The university of life

So let me get this right. The labour party was formed for the poorest people in society to have a better say over their lives. I’ve just voted for our Labour-controlled (Lewisham) council to stay Labour. And our library has just been turned into a private school. Well done all of you.


Filed under blackheath

47 responses to “The university of life

  1. Rob Hasell

    This has been happening for years, Labour needs to find its roots.

  2. Anonymous

    Didn’t you know? It’s all one big party now.
    It’s called the Rich Blokes Party.
    The only way to make a difference is to vote for the Independents.
    Complete rejection is the only message that Labour and Conservative will ever understand.

  3. Jim benoit

    If you voted in lewisham council elections yesterday, you must be the only one.

    • Published. Just not believed.

    • Jim benoit

      It’s the lib dems in government who cut lewisham’s budget (and others) by 30%. Of course services will close after that. Crawl back under your rock.

      • Greenwich Liberal

        Compared to some of what I have had on the doorstep over the last 4 months of the campaign, crawling under rocks is a pathetic attempt at intimidation. But sadly for you while the vote will be low for the LDs the majority of people IRL are remarkably pleasant to the LDs locally. Get out from behind your keyboard and protest and vote out on the streets, as I do, and if your view gets the majority and we are destroyed – well done. That’s democracy.

  4. Rupert Fiennes

    Libraries don’t employ enough unionised labour. Why should the Labour party care if they exist or not?

  5. @Greenwich Liberal:
    “Compared to some of what I have had on the doorstep over the last 4 months of the campaign, crawling under rocks is a pathetic attempt at
    intimidation …”

    I find it hard to imagine anyone being rude let alone attempting to intimidate someone as quite as ruggedly good-looking as you, Mr. GL.

    Come on girls, isn’t he a dish? (Not embarrassing you, am I, GL?)

    • Greenwich Liberal

      Not at all michelleobrien11! Thank you ..made my day…no year! Right that’s enough of this voluntary politics lark, back to the mountains and bear wrestling.

  6. Gina Raggett

    The LibDems don’t have much to crow about where Blackheath Village library is concerned. Things at the so-called “community” library at Age Exchange – in the borough of Greenwich, incidentally, GL – could hardly be worse and all anyone including the LibDems can say is: we are where we are and we have to accept it.
    – According to figures issued by Lewisham council, monthly book issues have crashed from 5,044 in October 2010 at the Village library to 354 in March 2012 at AE.
    – It costs borrowers 50p per title to order books, including those in Lewisham’s own stocks. Remember we were promised this service would “probably” be free?
    – Books, even when in stock, can take literally months to be delivered. Remember we were promised delivery within 24 hours?
    – Volunteers, who are nothing if not willing, are inadequately trained, leading to discrepancies which in turn can lead to fines which cannot be paid at AE as this would involve access to borrowers’ financial details.

    The signs are that with only 6,000 – 7,000 titles, the AE library is too small to be sustainable and the appointment of a part-time qualified librarian will make little difference. LibDems and others should be urging Lewisham to cut its considerable losses and look elsewhere (the Blackheath Halls? The Conservatoire?) for premises capable of holding adequate bookstocks and providing the 56 hours of opening times we were at one stage promised.

  7. Anon

    Probably no one is going to agree with me on this but I’m not sure the best way to help the poorest is to fund a library in Blackheath Village. In a time where countries across Europe are facing massive protests due to cuts and we are no better off I would much rather local councils focused their dwindling resources on mental health care, care for older people and the poorest in our borough. They have to cut the budget somewhere. I’ve not seen anyone else having a better idea. Also I feel really sorry for the Age Exchange when they get all this criticism after trying to step in and save the library – I think the new building is lovely and its still only temporary and I don’t see why they are coming in for so much criticism as they didn’t decide to close it.

    • @Anon:
      “… Also I feel really sorry for the Age Exchange when they get all this criticism after trying to step in and save the library …”
      > > > > >
      Don’t feel TOO sorry for Age Exchange. Lewisham Council has given them a one-off £200,000 for taking over Blackheath Village Library.

  8. Gillian Gadsby

    Thank you Anon for your comment. As a volunteer at the Age Exchange Library and the person who chaired the Save our Library campaign I have a foot in both camps. As you say it is wholly unfair to criticise Age Exchange, who are doing a marvellous job under difficult circumstances. And where are all the other people who offered to save the library and fund a new one? Ian Mills should have the gratitude of the whole community for finding the money to house the new library in a completely refurbished building in the Reminiscence Centre. When it is finished it will still be a charity helping older people, a new community centre and a library. OK, it will be a small library but will have all the facilities of a larger one. It is untrue to say that books take months to arrive: I order books all the time and now Lewisham is in a consortium of other libraries in different London boroughs the books come very quickly. The 50p reservation fee is still under discussion with Lewisham and not being able to pay fees or fines at Age Exchange has nothing to do with volunteers inadequacies or access to borrower’s financial details but a consequence of not yet being linked to the main computers at Lewisham. When the new library is opened there won’t be a problem. And as for inadequately trained volunteers, come on Gina, come and help us. You might find it more satisfying than the constant barrage of criticism that you give us. Come and talk to the children and parents who come on a regular basis to the library, have a cup of tea and a soft drink, do their homework, read, take out books and chat. They love it and we love them for supporting us.
    And I too find it distressing that the old library is now a private school but it does rather sum up the priorities of today’s society. Perhaps there are parents there who might like to help us with fund-raising?

    • Heartofthevillageresident

      Gillian, it’s good to hear that Gina’s concerns are unfounded and I very much agree with you that people like Gina should start pulling their weight and stop being negative about Sir Ian and the Blackheath Society’s achievements.

      As for the payment difficulties mentioned by Gina – well, if people acted responsibly they wouldn’t have to pay library fines. And what lesson are we teaching our children when they see adults using credit cards to pay library fines? Are we inadvertently passing on to future generations the “live now, pay later” attitude which forced the Lib Dems and Conservatives to close public libraries and turn them into fee-paying schools so as to rebalance the economy?

      You ask “where are all the other people who offered to save the library and fund a new one? ” and go on to suggest that the hapless parents of pupils attending Heath House School should step in to help finance the refurbishment of Sir Ian’s premises. Does that mean the elderly and successful local benefactor we were told was to make a large donation to the RC library has withdrawn their offer? Or simply that their whereabouts are unknown? If so, do we know why the benefactor has withdrawn/disappeared? If they were connected to the Blackheath Society it may well be the case that they’ve passed away since the offer was made. If so, will their departure affect the the viability of the new library and/or the LBL contribution drawn to our attention by Michelle? If the new library is no longer viable then perhaps anon has a point when he says that the LBL contribution would be better spent on “mental health care, care for older people and the poorest in our borough”.

      • English Rose

        “…well, if people acted responsibly they wouldn’t have to pay library fines”

        This is completely missing the point. I’ve accrued a couple of fines recently, not because I’ve been irresponsible and returned my books late but because there have been discrepancies with my records – caused, I’m sorry to say, by information being inputted incorrectly or because the system given to the volunteers doesn’t update the main Lewisham system properly (I don’t honestly know what the problem is). Likewise, I owe money for books I’ve had to order in due to the paucity of stock in the library. I’ve tried to pay over the phone but have been told that I’ll have to make a trip to Lewisham central library to pay in person – something that is going to be a complete nuisance if it becomes a regular occurance.

        Please don’t get me wrong. It was fantastic of the volunteers / the Blackheath Society / Age Exchange to step in when Lewisham Council let us down so very badly. But to say that the current library is adequate is completely disingenuous. Despite magnificant efforts, it’s not providing an adequate service. It’s hardly surprising that monthly book issues have crashed.

  9. Anonymous

    What election did you just vote in? The council elections were not this week!

  10. English Rose

    I’m a regular user of the new library. On the positive side, the volunteers are incredibly welcoming, the fabric of the building works well and I love the cafe. But I’ve had to wait *weeks* for books to arrive, have sometimes had to help the volunteers hunt through piles of unlabelled ‘reserved’ books to see whether anything’s come in for me and, on occasion, have rung Lewisham Library to chase up reservations only to be told that they’d been returned as ‘uncollected’….. And I really can’t quite figure out why there are so few books – there’s plenty of space for more bookshelves even in the temporary library, so what on earth happened to all the books from the old library?

    As for the private school opening in the old library building, don’t get me started…. I’m positively pessimistic about the combination of yummy mummies dropping off their children, buses and commuters heading for the station in rush hour….

  11. a

    Surely you should think about these things before you vote?
    Well done you.

  12. richard

    A local service being provided to local people. I thought this is the type of business that people are always banging on about?

    • Heartofthevillageresident

      “This is completely missing the point. I’ve accrued a couple of fines recently, not because I’ve been irresponsible and returned my books late but because there have been discrepancies with my records”

      I’m sorry…….. I did miss the point and I accept that not all fines are being imposed because of irresponsibilty. Nevertheless, the fines are being paid by credit cards in front of impressionable children and that surely cannot be a good thing for the future of this country.

      However, I still agree with Gillian when she says something is wrong when we have to pay Age Exchange for what was once a free service and then be publicly branded as an irresponsible because Sir Ian’s administration is not fit for purpose.

      Apparently, all will be put to rights when Sir Ian updates his computer system. But we are also told that the whereabouts of the anonymous benefactor who Sir Ian was expecting to finance the refurbishment of his premises are unknown. Surely their disappearance will constrain the investment in new technology in which Gillian places so much faith? And in this “Age of Austerity” is it realistic or fair to expect the Heath House School parents to step in and save Sir Ian and the Blackheath Society’s visionary scheme?

      A low-tech, low-budget solution to the problem Gina outlines might be to get borrowers to fill out paper order forms which are batched up each day by a stalwart volunteer and walked down to the central library where the books can be picked from the shelves, matched to order forms and brought back to AE by Sir Ian’s chauffeur. Those who have to pay fines & fees must pay in cash. I’m old enough to remember when libraries didn’t have computers and Titter would have seemed like something from an H G Wells novel. But that didn’t stop us from borrowing books. Irresponsible borrowers paid their fines in cash or had their library cards confiscated. Could it be that this generation has it too easy?

      • Jon Lee

        People pay with plastic these days. Get over it. They may be credit cards, more likely they are debit cards. Them new fangled motor cars are here to stay too.

      • heartofthevillageresident

        “People pay with plastic these days. Get over it. They may be credit cards, more likely they are debit cards. Them new fangled motor cars are here to stay too.”

        That may be true Jon, but just because people do something doesn’t make it right. Many people would say that it’s your nonchalent attitude to borrowing money which led to the coalition government being forced to close libraries in the first place. And how are children supposed to tell the difference between a credit and debit card?

        As for cars – yes, they probably are here to stay but what about global warming? Are you in favour of that too?

  13. Kate

    The BH Village library was the best library for miles around. I live in the part of BH that’s part of G.C and their smart,shiny new library in Old Dover Road has poor stock and many items listed as ‘missing’ (thieving gits the public).
    I don’t know who the librarians were at BHV library but I almost never failed to find something to borrow from the novels on the display table.
    I miss the library tremendously and the thought of it being another private school with yummy mummies blocking the road by the PO with their BH Tractors makes me feel a bit sick.
    As does the thought that I live in an area where there aren’t already enough private schools (3? or is it 4?).

    • Anonymous

      Errrr…isn’t this an existing school already established in Wemyss Road and Tranquil Passage?

    • richard

      Maybe your illness should be explained by the awful state schools?

      • No idea who that was aimed at.. Many of the state schools around here are really good. I’m beginning to wish I hadn’t posted this, with all the terrible comments it has gathered.

      • Franklin


        You did rather set the tone with your original post.

        “The labour party was formed for the poorest people in society to have a better say over their lives.”

        No it wasn’t. The Labour Party was formed by the TUC to defend the rights of organised labour – who were far from “the poorest people in society” in 1900.

        “I’ve just voted for our Labour-controlled (Lewisham) council to stay Labour.”

        No, you didn’t. And no, I don’t know what you mean.

        “And our library has just been turned into a private school. Well done all of you.”

        Well done you, voting for a party that you apparently disagree with out of, what? Tribal loyalty?

        If you want coherent comments, best to start with a coherent post.

      • richard

        Bugle. It was meant as a reply to Kate who seemingly wants to vomit at the sight of private schools and the parents who send their children to these schools. Aside from the lazy sterotypes about yummy mummies and their 4x4s surely the question that should be asked is why are private schools so in demand in the Blackheath / Greenwich / Lee / Brockley area?

  14. michelleobrien11

    Enlightenment, please, Kate, someone! What’s a yummy mummy and what’s a BH Tractor?

  15. Chris

    Er, yummy mummy = attractive, often middle-class, mother. Do not Google this you are broad minded (sic).

    BH Tractor = Blackheath Tractor, a derivation of Chelsea Tractor — a ludicrously large four wheel drive vehicle that has never left the town. They are generally driven by yummy mummies.

    Right, off to experiment with Google……;-)

    • Michelle O'Brien

      Good-looking middle-class mums …?
      Driving around in big motors …?
      Here in Saarfeestlunnun …?
      Get me outta here!

      (Fashion tip: lose the beard, darling. It doesn’t go with that bikini)

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for fashion tip Michelle, but what will happen to all the livestock my beard contains??

        Flocks of the Greater Yummy Mummy can also be spotted outside the prep schools along Stratheden Road leading to the Standard. There was a considerable kerfuffle the other day when they found their usual Tractor parking spaces were taken up by two parked coaches from the Netherlands!

        It caused quite a stir with dodgy eight point turns all over the place I can tell you!

  16. Chris

    Bugger, dropped the word ‘unless’ in second sentence.

  17. Kate

    The private school in Tranquil Passage was the original library before it was relocated, second time it has happened now!

    • Michelle O'Brien

      “The private school in Tranquil Passage was the original library before it was relocated, second time it has happened now!”

      > > > > >

      I believe the lovely little steep-roofed (Victorian?) building in Tranquil Passage we’re talking about BEGAN life as a school, in fact the Village School, and only later became Blackheath Village Library.

      Traditionally called the Old Schoolroom or Old Schoolhouse (one or other), it housed the library until the 1970s (or maybe even into the 1980s).

      The library then moved to larger accommodation opposite the Post Office in the building (previously a building supplies shop and now recently a school), while the Old Schoolroom is a private office.

      Plus ça change …

  18. Jon Lee

    For the record, I certainly do not have a nonchalent attitude to debt-I only use a debit card, never a credit card. I do not own a car either. I do however live in the 21st century. So does my daughter. When it is appropriate she will know the difference between debit and credit cards by the magic of’explanation’. There are so many more important battles to fight than railing against paying fines with plastic.

    • heartofthevillageresident

      Jon, I’m sorry that you think I was “railing” about the fines issue and that I’m battling against it rather than what you regard as more important issues. I was merely exercising the hard-won right of people in this country to make a point about things they rightly or wrongly believe to be of importance.

      I accept that you see no connection between the levels of personal debt and the library closure. But, like the Lib Dems and Conservatives who most people think are doing a marvellous job in their effort to rebalance the economy by closing libraries we can’t afford and turning them into fee-paying schools, I do. And thanks to visionary thinkers like Sir Ian and the much-maligned leadership of the Blackheath Society we are still able to enjoy most of the facilities of the old-fashioned free library (albeit at a modest cost with a smaller book stock ).

      It’s good to hear that you do not have a credit card, and that you will explain matters to your daughter when she sees somebody paying an overdue book fine by plastic card. Also that you do not own a car and are thus not contributing to global warning. But you must realise that not everybody is as responsible as you are.

      Perhaps a compromise solution would be to pay fines by debit card only and to have a sign to that effect in the Reminiscence Centre so that parents are not put to the trouble of explaining what is going on whenever their children see a fine being paid. But – call me old-fashioned if you want to – I still cannot see why cash can’t be used. After all there are 3 cash points within a few yards of Sir Ian’s establishment.

      • scott

        Do you eat meat or any food stuff from an animal? I ask as animals produce more gasses that contribute to global warming than cars. So one of these yummy mummies with a 4×4 could be a vegan contributing less harmful gasses to the atmosphere than a meat eating Prius driver. That said a diet very high in fruit and veg must also create as a consequence a large amount of personal gas production….

        All academic I guess, if you beleive there is actually such a thing as global warming.

        For the record in the current economic climate, spending on libraries would be quite far down at the bottom of my list. I hope the school paid a Blackheath market price for the property and it wasn’t given away for next to nothing; councills need the funds.

    • Michelle O'Brien

      Oh Mah Gawd, you are absolutely right, Anonymous. The Old Schoolroom has undergone YET ANOTHER TRANSFORMATION, this time back into a school – Tranquil Hall, the Heath House Preparatory School.

      So … this building started life as a school way back when.
      Then it became the village library.
      Then it got turned into a private design studio/office.
      And now it’s gone back to being a school again.

      Isn’t Blackheath an amazing place?

  19. Alex Grant

    Interesting comments. I think that the Bugle is a bit unfair to imply that Lewisham council has sold the former library building to a private school: the building has always been owned privately and the large annual rent bill was one reason why the council had to make the difficult decision to close the library there. The building’s post-library use is a matter for its owner, not Lewisham.

    A community library is better than nothing – and that’s the reality if councils like Lewsiham have to make swingeing cuts of £50m or more over four years because of reductions in Government grants. So I agree with those who have said that the Age Exchnage Community library should be encouraged and supported, not sniped at.

    • Dude, you’re totally right. It’s just that I used to have a library. And now I have a private school.

      It’s cool and all, but I could afford the £1.50 when I forgot to return a book. On the other hand, the £10k a year for Johnny’s education is really killing me.

      Still, keep using words like “swingeing”, and I’m sure I’ll come round to your way of thinking.

  20. Anonymous

    Bit of useful information re the above. The proprietor of said prep school actively campaigned against the closure of the library, collecting many signatures. Despite their efforts the library was closed, and rather suddenly for that matter. It was only then that the school decided to make use of the building. Without Heath House spending a lot of time and effort locating the private owner who leased it to Lewisham Council this building would now be derelict. Which would you rather?

  21. Gina Raggett

    Alex Grant had better believe me when I say that “sniping” doesn’t come near to describing my response to the destruction of library services in Blackheath. There may well be areas where a community library is better than nothing, but Blackheath isn’t one of them.

    We were promised so much. A “better library than we had before”, with “as many visitors if not more”, books delivered within 24 hours, all the latest techie stuff and up to 56 hours of opening times a week. What we’ve got instead is a 94% drop in visits and book issues and the prospect of 42 hours a week with no evening openings,no plans to install the much-vaunted self-issue technology and it often takes weeks for book orders to be fulfilled.

    Lewisham council has so far spent some £300K from its library budget supporting a charity with no visible means of support and which is, moreover, situated in another borough. Lewisham council refused at any stage to consider a variety of options for keeping the Village library open: amalgamating senior management posts across 2 or 3 other boroughs would have been an obvious solution which has proved entirely successful in more fortunate parts of the capital.

    The situation regarding access to books in Blackheath is a matter for deep shame. All parties should face up to reality and start to work together to find ways of improving matters. We need adequate premises and adequate numbers of books. Sadly, Age Exchange isn’t in a position to provide either.


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