Living Knowledge blog

4 posts from October 2020

23 October 2020

British Library at London Fashion Week 2020

How can the UK’s national collections enhance fashion education and business? The Library’s continuing partnership with the British Fashion Council is highlighting just that.

In a recent collaboration for this year’s digital London Fashion Week, designer Nabil Nayal and fashion journalist Sarah Mower MBE filmed The British Library Conversation, and reflected on change in the fashion industry and education and the need for a deeper and more authentic research process underpinning fashion ideas and businesses. Filmed at the Library, they discussed the importance of sustainability and diversity in fashion practice and the importance of using national collections like those of the British Library to underpin creative and change processes.

A woman wearing a garment based on painting.

Like many other industries fashion has been severely disrupted by COVID-19 whilst also facing an urgent need to address issues highlighted by Black Lives Matter and the increasing speed of climate change. It was in this spirit of change that we approached this year’s Fashion Week, working again with Nabil, who showcased his Spring/Summer 2019 collection at the British Library in September 2018.

A woman wearing a garment based on illumination from a book of hours

Having forged his links with the British Library while working on his PhD focusing on Elizabethan fashion, Nabil discussed the changes he is now making as a Course Leader for MA Fashion Design Technology: Womenswear at the London College of Fashion. He also reflected on his personal and creative journey and in particular how the British Library’s Syrian collections and his conversations with Daniel Lowe, Curator of Arabic Collections, helped him to embrace his own heritage in his fashion practice.

A woman wearing a garment based on a manuscript.

The Library’s participation in London Fashion Week was also an opportunity to announce that we will continue to hold the BL x BFC Student Fashion Competition, this time around to be held fully online. The competition will be launched later this autumn and will be supported by a series of online masterclasses featuring a UK fashion designers and experts, Library staff, students, journalists and influencers addressing key topics affecting the fashion industry.

You can catch up on The British Library Conversation: Fashion Disrupted with Nabil Nayal and Sarah Mower MBE on the LFW catch up channel or on YouTube.

You can find out more about the BL x BFC Student Fashion Competition at

Article by Maja Maricevic

07 October 2020

Something for curious minds, wherever you are

Stephen Fry talking to Shappi Khorsandi
Stephen Fry talking to Shappi Khorsandi

When we closed our doors in March it wasn’t just our Reading Rooms and galleries that fell silent. Our events and courses were put on pause too. But now we’re back, reimagined for the world we live in at the moment.

Our first season of digital events has kicked off with inspiring speakers and world-class talent streamed straight to your living room. And a brand new programme of online courses starts in October, with a vibrant range of subjects and new formats so you can study wherever suits you.

But how do you make a busy season of events and courses work online?

“By watching, listening and learning from the online events happening every day.” says Adult Courses Manager Katy Jackson, “We wanted to take a moment to reflect on the courses programme and develop something new. We’re really excited to be able to beam expert tutors into homes all around the world with our autumn programme.”

Monks studying texts

We have two types of online courses. Learn Live courses are 90 minute sessions with expert tutors and just 35 participants, and they’ve been designed to work well together, so you can take as many Learn Live courses as you like. There are also study mornings (or afternoons!) where you can kick back and soak up the knowledge with three expert speakers. All the sessions have opportunity for Q&As with the tutors, so you can delve even deeper.

“I’m working with tutors I’ve known for a long time and welcoming some brand new ones to the Library, who have all been dynamic and adaptable with the new programme.” says Katy. “We’re also working with StageText so all the sessions will be captioned. We’re keeping the cost down too – our Study sessions will be £10 and you can Learn Live for £20.”

And our events programme is also making the most of being virtual this season by streaming from exciting new locations around the country. Last month we were in Dorset to join Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at River Cottage, we visited the beautiful Union Chapel in North London for Stephen Fry in conversation and we’ll close the Food Season with another cakescapade to Tom Kerridge’s pub The Hand and Flowers.

“It’s been a real treat to take the cultural events season on the road, as well as being able to discuss these essential, timely food topics with a wider audience online. We’ve had people join our events from all over the world, which wouldn’t have been possible before. We may not have the bright lights of the theatre or the buzz of a crowd but it’s felt fantastic to tell the stories of the Library to audiences again. Especially as we all need a bit of escapism right now.” Jon Fawcett, Head of Events.

What’s more, if you book a ticket to one of our online events, you can also watch it back for 48 hours after it’s happened. So you’ve got more flexibility to tune in when it works for you.

Screenshots of online events.

So grab a front row seat for upcoming online events or pick up your pencil and book for an online course.

As part of the gradual reopening of our spaces we’re also able to welcome you back for a beginners or intermediate bookbinding course on site. We’ve made some changes to keep everyone safe, like small class sizes, enhanced classroom and equipment cleans, and everyone wears a face covering. Find out more and book your place.

We’re really looking forward to seeing you soon, wherever you are.

06 October 2020

Our role in renewal: Living Knowledge For Everyone

British-Library-Re-Opens_174-smaller.jpgToday we publish a new document, called Living Knowledge For Everyone, that sets out the contribution we will make to the urgent task of renewal in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

The hard work of planning and implementing the safe restoration of our spaces and services in the face of the pandemic has been our priority since lockdown. We have been delighted to welcome back readers and exhibition visitors to the Library in recent months, albeit with the necessary restrictions. And we are innovating vibrant new digital offers to ensure that throughout lockdown and subsequent social distancing restrictions, users across the UK are able to engage with and benefit from the extraordinary national collection as much as possible.

British-Library-Re-Opens_148-smaller.jpgThe Library's first Reading Rooms re-opened to researchers on 22 July. 

But we have also been working hard on the vital question of how and where the Library can deliver the most public value in the months and years ahead, in a time of national crisis. The launch today of our new Reset.Restart service for entrepreneurs and small businesses across the country, delivered through our Business & IP Centre national network, is one example. It’s an urgent response to the immediate challenges being faced by one of the Library’s key user groups – and who are a key engine of future economic recovery.

Likewise, the Treasury-funded expansion of the national network to 20 regional centres (outside of London) and 90 local centres in libraries across England (in addition to an existing service in Glasgow) over the next three years offers a unique opportunity to provide support at scale to those working at the coalface to restart the UK economy.

Our planned investments, in Yorkshire and St Pancras, in major new physical infrastructure offer further strategic opportunities to catalyse economic growth: transforming access to our collections and services and securing employment opportunities in the North of England, while attracting global inward investment in biomedical research, data sciences, and learning, in the heart of London’s Knowledge Quarter.

But economic growth and innovation is only one part of our response for renewal. We also believe that social cohesion, in the face of the pandemic trauma, will be vital. We are fortunate to work with wide, diverse networks of partners across the library, culture, and research sectors who generate tremendous benefits for people and communities across the country. A key objective of our plans for the coming months and years will be to strengthen the infrastructure we provide to these networks as they respond to the current challenges, while at the same time opening up our content, services and spaces to more people and communities across the UK and beyond.

The vision, strategy and purposes set out five years ago in Living Knowledge remain our guiding light in the run-up to our 50th birthday in 2023, and what we’re publishing today is not a replacement.  Rather, it’s a commitment to re-double our efforts in delivering on some of our existing ambitions – like business support, science and innovation, regional impact, and inclusion and diversity – at a time when the UK has never needed them more. 

Roly Keating

Chief Executive