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The Bishopsgate Blog provides an added insight into all of our activities, Library, Courses, Events and Schools and Community Learning. Our regular blogs will feature speakers from our Cultural Events, photographs, documents, letters, posters and ephemera from the Library, up-to-date news and information on courses and first-hand accounts of our Schools and Community workshops.

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Courses Our regular blogs will provide up-to-date news and information on our courses
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Schools and Community First hand accounts of our archive learning workshops

Schools and Community

Our inspired Schools and Community Learning programme delivers a range of workshops and projects using the unique and fascinating collections found within our world-renowned Bishopsgate Library. Our workshops are suitable for learners of all ages and are used by wide variety of audiences from primary school pupils to pensioners.

Our regular blogs will demonstrate how our Schools and Community Learning programme encourages discovery and enquiry amongst our wide-ranging participants.


Culture and arts, heritage and history, ideas and independent thought all come together in our exciting events programmes. You can enjoy talks, walks, discussions and debates, or one of the many concerts that take place throughout the year.

Our regular blogs will give an added insight and perspective into our dynamic programme with content from speakers at our events.


Situated in a Grade II* listed building, Bishopsgate Library’s beautiful reading room is a peaceful place to study that is open to all; a calm oasis amid the bustle of Spitalfields and the City. In our dedicated Researchers’ Area, you can consult our renowned printed and archival collections on London, labour, freethought and Humanism, co-operation, or protesting and campaigning.

Our regular blogs will provide a new way for you to engage with the library collections and services, new acquisitions, activities and future developments.


Our comprehensive range of short courses offer you the opportunity to discover, discuss and be inspired in a welcoming environment. Our courses are conveniently designed to take place throughout the day, including lunchtimes, after work and at weekends. We have five course strands, Arts and Culture, Words and Ideas, Languages, Performing Arts and Body & Exercise to choose from.

Our regular blogs will provide up-to-date news and information.

Bishopsgate Blog
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What do the 80s mean to you?

by Schools and Community on 10 / 10 / 2012

Exploring history together is the aim of the Schools and Community Learning team – we develop inspiring workshops and projects that open up our world-renowned library collections and engage with learners of varied ages and backgrounds.

To tie in with the Back to the 80s events we want to know what the decade meant to those who were there – and those who weren’t. What personal recollections do you have from the decade of Thatcher, New Romantics and red braces? If you didn’t live through the 80s, how do you think the decade’s events and attitudes have affected you? Your thoughts, memories, and memorabilia could become part of our next exhibition at Bishopsgate Institute.

Greenpeace Save the Whales certificate

As Liz (Schools & Community Learning Manager) recalls: ‘My parents subscribed to New Internationalist and supported Greenpeace so magazines from these organisations were my childhood reading – even though I couldn’t understand all the nuances. In the late 80s Iceland, Norway and Japan continued whale hunting despite international bans on commercial whaling. Greenpeace started a boycott of Icelandic frozen fish fingers and as a result of promising to not buy the fish I received the certificate pictured. I didn’t even like fish fingers!’

We are holding two ‘Remembering the 80s’ events, where you can explore relevant items from our library and archive collections, speak to one of our oral history volunteers and share your experiences of the 80s with us.

Remembering the 80s:

Friday 19 October, 2.30pm – 4.30pm, Library

Tuesday 23 October, 6.30pm – 7.15pm, Rear Library

If you have any memorabilia and mementos we could use in the exhibition – this could be photographs, badges, certificates, fanzines, concert tickets, election leaflets, alternative lifestyle pamphlets, anything that reflects your activities and interests in the 80s – please bring it along!

The resulting exhibition, a collage of images and words about the 1980s, will be on display December 2012 – January 2013.

If you’re not able to attend one of the events but would like to contribute, please email us your images and memories by 25 October.

Gary Kemp interview

by Events on 24 / 09 / 2012

Musician, songwriter and actor Gary Kemp will be taking part in our event, Poptastic: Music in the 80s (Thursday 27 September 2012) along with lead singer of The Selecter, Pauline Black and chair of the event Robert Elms. The event is part of our Back to the 80s series and Gary shares some of his thoughts on the 1980s music scene ahead of the event this Thursday.

BI: The new romantic era is sometimes written off as a time of flamboyant fashion, but was there a more serious/political side?

GK: If working-class kids dressing aspirationally is political, then yes. We are all divided by culture which classes us. The Orwellian view of the working classes in cloth caps, or the middle-class rock writer shunning soul boy culture while praising the Rasta, was being threatened by what we were doing. My father wore a tie everyday to go to the factory, we were just following in the well-shod footsteps of the history of working-class vanity. 

BI: The influence of the 80s can certainly be heard on contemporary acts like The Killers, Lady Gaga, Hot Chip etc. Why do you think today’s musicians draw so much on the electronic heritage of the 80s in their work?

GK: I'm convinced that the fashion for it's glamour is because we are in another recession. During our last boom-time bands and youth culture looked purposefully dreary, it seemed to me, looking more like the ticket touts outside than something to aspire to. Youth culture has always operated in a dialectical fashion. Strangely up until the nineties and bands like Oasis, there was no looking back. Have we run out of musical ideas, or are we just archivists now? Maybe the frontiers of youth culture are no longer in music.

BI: Who were the influences on your music at the time?

GK: Bowie, certainly, in all his incarnations, and of course Roxy Music. But Spandau were an eclectic amalgamation of the best of the seventies: the fun, gang-like mentality of the Faces; the cultish ambitions and blueprint of the Sex Pistols; the glamour and pop of Generation X and the Rich Kids, plus the soul scene with all it's fashion, dance culture and 12' remix adventures. Add to that the new German electronic sounds, blessed of course by who else but David Bowie. 

BI: Who do you think are today’s influential musicians and why?

GK:The sound of U2 has permeated everywhere, most especially on Coldplay, with it's anthemic mood music. Radiohead set a musical style that has also been very influential. But it's American pop music, especially R&B that is the biggest influence now on the UK. This is the first time, surely, since Elvis and Chuck Berry that it's been that way round. 

BI: Spandau Ballet recently did the Reformation Tour. How does gigging today compare to back in the 80’s?

GK: It's the same but now it's where bands make most of their money, as opposed to selling records. I think Youtube has taking the mystique out of live shows. Those early Spandau shows were unfilmed and word of mouth created an enormous buzz about them. If it had happened now it would have been posted on Youtube and derided by trolls in days!

BI: Music aside, what do you think are the other lasting legacies of the 80s?

GK: Wow! Let me think about that... Alfresco dining?

Find out more about all our Back to the 80s events.