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Exploring London as an #urbanread character

April 9, 2014
St Paul’s Cathedral from under the Millennium Bridge – by Sue Apple

St Paul’s Cathedral from under the Millennium Bridge – by Sue Apple

London Pride has been handed down to us – Noel Coward

The Shard & the Gerkin, reach for the future with their foundations sunk in the past. The city is layer on layer. London’s Guildhall stands beside London’s Roman amphitheatre.

Famous Landmarks were remade for the millennium. Find out about Norman Foster and the British Museumby Sudjic, Deyan.  Buildings left for dead have been reborn. Read how Bankside Power station became Tate Modern in Power into art by Sabbagh, Karl

A London architect becomes a fictional character. Ernő Goldfinger had his surname taken to become of James Bond’s adversaries the villain Goldfinger in Goldfinger by Ian Fleming  
Architect NicholasHawksmoor’s real life has been an enigma ever since he rebuilt churches after the 1666 fire. Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd

St Pauls Cathedral survives the wartime blitz protected by the ARP (Air Raid Protection) wardens in The night watch by Sarah Waters

Wharfs that once loaded tea are expensive apartments – Adam Dalglish lives in Queenhithe – the site of a dock named for Matilda, daughter of King Henry I -which he leaves reluctantly to catch killers in Hampstead in The Murder Room by PD James:

Roads have names like Houndsditch for an old ditch where dead dogs were thrown. Lanes & Alleys called Shoe, Fetter and Leather echo their past trades and were once walked by Cromwell inBring up the bodies By Hilary Mantel

London’s rivers are now mainly contained under the city. Get wet in The water room by Christopher Fowler, one of his many Bryant & May peculiar crime thrillers that burrow into London’s history and geography.

These rivers flow into the Thames whose great stink was embanked and flushed down sewers by Sir Joseph Bazalgette in Worms of Euston Square by William Sutton

The tunnels under London used by Bryant & May include the darkest recesses of the 150 year old London Underground as explored in Bryant & May off the rails by Christopher Fowler

London has been an #urbanread for years, Dickens characters fill the streets, Sherlock Holmes returns to 221b Baker Street. And new stories and alternative Londons live on for example in Neverwhere byNeil Gaiman

Sue Apple from @SurreyLibraries

today is International Tabletop Day

April 5, 2014

Today is the day to play a tabletop game and know that people around the world are playing too.

It is International Tabletop Day and many people around the world  will be playing and talking about games.  I know this happens every day, but it is special to connect the enjoyment of tabletop games in this way. Have a look at their blog for some ideas about what you might want to play.  There are some great games which you could combine as an #urbanread too.

There is an interesting article on some historic board games over at the Library of Congress blog.

April is the time for #urbanread

April 1, 2014
street graffiti - flickr image from ioBeto

street graffiti – flickr image from ioBeto

April is the month for #urbanread – books, films and games set in any environment ranging from a densely populated city, towns (even small towns)  to small villages. They may be set in any time period including the Victorian era or the distant future.  The city itself may become a character, such as in books about urban places.

 Consider reading author Ian Rankin or watch the My Place series by Nadia Wheatley to explore this.  You may like to read urban fantasy, featuring magic and strange creatures,  a great example is American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and make sure you include some Chuck Wendig too, with Dinocalypse now and Blue blazes, not to mention Cassandra Clare.

This is the month to go local. Read something set in your local area-your place, where you recognise the landmarks, cafes, sights, maybe even the vibe of the town re-created in the setting of the books. Plan some urban travels to compliment your #urbanread.  If you want some factual information about your environment, start your research in the local studies section of your local library. Incidentally, this  is also a good place to find something to read by a local author.  You may like to read further afield, for example, about slums, such as described in Slum Dog Millionaire. You  might enjoy reading about  buildings, urban planning or architecture.

Sustainability in our environment is another  hot topic. In both fact and fiction there’s lots to read, watch and learn about. Choose something to read from the selection of Goodreads Sustainability book lists. Watch a movie, anything from Happy Feet or  Wall- E to documentaries such as An inconvenient truth.

What about crime, including true crime?  Crime stories can be set in any environment, usually urban. Read about underworld figures.  Underbelly, Ripper Street, and Sherlock all present great watching for #urbanread.

While street art adorns the urban landscape, graffiti often poses the question – art or vandalism? You decide – try exploring  the issue by reading  some books celebrating the art of graffiti. You may enjoy some Graffiti in fiction.

Street literature is another upcoming genre to try.

Sometimes stories are based on an urban legend – why not scare yourself silly reading horror stories? Read something by these masters of horror – Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Edgar Allan Poe, Graham Masterton, H.P Lovecraft – they will leave you reading with the lights on. Many of these have also inspired film adaptations. Which is spookier, the book or the movie?

While you are reading, playing or watching your #urbanread, you might like to tweet about it using #urbanread #rwpchat so that other people can have a conversation with you about your #urbanread.  You can add to the discussion on Pinterest too. You might like to post your photographs to Instagram or Flickr and use #urbanread #rwpchat so others can share in your reading, watching and playing.

 There will be a twitter discussion on 29 April starting at 8.00pm Australian Eastern Standard Time.   9.00pm New Zealand  Time, 6.00pm Singapore Standard Time, 8.00am GMT, 12.00 noon Central European Summer Time.  Note : this is a staggered start to the discussion.

Use the tags #urbanread and #rwpchat as you discuss the reading, watching playing that is your experience of urbanread, so others can join in the conversation too.

#reelread discussion for #rwpchat

March 26, 2014

If you missed the discussion last night, you can catch up with it on Storify [View the story "#reelread discussion for #rwpchat" on Storify].  This discussion included many different sorts of films and reading, sewing, fishing  and much for.  Thank you to everyone who joined the discussion.  Great to see so many people involved.


Tolkien Reading Day

March 25, 2014

Today is Tolkien Reading Day.

March 25 was the day that Sauron was defeated, the One Ring destroyed, and the Gondorian New Year ushered in across Middle-Earth – so it makes the perfect day to celebrate all things Tolkien.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkein (1892 – 1973) is perhaps most famous for The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King). Thanks in no small part to the amazing cinematography of Peter Jackson’s recent films. Before the films though Tolkien had established a strong readership and following for the sheer scale and beauty and use of language (much of it elvish) in these four books.

J. R. R. Tolkien also wrote Beowulf: the monsters and the criticsThe Father Christmas Letters; Mr Bliss; Roverandom; Leaf by Niggle; The Adventures of Tom Bombadil; On Fairy Stories; Smith of Wootton Major; Farmer Giles of Ham. Following his death in 1973 his unfinished works also published (much later). They include: The Silmarrillion; Unfinished Tales; The History of Middle-earth; The Children of Hurin; The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun;  and The Fall of Arthur

I am currently rediscovering The Hobbit. What will you be reading to celebrate Tolkien Reading Day?


Join the #reelread twitter discussion tonight #rwpchat

March 25, 2014
Reel Mosaic by Flickr user Carbon Arc/ CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Reel Mosaic by Flickr user Carbon Arc/ CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 There will be a twitter discussion, tonight, 25 March starting at 8.00pm Australian Eastern Summer Time. 9.00pm New Zealand Time, 6.00pm Singapore Standard Time, 8.00am GMT, 12.00 noon Central European Time. Note: this is a staggered start to the discussion.

Use the tags #reelread and #rwpchat as you discuss the reading, watching playing that is your experience of reelread, so others can join in the conversation too.


Reel to Reel

March 20, 2014
Cotton reels from Surrey Arts Wardrobe Collection

Cotton reels from Surrey Arts Wardrobe Collection

The photo left, from Surrey Arts Wardrobe department, got me thinking about the other type of reel, the cotton reel.

Sewing is often depicted in film and books, usually as the pastime of a group of women. Now I’m not one who believes that sewing is ‘women’s work’ but in the right context there’s something comforting about female protagonists sewing and chatting. Sometimes we see sewing as a pastime, like with many of Jane Austen’s characters. Lady Bertram in Mansfield Park allows her needlepoint to distract her from her daughter’s education. In almost every adaptation of Austen’s work I’ve seen, sewing features somewhere, like in Pride and Prejudice (1995) when Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy pay an unexpected visit to Longbourn and all the sisters are sewing round the table.

For someone like Biddy in Great Expectations, sewing is a necessity. Something she has to do daily, a reflection of her standing in life, in comparison to Estella who is not mentioned sewing.

In How to Make an American Quilt (1995) Winona Ryder stars as a bride-to-be who is taught about love and relationships by the group of women making her wedding quilt. I love this representation of quilting, an expression of art and life through each carefully appliquéd square. None of the sewers are your stereotypical quilter but as you explore their lives and loves you begin to understand that no matter how different they all are, they are brought together through the cathartic process of creating a quilt.

Sewing can sometimes ease a crisis, like when Mammy sews an outfit for Tara from the curtains in Gone With the Wind. Or can help solve a mystery like in the Southern Sewing Circle Mystery series by Elizabeth Lynn Casey. Some protagonists talk about how much they hate to sew, like Laura in Little Town on the Prairie, who only carries on with her hated job of sewing shirts to help pay for her sister Mary to go to a college for the blind.

What if you don’t want to watch or read about other people sewing but just want to have a go yourself? Inspiration, help and instructions are in abundance in books like Cath Kidston’s Sew! Or try your hand at Creating Historical Clothes by Elizabeth Friendship or learn how to quilt with The Little Book of Simple Quilting.

Cotton reels are the golden thread running through so many books and films and sometimes that’s the only inspiration you need to get crafting yourself.

Holly Case from Surrey Libraries


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