wanted to watch it again and again. 

'Plodge', to the anonymous member of the public who recorded the word at our Evolving English exhibition, means to to wade through water.  

Many congratulations James! 

We are screening Honeycomb on Monday, 31 March at our Spring Festival Inspiring Filmmakers event with four award-winning short films including Beat starring Ben Whishaw. You can also hear stories and mingle with acclaimed filmmakers Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), Celia Barnett (all eight Harry Potter films!), Tony Noble (Moon) and up and coming director Jamie Stone (Orbit Ever After). This event is in partnership with the good people at Cinema Jam and Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival.  For more information and to book tickets click here

Honeycomb_Plodge_James Spinney_image 1 woman at counter

Honeycomb_Plodge_James Spinney_image 2
Stills from 'Honeycomb (Plodge)' directed by James Spinney 

About James Spinney

James studied English Literature to MA level and now works as a freelance editor.  With directing partner Peter Middleton, his short film Rainfall was nominated for the ICA Experimental Film Award and won the Best Short Award at Hot Docs 2013.  The follow up - Notes on Blindness - was commissioned by the New York Times Op-Docs and selected for Sundance and SXSW 2014.  James and Peter are currently developing Notes on Blindness into a feature film. 

21 March 2014

Costumes in film: dark Hollywood glitz, that green Atonement dress, Barbarella's PVC bodysuit

Dear Readers,

Spring Festival is only a week away - don’t miss our Inspiring Filmmakers event with screenwriter/director Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), art department researcher Celia Barnett (all eight Harry Potter films!), production designer Tony Noble (Moon) and up and coming director Jamie Stone (Orbit Ever After). More info and tickets here

Today’s guest blog on film costumes is written by students from Central Saint Martins Fashion History and Theory course.

Sunset Boulevard

Sunset Boulevard (1950) was one of the most critically acclaimed movies of the 20th century. Directed by Billy Wilder, it tells the tragic come-back story of fading silent movie star, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) and the troubled companionship she finds in Joe Gillis (William Holden), a struggling screenwriter. The costumes were designed by Academy Award winner Edith Head.

A real icon of the silent-film era, Swanson fit the role of Norma perfectly. References to Swanson’s film career are dotted throughout the film and her personal photographs decorate Norma’s fictional mansion. Head later said that she had drawn on Swanson’s expertise and authenticity when designing her costumes.

The costumes epitomise the darker side of mid-century Hollywood glitz. Head’s designs for Norma resembled Christian Dior’s New Look of the late 1940s, combined with hints of Jazz Age glamour. Norma's signature look is leopard print. The first time we meet Norma, she is dressed in a sweeping house gown trimmed with leopard and topped with a leopard turban. Later, we see her dressed head-to-toe in leopard fabric whilst lounging by the pool.

The dramatic final scene reveals Norma dressed in what is arguably her most significant costume: an off the shoulder glittering evening gown with a jewelled snake bracelet coiled around her arm and sequins sprinkled over her bare shoulder.  - Jihane Dyer 



Ian McEwan’s Atonement, tells the tale of forbidden love and family conflict before, during, and after World War II. The novel, published in 2001, was adapted into a film in 2007 by director Joe Wright. Both works harmoniously introduce us to the confident aristocrat Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightley), her sister and aspiring writer Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) and their housekeeper's promising son, Robbie Turner (James McAvoy).

Nearly a character itself is Cecilia's iconic, green silk gown. Costume designer Jacqueline Durran, (Pride & Prejudice, 2005 and Anna Karenina, 2012) created the provocative dress with a flowing bias cut that transforms within different scenes. Durran added slits to allow for movement in that intense sex scene. The knot that decorated the front of the dress is a nod to a classic 1930s design and was used to symbolise Cecilia's virginity. In 2008 Durran won a Bafta for Best Costume Design.  - Angelina Todd



The 1968 cult classic Barbarella starring Jane Fonda takes us on a futuristic fantasy journey in her shag pile spaceship to seek out missing scientist Durand Durand. While the plot remains a fairly simplistic sequence of Fonda getting herself into danger, it does lead to a showcase of incredible outfits.

Based on a comic book tale, Barbarella required costumes that embody a glamorous vision of the future and also represent a sense of comic surrealism. French costume designer Jacques Fonteray, took influence from the work of Spanish fashion designer Paco Rabanne who was known for his of use innovative materials. As a result, costumes were made from PVC, Perspex and chain mail. Rabanne was personally involved in creating a green dress made of linked plastic tiles, which gave Fonda an almost reptilian-like appearance while still carrying a 1960s silhouette.  - Hannah Beach


For a full line-up of Spring Festival events visit: 


10 March 2014

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


06 March 2014

Amber Jane Butchart and Christopher Laverty's favourite accessories

When I first met fashion historian Amber Jane Butchart and blogger Christopher Laverty at the British Library I felt a little under-dressed and under-accessorised. (My workwear consists of a basic skater dress, Adidas trainers and sometimes a bracelet.)  These two KNOW HOW TO DRESS. They are also film costume experts. You can hear them wax lyrical about their favourite fashion pieces from 1920s-30s films at our Spring Festival event Puttin' on the Glitz - Fashion & Film in the Jazz Age. Here they kindly share their favourite accessories. 

Amber's favourite accessories

Mine would have to be the turban! (OBVS) My favourite stockists are: Akhu Designs for incredible prints and West African vibrance, Alice Edgeley for high-octane glamour and Silken Favours who mainly do blouses but also sometimes turbans in amazing prints. 

Amber Jane Butchart wears Akhu Designs
Amber in Akhu Design 

Gloria Swanson wore great turbans and head wraps in the 1920s.

Gloria Swanson
Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard 1950

Another favourite accessory would be the skeleton! As modelled brilliantly by Theda Bara below.

Theda Bara

Lastly, Josephine Baker's banana skirt. I love it so much that a friend and I made one along with a Carmen Miranda fruit headdress.

Josephine Baker banana dress

Christopher's favourite accessories 

Clothes on Film blogger Christopher Laverty via Vogue Shot


What the Americans call ‘suspenders’. Belts were more of a utility garment during the 1920s, so you would often see them combined with braces on manual workers, which of course is considered a big no-no nowadays. For me it’s all about comfort. Braces combined with a natural waist (read high) trouser hang better, don’t pinch, and arguably look more masculine. Clip-on braces are a bit naff with trousers but work fine with jeans. Once you’ve tried braces you won’t go back. Gentlemen, your crotch will thank you.

Jude Law in Sherlock Holmes 

African dandies photographed by Hanif Abdur-Rahim

Pocket Square:

Basically the generic name for a handkerchief stuffed in the top pocket of your suit jacket. You see this look all over Boardwalk Empire. The idea of the handkerchief is that it is supposed to represent a flower. This is why the folded over, angular shape seen in Mad Men and the like can seem a bit, well, square. Just hold a (silk) handkerchief between your thumb and forefinger, pull the fabric through the clenched fist of your other hand – a bit like a magician, fold over, stick it in your jacket pocket and you’re done. This is the British ‘tucked in’ style which is far easier to manage throughout the day. Avoid matching your pocket square to your tie though, unless you’re going for a very specific, and perhaps ironic, look. 

Michael K Williams in Boardwalk Empire

I prefer the simple swivel bar type, but with as gaudier a jewel as possible. I think because you do not see the end of the shirt cuff, and as such the cufflink, all the time it gives licence to be ostentatious. After all if you are not going to have fun with your cufflinks, why wear them at all? Buttons are certainly easier to fasten and a lot less fuss when you want to roll your shirt sleeves up. Incidentally, while I’m on the subject, always roll your shirt sleeves up if warm, never ever wear a short sleeve shirt and tie. To be honest if you ever take off your suit jacket, rolling up your sleeves is a good idea. The jacket is made to be worn at all times, not removed when the central heating is too high; if you must remove it, rolling the sleeves kind of embraces the casualness.

Now back to cufflinks: for my own personal taste I avoid any cufflinks with words, logos, or god forbid, jokes. Keep it gold, ensure the stone is large (onyx if you’re not that brave), and pop ‘em with pride.

Michael-Caine-in-Get-Carter_front-big-cufflinks_for-Inspired-by-blogMichael Caine in Get Carter, 1971

Meet Amber and Christopher at Puttin' on the Glitz - Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age on Friday, 28 March at the British Library - tickets here

04 March 2014

A focus on film: Spring Festival 2014 line up

I'm very happy to announce the line up of events in our third Spring Festival at the British Library. A celebration of fashion, film and design - we invite you to play in our building, explore our collections and find inspiration for your next creative project. I hope to see you there! #BLSpring 

Puttin' on the Glitz - Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age
Friday, 28 March 18.30 - 22.00

Join fashion extraordinaire Amber Jane Butchart and the ever dapper Clothes on Film blogger Christopher Laverty in this illustrated talk about the glitz and glamour of Jazz Age Hollywood. Ruffled gowns, sequined hats and zoot suits - this stuff never goes out of style darlings! 

Followed by a cocktail party hosted by The Vintage Mafia - the first round of 'Prohibition Era' drinks are on us. 

British Library Images Online


Hanif Kureishi - My Beautiful Film Career
Saturday, 29 March 13.30 - 18.00

Double bill of acclaimed screenwriter Hanif Kureishi's  My Beautiful Laundrette and Le Week-End. In between screenings Kureishi will talk about his work with fellow writer Rachel Holmes. Plus you get an exclusive viewing of material from his personal archive, acquired by the Library this year. 



History Relived - Storytelling Worshop
Monday, 31 March 10.00 - 16.00 

Twitter in the 1890s - what would it look like? What events would people tweet about? Find inspiration in our massive British Newspaper Archive - over six million digitised, searchable pages you can play with. Create characters, bring them to life and share your stories on social media. Hosted by our friends Sheffield Doc/Fest and Crossover Labs

Above - Illustrated Police News, 1892 - The British Newspaper Archive

Inspiring Filmmakers with Tony Grisoni
Monday, 31 March 18.30 - 20.30 

Whether you're looking for inspiration or on a fact-finding mission for your film project - there's something for you in the Library. Award-winning screenwriter and director Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Kingsland #1, Southcliffe) and art department researcher Celia Barnett (Harry Potter, Quantum of Solace, Gosford Park) talk about how they've used the Library to do research - joined by production designer Tony Noble (Moon).

Followed by Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival screenings - including the winning entry of our short film competition inspired by British accents and dialects. Co-hosted by Cinema Jam. 



Inspired by... vinyl records
Monday, 31 March 18.30 - 20.00

Our vinyl collection is enormous. It's also largely unknown and we want to change that. Our curator of popular music Andy Linehan looks at the history of vinyl and digs into the archive to bring you cool record sleeve art and unique album titles including some rare bootleg records.  A perfect event for graphic designers and music lovers.

"If ever there's a nuclear war, I'm coming here with a portable record deck." - Radio presenter Tom Ravenscroft.  


Protecting the big picture

Thursday, 27 March  10.00 - 12.00

Intellectual property can be a boring subject but an understanding of it is absolutely vital for anyone producing creative works - whether it's film, fashion or design. This is a practical and informative event where you can ask questions to a panel of  IP specialists. In partnership with ACID, Anti Copying in Design


Book tickets here. Press release here

03 March 2014

Inspired by... The Folio Society's illustrated books

I judge a book by its cover.

As a lover of typography and illustration, I'm always drawn to books like those published by our friends at The Folio Society. Their production team work very closely with illustrators to produce high quality, collectible books. Here are my highlights from their 2014 catalogue.

Finnegans Wake – John Vernon Lord
There is a nice section about the notebooks and sketches that go towards the completion of his illustrations here.

Finnegans Wake_John Vernon Lord_2  Finnegans Wake_John Vernon Lord

Life, the Universe and Everything – Jonathan Burton
Jonathan has illustrated all three titles The Folio Society have published so far in Douglas Adams’s trilogy. He also illustrated Cover Her Face and previously designed a set of playing cards for which he won Silver Medal for these at the Society of Illustration in New York. 

Life, the Universe and Everything_2   Life, the Universe and Everything

Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas – Jillian Tamaki
Jillian also illustrated The Folio Society's edition of Goblin Market.

Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas   Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas_2

Day of the Jackal – Tatsuro Kiuchi
Tatsuro also illustrated The Sea, The Sea for Folio as well as designing the cover of their current catalogue.

The Day of the Jackal_2

The Day of the Jackal

Jane Eyre – Santiago Caruso
This is the first edition that Santiago has illustrated for Folio. You can see his rough drafts and notes here.

Jane Eyre_Santiago Caruso_2

Jane Eyre_Santiago Caruso

Check out The Folio Prize Fiction Festival 8-9 March 2014 at the British Library. For the first time we're hosting readings in our beautiful Rare Books & Manuscripts Reading Room - this is a real treat and I highly recommend it! Readings and talks by Michael Chabon, Ali Smith, Sergio De La Pava and many more.