Knowledge Matters blog

Behind the scenes at the British Library

21 September 2023

A fun festive challenge!

As the weather changes and we enter autumn, many of us look ahead to the festive season with some trepidation as to its many hidden costs. To combat this worry we thought we would create a fun challenge for people to make something homemade for someone they love using our collection, as a more sustainable and affordable way to celebrate the festive season.

Our collection of more than 170 million items is available for free for everyone. Our competition challenges you to dive into our collection to create a homemade festive gift.

Whatever your faith, the festive season is a precious opportunity to spend time with loved ones. So rather than splashing out on those you love why not create something to give them? The personal touch makes a gift or card so much more meaningful.


Perhaps you’re a ceramicist reading Hanif Kureshi’s The Buddha of Suburbia for the first time and you create a bowl influenced by Kureshi’s novel for your best friend. 

Or maybe you’re a dab hand at drawing and you re-imagine John Tenniel’s famous illustrations of Lewis Carroll's Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for one of your children to create a mural on their bedroom wall?

Or you might be a fashion student like Mihai Popescu researching your cultural heritage using our collection and create a dress for your mother based on what you learn.

You could begin by searching our Flickr collection 1 million copyright free images from our collection, or browse our Images Online or take inspiration from any of our collection blogs or visit our Reading rooms in London St Pancras and Boston Spa to examine any of our items. If you’re not yet a registered Reader why not become one? And you can always Ask a Librarian  and get help from our Reference Enquiry team. 


We want you to share your British Library-inspired ideas with us. The winner will receive an annual British Library joint membership (worth £120), which entitles both card holders to:

  • Free access to our paid-entry exhibitions
  • Exclusive access for you and a guest to the daytime Members’ Room, overlooking the King’s Library
  • Priority booking for events and half price tickets (Subject to availability. Limitations and restrictions apply. See terms and conditions [])
  • Listings guides sent direct so you’re always up to date with what’s on
  • 20% off in our public restaurants, cafés and shops

How to enter

Submit entries by email to [email protected] using the subject line: British Library competition entry 2023.

Please include this information:

  • Your full name
  • A description of your entry (explain what you have created and which collection item was your source of inspiration either providing an online link to it or Shelfmark from our catalogue.
  • Who it is intended for (e.g., a card or gift for your mother, friend, sibling, teacher). No need to name the individual.
  • Your contact telephone number
  • Attach photos or artwork files or your creation, no larger than 1MB per attachment.

Closing date: Friday 17 November 2023

The competition will be judged by an alumni from our BIPC programme.

A winner will be announced on Friday 8 December on our Knowledge Matters blog.

We may like to feature our winner in a post to this blog and as a story in our a future email.    

If you have any questions please contact [email protected].

We can’t wait to see your entries.