Cityread London 2019 – Sofia Khan is Not Obliged

Join millions of Londoners this month and read Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik and there are still plenty of opportunities to meet the author of this exciting and hilarious story.

Ayisha will be chatting ChickLit with Caroline O’Donoghue, Lucy Diamond, Nisha Nayar and Ben Aaronovitch at Waterstones Tottenham Court Road on 23 May.  And Cityread London 2019 will be rounding off a delightful month of festivities with a raucous panel of amazing women, including Nina Wadia and Mariam Khan at the Aga Khan Centre on 30 May. 

Visit for more information and tickets.

It’s not too late to get involved – download the FREE ebook  using download code CITYREAD2019.

Londoners are talking about this wonderful book – why don’t you join the conversation today?


Visit to the British Library

On 24th October ALAG members were invited to the British Library to view some of the Bengali books dating back to the first printing press in India which are being digitised as part of the Two Centuries of Indian Print project.

To find out more about the project and the team who are undertaking this vital work view the project website at:

ALAG BL vist 02 241017

Members had the good fortune to view some of the books at first hand and ask questions about their backgrounds. One of the books was a cookery book with authentic recipes and another a travel guide on the etiquette of traveling by train which would have been a useful source of information at the time.

ALAG members would like to thank Project Manager Alia Carter for arranging the visit and Project Curator Layli Uddin for her infectious enthusiasm and knowledge about the books. Both are pictured above with ALAG members during the visit.

Cityread 2017 at Brent Libraries

southwark16On 20 April join a virtual tour of Elizabethan London at Willesden Green Library, 2pm to 3pm. Get ready to see a very different city to the one we live in today.Elizabeth 1

On 25 April  find out about a side of Elizabethan London often overlooked in the history books when we take a look at the lives of black Londoners during this period: Blackamoores and Tudor England at Willseden Green Library, 6.15 -7.45pm. Both are free to attend but advanced booking required as spaces are limited.

Please join in with Cityread this year by reading Prophecy by S. J. Parris, coming to an event or both!

Get thee to a library – Cityread 2017 is here!

cityread logoCityread is now with us.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this reading scheme – Cityread is an annual celebration of reading across London. Each year Cityread invites London’s residents, workers and visitors to read the same book during April. Like a huge book group!  The novel is a starting point for debate, events and other promotions.

prophecyThis year’s chosen book is Prophecy by  S.J.Parris.  The book is a historical thriller set in Elizabethan London.  The main character is Giordano Bruno, who is based on a real person, he is a former monk and now excommunicated renegade free thinker living in London in exile from his native Italy.  He finds himself embroiled in a dangerous plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I and replace her with the imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots.  Surrounded by religious conflict, occult practices, murder and suspicion he must tread with cunning to foil the plot and catch a murderer.

If you want to know if he succeeds pick up the book today!

Introduction to the Two Centuries of Indian Print project

The ‘Two Centuries of Indian Print’ project is the start of a major programme to share the wealth of Indian printed books held by the British Library dating from 1713 to 1914. The British Library’s collection spans at least 22 South Asian languages and millions of pages, and is the most significant held anywhere outside the Subcontinent. Many of the books are unique and many are also in delicate condition due to their age, so the mass digitisation of these items will not only make them widely available to people around the world, but will also help preserve the fragile originals for future generations.

To find out more about the project watch this video or you can read more details on the project website

AliaCarterAlia Carter (pictured left) is Project Manager.


This pilot project, which centres around the digitisation of 4,000 early printed books in Bengali, started in April 2016 and is due to finish April 2018.  Many of the books in the pilot project are rare or unique to the British Library.


Layli Uddin, the project curator, has also organised a series of seminars related to the project, which are open to anyone to attend:

8 May 2017: Christopher D. Bahl (PhD student, SOAS, London), “Cultural Entrepôts and Histories of Circulation: The Arabic Manuscripts of the Royal Library of Bijapur”

22 May 2017: Professor Kamran Asdar Ali (University of Texas, Austin), “Of Communists and Conspiracy: The Rawalpindi Case in Pakistan”

5 June 2017: Radha Kapuria (PhD student, King’s College London), “Musicians and Dancers in 19th Century Punjab: A Brief Social History”

12 June 2017: Simon Leese (PhD student, SOAS, London), “Visions of the Arabic Hejaz: Memory and the Poetics of Devotion in 18th and 19thcentury North India”

View a detailed programme and find out more about these events.

No advance booking is required, and the sessions are free to attend. For further information, please contact Dr Layli Uddin, Project Curator of Two Centuries of Indian Print.

Location and Time: Foyle Learning Centre, British Library, 5:30-7:00pm


Cityread London 2017 – coming soon…..

Cityread 2017

For more information about Cityread London 2017 visit but in the meantime here are some of the activities that will be taking place across London – be prepared to be transported!

Giordano Bruno needs YOU!

Cecily Ashe has been murdered, strange occult symbols carved into her flesh. Her body lies at the Charterhouse. The queen’s spymaster, Walsingham, suspects links to a plot to overthrow the crown and calls on international man of mystery, Giordano Bruno to recruit a band of fellow spies – men and women of equally shady backgrounds – to help him uncover the truth.

Will you join him?

Get ready to don your cloak and explore the historic cloisters of the Charterhouse, hearing from Bruno himself about the facts surrounding Cecily’s murder, the dark omens that are being whispered and the secrets of Mary Stuart’s supporters.

Click here for tickets

Magical books: new date added!

magical booksDue to huge demand for our book handling workshop at the Royal College of Physicians, we’re delighted to announce a second date on 19 April.  Join us as we turn the pages of volumes from ‘the finest collection of books to be found in the kingdom’: the library of Dr John Dee.  Rare books expert Katie Birkwood will lead this hands-on session in the atmospheric surroundings of the Royal College of Physicians, as you delve into the fact and fiction surrounding one of Tudor England’s most enigmatic and intriguing characters.

Click here for tickets.


Eat like an Elizabethan

Polly RussellAcclaimed chef Paul Merrett (Saturday Kitchen) has teamed up with food historian Polly Russell (Back in Time for Dinner, pictured) to create a four course feast inspired by the lavish banquets of the 16th century. Join Prophecy author S.J. Parris, Polly and Paul for this festival highlight, as we discover how the Elizabethans ate, while we tuck in.

Click here for tickets to the Cityread Supper Club.


All aboard the Golden Hinde

Golden HindeFor this year’s big book giveaway we’re going totally Tudor. We’ll be gifting 1000 copies of Prophecy from  Sir Francis Drake’s famous galleon from 4pm on Friday 31 March.
Come say hey nonny nonny and pick up your copy from our jester and town crier in Borough Market. Then step on deck to get it signed by S.J. Parris herself, as the Golden Hinde lowers its gangplank free of charge for Cityreaders.

The British in India – exhibition at Ealing Road Library

ALAG are proud to be associated with the Indo-British Heritage Trust to bring you a vibrant and informative exhibition celebrating over 400 years of the relationship between India and Britain.

IBHT exhibition 2

The exhibition panels can be viewed at Ealing Road Library during opening hours. ALAG would like to thank the Indo-British Heritage Trust, Brent Museum and Brent Libraries for their on-going support.

If you are interested in Indo – British history then look out for the following books written by Kusoom Vadgama and available to borrow from Brent Libraries:


Madam Rehana Roohi is chief guest at Brent Urdu Poetry Group

The Brent Urdu Poetry Group in conjunction with ALAG met again on Sunday 5th February for another successful Mushaira event. This time the venue was Ealing Road Library where the comfortable surroundings and library environment was much appreciated by poets and guests alike.

Madam Rehana Roohi a renowned Poetess from Pakistan was chief guest and the Mushaira (poetry recital) was presided by Bazme Sukhan London patron-in-chief Mr Aqeel Danish.

Mushaira stage Secretary was Sohail Zarrar Khalish who worked with ALAG members and organised the event attended by 40 Urdu poetry enthusiasts. Many thanks to Brent Libraries and staff at Ealing Road Library for their help and support.

The picture shows event organisers and some of the guests who attended and made the event such a success.

BUPG Mushaira 2 050217 More

Launch of the Brent Urdu Poetry Group

ALAG in partnership with Brent Libraries is very proud to announce the successful launch of the Brent Urdu Poetry Group. The event took place on Sunday 13th November at Wembley Library.

About thirty people with a passion for the Urdu language and poetry of Sir Allama Iqbal attended the launch, hosted by Bazm- e -Sukhan (as seen on TV).

Notable, local poet Mr Aqueel Danish compered the event with Mr Sohail Zarrar. The group will be meeting again soon – watch out for dates and times.

Here are some pictures from the event:



Kanai Datta R.I.P

ALAG members were saddened by the recent death of long-standing member Kanai Datta, on Sunday 23rd October 2016.

Kanai first gained an MA in Bengali from Calcutta University and during his distinguished career as a Chartered Librarian, Kanai  worked for the British Library and the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta.  He then worked for many years for Tower Hamlets Libraries where he developed a successful schools service and authored and translated many bilingual children’s books. He was very well regarded by the Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets and by everyone that he worked with..

After retiring, Kanai  founded Grantha Neer, a specialist firm which supplied books from and / or about both Bangladesh and India.  Kanai was instrumental in developing the CILLA cataloguing service in South Asian languages, for libraries in the UK and Europe.   Supplying catalogued books in the UK particularly, has helped the British library network to build a stock of recently-published South Asian books that is perhaps unique in the world.  The South Asian language books supplied by Grantha Neer  over the last 25+ years are still available today in UK public libraries and provide reading for pleasure, for education and for research.


Kanai has indeed left a legacy for future generations to enjoy and will never be forgotten by those who had the privilege to know and work with him. Aruna Shah, founder member of ALAG said this of Kanai:

He was an extraordinary man. There are many in the community and friends and colleagues who will mourn deeply his passing away as his was a life of service, kindness and compassion. 

I met Kanai in the early 1980s, professionally and we became good friends amidst the growth of Asian Librarianship in the UK. His contributions to Bengali culture, language and literature generally and the development of readers’ services in Tower Hamlets Libraries were immense. Kanai was a good friend to us and we will sadly miss him at our ALAG meetings. He always made it a point to attend the Group’s meetings till his health permitted. He got along well with people, avoided confrontation and had a great sense of humour. May he rest in peace.




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