The London Library, the UK’s largest independent library, will team up with the Jhalak Prize to offer shortlisted and winning authors complimentary membership with full access to the Library’s collection of over a million books and to its extensive online resources.

For the next three years, the shortlisted authors for the Jhalak Prize and the new Jhalak Children’s & YA Prize will receive a complimentary one-year membership and the winning authors of both prizes will receive a complimentary two-year membership of The London Library.

The London Library will host a celebration of the prize for all the shortlisted authors of the Jhalak Prize and Jhalak Children’s & YA Prize for each of the three years.

The Jhalak Prize was established in 2016 to celebrate books by British and British resident writers of colour and the Jhalak Children’s & YA Prize was founded in 2020. Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi won the Jhalak Prize in 2021 for her novel The First Woman, published by Oneworld, and entries for the 2022 prizes are open until 15 December 2021.

Commenting on the partnership, London Library Trustee Yassmin Abdel-Magied says: “I’m so pleased that The London Library is partnering with the Jhalak Prize to help celebrate and support the work of British and British resident writers of colour. We are delighted to provide Jhalak prize nominees with Library membership and free access to our collection and very much look forward to welcoming such gifted writers to the Library’s writing community. I hope to meet some myself, browsing through the stacks!”.

The Jhalak Prize’s Sunny Singh comments: “We are delighted to partner with The London Library to celebrate and support writers of colour in Britain. The London Library is a uniquely writerly institution not only with its incredible collection but also its writing spaces. We can’t wait to have our winners and shortlisted authors join this incredible community.”

The 2021 London Library Christmas card is designed by the illustrator Vanessa Lovegrove. Lovegrove is a Bristol-based illustrator who worked as a children's book designer before moving on to freelance illustration. Her award-winning picture book, Mind Hug, was published in 2017, and her work expresses a genuine love of character and narrative through the use of mark-making and texture. Her festive card for the Library features the Reading Room on a winter's evening - a cosy haven for all bibliophiles.

WEB London Library Christmas Card Colour

A pack of 8 cards and envelopes costs £8, including postage within the UK mainland. They can be ordered here.

The London Library is pleased to announce a new one-year partnership with English PEN to support their work with writers at risk and in exile. Starting immediately, The London Library will offer five complimentary Library memberships, providing the writers with full access to the Library’s collection of over a million books and to its extensive online resources.

The first writer to be welcomed into London Library membership under this scheme is Awet Fissehaye, a poet, writer, and lyricist originally from Eritrea the first recipient of the National Poetry Prize for Students in 2000. Fissehaye is an Honorary Member of English PEN and a member of their sister centre, PEN Eritrea in Exile. He has lived in exile in the United Kingdom since 2016.

Awet Fissehaye commented: “After my first unforgettable visit to The London Library, I started to have a feeling that I am frequenting a temple where ideas from books are worshipped. I am a firm believer in books. For me, being offered this London Library membership in partnership with English PEN means that I will be able to access thousands of books of my interest, stretched across generations and cultures. In the past, the lack of space to write and create was the biggest challenge for me. Now, the quiet, well-equipped and well-lit reading and study rooms will offer me the convenience to focus, ruminate, research, and write.”

Philip Marshall, Director of The London Library, commented: “So many writers across the world face ongoing threats to their lives and livelihoods. Through this partnership with English PEN, The London Library is proud to be welcoming writers at risk into our unique community of writers and give them access to our unique resources to support their writing and research.”

Daniel Gorman, Director of English PEN, commented: “With this partnership, we’re proud to extend our support for writers at risk and in exile who will join The London Library’s prestigious list of members and have access to one of the greatest collections. We’re delighted to consolidate our long-standing collaboration in our 100th year, and the London Library’s 180th.”

Alongside providing membership, The London Library and English PEN are also collaborating on events, more details of which will be announced soon. The events build on those held earlier this year - featuring Salman Rushdie and a celebration of writer Rebecca West - that formed part of the Library’s 180th anniversary LitFest in May and English PEN’s year-long centenary programme, Common Currency. A further extension of the partnership involves English PEN becoming an institutional member of The London Library, and The London Library a Silver PEN partner. 

This will be the first time the two organisations have made a formal partnership, despite close connections over the years. Past English PEN Presidents John Galsworthy, EM Forster and HG Wells were London Library life members and Library Vice-President Rebecca West and member Harold Pinter played prominent roles in the development of English PEN.

Building work to refurbish Red Stairs toilets to begin Monday 18 October

The success of the 2019/20 Library Fund appeal has enabled the much-needed refurbishment of the mens’ and ladies’ toilets on the Red Stairs to become reality and we are pleased to announce that work is about to start on this important project. Once complete it will significantly improve the facilities for members.

Work is scheduled to start on 18 October and there will be periods when the works will cause significant disruption around the Red Stairs and higher noise levels will be unavoidable, especially during the first weeks of the project.

The Red Stairs toilets will be out of use from Monday 18 October and will remain closed for approximately two months until the refurbishment is complete. Alternative toilets in TS Eliot House and in the basement adjacent to the Lightwell will remain open throughout and will be clearly signposted.

On Tuesday 19 an area of the Lightwell roof will be opened up and the Lightwell Reading Room will be closed for Members from then until Saturday 23. If scaffolding is required then the Lightwell may need to be closed to Members for the whole week. We will let Members know as soon as possible if this will be the case. 

Inevitably, some of the refurbishment will be noisy - especially during the week commencing 25 October where drilling and stripping out of worn out fittings is required. To mitigate this we will be looking to carry out as much of the most disruptive work before 10am where we can, but around the Red Stairs there may be periods of higher levels of daytime noise than usual. We have agreed an initial quiet window from 12pm to 2pm for the duration of the project. During the works, protective coverings will be in place in parts of the Red Stairs and at times it may be necessary to restrict access to the Reading Room to the entrance next to the Writers Room.

Although disrupted supply chains may affect delivery schedules we expect refurbishment and decoration to be completed by Christmas and we will be updating members over coming weeks on the project’s progress and the stages of work involved.

In the meantime we’d like to thank our members for their generosity in supporting the Appeal that has enabled this project to take place and that will transform an important part of the building. The work will involve short term disruption over the next couple of months but we are confident that the end result will be well worth it! This year’s appeal, to transform the lighting in the bookstacks, is now underway – find out more and donate at londonlibrary.co.uk/library-fund.

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