Tag Archives: protest

Books as doves

Blackheath Village Library Read-In Protest

Neil Rhind spoke about the history of libraries in Blackheath, and then revealed that he had popped into the Blackheath Standard library recently, because he needed to check something in his book Blackheath Village and Environs Volume 2, but couldn’t find it on the shelf. A library assistant informed him that “it’s always out. It’s the most stolen book from our library, after the bible”. He seemed delighted by this!

Here’s an extract from the reading by Blake Morrison, from his book The Justification of Johann Gutenberg

One day in the forest, when he was feeding the birds, he says, “it was as if the dove that perched [on my hand] spreading its wings had become an open book. And the dove departing from me was like a book taking flight. And the grain the dove held in its beak was like a kernel of knowledge seeding itself through the world.”

A very pertinent passage, as the grain is about to be snatched from the beaks of future generations.

Both Blake Morrison and Nicholas Cranfield (the vicar from All Saints Church) emphasised the community aspects of the library. Blake Morrison described what he called “bibliotherapy” – the act of reading with others, as something of great value. He emphasised that when politicians define the needs for cuts across services, they often draw a choice between front-line healthcare services, or library services. He spoke very well about his experiences, and said that library services often actively reduce the need for healthcare, by nurturing people’s minds, reducing their reliance on other services. I guess this sort of symbiotic relationship is hard to prove on a balance sheet, but it certainly chimes with my gut feeling of how a library benefits society. Nicholas Cranfield spoke of libraries as a “civilising force”.

On the downside, there wasn’t enough space for the protest inside the library- they should have held it outside with a PA (maybe they could have borrowed the mic from the crazy morris minor sound-system, or moved the bookshelves to make space for the protestors – the shelves were on wheels, so why not make some space?!

All in all, it was an uplifting experience. I’m just not sure that Lewisham Council was paying attention.

(Photo credit: Mrs Bugle, deep undercover…)

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Filed under blackheath, blackheath village, books, politics

The Reluctant Library

Lucy Mangan of the Grauniad TV reviews will be reading from her book The Reluctant Bride in a shameless bid to save Blackheath Library at 2pm on Saturday. What’s that you say? Maybe it is her favourite book! Why shouldn’t her favourite book be one that she wrote herself, for goodness sake? The trouble with you people is that you are far too cynical.

On another note, Sir Ian Mills of Age Exchange wrote me a very valid email, pointing out that whilst my post “Pay a tenner to find out what will happen to your library” was factually correct, it was also extremely bad tempered. He has a point. I had a hangover. On a school night. Sorry. If you want to look at Age Exchange’s plans for the library, they are on display inside their shop. You should go regardless, it’s a great place.

Nonetheless, some of the comments below the post raise some interesting questions:

  • This seems to me to be the most significant issue: If Age Exchange hadn’t stepped in to offer the council this alternative, wouldn’t there have been more pressure on Lewisham council not to close the library? Isn’t this just giving them an easy get-out?
  • Is this a way for Age Exchange to expand its profile, maintain its funding, and by merging itself with the library, ensure that it cannot be easily removed from the high street? The first role of any organisation is to maintain its own existence, even if it is a charity.
  • Why should local library-goers be encouraged to donate £30 per year to maintain a library service that up until this year was provided by the local council?
  • Darryl claims that Greenwich Council has decided to cease funding for Age Exchange. Does Greenwich Council contribute funds to Age Exchange? (I couldn’t see any mention of them on their funding page).
  • The current library is funded by Lewisham council, but Age Exchange is in the Greenwich Council part of Blackheath. How will this issue be resolved?

I’ve written before about how much I like the Age Exchange Centre.  It’s great.  But by offering Mayor Bullock a Big-Society-friendly way to downgrade the status of the current library, it may have done more harm than good.  Maybe lobbying the current owners of the existing library building to reduce or forgo the rent could have been a better strategy, which is now unavailable to the BVLUG, as the anti-closure lobby is effectively split between two positions.

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Do not cut here

Blackheath Library Read-In Protest
Great poster from the Sydenham Library blog. Come and read extracts from your favourite book in Blackheath Library on 5th Feb, from 2-4pm, as part of the library protests against the cuts.
From the Sydenham Library blog:

We are holding the read-in in conjunction with other libraries across the country. We feel it’s wrong to close essential front line services like this which benefit the whole community.

If you feel the same way please let people know. We hope to see you there.

More info on the Blackheath Village Library Users Group site.

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Video Outside Lewisham Town Hall


From youtube user thegoldengirlk8, spotted on Guardian London Blog

Glad to see some people brave the cold to stand up for what they believe in. Hope it saves the libraries.

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Climate Camp -The Aftermath

Sundown on Blackheath Climate Camp by Flickr user Eddie C

… or not. All in all, Blackheath seemed to do pretty well out of the Climate Camp. The people in Provender looked as though all their Christmases had come at once (well, they said they’d been busy). The Hare and Billet looked busier than I’d seen it for a long while, despite the worsening choice of beer (all seems to taste like vinegar these days), and the miserable sign on the loos “toilets are for customers only”.

What I’d really like to know is- has anyone taken any before & after shots of the Heath? I reckon the protesers will have cleaned up pretty well after themselves, save for the odd strands of hay and a couple of fire-pits. It would be nice to compare the two photos.

Personally, I went to some great workshops, saw more people on my patch of the interweb than ever before, and now have a strong desire to go and build a wind turbine. Maybe they should hold it in Blackheath every year, like a kind of Blackheath Burning Man.

Photo by Flickr user Eddie C

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Prosperity without growth, in a tent on Blackheath

Talk at the Blackheath Climate Camp
I attended David Fleming’s talk at the Climate Camp Is economics without growth possible?. The place was packed. It was really interesting to hear someone playing with big ideas, and asking difficult questions.

I’m the first to admit that I was out of my depth at this talk. The Wind Turbines talk was much more understandable to me. Nonetheless, here are my notes:
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Those hooligans, they’re a menace!

Oh no, it’s ok, don’t panic Mayor Steve… They’re having a tidy up:
Climate campers clean up the Commons

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