Readers’ stories

James’s Story

James’s picture

I’m James Lambie, and I rose from being a dogsbody in the Press Association’s racing department, to become The Sporting Life’s chief northern correspondent and a reporter on horseracing all over the world. My articles have appeared in publications ranging from the Horse & Hound to The Scotsman and The Independent.

This year my new book ‘The Story of Your Life: A history of The Sporting Life newspaper (1859 – 1998)’ has generated wide acclaim, with comments from major figures in the sport, including the famous racehorse trainer Sir Mark Prescott - “I love the book. An unmissable read for anyone with an interest in sporting life and social history.” The press have also applauded it, with The Sun claiming “Lambie’s Life story is essential reading", and the Daily Mail stating “If you love racing, you’ll love ‘The Story of Your Life’."

I’m indebted to the British Library, using editorial material and illustrations gleaned from that national treasure house for historical research, the Newspaper Library in Colindale. In particular, I thank the British Library staff for digging out hundreds of volumes and reels of microfilm essential to my research.

Here are some motivating Readers’ stories, celebrating the positive results of using the Library’s collections and services. See how people have used us to help start their business, write books, progress with scientific research, and win awards. Don’t forget to tell us your success story!

Marco’s Story
Marco’s picture
a place in which the imagination can travel...
Marco Bohr is a photographer, researcher, Lecturer in Visual Communication at Loughborough University and writer of the Visual Culture Blog.

“I started to use the British Library in 2007 when I embarked on a PhD examining Japanese photography of the 1990s. I was amazed to discover how much subject related material was available: from rare Japanese photobooks to obscure historical accounts. Because I sought to situate photography in a social, political and economic context, I also referred to material that was not necessarily related to Japan or photography as such, but which nevertheless informed my research. My PhD supervisor would intermittently supply me with a list of essential readings which I could access quickly and free of charge at the British Library.

After a year or so, I started to get addicted to the British Library. I had my favourite spots on Humanities Floor 2, where, superstitiously, I felt I was the most productive. Particularly in the writing up period, the scholarly atmosphere of the British Library helped me to concentrate and stay focused on my research. Now that I have passed the Viva, I secretly recognize that the British Library was a major force in completing my PhD. I still go back to the British Library, though not as often as I used to. It remains a great place for meetings with friends and colleagues. Going back to Reading Rooms fills me with nostalgia, particularly when I recognize some of the readers and their often peculiar research interests. That is what a library is supposed to be: a place in which the imagination can travel without prohibitions. As a platform to emerging research interest, my blog can be found at”

Science, technology & medicineCreative industriesHumanitiesSocial sciences
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Jenny’s Story
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The extraordinary resources of the British Library
Jennifer McVeigh is a London-based author who has just launched her first novel, The Fever Tree

“I am a writer of fiction, and my first novel The Fever Tree is being published by Penguin in March 2012. The novel is set on the diamond fields of South Africa at the end of the 19th Century, and it could not have been written without the extraordinary resources of the British Library, which made available to me countless diaries and first-hand accounts of life in South Africa. I started my research by reading general overviews of the period. Then - using the bibliographies of these books - I was able to track down the primary sources from which much of their material was drawn. This gave me the historical detail to think and see just as my characters would have done over a hundred years ago. I read guide books on the Cape published in 1880 and sifted through women’s magazines from the 1870s - turning over patterns for embroidered glove boxes and lace cushion covers - just as my character might have done. I delved into manuals on social etiquette, cooking, botany, and what to bring on a hunting expedition to the Transvaal. There are books in the British Library which you simply couldn’t find in a lending library. Books that might have had a tiny print run, and aren’t useful to anyone but a handful of historians, which proved priceless for my research.

One afternoon, I was reading about African labour forces on the diamond fields, when I came across a reference to a smallpox epidemic which had ravaged the diamond town of Kimberley in the 1880s. I looked at the notes at the back of the book, and they cited the diary of a doctor called Hans Sauer. I tapped it into the British Library catalogue, and sure enough, they had a copy. In just over an hour Sauer’s diary was sitting on my desk, and it told the extraordinary story of a smallpox outbreak which had been covered up by Cecil Rhodes. As a result hundreds of men, women and children had died, who might otherwise have been saved. This story became the centrepiece of my novel. I am hugely grateful to the British Library and all their staff for making the writing of The Fever Tree such an exciting, enjoyable experience.”

Creative industries
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Cheryl’s Story
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Captivated by Whistler
My name is Cheryl A. Aaron and I am an artist. I was invited to give a guest lecture about the artist James Whistler at Tulane University in America. I came to the British Library to enhance my knowledge about him. I spent long hours in the Reading Room perusing books and visual material to enable me to better understand his life. I became totally captivated by Whistler, which led me to create a painting called I Fell in Love with James Whistler in The British Library. My painting was exhibited at Kings Place in London in the Ruth Borchard self portrait competition in November 2011.
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Jo Stanley’s Story
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Writing about marginalised peoples' histories
I am Jo Stanley and I call myself a creative historian and occasionally ‘a lifestory midwife’. Women and queered people who worked on ships are my special area of historical interest. One of the books that will come out of all my hours at the British Library is ‘Risk! Women on the Wartime Seas’ (Yale University Press).

My exhibitions, books, papers and articles are based on stories people tell me. But I use the Library for my background research: theoretical interpretations, autobiographies, histories. I’ve been a fan – no other word will do - for thirty years and still remember my elation when first I got that ticket.Talk about a lottery win! My appreciation of the BL’s preserving role increased a hundred-fold when I was given a behind-the-scenes tour at Colindale: so many obscure yet nurtured volumes bound in scarlet leather; those microfilmers ironing pages like elite launderers.

In 2011 an email came saying my blog ( was one of those selected to be archived ( Not only was it peculiarly affirming. Knowing that the Library is saving my blog for posterity makes me write more carefully and vividly. It also means I feel more integral to the important work of disseminating and looking after knowledge.

Books I’ve written have been in the library for years, but having the blog stored there feels extra special.

I could no more do without the BL's sustenance than I could forego food

Creative industriesHumanities
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Lucy’s Story
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Designer of couture fabrics and gowns
Tammam is an eco friendly, sustainable and fair trade couture and bridal wear label. I work with producers and suppliers in developing countries (mostly India and Nepal) to create stunning couture fabrics and gowns.

We have recently gained a celebrity following, have been featured in regional, national and international press and have appeared on TV. Tammam was named as one of the designers Kate Middleton might chose for her big day.

I have used the Business & IP Centre to find market research, which I used to inform my business plan and to present to investors. I have also attended networking events, including a recent ‘creative meet-up’. The library has been a fantastic resource. The Business & IP Centre has been a one-stop-shop for so much relevant and useful information and the networking events and workshops have been invaluable.

Creative industries
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Jesús Montero’s Story
Jesús Montero’s picture fuels my pen.
I am a freelance filmmaker and have used the British Library consistently over the last few years. I have worked for the BBC, Channel 4, National Geographic, Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel and Animal Planet. The collections I have consulted at the Library vary hugely according to the content of the programme I am researching; anything from ancient Egypt to meerkats. At present, I am working on a part-time basis for National Geographic on a very popular show called ‘Air Crash Investigation’.

One project I worked on for National Geographic was Seconds from disaster: Inferno at Guadalajara. One of the books I consulted at the British Library to make this documentary was a compelling account of some of the people who survived this terrible human disaster in Mexico. Once I finished my research, I packed my bags and travelled to Mexico, in search of one particular survivor depicted in this book: a Mexican woman with an incredible story to tell. Eventually, I did find her and she became one of our contributors, which was all down to this extraordinary book.

The British Library has been a constant and constructive road companion for me over the last fifteen years. It keeps the films that I work on, accurately informed. It gives them focus. More importantly, it fuels my pen.

Science, technology & medicineCreative industries
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Phillipa’s Story
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Designer of ‘Breathing Relief’
I am Phillipa James. My father, Laurie James, suffers from sleep problems and following a number of operations that failed to help, we decided to come up with our own solution to cure him.

Together we set about designing our own device and came up with ‘Breathing Relief’ - a discreet device that gently dilates the user’s nostrils so they do not collapse. I now run the commercial side of the business and found the help that the British Library offered invaluable. I researched our markets in the Business & IP Centre as well as coming to a number of talks and advice sessions.

We have got off to a great start. Breathing Relief, which costs £18.99, launched in independent health shops last year, and we now have a contract to supply the Waitrose supermarket chain.

Business developmentScience, technology & medicine
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Philip’s Story
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Composer and conductor
I am Philip Sheppard, a composer and conductor, and I am currently working with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, recording fresh arrangements of all the world’s 205 national anthems in time for the London Olympics 2012.

To research each of these anthems, I have visited British Library to further my investigations. Luckily I’m in love with the British Library, and I do enjoy the investigative side of it.

On a more general basis, I also visit the Library to research classical, traditional and new music, as well as current affairs for documentaries I am for scoring for, always sitting in the Rare Books and Music Reading Room.

I like everything about the Library - If I have a creative block I often come in to sit amongst other creative people working in silent concentration. This is contagious and helps me to meet my deadlines in a very stressful creative job. Also, the staff are so helpful and friendly. The building is brilliantly designed, there are always excellent temporary exhibitions, and the Ritblatt Gallery is breathtaking. My children love coming here too, as there's always something that ties in with schoolwork - whether the History, Science, Religion or the Beatles!

Creative industries
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Linda’s Story
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Historical crime writer
I am Linda Stratmann, a writer of historical true crime, biography, and most recently, fiction - historical, of course! Everything I write, including the fiction requires enormous amounts of time-consuming research spanning a wide range of disciplines and material. Over the years I have seen many improvements to the facilities of the British Library – the online catalogue, the ability to order books and newspapers in advance, the preservation and digitisation of newspapers, the availability of 19th century newspapers online – these have not only made it quicker and easier to access information, but have enabled me to discover new information that has previously been buried in the mass of available material. And all this in pleasant, comfortable surroundings and with helpful staff on hand! In March 2011, an event I could never have dreamed would happen will become reality; my book about the notorious Illustrated Police News, called Cruel Deeds and Dreadful Calamities will be published by the British Library. The future will I am sure bring more digitisation, and more searchable documents yielding their long-held secrets, something I know all historians are looking forward to!
Science, technology & medicineHumanities
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Richard’s Story
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Expert in Renaissance literature
I’m Richard Sugg, a lecturer in Renaissance literature at Durham University. I first used the British Library in the days when it was still housed in the old Reading Room in the British Museum. More recently I’ve been working in the St Pancras building on final stages of my forthcoming book, Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires - a study of the now oddly forgotten therapies of corpse medicine.

For well over two hundred years, even while they were denouncing the barbaric cannibals of the New World, educated Europeans were using human fat, flesh, blood, bone, brains and skin as medicine, along with the powdered substance of Egyptian mummies. Whilst it was usually the poorer classes who drank fresh blood at execution scaffolds to cure their epilepsy, more élite users or prescribers of other corpse medicines included Francis I, Elizabeth Countess of Kent, Charles II, Robert Boyle, Thomas Willis, and Queen Mary. Charles actually bought a recipe for the distillation of powdered skull, and probably made it himself: it became so closely associated with him that it was known as ‘the king’s drops’.

In Britain, educated users began to turn against medicinal cannibalism around the middle of the eighteenth century; in Dr Johnson’s dictionary, these therapies are described as ‘horrid medicines’. For all that, well into the Georgian period England was importing human skulls from Ireland, and then exporting them over into Germany, where demand remained particularly strong; in this period there was actually a customs’ duty of one shilling on human skulls.

Beyond this, there was popular culture: the poorer classes could still be found grating up human skulls and swallowing them in Bradford in 1847, and Ruabon in Wales, in 1865. As late as 1909, one epileptic in Scotland was known to have drunk from the skull of a suicide as part of a cure for his condition. Meanwhile, over in Ireland in the 1880s many people believed that the blood of the Keogh family was an effective medicine against toothache. One of the clan had had his flesh punctured scores of times for this reason.

These days there are some remarkable databases of early modern books available online. But there are also some gems that one can still dig up only in the Reading Rooms: one recent example was ‘A Hangman’s Diary’ - the gruesome but compelling journal of a Nuremburg executioner, Franz Schmidt, kept between 1573 and 1617. There is, too, the faintly intoxicating scent of four hundred year old books - the authentic smell of the past, which you just don’t get from computers. I look forward to my next visit, and that special atmosphere of collective concentration found only in the world’s great libraries.

Science, technology & medicineHumanities
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Jill’s Story
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Novelist making Rupert Brooke discoveries
I’m Jill Dawson, author of seven novels, including The Great Lover on the poet Rupert Brooke. I’d already begun this novel, working as I usually do in the British Library Reading Room, when I discovered a snippet about an exhibition at the Library that I’d missed. Tantalisingly this included information about a new cache of letters between Brooke and a young woman, as well as a ninety-page memoir by this same woman, describing her love affair with Brooke. I rushed to the desk to ask about it and was directed to the most astonishing material I’d yet read.

In 1911 a young art student at the Slade, Phyllis Gardner, spotted the handsome poet Brooke on a train from London to Cambridge and finding him striking, drew a sketch that she showed to friends until she found one who recognised him. She pursued him to Grantchester, and they had a stormy and secret relationship which was not fully consummated, although not through lack of trying (on Brooke’s part). The fact that Phyllis, who died a spinster in 1948, had left the letters in the care of her sister with instruction not to be opened for fifty years meant that previous biographers had not included them in studies of Brooke.

One surprise that this cache of letters springs is that Brooke’s poem Beauty and Beauty - assumed to be written about his only recorded male conquest, Denham Russell-Smith - was surely written for Phyllis, as a hand-written copy from Rupert is included and mimics phrases from his letters to her.

Brooke was especially talented at letter writing. He demonstrated a dazzling array of literary tricks and disguises. He could be, I felt, any character he wanted, including any number of ‘true’ selves - and this aspect of him, or of any person, became the real subject of my novel.

The British Library is the most inspirational and awe-inspiring place for a writer to work and research and I feel fondness and gratitude towards it. As a sixth former my summer job was to work in the lending library at Boston Spa in Yorkshire where I grew up. In my breaks I would read a very old, frail copy of Melville’s Moby Dick that had been a gift to the Library, in preparation for my forthcoming degree in American studies. I remember feeling a slight panic during my working hours stocking shelves, wondering how much time I’d be able to snatch at my next break to continue reading. Little did I know of all the indulgent, glorious years ahead, reading and researching at the British Library in London to my heart’s content, and how much a part of my life it would become.

I continue to work there most weeks, waiting for the next surprise to turn up.

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Fliss’s Story
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Working with children with learning difficulties
I'm Fliss Fleck, a community musician, running the Hand made Orchestra Project in Mid Wales. I've been using recordings of birdsong from the British Library’s Sound Archive, to help young people with learning difficulties to develop listening skills alongside creative playing skills.

The children I work with are from two special schools and one Asperger’s unit in Wales. I use birdsong to point out how the bird will sing then listen for a response. This is then used to help them play as a group and adds structure to improvisation. It helps them develop a creative and sensitive mindset when they are making music.

If anyone would like further details of the Hand made Orchestra Project please contact Celf o Gwmpas - Arts Round About

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Zandra’s Story
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Children’s furniture creator
My name is Zandra Johnson, and I have a tale to tell: “Once upon a time ….” All good stories begin with those words, and the story of Fairytale Furniture is no different.

“Long ago, in the year 2000, a woman was making furniture lovingly by hand for anyone who asked her. One day a mother wanted a desk for her little girl and she wanted it very quickly. Unable to make one in time the furniture maker offered to find one for the little girl. She searched high and low, asking in many towns and cities to find a shop that sold children’s furniture. Every time she asked the shop keepers told her that they could not find any to sell. No-one made children’s furniture unless it was bedroom furniture.

“Right” thought the furniture maker “I will make it. But it seems such a shame that a little girl’s desk should look like a man’s desk. Why can’t it be fun, something she could play with, climb into, have lights…” Her head filled with many, many ideas for chairs, toy boxes, clocks and lights. All of them designed especially for children to have fun with and play with. Now the furniture maker knew that children love their own special things and that children love stories so the furniture maker wrote a story book for each piece of children’s furniture she made.

It took her many years and a long winding journey before she was ready but in the year 2008, just before Christmas, the furniture maker launched her company selling Fairytale Children’s Furniture®. She started with five animal shaped chairs, each with their own illustrated story book. There were four wooden rocking chairs in the shape of a dog, two ponies and a zebra and a double chair, perfect for twins, in the shape of an elephant. Just for fun the furniture maker also made dolly sized chairs exactly the same so the toys could have one to match. She sells all her chairs and books from a magical virtual shop at and now she wants the children to find their furniture in proper shops and so she asks shop keepers to sell them too.

Along her winding journey the furniture maker often visited the British Library. There she researched her market, searched for manufacturers, learned how to run a business and use the internet, make the best use of her website and listen to many, many inspiring lectures. Without the help received in The British Library the furniture maker would not have had the courage to start her business and it would have always remained just a dream.

That would have been a pity for she would never have had the joy of seeing the faces of the little children as they played in their imagination whilst using her furniture.”

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James’s Story
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Reporter on worldwide horseracing
I’m James Lambie, and I rose from being a dogsbody in the Press Association’s racing department, to become The Sporting Life’s chief northern correspondent and a reporter on horseracing all over the world. My articles have appeared in publications ranging from the Horse & Hound to The Scotsman and The Independent.

This year my new book ‘The Story of Your Life: A history of The Sporting Life newspaper (1859 – 1998)’ has generated wide acclaim, with comments from major figures in the sport, including the famous racehorse trainer Sir Mark Prescott - “I love the book. An unmissable read for anyone with an interest in sporting life and social history.” The press have also applauded it, with The Sun claiming “Lambie’s Life story is essential reading", and the Daily Mail stating “If you love racing, you’ll love ‘The Story of Your Life’."

I’m indebted to the British Library, using editorial material and illustrations gleaned from that national treasure house for historical research, the Newspaper Library in Colindale. In particular, I thank the British Library staff for digging out hundreds of volumes and reels of microfilm essential to my research.

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Gaverne’s Story
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Award-winning poster designer
I’m Gaverne Bennett, and my poster on Black History, published in the Guardian to mark the inauguration of President Obama, proved to be one of the paper’s most popular supplements. It wouldn’t have been possible without the British Library.

Always interested in history, I began my research into something I felt had been left out of programmes and documentaries during the millennium celebrations. Spending a month in the British Library, I completed a timeline that aimed to tell the full story. In the late 1990s it was published in ‘Untold’ Magazine, and I received a huge amount of positive feedback from readers who wanted to know more.

In 2007 I received a request to undertake a similar project to mark the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade. Originally published for a number of Trade Unions, it was suggested that I should create a special version for the Guardian, adapting it to tie in with Obama’s inauguration.

From May to September 2008 I visited the Library every week to research the subject. Drawing mainly on sources in the Africa and Asia sections I also spent a lot of time in Humanities – adopting seat 2214 as my ‘thinking seat’!

Creative industriesHumanities
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Hugh’s Story
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Investigating public issue radio
I’m Hugh Chignell, Assistant Director of the Centre for Broadcasting History Research and Head of Research in the Media Group of the Media School at Bournemouth University. I’m also Reviews Editor of The Radio Journal. My specialist area is the history of current affairs/topical talks radio – ‘public issue radio’.

I’m currently working on a book on ‘public issue radio’, due for publication this year, and contributing to a radio programme as part of the BBC’s marking of the 40th anniversary of ‘Analysis’ as well as the Radio 4 blog.

I came to the British Library’s Sound Archive, and listened to a range of news and current affairs radio programmes from the 1960s, especially Today and World at One. Like most people, I had not had the opportunity to hear these broadcasts before, but being able to access BBC material via the Sound Archive is wonderful.

It is critically important to me. It would be almost impossible now to write about radio history and more specifically about the history of programming without being able to listen to the programmes themselves. I love the idea of being able to sit in a listening booth and access such a wide range of material.

I think that the service the Library offers is excellent and very easy to use. The appointment of a curator of radio has been a big help – it has transformed the way I use the service.

Creative industriesHumanities
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Jennifer’s Story
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Horticultural historian
I’m Jennifer Potter, a horticultural historian and the author of three novels and four works of non-fiction. These include Secret Gardens; Lost Gardens, written to accompany the television series for which I worked as associate producer; and a biography of the John Tradescants, Strange Blooms, The Curious Lives and Adventures of the John Tradescants. For the past five years I have been working on a cultural history of roses, published by Atlantic Books as The Rose, A True History in November 2010.

Researching the rose book has taken me to libraries in New York, California, Paris and elsewhere in London, but I consider the British Library my home. Where else can you dip in to such an eclectic and challenging mix of sources? While researching my chapter on roses, sex and sorcery, for instance, I stumbled across a wonderfully rude Valentine’s verse in an eighteenth-century primer of verses, written ‘For Both Sexes’ and subtitled The High Road to Love, and Helkiah Crooke’s early seventeenth-century anatomical comparison of a woman’s maidenhead to ‘a little rose half blowne’. (Hunting for the same in Freud, I discovered his comparison flower was a camellia, not a rose. Academics don’t always know their flowers.) Another chapter took me into the strange world of the Rosicrucians, and again the Library gave me everything I might need: early texts full of arcane illustrations which would later reverberate in Borges, Goethe and W B Yeats, and blossom into Althea Gyles’s intricately gilded cover to Yeats’s The Secret Rose of 1897.

When you have such a particular focus as a single flower, the Library’s limit of ten books a day can be a bit constricting (although they have relaxed it for me on at least one occasion), and I have made great use of the books on open access – especially an Encyclopedia of Rose Science up in the Science collection, the complete Arden Shakespeare in Humanities I, books of maps and Persian sourcebooks in the upper Reading Rooms, plus the electronic resources in Rare Books (where I usually work), especially the online version of Brill’s Encyclopaedia of Islam. Running between the different Reading Rooms became a form of exercise, and I will sometimes extend the circuit across the top-floor walkway, which makes you feel as if you are flying.

The book is out now and receiving its first reviews. The Daily Telegraph called it ‘the finest disquisition on the early history of the rose’ while the Literary Review concluded a little more cautiously that it ‘might now be judged the standard work on the history of the rose’. I am especially pleased with Mary Keen’s comment (in Gardens Illustrated) about the book’s astonishing scope – a tribute I pass directly onto the British Library, which made possible the book’s discoveries and the joy of making connections.

Science, technology & medicineHumanities
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David’s Story
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Prize-winning writer, poet & translator
I’m David Constantine, writer, poet and translator, and my latest books are the collection of poetry, Nine Fathom Deep and a second short story collection, The Shieling. Last year, The Shieling was shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and my short story, ‘Tea at the Midland’, won the BBC National Short Story Award.

Many times with my Pass I’ve summoned up fabulous books and when I arrive they are handed to me courteously in a Reading Room. And even without a pass what a generous place the British Library is! Those floors, like the white decks of the Ship of Knowledge, all so busy with people in every nook and cranny eating, drinking, talking, doing their emails, phoning, reading, courting, musing around the glass Tower of Books! So many books! And the millions more in store below.

You step off the streets of a city which has 300 native tongues and cross for free into the cool and beautiful housing of an abundant portion of the infinite sum of what in century after century in all four quarters of the teeming world humanity has thought, imagined, longed for, written down and bequeathed – so far. For the mix of people, the ceaseless coming and going, is a good image and reminder that this great library, solid as it is, can no more stay still than can the life it witnesses. Even what’s there already, held in perpetuity, stacked and catalogued, is no more still than the expanding universe is still. Every Reader reads differently. The stock shifts and its living relations alter daily under the attention of different minds and imaginations.

At present there’s an exhibition on the subject of that archetype, the Ancient Mariner, under a white awning very much like sails. Truly in the British Library you fare forward! And downstairs (down the apples and pears) there’s the wondrous zone of Evolving English, where you can bank your voice, your unique accent, and hear Ben Crystal read ‘Now is the winter of our discontent …’ with a rural burr you quite believe was Shakespeare’s own.

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Simon’s Story
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Writer on Victorian literature
I’m Dr Simon J. James, a Senior Lecturer in Victorian Literature at Durham University, and author of ‘Unsettled Accounts: Money and Narrative in the Novels of George Gissing’ (London: Anthem Press)

There could be no more appropriate place to write a book on George Gissing than the British Library, since Gissing not only researched his novels in the old Reading Room of the British Museum, but he set parts of his greatest book, New Grub Street (1891) there.

My main research interest is in nineteenth-century printed material, so most of my time in the British Library is spent in the Rare Books and Music Room. For Unsettled Accounts, I was looking in particular for material that might have shaped Gissing's thinking about the subject matter of his fiction, as well as reading Gissing's own novels.

I was consulting, for example, nineteenth-century guides to London and Victorian textbooks on political economy. My research brought with it the additional pleasure of reading the same copies of the books as Gissing himself would have done a hundred years ago.

I have also edited four H G Wells novels in Penguin Classics and conducted a 'treasure hunt' in the reference materials for my explanatory notes. Here, the British Library's unparalleled collection of Victorian periodicals has been invaluable, especially when combined with the electronic version of the Wellesley Index and with other online materials.

I cannot imagine how I would have published the research that I have done to date without the ready availability of these collections.

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Abigail’s Story
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A Jonathan Swift detective
I’m Abigail Williams, Lecturer and Tutorial Fellow at St Peter’s College, Oxford University. I specialise in eighteenth-century English literature.

I’m currently finishing an edition of Jonathan Swift’s The Journal to Stella: Letters to Esther Johnson and Rebecca Dingley, 1710-1713 for the new Cambridge University Press Complete Works of Jonathan Swift.

The 65 letters, written from 1710 to 1713, were first published in 1766, and a third of the originals survive in the British Library. My work involves studying these manuscripts, and trying to decipher their content. This is much easier for me than for earlier scholars, because for the first time I’ve been able to examine digital images of the letters with image analysis software, separating out different components of the complex handwriting.

The letters were written by Swift to his beloved ‘Stella’– Esther Johnson – and her companion, Rebecca Dingley, and they reveal in detail Swift’s bizarre mixture of bawdry and baby talk. He addressed Stella as his "poo poo ppt" – his poor poor poppet.

The baby talk passages are in tiny writing, and often lightly crossed out, and it’s been assumed this was done after Swift’s death to protect the reputation of the author of Gulliver’s Travels. But working closely with the originals kept in the Library, I’ve discovered that Swift probably crossed out his own words. I think the effect was intended to be a kind of guessing game with his readers. The women he was writing to needed to undress the text before they could fully enjoy it.

Although this all sounds a bit fanciful, this disguising of affectionate endearments makes sense in the context of the rest of the Journal. I think it’s part of a secret code of intimacy that characterises the letter series as a whole, which uses baby language and a series of special names to emphasise the closeness between Swift and his readers. My three-year-old son’s repeating of the words aloud also helped unravel the meaning of some of the trickier bits of baby language!

The real discovery of my research has been that you can only really know the secrets of a text if you go back to the original. I couldn’t have done any of this detective work if I hadn’t had access to these manuscripts, held in the Library.

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Anne’s Story
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From Middle English to Physics
I’m Anne Rooney, and I write short books for short children, and longer books for longer children and adults. I’ve written around 120 books and occasionally do something serious, like writing for The New Humanist (but not often). I’ve just finished The Story of Physics, a history of physics from Mesopotamia to M-theory for adults (to be published July 2011), and Oobertina and Sponge, a picture book about a cat and a witch for very short people (probably 2013).

My love affair with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight began in Cambridge, in 1978, when I fell thoroughly under his spell, wanting only to be a medievalist. Being a medievalist began with a three-year PhD that had Gawain and his headless green antagonist at its heart. I sat in the old British Library Manuscripts Room with the ‘snow snittering full snart’ outside and read the poem in manuscript. We were blissfully happy together.

To cut a short story shorter...Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a verse romance. It doesn’t rhyme particularly (only a bit), but in the tradition of the time and place of its composition it is alliterative, and would have been recited, probably from memory, to an audience. The poetry is stunning, even in modern English translation if you’re not up to the unfamiliar letters. But most touching is the gentle humanity with which Gawain is depicted. The blend of heroism, pride, fear, love of life, self-doubt, shame and smugness make him the first fully-drawn character in English literature.

The poem shines like a jewel through the intervening centuries and says, as clearly as Chaucer does, that human beings are as they have always been. It is a golden thread that holds us to our past, and it raises issues as relevant now as when it was written, over 600 years ago.

But it so nearly didn’t link us to our past. The author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is unknown. The poem is preserved in a single manuscript which now lies safely in the British Library but narrowly escaped being lost forever when it was singed in the Cotton library fire of 1731. I spent three years untangling the symbolism of the hunts in Sir Gawain and other Middle English literature and the poem became increasingly jewel-like and complex. Its anonymity and quality of lost-ness make it seem ethereal and precious. It was not read between 1400 and the 19th century, was unknown to Shakespeare, Milton, Pope, Samuel Johnson and all the others who might have had something to say about it and so has none of the accreted crust of use and misuse of Chaucer or other medieval poets who remained in circulation. It is clear, clean, complex, self-contained and perfect.

Science, technology & medicineHumanities
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Anne’s Story
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17th century specialist
I am Dr. Anne Brookes and I have been using the British Library since the 1990s when I began to research for my doctorate.

Initially I worked in the British Museum’s North Library and Manuscript Room; the latter a wonderful ‘inner sanctum’ of peace and tranquillity away from the bustle of the Museum galleries. The move to Euston Road was a bit of a shock for someone not in their first youth and lacking IT skills but the Library staff proved to be as helpful and patient as ever and now I find its benefits outweigh any loss of atmosphere.

My doctoral thesis was concerned with an English virtuoso and royal exile, Richard Symonds (1617-60) who composed one of the most informative surviving accounts of art in Rome in the middle years of the seventeenth century. Several of Symonds’s notebooks are in the Library’s Manuscript Collection. The notebooks that Symonds wrote while he was in Rome provided an excellent subject for my thesis. They revealed that his thirst for knowledge was not only for works of art and architecture, but also extended to social and religious customs and early ventures into science and medicine. My thesis was published by The Walpole Society. Subsequently I have used the Library for research into other seventeenth-century English travellers and collectors for further articles. I would not have been able to produce any of my work without access to this wonderful Library.

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Christian’s Story
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Environmental law professional
I’m Dr Christian Milner, and I was commissioned by Shell to undertake research into the contamination of food by lubricants in food manufacture and packaging. My work brought me to the British Library to access journal articles and technical reports, and my subsequent report was used by Shell to submit a proposal to the US Food and Drug Administration to change legislation on the use of lubricants.

This project was very multidisciplinary, as in addition to covering the legislation, engineering and chemistry involved, I needed to review the literature on the medical effects of ingesting oil. The British Library’s a one stop shop for all sorts of different journals, making it very easy to get hold of literature spanning such a wide variety of disciplines.

I’ve been using the Library for other research too. Whilst doing my PhD at Cambridge on the application of remote sensing to forest ecology, I sourced several hard-to-find journal articles. I also used older collection items in research for Alan Davidson on game birds for the Oxford Companion to Food. Having qualified as a barrister with an interest in environmental law, I now use the Library to find the latest legal and scientific literature in this field.

Business developmentScience, technology & medicineOther
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Peter’s Story
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Researching food from farm to fork
I’m Professor Peter Jackson, and I’ve been working with the British Library for over ten years, initially through a collaborative PhD project on British culinary culture and then on a series of externally-funded research projects about the history of the British food industry.

Working with the Library has enabled me to access, and contribute to, a world-class collection of research materials including a unique oral history archive. Our work included the collection and analysis of a series of life history interviews with people involved at all stages in the UK’s food supply chain ‘from farm to fork’. At the end of our research, the interviews were deposited with the Library as part of the National Life Stories’ Food: from source to salespoint collection. Working with experts at the Library also enabled us to produce an educational website called Food Stories which has since been used by students and teachers across the UK, greatly increasing the impact of our research.

Besides the professionalism and enthusiasm of their curatorial staff, the Library also provides a marvellous venue for the public dissemination of academic work through conferences and workshops. We have recently begun the next phase of our collaborative research including a joint PhD studentship on the history of British food activism and a bid to fund a public exhibition on recent innovations in food technology and taste. I’ve learnt a lot about life history research from working with colleagues at the Library. Being associated with a prestigious institution like the British Library also gives our work greater visibility, encouraging people from all walks of life - from public figures to ordinary citizens - to record their life histories and make them available to the public through this amazing national resource. The Library has helped me at all stages of my research from writing grant applications and securing research funding to publishing and making our findings widely available.

Science, technology & medicineSocial sciences
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Peter’s Story
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Giving health advice in plain English
I’m Peter Cartwright, a researcher and author who specialises in probiotics. My publications about the role of these ‘friendly’ bacteria in chronic diseases such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and diverticulitis, provide easy-to-understand information for patients and their families.

Researching my latest book, Probiotic Allies, I realised there was a limit to the resources I could find elsewhere. At the British Library I was able to draw upon the full extent of the science collections to explore a wide range of biomedical journals, books and supporting texts.

As an independent researcher, the British Library is essential in providing access to an extraordinary breadth and depth of good quality information.

As an intermediate or interpreter between doctors and patients, I aim to communicate evidence-based scientific information and health advice in plain English – my books provide an overview of relevant information with careful referencing to help readers distinguish fact from fiction.

At the Library, I’ve discovered recent articles in biomedical journals showed the level of interest in the therapeutic potential of probiotics to be a hot topic. Studies demonstrated there was mounting evidence of the benefits of manipulating gut micro-organisms to influence diabetes, obesity and chronic gastrointestinal diseases.

The Library is a great place to work, and one of the great things is that everyone I have dealt with was calm, clear and went out of their way to help me find the information when I wasn’t sure where to look.

Science, technology & medicine
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Nathan’s Story
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A ‘Top Ten Most Outstanding Black Graduate’
I’m Nathan Ghann, a user of the British Library’s Business and IP Centre, and I was invited to the House of Lords to be celebrated as one of the ‘Top Ten Most Outstanding Black Graduates’ in the UK by Powerful Media. The judging panel signalled me to be one of the countries most enterprising graduates by saying, ‘If Nathan doesn’t turn out to be one the country’s top business leaders we’ll eat our hats’ I founded award winning ‘Find My House Ltd’, a service aimed at finding students off campus accommodation. I also founded my university’s first ever entrepreneurial society, University of Hertfordshire Entrepreneurs, which to date has over 1,000 members. The society subsequently received the highest level of sponsorship from technology giants Microsoft. Academically, I achieved a double first class degree in Economics and Marketing studies. Whilst researching for a ‘Small business and Entrepreneurship’ university module, I went to the Library event ‘An evening with Lord Sugar’ and was able to cite the online video resource which the Library made available after the event. My up to date analysis subsequently led to a 1st class grade for this paper. Lord Alan advocated that businesses needed to be resourceful and not rely on excessive funding or government aid. He was able to grow an empire without any help and small businesses should strive to do the same by operating with leaner costs. I implemented this immediately in my own business by giving myself a £0 marketing budget, using various online strategies I was able to attract thousands of students to the website. In addition, the courses I’ve taken at the BIPC have contributed to my business, including ‘Knowing your market – how to use databases to research your target market’ and an ‘Introduction to Intellectual property’. I’ve recently founded an online resource to help university students across the UK achieve better academic grades. The British Library is one of greatest resources a student or business owner could hope to engage with. I truly believe using the library will help any person achieve above and beyond their expectations.
Business development
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Mary’s Story
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Singer, musician & song researcher
My name’s Mary Humphreys, and I’m a singer, musician and song researcher. I research songs and tunes from East Anglia, and have written an award-winning book on Cambridgeshire folksongs.

To research my book, I investigated songs collected by, amongst others, Ralph Vaughan Williams. Many of the songs have not been published until now.

When Vaughan Williams was a young man he caught the folksong collecting bug. He visited Cambridgeshire pubs, workhouses and other places where he could hear people singing .The results of his collecting work are found in the British Library. Most of the songs have no texts - it is difficult to collect words at the same time as notating the music. He concentrated on getting the melodies written down accurately.

His handwriting is often difficult to decipher. It is obvious that he was racing against time to keep up with his informants. Some of them must have presented considerable problems of pitch and intonation, as is evidenced by many corrections.

Vaughan Williams always noted the collection date and place. He usually named the singer, though he often didn’t know their real names. ‘Hoppy Flack’, ‘Ginger’ Clayton, ‘Billy Waggs’ are just three delightful examples that emerge from his notebooks.

Recognising his intention of rescuing these songs from obscurity I was determined to make them more available for others to hear and love. I found texts that may have accompanied the tunes and reconstructed them as singable songs. I researched the source singers and photographed the places where the songs had been collected.

The Library gave permission for the reproduction of a section of the manuscript in my book which was published last year. The review in the English Folk Dance and Song Society’s magazine was complementary. I was even more amazed when my book was given an award by the Cambridgeshire Association for Local History. The free access to the Vaughan Williams papers has been crucial in my publication - nothing compares to holding the real thing in your hand and being able to see and feel the paper in your fingers. My grateful thanks go to the expertise and help from the British Library staff.

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Marcus’s Story
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A wild food forager & teacher
My name’s Marcus Harrison, and I run the Wild Food School in Cornwall, where I teach participants about identifying and cooking with wild food. For the last five years I’ve been a regular visitor to the British Library, researching past uses of wild foodstuffs with the intention of publishing a book on the topic. These collection items – some going back to the 15th century – include books on diet and cookery, botanical and agricultural works, documents on famine and private letters amongst others. These sources are helping me to clarify which of the many plants, now regarded as weeds or wild, people ate either voluntarily as food or out of necessity during times of famine. Wild Food School is the only solely dedicated, round-the-clock, 12/12, operation of its sort in the UK. When did you last eat a weed - nettle or thistles are a good starting point - let alone turning them into a soufle? The Wild Food School courses I run will capture your imagination... I regularly speak on the subject of wild food at establishments such as the Natural History Museum and Eden Project. Being able to communicate past uses of wild foods brings the whole topic alive for the audience and makes it much more tangible. The British Library staff are brilliant and very helpful, and the Library itself always feels like home.
Science, technology & medicine
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Joel’s Story
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Writer and TEAR fund aid worker
I’m Joel Hafvenstein, a writer and aid worker, and I used the Humanities and Social Sciences Reading Rooms to research for my published book, Opium Season: A Year on the Afghan Frontier (The Lyons Press), a first-hand account of the problems in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan.

The book not only highlights the challenges the country is facing in war, but also the issues with drug trafficking. One of my aims for my year in Afghanistan was to help poppy farmers make a legal living by providing them with alternative income. During my work there, I found myself confronted by Helmand’s drug trafficking warlords, the Taliban and gun-toting bandits in police uniform.

The book depicts the aid effort’s trials and terrible tragedies, while shedding light on how far there is to go to achieving anything even vaguely resembling harmony in Afghanistan.

My research at the Library helped to prepare me for the first-hand experiences in store, and I could never have found the books I needed anywhere else. It’s absolutely invaluable.

My book has gone on to trigger comments such as:

“A wrenching account of lofty hopes and bitter disappointments” New York Times

Social sciences
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Graham’s Story
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Feeding forgotten plays into today’s theatre
I’m Graham Cowley, a theatre producer who has been involved in numerous successful theatre productions. A long-time collaborator with Max Stafford-Clark at the Royal Court and Out of Joint, my career has mainly been with new plays but I’ve recently made use of the British Library to revive a number of forgotten World War One plays.

Together with director Tricia Thorns, I’ve made prolific use of the British Library’s Humanities collection and spent many Saturdays calling up old plays and reading through as many as we could. After ploughing through close to 100 plays, the 12 plays we decided to do were a marvellous revelation, a forgotten hoard.

So since 2003, my company ‘Two’s Company’ has presented the ‘Forgotten Voices from the Great War’ series, comprising of the war plays found in the British Library. They have received critical acclaim from the press and public alike, attracting audience members such as Harold Pinter. Included were plays by the actor Miles Malleson, which were censored and confiscated by military authorities when they were published during World War One.

The final play in the series was ‘My Real War 1914 - ?’ which toured twice and appeared in the West End’s Trafalgar Studios in October 2009. The play is based on a privately published book of letters by the young Lieutenant Havilland Le Mesurier, written home until he was killed at the Somme, aged 22.

The British Library is still proving invaluable. Inspired by the great classic of the French Resistance ‘Le Silence de la Mer’ by Vercors, I tracked the author’s own stage adaptation of 1947, long out of print, in the Library. I’ve made an English translation of the play, which will be produced in London for the first time in 2011.

Creative industries
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Louisa’s Story
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Orange Prize nominated novelist
I’m Louisa Young, and I’m a novelist, and I’ve been using the British Library since it opened. Unlike everyone else in those days I didn’t mourn the old circular reading room at the British Museum because I had never used it. To me, the British Library was - and remains - a kind of miracle. Big empty desks, cream marble floors, heavy polished wood, smooth brass, high ceilings, both warm and airy. Good coffee. Silence (of a kind) - and everything that has ever been published in English (and many other languages), all mine. My own little light that lights up to tell me they’re ready for me to collect. What kind gods love us, to provide all this, and for free?

I’ve written eight of my eleven books here. A mantle of concentration falls over me as I enter: it’s the quiet intensity of everybody else working, concentrating - the hum of other brains ticking. I spy on their book piles: what are they working on? What are they thinking about? Because you have to respect what they are doing, you have to respect your own work. So, I work far better here than I do at home. I’ve produced novels (Orange-nominated), children’s novels (published in 36 languages), and non-fiction - a cultural history of the human heart (that was fun. I was in here every day for two years). As I wander through the catalogue I have found myself steered in many different and unexpected directions simply by the titles which have grabbed my eye - Mark Twain’s journalism; plate tectonics; London’s underground rivers; ancient Egyptian magic; Lyme’s disease; 17th-century heart emblem series; cordiform maps; country and western lyrics, maxillo-facial plastic surgery in the first world war....

My most recent book - a first world war novel, ‘My Dear I wanted to Tell You’ - is published on 31 March 2011, and lined up to be Waterstone’s ‘This Week’s Must Read’. Meanwhile, I’m at my usual seat, writing the sequel. What have we got on Jewish childhood under Italian fascism in the 30s? What a surprise: everything I could want.

Science, technology & medicineHumanities
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David’s Story
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Forecasting volcanic activity
I’m Professor David Pyle and I study volcanic activity with my colleagues at the University of Oxford’s Department of Earth Sciences. Our work aims to improve understanding of how volcanoes behave before and during eruption, in order to develop practical solutions to the forecasting of future volcanic activity, and the reduction of risk associated with future eruptions.

One of the key challenges of this type of research is gaining access to sufficient, detailed observational data to draw meaningful conclusions. At many volcanoes, the typical interval between eruptions can be many decades to hundreds of years – so we need to be able to extract as much information as we can from scientific accounts of past eruptions in order to add to what we know from well-observed events of the recent past. Unfortunately, many of these earlier reports are hard to find, since they were often published in ephemeral, or ‘one off’ reports, rather than in journal papers.

My team and I used the British Library to gain access to rare observations which gave detailed accounts of volcanic explosions on the Kameni Islands (Santorini, Greece) during periods of eruption in the 19th and early 20th centuries. From these sources, I was able to reassess the original observational data and make comparisons with data from more recent examples.

As well as these key resources, I also identified other unique information on volcanic activity, including a medical PhD on the effects of volcanic eruptions on human health; and a range of maps illustrating Santorini’s changing morphology over the centuries.

Volcanology is like many areas of science; you are running so hard to keep up with what’s going on now, you forget that there is real research value in revisiting original sources of evidence.

The outcome of this work was published in two papers: DM Pyle and JR Elliott, 2006, Quantitative morphology, recent evolution and future activity of the Kameni islands volcano, Santorini, Greece, Geosphere 2 (5), 253-268, doi:10.1130/GES00028.1 (

C Oppenheimer and DM Pyle, 2009, ‘Volcanoes’. Chapter 15, In: JC Woodward (ed), The Physical Geography of the Mediterranean Basin, Oxford University Press, pp 427-460. (ISBN 978-0-19-926803-0)

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Adam’s Story
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A major fruit juice supplier
My name’s Adam Pritchard, and I had the ingenious idea of developing a juice drink from pomegranates. To make sure that the rest of the world thought it was a great idea too, I came to the British Library’s Business & IP Centre to research the potential market. Using the Library for this detailed research clearly paid off. My ‘Pomegreat’ juice is now sold through major supermarkets and his company has an annual turnover of £10 million.

I had no background in food and drink, so I researched the fruit and its health properties and how it might be processed, then learned more about the juice market in the UK. I spent probably six months visiting the Centre, where I learned about production techniques in fruit juice, the size of the market, using the various reports that were available, and it allowed me, from a point of zero understanding of a fruit juice business to have a good understanding of the UK market, the size of the market, various production techniques, trade marking, and just what the opportunity may be if I was able to bring pomegranate juice to the masses.

I had a thirst for knowledge that could only be satisfied by a resource of the strength of the Business and IP Centre. I’d had two previous businesses which had both failed and what I promised myself before launching with ‘Pomegreat’, was a complete understanding of the market that I was entering into, and the only way to achieve that was to have this knowledge satisfied and the Business and IP Centre achieved that for me.

I found the staff very helpful, when I asked them questions about pomegranates, there were question marks put against my name, I think, by various members of staff, but in term of helping me find reports and the information I needed in the Centre, I’ve got to say that the resource was second to none.

Business development
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Aaron’s Story
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A digital media business that’s taken off
I’m Aaron Savage and I’ve built my company following a friend’s advice to visit the Business and IP Centre at the British Library. ‘Interactive Mix Ltd’ offers marketing strategies using digital media, and the BIPC not only helped me during the start up period, but on an ongoing basis.

Using the Centre, where I practically lived for the first month, I made the most of the advice on offer on how to write a business plan, research markets and gain access to real time data, a crucial commodity in the changing economic times. I’ve also used the databases and marketing publications to access information on marketing contracts. I continue to research potential prospects and clients and have also attended a number of events organised by the Centre and find they’re great for networking opportunities.

By setting the access point low but not compromising on the quality and volume of knowledge available, the BIPC ensures that every idea can be explored, and that everyone with either a thirst for knowledge, or the drive to achieve and create has the best resources available. It empowers, arms and informs all who seek to find answers. This is essential.

Everyone who reads a piece of research and uses it to create a new service not only provides an immediate return on the investment that the research took to create and house but goes on further to provide more research material to ensure that the return keeps growing with every subsequent use.

People like me who wish to create wealth understand that the British Library and in particular the IP Centre is not simply a place to come and work, it is a place where the work we wish to do is made possible.

Any reduction to services in the British Library which either restricts access or limits resources is a false economy, and one which deprives society of the profits of enterprise and endeavour.

Interactive Mix Ltd was established in 2008, and in 2009/10 we achieved a turnover of £500,000.

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Rose’s Story
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Using sound to investigate art
I’m Rose Sinclair, a lecturer in Design and Textiles at Goldsmiths, University of London, and I’ve found the British Library’s Sound Archive enlightening for my research, using oral history as a means of uncovering other women’s stories. I’ve looked at the work of the artist Elizabeth Frink, and found listening to the sound files offered a different perspective. Hearing an artist discuss their work gives you a fresh pair of eyes – you’re not just using books or the internet, you’re hearing the artist firsthand and interlinking all sources for a new perspective on the art.

I’ve encouraged my students to explore many of the Library’s various collections and displays when researching their projects, taking inspiration in particular from the Sound Archive. Working with the Learning team together with RNIB, the students explored how they can unlock the star items of the Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library for an audience that is visually impaired.

These days everyone is so visually centred, it’s refreshing to step back and just listen to the artist or author. The oral recordings open up your imagination, and let you pick up on something you wouldn’t have noticed before.

HumanitiesCreative industries
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Sue’s Story
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Winning ways to tackle youth problems
I’m Sue Scott-Horne, and following the explosion in youth gang violence in London during 2007, as a mother of a 17-year old son and a 25-year career in Islington education, I felt compelled to launch EGAR (an acronym for Educational Games and Resources), a small social benefiting company designing 'Choice' discussion card sets and display posters. The company aims to combat serious issues such as knife & gun crime, gang culture and drug addiction through discussion and understanding.

While my background in education made me well aware of the market, I had no idea as to how to run a company. Many hours were spent in the Business & IP Centre, researching marketing, trade marking and IP, and I was inspired by a number of entrepreneurial events and workshops held at the British Library. I launched EGAR in early 2009, gaining praise from Peter Jones, Boris Johnson and the Chair of the London Assembly Darren Johnson amongst others. Meanwhile, I have received a number of personal accolades, such as a 'Special Recognition' award from The British Female Invention and Innovation Network BFIIN, reaching National Finalist Position at the Blackberry Women and Technology Awards and I’ve spoken to the House of Lords’ Crime Prevention board.

I’ve used the Library’s Sound Archive to listen to speeches, language and communication to support my work with the development of my ‘Let's Get Talking’, choice discussion card sets covering 50 different teenage and youth issues. EGAR is built on words so the sound archive was an excellent resource to use.

I credit much of my success to the British Library, and have even spoken to one of the workshop groups that inspired me. I have told everyone just how wonderful the British Library is and how it has helped me develop my business, which in turn will make a huge difference to young people, and has helped to change my life.

Social sciences
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Clio’s Story
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Film Director inspired by Sound Archive
I’m Clio Barnard, an artist and filmmaker, and my work has been shown in cinemas, at international film festivals and at galleries including Tate Modern, London, and MoMA, New York. My films have been screened on Channel 4 and have had several international broadcasts. I’ve also been the recipient of a Paul Hamlyn Award and the Jerwood/Artangel Open.

The latest film I’ve directed, ‘The Arbor’, was released to media acclaim, with online reviews on national press sites. It tells the true story of Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar (The Arbor, Rita, Sue and Bob Too) and her daughter Lorraine, revisiting the short life and harsh vision of the ‘genius straight from the slums’ who enjoyed a precocious burst of success in the 1980s.

This film has attracted significant attention through its use of voices – I’d initially discovered recordings of Andrea Dunbar in the Library’s Sound Archive. I found it incredibly moving to hear her voice – the softness of it, and her youth.

The human voice remains central to ‘The Arbor’ film, following interviews – sound only – that I subsequently recorded with members of the Dunbar family and others. These interviews were edited to form an audio ‘screenplay.’ which forms the basis of the film as actors lip-synch to the voices of the interviewees.

Creative industries
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David J’s Story
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Expert in Egyptian Archaeology
I’m Dr David Jeffreys, senior lecturer in Egyptian Archaeology at University College London (UCL), and I’ve been using the Library since 1980. Egyptian archaeology had not been taught as an academic subject in Britain until I founded the degree course at UCL in 1991. I specialise in landscape archaeology and, in addition to publishing books and articles, I’ve featured in television documentaries on the subject, such as Egypt Detectives and BBC’s Chronicle.

My book Views of Ancient Egypt, part of the series Encounters of Ancient Egypt (Oxbow Books), was very popular, used by at least several hundred students as course material, with the series winning the American Libraries Association ‘Outstanding Academic Title of the Year’ award.

The Manuscripts collection is where I found the vital material for my most recent book, The Survey of Memphis VII. The Hekekyan Papers and other sources for the Survey of Memphis.

Public access to all holdings provides a resource that is often the last or only resource available to many researchers. I would not have been able to produce the Hekekyan Papers without access to the Library and their help at the time, so I’m very grateful for that.

Joseph Hekekyan was a talented and pioneering archaeologist in the mid 19th century, but is surprisingly unknown today. While shunned by the Egyptian elite, he was respected by western visitors and residents, but by the turn of the century was entirely forgotten.

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Squid London’s Story
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A design company creating innovative products
Fashion graduates Emma-Jayne Parkes and Viviane Jaeger founded SquidLondon, a design company creating innovative products that interact with the elements. “We were inspired by the rain and how to make it fun and an interactive piece of art. Our first product which we’ve got on the market at the moment is a colour changing umbrella, so it interacts with the rain. We’ve called it our Squidarella, so it’s our walking piece of art.”

Developing such an innovative product meant that intellectual property - protecting their ideas - was an essential topic to crack. The pair visited the Business & IP Centre to learn more about how intellectual property applied to them. They describe the advice sessions that the Centre hosts as “absolutely crucial for a start-up”.

They also benefited from the support of Striding Out, a Library partner organisation, getting help on everything from business planning to meeting new contacts.

“We’ve got a whole bag of ideas that we’re going to produce in our pipeline. We’re a bestseller online with an umbrella, but we just have one product, so our next step is to design a whole range, to give our customers a choice. With the help of the Business & IP Centre we’ll definitely be looking into how we can protect all the different unique ideas that we produce.”

Creative industriesBusiness development
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La Diosa’s Story
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Creators of a luxury jewellery brand
Semhal Zemikael and Natasha Faith are the creators of La Diosa, a luxury jewellery brand, specialising in opulent handmade precious and semi-precious necklaces and rings.

The pair have been regular visitors to the Business & IP Centre since they started developing the business. They investigated the jewellery and luxury markets using the Centre’s market research collections, then used databases such as GrantFinder to find funding opportunities for social enterprises. La Diosa jewellery is stocked in Astley Clarke and the pair have a showroom in London’s jewellery hub, Hatton Garden and has been worn by well-known figures including HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and Kim Cattrall.

“We used lots of a market research tools and databases such as Keynote and Mintel. They were very useful for researching the jewellery market, looking at our competition, seeing where the trends were, what seasons were high, what seasons where low for them. It was great to just have in-depth knowledge on how they carry out their business, and how that could work for La Diosa, because we were in the beginning stages of the company.

We have quite a few followers of La Diosa jewellery including Sarah Brown and Naomi Campbell. La Diosa’s just moved into a Hatton Garden showroom and we’re also planning to move into different fashion accessories. We’re going to use the Centre to research into these different markets and we’d definitely recommend people to use the Centre for that purpose.”

Business developmentScience, technology & medicineCreative industriesHumanitiesSocial sciencesOther
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