Tag Archives: London

Why everybody should read Neil Gaiman

I used to hate London.

An odd way to introduce Neil Gaiman, you might think, but it’s true – the noise of the crowds, the smell, that particular level of physical and social discomfort that can only be found on a packed tube, everything about the place seemed hateful and dark. Throughout childhood and adolescence I could find nothing positive to say about that great sprawling city, nothing that cast it in a more pleasing light… and then I read Neverwhere.

Where before there had been only urban sprawl and smoke, I could now see the magic that animated it, hear the secrets whispered behind it. Empty tube trains moved through silent, shifting tunnels, connected by stations named after major arcana in an obscure hidden Tarot. Rats and the cults that serve them conducted arcane business in a shadow London ruled over by figures both familiar and deeply alien. Mystical London is not a unique concept, and Neil Gaiman was neither the first nor the last to write about it, but in my opinion he is the most successful, his vision of London Below simultaneously simple and charged with energy. Through his writing I was finally able to see a different London, a London transformed by hidden meaning into a place of magic, and it’s still his London Below that I see every time I take a tube, or walk past a piece of obscure graffiti, or catch a pigeon staring at me from the corner of my eye.

Like his literary heroes Michael Moorcock and Alan Moore, Gaiman’s great strength is to shine a light just behind the surfaces of our mundane world, and allow us to see beneath. He spent his childhood devouring mythology, fantasy and science-fiction, but rather than simply regurgitate them in familiar shapes he’s processed them into something simultaneously more mundane and more profound. He takes us to places we have seen a hundred times before, and shows us the danger and beauty we had never thought to see in them. In his stories, a conversation over a cup of tea can have repercussions that change the nature of reality, mundane daily items and places are charged with occult significance beyond a thousand Holy Grails. He pulls the mask away from life and reveals that it’s every bit as strange as we’ve always secretly hoped.

It has been said that the finest achievement any writer can aim for is to write something that is never forgotten – I have no doubt that my favourite passages of Neil Gaiman will stay with me until I die. The Angel Islington singing to himself in an empty room. The narrator of Murder Mystery piecing together those last broken fragments of memory, in the presence of a being beyond his ability to ever understand. Shadow finally realising who his old cell-mate was, in a piece of word-play so subtle that we’re applauding Gaiman for tricking us at the same time as wandering how we didn’t notice. The entirety of Snow, Glass, Apples, which will forever change a classic story beyond recognition in the mind of anyone who reads it. These moments – and the many equally powerful ones that can be found throughout American Gods, Anansi Boys, his short-fiction and the towering, genre-changing masterpiece of his Sandman comic series – combine comedy, beauty and genuine horror in a way that the greatest stories always have.

Put simply, and with great risk of hyperbole, Neil Gaiman is one of the best Fantasy writers of his generation, and the strengths of his writing are precisely the reason why Fantasy should be liberated from those who would turn it into a ghetto for Elves and Dwarves so that the approved fiction can glory in some other name. Like all true Fantasy, Gaiman’s stories are about humans, that strange synthesis of the animal and the divine who stands at the threshold of eternity and complains about the weather. Even the most mundane of his stories are ablaze with real magic, the magic which can be found in a discarded wrapper or comfortable living-room as readily as in a ruined castle – the magic which, at its core, is a reflection of the people who observe it. Allow yourself to see the world through the filter these stories provides, and you’ll see a world which is more frightening, more beautiful but, ultimately, only more human.

SLG London and SE – January Social!

Don’t miss our visit to the British Library’s exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imaginationhttp://www.bl.uk/events/terror-and-wonder–the-gothic-imagination
followed by our Winter Social in the function room at the nearby Central Station pub.

On Saturday 17th January – ALL WELCOME!

See the exhibition (which ends 20th January) at a special discounted price and then join us for a drink and networking.

Meet in the British Library foyer at 3.15pm for entry to the exhibition at 3.30pm
Exhibition closes at 5.00pm
when we will adjourn to the pub 5.30-9.00pm

Exhibition £9 per person
Social £5 per person including one FREE drink and ticket for prize draw!

Food and more drinks available to purchase.

BOOKING IS ESSENTIAL!

 To book contact Amanda Ball

email: amanda.ball@portland-place.co.uk
or phone 0207 307 8700

See you there!

A Year In The Life Of A Committee Member.

Post written by Barbara Ferramosca

“What don’t we do?” This is the answer that I have recently given to a person enquiring about the work that we do at the CILIP School Libraries Group committee for London and the South East.

Writing this blog piece has been a very interesting exercise as it gave me the opportunity to take myself out of the usual flow of work and really take a look at what we have done, frankly, in awe and pride.

I am a solo librarian at an inner-London secondary school and, as many of you already know, this is a job that keeps you busy, busy, busy! I absolutely love my job and I wouldn’t exchange it for anything in the world: however, there was a moment a couple of years ago when I realised that I wanted a little bit more of a challenge. I felt that I reached a good point with my service, I had developed the skills to make it move forward but I also identified some big gaps that I could not fill within the remit of my school. Although I could confidently say that the importance of my work was recognised in my school, I was and still not officially considered a head of department: this was quite an important consideration in order to keep open future career prospects in higher managerial positions. So experience in leadership, project management and working as a team came at the top of my priorities.

Something had to be done but where to start?

Volunteering for the SLG Committee came at a colleague’s suggestion and I decided to give it a try, even if I was quite unsure whether I would be up for the job. I had not been in the profession for very long and had not even started my Chartership yet!  However, I knew that I had on my side boundless enthusiasm and a willingness to learn new skills and help so I went for it and never regretted the decision.

I am pleased to say that my perception of committee meetings as a place of reverence, where established library professionals meet in an atmosphere of authority has been smashed to smithereens since the first meeting. Committee work brings together experienced professionals who have been in the job for twenty years or more with people who have join librarianship only recently. Engaging in honest discussion with people of this calibre may have sounded daunting at one time, however in the last two years I have become much more confident in presenting arguments or points of view in a way that effectively contributes to a discussion and learn from others as well.

In this atmosphere of shared experience, going to committee meetings has become an invigorating process because ultimately we are all working towards the same goal and everybody contributes with their unique perspective of the profession.

So what do we do? In a nutshell, our objective is to create both formal and more informal opportunities for school librarians to meet, keep updated with the latest developments in the field and share good practice. Our big challenge is to give all our SLG members value for money by ensuring that our courses are affordable and of the highest standards of professionalism. Unlike some other training companies, we know how difficult it is for school librarians to be sent on CPD courses and we make it our priority to make it possible!

The mind boggles a little if I think about what we have achieved in the last year alone and what we have in programme for 2015. We have recently run a whole-day course on library services impact on education attainment and currently planning a new one for next June. Between a winter social event at the pub that we have in plan for January and our fantastic annual Libmeet unconference in April, every committee member is involved in the organisation of an event and learning new skills in the mix.

We are also spreading into blog-space, as you are currently reading. We are quite excited about this blog because we wanted to create an informal yet high-quality online venue where we can discuss current issues with other professionals. This is going to give fantastic new experience to the committee members who felt that they are still struggling with Social Media, myself included.

I am really looking forward to the year ahead: with such a great team to work with, I cannot but feel that 2015 will be our best year yet!

If you are interested in joining our committee, please contact our Secretary, Sue Ayling, at the following email: AylingSM@aol.com

 

A Trip To A Forbidden Planet

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It is notoriously difficult to choose graphic novels for school libraries and so On Wednesday, 22 October, CILIP’s School Libraries Group for London and the Southeast met at Forbidden Planet (https://forbiddenplanet.com) As you may know (or may not if you’ve been living in the Batcave) Forbidden Planet is the world’s largest and best-known science fiction, fantasy and cult entertainment retailer, and the largest UK stockist of the latest comics and graphic novels. What they don’t know about the genre isn’t worth knowing.
The event was well attended by around twenty school librarians and paraprofessionals, who were able to spend the evening browsing across the many genres available at the store, get advice from the extremely knowledgeable staff and then purchase at a discount. At the end of the night the store’s Deputy Manager, Lou Ryrie, gave the librarians in attendance a talk about what manga and graphic novels were appropriate for school-aged children and made other suggestions for ideas of books that could be purchased that evening, such as Batman Year One, Maus, Case Closed and Full Metal Alchemist.
Of course it finished with everyone having tea, coffee and biscuits and exchanging contact information, etc. What would a school librarian event be without chat and biscuits!?

Forbidden Planet gives a 10% discount to all libraries. If you are interested in ordering from them, please contact Lou at manager2.london@forbiddenplanet.com, for advice and purchasing. Forbidden Planet will take a purchase order and then when payment is received will deliver to libraries free of charge. Drop them a line for advice too, they really know their stuff and can guide you through the graphic minefield!

We will be compiling some lists based on the night, so watch this space for that info, and for news of other events.

Image credit to http://paperzip.co.uk/classroom/banners-posters/batman-returns-books

Post contributed by Amanda Ball

BETT 2015

A lot of our members have found the BETT (the British Educational Training and Technology tradeshow) incredibly useful, and tickets are now available for 2015. The event is held at the ExCell in London’s Docklands from 21st – 24th January 2015

The organisers describe the event as…

Bett is the world’s leading technology event that brings together innovation and inspiration to the education sector. The event attracts +35,000 professionals within the industry and has been celebrated for over 30 years. 

There’s no better place to meet your peers and discover latest technologies than Bett 2015. 

Register for 2015 and: 

  • Be first to see inspirational new solutions and launches
  • Learn what 2015 has in store with unmissable seminars
  • Network, share your ideas and keep up to date with the industry
  • Gain insights through inspirational speakers in workshops and seminars”

The event also hosts the School Leaders Summit which is described as…

The education space is one which is constantly evolving, and every school in the UK is thinking about how it can deal with these changes. From the new Ofsted framework and shifts in assessment to the National Curriculum and academy conversion, the goal posts are shifting and it can be impossible to keep up. School management teams are finding themselves faced with a fluctuating environment they are under pressure to adapt to and prepare for – the School Leaders Summit aims to provide guidance and insight to help deal with these issues. 

Read more: http://www.bettshow.com/Content/School-Leaders-Summit-Guidance-in-school-leadership#ixzz3G2C5nSsb

Read more about the event here: http://www.bettshow.com/Content/Why-visit-Bett-2015/#ixzz3G2Bryx5Y

Register to visit the event here. BETT Registration.