Living Knowledge blog

2 posts from May 2018

16 May 2018

UK Research and Innovation launched at the British Library

UKRI-blog-pic1-smaller‘Here at the British Library, we believe research and innovation are vital, not only for the health of economy, but for the life of everyone in society. It is a thought that this very building is shaped around’ – these were the Library’s Chief Executive Roly Keating’s opening words as he welcomed colleagues, Government Ministers and numerous guests to the launch of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a new UK public body bringing together seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK.

Short speeches from Sir John Kingman, Chair of UKRI, and Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UKRI, marked the start of this new public body, charged by the Government with an ambition for the UK to become the most innovative country in the world, and ensure that new ideas and technologies address the complex challenges facing our society.

Photo 14-05-2018  18 12 42  Photo 14-05-2018  18 20 31Above: Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; Sam Gyimah MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation.

Top: at the UKRI launch at the British Library, Monday 14 May. L-R: UKRI Chair Sir John Kingman; UKRI Executive Champion for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Professor Jennifer Rubin; British Library CEO, Roly Keating; Greg Clark MP; UKRI CEO, Sir Mark Walport.

The Right Hon Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, confirmed the Government’s support, including a commitment to increase the UK’s investment in research and development to 2.4% of GDP by 2027, raising it in the future to 3%. Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Sam Gyimah MP, further stressed the high expectations that UKRI will underpin the UK’s ambition to become a global hub of high-tech, research-led businesses.

The speeches were rounded off by Professor Jennifer Rubin, Executive Chair of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), who expanded UKRI’s objectives to understand not only technologies, but human behaviours and social context behind current global challenges. She also stressed importance of developing better research skills on all levels, enabling use of new types of data, encouraging creativity, as well as much greater diversity across the research ecosystem.

Claire-breayDr Claire Breay, who curated the Library's 2015 blockbuster exhibition Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy, which was underpinned by the findings of AHRC-funded research.

Dr Claire Breay, the Library’s Head of Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts, represented research funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) by showcasing research done in collaboration with the University of East Anglia to support the Library’s 2015 Magna Carta exhibition and the 800th anniversary celebrations. This was also an opportunity to show the British Library’s work as itself an Independent Research Organisation, and emphasise the importance of research within cultural organisations.

UKRI-blog-pics3Roly Keating, CEO of the British Library: "Research and innovation are vital, not only for the health of economy, but for the life of everyone in society." 

All speakers generously acknowledged how the British Library location was perfect for the UKRI launch in more ways than one. Greg Clark MP said that the Library, together with The Francis Crick Institute, provides an immediate symbol of UK research for international visitors arriving to St Pancras station into London’s Knowledge Quarter, saying that visitors who get off the Eurostar will quickly see the strength of the institutions we have established here, expanding influence to all generations across all dimensions of creativity.


Sir Mark Walport emphasised the digital and data challenges that face our society and economy, and which are central to the research of the Alan Turing Institute and the British Library. As Chief Executive of UKRI he has set a vision of an open research system that is about ensuring better access and more innovative research that will benefit everyone across aspects of society. The British Library looks forward to continuing to work with UKRI and its partners over the next few years.

Maja Maricevic

Head of Higher Education


Further information about UKRI can be found on their website and in their new Strategic Prospectus: Building the UKRI Strategy.

14 May 2018

Snozzcumbers in Norwich: Quentin Blake’s Roald Dahl portraits on tour

Isabelle King

Quentin Blake’s centenary portraits of some of Roald Dahl’s most memorable characters are currently on display at Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library

I’m delighted to be the Children’s Author in Residence for the duration of this fantastic exhibition: not only has it created the perfect excuse for me to use words like ‘whizpopping’ and ‘snozzcumbers’ in public speeches and on British Library blogs but it’s also been a wonderful way to take part in community events with the Library and engage with readers, writers and families.

Roald Dahl inspired me, as he inspired so many children, to discover a joy for literature. The way he conjured quirky characters with a mischievous humour and terrific sense of fun made for very exciting reading. Seeing his imagination brought to life by Quentin Blake in such unique and astonishing illustrations gave me a real sense that stories can breathe beyond the page. 

Blake’s 10 new portraits are displayed at the front of Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library - a world of imagination to welcome you inside. It’s been brilliant to see people’s reactions to the pictures which seem to provoke discussions as to ‘which is your favourite?’ Some prefer the enigmatic intrigue of a villain, the terrifying Grand High Witch and (hilariously grumpy) Miss Trunchbull, others prefer the endearing charm of a plucky protagonist such as Danny and his Dad or Sophie and the BFG. 

My personal favourite is Matilda, I love her look of triumph as she sits on top of the pile of books, a reminder that stories empower us. To celebrate the portraits I’ve worked with the Library to organise interactive events. This has included hosting one of my Books Talk Back events, literary events which support and showcase new writing. I have had the pleasure of running four Books Talk Back events at the British Library, featuring the Writers in Residence at the Eccles Centre for American Studies as guest authors, which have included Tracy Chevalier and Naomi Wood. 

I love the way that books bring people together and I created these events to make information about writing accessible to everyone with an interest. At each event, we share insight and ideas about getting started as a writer. Books Talk Back is now my Prince’s Trust supported enterprise through which I run creative writing workshops in schools, encouraging children to write stories of their own. We also explore storytelling through illustration and the Quentin Blake pictures are the perfect inspiration to spark a story. 

The residency happily coincides with the release of my new children’s book Once Upon A Time in Norfolk. Norfolk has a wealth of fascinating history and I wanted to capture that through imaginative storytelling. Endorsed by Norfolk Museums Service the book consists of eight fictional short stories which combine local history with imagination and fun. 

The book launch took place at Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library on 12 May, where we made snap dragons inspired by the ones you can see at Norwich Castle, featured in Once Upon A Time in Norfolk. I’ve also teamed up with Norfolk Heritage Centre to run family events bringing their archives to life through storytelling. Most recently, this included ‘spinning a yarn’ inspired by weaving objects from Norfolk museum, Strangers’ Hall, featured in my book.

The Quentin Blake portraits have provided a wonderful opportunity to bring people together in so many creative and exciting ways. You have until early June to come and see them for yourself - they make for a phiz-whizzing visit!

Isabelle King

Children’s Author in Residence

Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library

Isabelle’s website