Events at the National Library

National Library of Scotland events are free and take place in our George IV Bridge Building, unless we state otherwise.

Places are limited, so we recommend that you book in advance.

We use Eventbrite for online event bookings. When you book an event you will be taken to the Eventbrite website. You can also phone 0131 623 3734.

January events | February events | March events

List updated: 16 January.

For more information, or to join the events mailing list, email nlsevents@nls.uk.


January events

See also:
Workshops and tours
Kelvin Hall events

Research slam

Silhouette of a man thinking

Watch 14 researchers compete in a quick-fire knockout celebration of niche interests, specialist topics, and human wonderment. Competitors have just a few minutes to describe their topic overview, use of our collections, and impact of research. A panel of judges will then score the slammers on content, performance, and audience reaction. It is guaranteed to be entertaining and educational.

Monday 23 January
18.00
Free. Book the research slam on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.


Open Book: A weekly shared reading group

An open book with glasses resting on top

This shared reading group is open to everyone. Drop in to our café to explore fiction and poetry in a relaxed, informal setting. There is no need to read or prepare anything in advance. Each session is facilitated by a volunteer from the Open Book project.

Every Tuesday
10.30-11.30
Free. No need to book, just come along on the day.


StAnza poetry launch

StAnza poetry festival audience

Enjoy an evening of poetry readings and music at the brochure launch for Scotland's International Poetry Festival, StAnza. From 1 to 5 March, St Andrews celebrates the written and spoken word. The 2017 programme includes Scotland's Makar Jackie Kay, Forward Prize winner Vahni Capildeo, Glasgow's Poet Laureate Jim Carruth, and many others.

Tuesday 24 January
18.00
Free. Book by emailing StAnza or phone 07900207429.


Poetry slam

Portrait of Robbie Burns

Celebrate Burns Night with the Library's Poetry slam — where performance poets delight and intrigue their audience with competitive poetry. The slam is open to all, with a guaranteed variety of poetic styles and topics. Graeme Hawley, former Scottish Slam Champion, hosts an evening to make you think, laugh, and applaud.

Wednesday 25 January
18.00
Free. Book the poetry slam on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.


The joy of spines

In association with Fire Starter Festival

Spine of a book

Graeme Hawley, the Library's General Collections Manager, performs his four-star Fringe show about our collections. A profound, moving, surprising and sometimes hilarious wander through the miles (and miles) of Library shelves — all in the comfort of the Boardroom. Graeme also talks about how performance can engage new audiences and open up new perspectives on the Library's work.

Thursday 26 January
14.00-16.00
Free. Book 'The joy of spines' on Eventbrite.


'Sun pictures' and beyond

Black and white photo of men wearing top hats

Graham Hogg, Library Curator, explores our extensive holdings of photographically illustrated books published during the 19th century. Starting with William Henry Fox Talbot's 'Sun pictures in Scotland' (1845), Scotland inspired many impressive and ground-breaking publications illustrated with photographs and photomechanical prints. A selection of photographically illustrated books is on display in '"Sun pictures" and beyond' (link).

Tuesday 31 January
14.00
Free. Book '"Sun pictures" and beyond' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.


February events

See also:
Workshops and tours
Kelvin Hall events

Muriel Spark event

Muriel Spark

On the 99th anniversary of Dame Muriel Spark's birthday, hear a panel of guests led by Dr Colin McIlroy, Muriel Spark Project Curator at the Library. Staff and students from the University of Edinburgh talk about how Spark's work has influenced them. This begins a series of events building up to Spark's 100th birthday.

Wednesday 1 February
18.00
Free. Book the Muriel Spark event on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.


Coming in: Stories of LGBT people moving to a new place

LGBT History Month logo

A celebration of LGBTQI life stories, particularly of those who 'came in' to Scotland to make it their home. The event features audio recordings from OurStory Scotland's collection, which are archived at the National Library, alongside live accounts. Interested participants will be recorded, telling their own stories of coming in to Scotland or being elsewhere. Part of the Connecting Scotland's Sounds programme — championing Scotland's heritage recordings with support from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. In partnership with OurStory Scotland and LGBT Health and Wellbeing. British Sign Language interpretation is provided.

Thursday 2 February
18.00-20.00
Free. Book 'Coming in' online.


BabblED: A modular system for storing information in DNA

Scientists wearing white coats

As part of an internationally-renowned synthetic biology competition, a team of undergraduate students from the University of Edinburgh designed a DNA storage system to rival current archival storage techniques. In collaboration with the National Library, they implemented their system by archiving the last letter of Mary Queen of Scots in a sequence of DNA. Three of the team take us through how they achieved this and the implication for the future of data storage.

Tuesday 7 February
14.00
Free. Book 'BabblED' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.


Open Book: A weekly shared reading group

An open book with glasses resting on top

This shared reading group is open to everyone. Drop in to our café to explore fiction and poetry in a relaxed, informal setting. There is no need to read or prepare anything in advance. Each session is facilitated by a volunteer from the Open Book project.

Every Tuesday
10.30-11.30
Free. No need to book, just come along on the day.


Out there: LGBT History Month

LGBT History Month logo

Two of Scotland's most exciting and acclaimed novelists Louise Welsh and Zoe Strachan — editor of 'Out there: an anthology of Scottish LGBT writing' — discuss historical and contemporary LGBT writing. With readings from works covering identity and inspiration, they explore the experiences of LGBT writers from Scotland and beyond.

Thursday 9 Februray
18.00
Free. Book 'Out there' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.


Cold seas and warm friendships

Commemorating veterans of the Arctic convoys

War memorial

After the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, Allied forces launched support to Russia. Groups of ships in Arctic convoys sailed from Iceland and Scotland to Archangel and Murmansk with essential supplies. Thousands of Scots were involved in these dangerous missions, coping with treacherous seas and appalling conditions. To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the first convoys, ex-Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander Dairmid Gunn talks about his book 'Cold seas and warm friendships', which records the memories of Scottish veterans of these operations.

This event is run in conjunction with the Scotland-Russia Forum.

Monday 13 February
14.00
Free. This event is fully booked.


Elizabeth Soutar Bookbinding Awards 2016

Elizabeth Soutar leaflet cover

The Elizabeth Soutar Bookbinding Award encourages the practice and development of creative and craft binding skills. The competition is open to bookbinders across Europe, and the winning entries will join the Library's collection of fine bindings. On the night there is a special display of all the 2016 entries, as well as the awards ceremony to announce this year's Elizabeth Soutar Bookbinding winners.

Thursday 23 February
18.00
Free. This event is fully booked.


'Saturday, 3pm: Fifty eternal delights of modern football'

'Saturday, 3pm' poster

Author and TV presenter Daniel Gray's 'Saturday, 3pm' is a love letter to football. His poetic, sweet essays recount the game's loveable minutiae. Here, he brings to life topics such as floodlights, catering vans, seeing a ground from the train, brackets on vidiprinters and slide tackles in mud. Seasoned performer Gray reads energetically and emotionally from the book, and explains the ideas behind it. Expect evocative words and fond chuckles.

Tuesday 28 February
18.00
Free. Book 'Saturday, 3pm' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.


March events

See also:
Workshops and tours
Kelvin Hall events

Liketh, loveth, getteth and useth maps

A World Book Day event

Map and illustration

John Dee, Arthur Conan Doyle, Alexander McCall Smith and countless other authors have commented on maps and map making, sometimes as essential parts of their tales and sometimes as entertaining asides. In this illustrated lecture in celebration of World Book Day, curator Paula Williams explores across the Library's collections to see how maps have been portrayed in literature.

Thursday 2 March
14.00
Free. Book 'Liketh, loveth, getteth and useth maps' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.


Edinburgh Bibliographic Society Annual Lecture with Lawrence Worms

Colourful map

The Library's exhibition, 'You are Here', takes us on a journey through maps. This joint event, with the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society, focuses on the people who made them. Antiquarian bookseller Laurence Worms, co-author of 'British map engravers' (2011), takes us through the early history of the Scottish map trade — its personnel, their relationships, and their careers.

Thursday 2 March
18.00
Free. Book the EBS lecture on Eventbrite. EBS members can email Derek Taylor to book a place.


Open Book: A weekly shared reading group

An open book with glasses resting on top

This shared reading group is open to everyone. Drop in to our café to explore fiction and poetry in a relaxed, informal setting. There is no need to read or prepare anything in advance. Each session is facilitated by a volunteer from the Open Book project.

Every Tuesday
10.30-11.30
Free. No need to book, just come along on the day.


When women ran the Scottish Periodical Press, with Juliet Shields

Photograph of a lady

Periodicals dominated the literary marketplace in 19th-century Scotland, from elite journals like Blackwood's 'Edinburgh Magazine' to popular magazines such as 'The People's Friend'. They offered women opportunities to participate, often anonymously, in political and cultural debates that were ordinarily considered the purview of men. But periodicals also enforced traditional ideals of femininity that would confine women to the home. This talk examines how three powerful women writers turned the paradoxes of the periodical press to their own advantage.

Tuesday 7 March
14.00
Free. Book 'When women ran...' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.


Political women in the early United States

International Women's Day lecture

Photograph of Catherine Allgor

Could women be political before they got the vote? 'Yes', says Catherine Allgor, Director of Education at the Huntington Library and noted scholar of women and politics. In the new capital of the United States during the early republic, white ruling class women borrowed heavily from English court culture to further their families' political aims. In doing so, they built the structure that would support the United States' future as a democratic nation-state.

Wednesday 8 March
18.00
Free. Book 'Political women' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.


Britain's forgotten bodysnatchers

'Bodysnatchers' book cover

Between 1742 and 1832, men stole fresh cadavers from houses and graveyards, and squashed them into sacks ready to transport across the country. Anatomy schools paid high prices for corpses, asking no questions about their origins. The famous bodysnatchers Burke and Hare dominate this macabre period in Britain's history, but lesser-known bodysnatchers deserve their story told. Hear stories involving medical students, anatomists, and opportunist bodysnatchers, as we discover the hidden cases from history.

Thursday 9 March
18.00
Free. Book 'Britain's forgotten bodysnatchers' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.


SCO and the Library: Music and faith

Clarinet and sheet music

Come and hear Lucy Forde and invited guests discuss the relationship between music and religion. Over the centuries, many composers have been inspired by the 'Stabat Mater' — the 13th-century Catholic hymn to Mary. This event is linked to one of the most recent composers to compose for the hymn: Sir James MacMillan's 'Stabat Mater', performed on Thursday 23 March 2017 at the Queen's Hall, Edinburgh.

Tuesday 14 March
18.00
Free. Book 'SCO and the Library' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.


Bazaars, benevolence and the built heritage of Scotland, 1830-1930

Bazaar poster

Charity bazaar mania reached its peak in the decades around 1900. Bazaars offered middle and upper class women an opportunity to use their organisational skills outside the home, with extravagant events accompanied by sales of fancy work and other goods. Women could take part in acceptable commerce, approved because it was philanthropic. Many bazaars funded public buildings, and Douglas Lockhart draws on examples throughout Scotland to highlight the variety of projects that were associated with local fund raising.

Thursday 23 March
18.00
Free. Book 'Bazaars, benevolence...' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.


The Reformation in 10 books

Detail from a medieval book

Martin Luther's 'The 95 theses' started a revolution that shook Europe 500 years ago. Helen Vincent, the Library's Rare Books Collections Manager, selects 10 rare books that bring the Reformation to life. Find out how the printed word became the weapon of choice for reformers, counter-reformers, intellectuals, politicians, poets and pamphleteers. This event is part of the Library's programme for Rare Books Edinburgh, a new festival celebrating rare, collectable and important books and book history, with a book fair of some of the UK's top rare books dealers.

Thursday 30 March
14.00
Free. Book 'The Reformation in 10 books' on Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.


See also:



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