Thursday, 7 December 2017

Books Unlocked Christmas 2017


"This year we wanted to focus on how people celebrate Christmas in other countries and get some interesting insights about Christmas traditions and celebrations. More than two billion people celebrate Christmas every year with traditions going further than decorating a Christmas tree or leaving treats out for Santa.

In many European places the festivities begin on the 6th of December with St Nicholas day. In Italy, they exchange presents  on January 6th which is the day of Epiphany. For Christians who live in India, fir trees are not common, they decorate mango trees instead. In Australia due to the weather, Father Christmas swaps his reindeer for ‘six white boomers’ or kangaroos. 

A Christmas tree has been made up on the 1st floor of Bedford Campus Library where you are encouraged to come along and share with us on a note, your own traditions." 

Christmas Tree to add your own tradition
Bedford Library

Teaching Practice Items for Christmas

Luton Library

Aylesbury LRC

Aylesbury Christmas Tree

Friday, 1 December 2017

2017: Waterstones Books of the Year

The full Waterstones Book of the Year shortlist:

  • Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo
  • A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge
  • The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris
  • La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One by Philip Pullman
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
  • Mr Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense by Jenny Uglow
  • Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: A Brief History of Capitalismby Yanis Varoufakis

How many have you read?

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Books Unlocked November 2017 - Gothic Novels

Gothic Fiction
The Gothic genre has been around since the 18th Century although it has been resurrected in the 21st Century with books such as Twilight.  Gothic Fiction delves into the depths of humanity, where the presence of the horrible and the macabre represent ‘the dark side’ of human nature which is portrayed with novels such as Frankenstein and Dracula.  The supernatural monsters are often what people think of when they consider gothic texts.

Please enjoy our Gothic displays in the Libraries this month and feel free to take out anything that interests you.

Bedford Library
Bedford Library

Bedford Library

Bedford Library - Not quite Gothic!
Aylesbury Library

Aylesbury Library

Aylesbury Library
Luton Library

Luton Library

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Books Unlocked October 2017 - Black History Month

Who is Zadie Smith?

Novelist Zadie Smith was born in North London in 1975 to an English father and a Jamaican mother.  She studied English at Cambridge, graduating in 1997.  Her celebrated first novel, White Teeth (2000), published when Smith was only 24, examines amongst many other topics, cultural identity, history, faith, and future.  Her novel won several awards and prizes, has been translated into over twenty languages and adapted for television broadcast.  The same for my personal favourite, Smith’s novel NW (2012) which was also adapted for broadcast in 2016. The setting for Smith’s novels are the suburbs of North-West London: Harlesden, Neasden, Kilburn, Wembley and in particular, Willesden.  Her books resonate with me not only because this is where I grew up, but because she reflects both sides of “my” London in her literature. A pulsing, effervescent city, full of life and opportunity against the tension between the have and have nots.
Among a plethora of accolades, Smith was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2002 and was listed as one of Granta's 20 Best Young British Novelists in 2003 and again in 2013.
An essayist, and short story writer, Zadie Smith’s novels are definitely worth reading! A sample of her work include White Teeth (2000), The Autograph Man (2002), On Beauty (2005), NW (2012) and Swing Time (2016).  We eagerly await The Fraud set to be published in 2019!

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Books Unlocked October 2017 - Black History Month Mary Prince

Who was 

Mary Prince – the first Black woman to write an autobiography, entitled “The History of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave”.  Prince also became the first woman to present an Anti-Slavery petition to parliament!

Her book, published during the Abolition movement in February 1831, brought to the attention of otherwise unknowing British readers, the horrors and misery of slave life on a plantation.  Her story echoed that of hundreds of thousands of slaves who had been subject to incomprehensible abuse and hardship at the hands of cruel slave masters.  At the time, readers found Prince’s account of the relentless violence too extreme to be believable.
Her harrowing description contributed to the emancipation of British slaves after the passing of the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833.
Prince chillingly recalls one of the many beatings she received from a brutal and sadistic Mr Wood - this time for marrying without permission: “She [Mrs Woods] could not forgive me for getting married, but stirred up Mr. Wood to flog me dreadfully with the horsewhip.  I thought it very hard to be whipped at my time of life for getting a husband…
Prince explains how she suffered with rheumatism, and when unable to work, was subject to the most unimaginable torture, locked in a cage and left to die.  On several occasions, Prince begged for another to buy her freedom, but Wood would not grant her this wish, as he knew, when healthy, Prince worked tirelessly.    
Around 1828, Prince was taken to London but continued to suffer ill-health - unfortunately, the belief that British air would appease her aching limbs proved only to be a myth!  However, London would eventually enable liberty as the British legal system ceased to support slavery.  Prince was able to escape ownership and persistent persecution!
She absconded to a church in Hatton Garden, finally taking refuge at the Anti-Slave Society, based in East London.
Prince ensured her freedom and used it to campaign against slavery.
Her narrative is truly distressing but a must-read to encourage appreciation of the struggle faced by Black people during the slave trade.

In October 2007 a commemorative plaque was mounted near Bloomsbury in London.

Books Unlocked October 2017 - Black History Month

Black History Month at Bedford Library

Friday, 6 October 2017

Books Unlocked October 2017 - Black History Month

There is also a display at Aylesbury to celebrate Black History Month

Books Unlocked October 2017 - Black History Month



“Poems come from your more secret mind. A poem will want to ask deeper questions, higher questions, more puzzling questions, and often too, more satisfying questions than the
everyday obvious questions...” James Berry (1924-2017)

James Berry, OBE was one of the best loved and most taught poets in Britain.  Not only one of the first Black poets to achieve wider recognition for his work, Mr Berry was winner of the 1981 National Poetry Competition with his entry ‘Fantasy of an African Boy’.  His collections of poetry and stories are notorious for the use of both West-Indian dialect and standard English language.  This was significant in relating the crossing of cultures to a wide range of readers and synonymous with the experiences of his West-Indian counterparts.
In his teenage years, Mr Berry saw no future in Jamaica, so left for the US where he worked for four years as a contract labourer on farms and in factories.  In June 1948 a friend decided to travel to the UK to seek work and it was then Berry articulated “The next ship, I’ll be on it”.  In June 1948, he was among the first in a post-war wave of West-Indian emigration arriving at Tilbury Dock aboard the SS Empire Windrush after an 8000-mile journey from the Caribbean to London.  Mr Berry relates his experience aboard the SS Empire Windrush in his poem To Travel This Ship.

To Travel this Ship

To travel this ship, man
I gladly strip mi name
of a one-cow, two-goat an a boar pig
an sell the land piece mi father lef
to be on this ship and to be a debtor.
Man, jus fa diffrun days
I woulda sell, borrow or thief
jus fa diffrun sunrise an sundown
in annodda place wid odda ways.
To travel this ship, man
I woulda hurt, I woulda cheat or lie,
I strip mi yard, mi friend and cousin-them To get this yah ship ride.
Man – I woulda sell mi modda Jus hopin to buy her back.
Down in dat hole I was
I see this lickle luck, man,
I see this lickle light.
Man, Jamaica is a place
Where generations them start out Havin notn, earnin notn,
And – dead – leavin notn.
I did wake up every mornin and find notn change.
Children them shame to go to school barefoot.
Only a penny to buy lunch.
Man, I have follow this lickle light for change.
I a-follow it, man!

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Books Unlocked October 2017 - Black History Month

In celebration of Black History month we hope you enjoy the displays at Bedford and Luton Libraries.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Books Unlocked - Black History Month

This October, Britain celebrates 30 years of Black History Month.

There is still debate as to whether Black history can be relegated to one month.  Morgan Freeman declared, “I don’t want a Black History month…Black history is American history.”[1] The same can be said of the UK – Black people have been present here for centuries.  Records show small numbers of Black people residing in the UK during the 12th century but with the expansion of the British empire in the 17th and 18th centuries, these numbers increased.  Blacks were enslaved and exploited, while a small handful enjoyed privilege and status.  So, I understand Freeman’s point - Black history is British history, Black history is American history, Black history is world history.  However, there is still a distinct lack of Black History integrated and taught within the National Curriculum.  Where Black history does manage to seep through into formal education, how much highlights and celebrates black pioneers?

Black History month was founded in the UK in October 1987.  The month serves to highlight the achievements and contributions of Black people throughout history and those that strive to shape our society in present day.  With the rise of racial attacks and white supremacists particularly in America, Black History is relevant now more than ever. Check for a plethora of information.

The University of Bedfordshire library would like to celebrate Black History Month.  There will be a display on level 1 highlighting Black pioneers and historical figures, and a selection of literature by Black writers.  Our blog posts will be updated regularly too!

What are your thoughts on Black History Month?  What does it mean to you?  What Black figures inspire you?  In your opinion, is BHM even relevant?

[1] (rickey2b4, April 2009. Morgan Freeman on Black History Month [video online] Available at: [Accessed 02 October 2017]

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Books Unlocked - Bringing Books to Life

Bringing books to life -

Books that have been made into movies

Many books have been made into movies and the different mediums can bring life to the story in different ways. We have put together a selection of titles in book and movie format to encourage you to explore these differences. 

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Books Unlocked - Bringing Books to Life

Bringing books to life -

Books that have been made into movies

Many books have been made into movies and the different mediums can bring life to the story in different ways. We have put together a selection of titles in book and movie format to encourage you to explore these differences. We hope that you enjoy our selection.