The opening ceremony for the new Médiathèque was held in the presence of the Ambassador, Sylvie Bermann, the French Institute’s Director, François Croquette, and the Chairman of the Friends of the French Institute Trust, Marc Mourre, who led a successful campaign to raise more than £1.8 million to fund the work.
The guests of honour included writers Mathieu Tazo et Jonathan Coe, illustrator Sir Quentin Blake and French actor and author Denis Podalydès, who treated the audience to a selection of his texts before joining in a visit to the newly-renovated rooms.
The building, situated at 17 Queensberry Place, was commissioned from the French architect Patrice Bonnet in the 1930s and is one of the most striking examples of the Art Deco style being exported across the Channel. The Denis Saurat listed reading room features period stained-glass windows and parquet flooring; with its harmonious spaces and layout, it is a welcoming and peaceful place, ideal for getting lost in words. If necessary it can be turned into a venue for conferences or school groups.
The Médiathèque also comprises the Bibliothèque Quentin Blake, a tribute to the British author and artist, particularly famous for his pictures illustrating Roald Dahl’s novels, but also for his own books. Renovating this children’s library provided an opportunity to double its surface area and increase the number of activities offered to children, including toddlers.
Finally, the two floors housing the adult collections have been modernized and reorganized in four areas: a learner’s library, an audiovisual section, humanities and social sciences, and culture and tourism in France.
The whole Médiathèque has also been adapted to contemporary reading practices and users’ needs, especially by providing a full range of digital facilities, quiet workstations and a room for hosting groups.
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