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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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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
Discover | Enquire | Debate

Summer Trips at Bishopsgate Institute

by Bishopsgate Institute on 06 / 07 / 2016

This summer we offer three short courses that provide students with the chance to take a trip through time and space without leaving a classroom setting. Whether you’re interested in ‘visiting’ the Crystal Palace in the 1850s, the Festival of Britain in the 1950s or Swinging London in the 1960s, course tutor Michelle Johansen has your journey mapped. 
Archive images of the Swinging 60s

As part of Summer School 2016, I’m delivering three courses that use library and archive materials to recreate three distinct moments in London’s social and cultural history. In programming these courses, the intention was to provide a break from the routine but without the stress that comes with organising a real day trip. Expenses are minimal; there are no frustrating transport delays; and there is no need to worry about the weather, a definite plus point as we move out of the dullest June on record.

All three courses take place in an atmospheric library setting and provide access to sources that evoke an authentic sense of place and period. In An Excursion to the Crystal Palace students examine 150+-year-old pamphlets, illustrations, admission tickets, press cuttings and guidebooks to discover what it was like to visit the most ambitious international public event ever yet organised in Europe. Health and safety precautions are covered. There is a chance to assess the mechanical properties of the ‘Vulcan Machine for Cleansing Chimneys’ along with other pioneering Victorian inventions. Naturally, you will spend time in the Italian Court and have a chance to view the famous panorama of the siege of Paris.

If you prefer the stark brutalism of the post-war era to Victorian fuss and excess, you might choose instead to join an afternoon jolly to the Festival of Britain as we collectively revisit the period after the second world war when London’s South Bank was developed and thrown open to the public. Promoted as ‘paradise on the water’, visitors to this Festival of Britain site in 1951 were greeted by a futuristic spectacle that sought both to reflect and usher in a new technologically-sophisticated age. The session includes an archival peep inside all of the main display spaces (including the Dome of Discovery and the Telekinema) as well as a strictly-just-on-paper boat ride upriver to the exhibition of live architecture at Poplar in east London. 

For the ‘gear’ or ‘with it’ type of student, an evening spent with mind-blowing materials from the swinging sixties might be more suitable. Get your hands on items like the Gear Guide (1967) to discover where it’s at on the fashion scene on the Kings Road and other London hip spots (see image above). But this ‘night out’ won’t only be about the boutiques and bistros; we will use pamphlets, flyers, photographs and press cuttings to examine heavier topics too, such as debates around abortion and birth control, the emergent women’s movement and changing attitudes to same-sex relationships. Definitely not to be missed if you’ve ever wanted to find out how and why London became the world capital of cool for an expanding youth market in the final decades of the twentieth century. 

Bishopsgate Instititute's special collections and archive holds a variety of collections relating to the social and cultural history of London.

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