Introducing a new events season at the British Library - Between the Sheets: A Celebration of Libraries

Events at the British Library

Join us as we celebrate libraries, and consider their role in the past, the present and the future

Why do people feel so passionately about libraries? Writers and publishers including Abi Morgan, Hanif Kureishi, Carmen Callil, Will Self, Tracy Chevalier and Ken Brecher will discuss how libraries can restore, inspire and comfort us throughout our lives

Season highlights include:

Living Knowledge: Roly Keating in conversation
Tuesday 28 February 19.00 - 20.30

In a special event to open our season in celebration of libraries, British Library Chief Executive Roly Keating reflects on the work, role and riches of the British Library. From ancient manuscripts to websites, from maps to sounds, the Library preserves and makes available to all an astounding range of material. Roly talks to Gaby Wood, Literary Director of the Booker Foundation, about the joys and challenges of stewarding one of the world's great collections.                                               

Kenneth Baker: On the Burning of Books
Friday 3 March 19.00 – 20.30

From the destruction of the Ancient Library of Alexandria to the Nazis' book burning campaigns to Ray Bradbury's dystopian classic Fahrenheit 451, why has it been considered so important to publicly symbolise the destruction of culture and the irretrievable loss of public knowledge?  Join us for an illustrated talk by writer and former politician Kenneth Baker, author of On the Burning of Books.

Typesetting Feminism: Virago Press
Tuesday 7 March 19.00 – 20.30

An event to celebrate the British Library’s recent acquisition of the Carmen Callil Archive, which joins the previously held Virago Archive. Carmen Callil, founder of Virago Press, discusses Virago's journey with Lennie Goodings, its current publisher, and Claire Whalley, who recently made Virago: Changing The World One Page At A Time, a documentary film charting this history. Extracts from the film will also be screened as part of the event.

Rebels in the Archives
Wednesday 8 March 19.00 – 20.30

We celebrate International Women's Day with a conversation on the power and potential of archiving feminist movements as Jill Liddington, Abi Morgan, Heidi Safia Mirza and Deborah Withers discuss their engagement with archives of activism. Margaretta Jolly, project director of Sisterhood and After: An Oral History of the Women’s Liberation Movement, chairs this panel of influential feminists as they debate questions of politics, representation and preservation. 

National Life Stories Lecture 2017
Monday 13 March 18.30 – 20.00

Renowned social historian David Kynaston delivers the 2017 National Life Stories Lecture, reflecting on memory and its place in the historical analysis of post-war British society. Initiated in 2014, this lecture series provides a platform for leading scholars and thinkers to share original and challenging ideas about oral history theory, methodologies and practices. 

Endangered Archives: Saving the World's Memory
Thursday 16 March 19.15 – 20.30

A panel conversation on the importance of preserving documentary heritage and how the British Library contributes.  Unless urgent action is taken, much of mankind’s documentary heritage may vanish - discarded as no longer of relevance or left to deteriorate beyond recovery. From the impact of natural disasters and climatic conditions, to deliberate destruction and technological change, the collections in libraries and archives are at risk. 

The Idler presents In Praise of Unusual Libraries
Friday 17 March 19.00 – 20.30

A live event with Tom Hodgkinson of The Idler, Meirian Jump of the Marx Memorial Library and Workers’ School in Clerkenwell, Peter Francis of Gladstone’s Residential Library in North Wales, and Sara Wingate-Gray, UCL academic and the Itinerant Poetry Librarian. Learn about these refuges for quiet study and help to plan more.

The Eccles British Library Writer's Award Festival
Thursday 23 March 19.00 – 21.00

A mini literary festival celebrating the Eccles British Library Writer's Award. We will be joined by past and current Award holders including, Naomi Wood, Andrea Wulf, Olivia Laing, Sheila Rowbotham, John Burnside, Erica Wagner, Benjamin Markovits, Sarah Churchwell, Alison MacLeod, Will Atkins, Hannah Kohler and Bob Stanley. The event will include a wine reception.

On Being Archived: Will Self, Hanif Kureishi and Guests
Friday 24 March 19.00 – 20.30

Will Self reflects on having his archive newly acquired by the British Library - including drafts of novels, his cartoons, a full hard-drive, family documents and letters - where it is joining that of Harold Pinter, John Berger, J G Ballard and Beryl Bainbridge. At this event he meets Hanif Kureishi, also archived at the Library, to explore the experience of passing on much of one’s life’s work to the national collection, and many others. Also taking part is Brendan King, former assistant to Beryl Bainbridge and author of the excellent new biography Beryl Bainbridge: Love by All Sorts of Means.

The Writer in the Library
Thursday 30 March 19.00- 20.30

Historical novelist Tracy Chevalier, British Library board member and author of Girl with a Pearl Earring, speaks with a panel of authors who have worked at the Library - Romesh Gunesekera, Charlotte Mendelsohn and Stef Penney - about what it means to create fiction in a place that is home to over 150 million items, some dating back 3,000 years.

The Future of the Library
Friday 31 March 19.00 – 20.30

A panel discussion with:

Story Bellows, ‎Chief Innovation and Performance Officer, Brooklyn Public Library, USA
Caroline Brazier, Chief Librarian, British Library
Marie Oestergaard, Head of Community Engagement, Partnerships and Communication, DOKK1, Aarhus, Denmark
Nick Poole Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP)

Family Day: What’s in A Book?
Saturday 1 April, 12.00 – 16.00
FREE and suitable for all ages – no need to book

Discover the magic and creative possibilities of books at this exciting day for all the family. Join us to explore, learn and create in fun workshops inspired by our vast collections. You will have the chance to illustrate your very own book cover, create and perform with puppets and be transported through storytelling to real and imagined places.

Alberto Manguel: The Library at Night and Other Stories
Tuesday 4 April 19.00 – 20.30

Alberto Manguel, acclaimed author of The Library at Night and A History of Reading, and currently following in Borges' footsteps as director of the National Library of Argentina, in conversation with Claire Armitstead from The Guardian about the mysteries and pleasures of libraries, language and reading.

LA Confidential: The Library in the City with Ken Brecher
Thursday 6 April 19.00 – 20.30

Join Ken Brecher, as he shares stories of the innovative and award-winning work of the Los Angeles Public Library. Ken has led a broad range of cultural institutions including the Sundance Institute - stewarding the film festival for over a decade - and the Boston Children's Museum as well as producing ground-breaking plays in Los Angeles and New York. Currently President of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, Ken trained as a social anthropologist and was the first non-Indian to live among the Wausha tribe in the Brazilian Amazon. A unique and colorful storyteller, Ken will reveal how the largest and most diverse U.S public library system is taking on critical social issues in post-election America. 

The Listening Project Lecture: Susie Orbach
Monday 24 April 19.00 – 20.30

The Listening Project is a collaboration between the BBC and the British Library to record, broadcast and collect intimate conversations between friends or relatives. With recurring themes including childhood, friendship, death, sexuality and health the project has built a unique picture of our lives today. To mark the recording of the 1,000th conversation, this special talk by leading psychotherapist, psychoanalyst, and writer Susie Orbach explores some of the insights these recordings have given us.

Susie Orbach is the founder of the Women's Therapy Centre of London; a former columnist for The Guardian; a visiting professor at the London School of Economics; and the author of 1978 Fat is a Feminist Issue, which has sold over a million copies. She is probably the most famous psychotherapist to have set up couch in Britain since Sigmund Freud. She lives in London, near to Freud's last address. Her latest book is In Therapy: How conversations with psychotherapists really work (2016).

To view the full season programme and to buy tickets, please visit

Unless otherwise stated, all of the above events take place at:

The Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road

For more information:

Elsie King
The British Library
t: +44 (0)20 7412 7105

Evenings and weekends:
+44 (0) 20 7412 7150

Press Office contacts

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.