Knowledge Matters blog

19 May 2017

Celebrating Bengali New Year at the British Library


Saturday 29 April saw the British Library host a celebration of Bengali New Year in the Knowledge Centre with 200 people from the local community.

The Library teamed up with Age UK Camden to put on the event which included presentations, talks with curators, a pop-up exhibition celebrating Bangla films of the 1940s, traditional Bengali food, live music and dance.


Camden Councillor Samata Khatoon (pictured, above) kicked off the day’s activities with a speech about the importance of Bengali New Year and the Library’s involvement in this year’s celebrations.

Layli Uddin, project curator of Two Centuries of Indian Print, gave a presentation on the Library’s Bengali collections, which was followed by curator Jody Butterworth presenting on the Endangered Archives Programme.

The event included the launch of a new pop-up travelling exhibition which celebrates 1940s Bangla films and includes key items from the Library’s collection. The exhibition, which also includes artwork by Age UK Camden as well as the Mother and Toddler Group from Edith Neville Primary School, is now touring venues in the Somers Town community. Its first stop is Regent High School and another four venues have requested to host it.


Guests enjoyed a Bengali-inspired lunch in the Knowledge Centre Bar and went out of their way to praise the traditional dishes on offer for their authentic flavours.

The afternoon’s activities included classical Indian dance by Priyanka Basu (pictured, top), who works cataloguing Bengali books for the Two Centuries of Indian Print project. Priyanka holds a PhD from the Department of the Languages and Cultures of South Asia, SOAS London for her thesis on Bengali Kobigan: Performers, Histories, and the Cultural Politics of ’Folk'.


Renowned Indian-Bangladeshi singer Sahana Bajpaie performed live as part of the group Sahana Bajpaie and Friends. The group included the oud (Syrian lute), Indian percussion and a keyboard in their lively set. The combination of the music and dance really brought the celebration to life.

The closing speech came from local community leader Barbara Hughes MBE, former Mayor of Camden and trustee of Age UK Camden.


We were really pleased that so many local people came to this event – and for many of them it wast their first ever visit to the British Library. It was fantastic to have our experts presenting to local people and sharing the Library’s knowledge. We’re confident that people will have left knowing quite a lot more about what goes on here,  and hopefully the travelling exhibition will inspire people to get in touch with us too.

Emma Morgan & Amber Perrier

Community Engagement Manager and Community Engagement Trainee


Find out more about the work of the Library's Community Engagement team by following @BL_Local