Category Archives: books

Lewisham Council is hiding library numbers

Gina writes:

“Calling all dedicated and hard-working volunteers in Lewisham’s so-called community libraries. Want to know how you’re doing? How many books you’re managing to lend? How visitor numbers are holding up?

Well, tough. As of October 2012, Lewisham council has decided to stop allowing access to the statistics which it used to publish on a quarterly basis, often before anyone even asked.

Now Lewisham tell us we can wait until the official government statistics agency, CIPFA, produces its report in December 2013 for the year ended last April. What they don’t tell us is that CIPFA only provides figures for the borough as a whole, not for individual libraries. So there will be no way of knowing – to give but one example – how many times Blackheath community library’s total of 13 books for teenagers made it off the shelves. Lewisham also fail to mention that CIPFA make a hefty charge for access to their publications.

Surely the council can have nothing to hide! Like, how are “community” libraries faring compared with the ones still being run by the local authority? Come on, Lewisham. You’ve handed over almost half your libraries to volunteers. Now let the people who are doing your work for you see how they’re doing.”

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Filed under blackheath, books, lewisham, library

The Walkers Guide to the Heath

Neil Rhind (author of many books about Blackheath) writes:

I am hoping that the Blackheath Buglers can help the Blackheath Society on a small point of location. The Society is moving close (November) to the publication of a Walkers’ Guide to the Heath – three long walks, all plotted out drawing the ramblers attention to features, facts and history. There is also a timeline from the Romans to the present day. This is all being compiled by the undersigned and Dr Roger Marshall, a member of the Blackheath Society committee. as part of the Digital scheme to make the Society’s collection of about 15,000 images available on a web site with full public access.

One feature noted is a concrete “horse trough” at the south end of Montpelier Row. No animals drink there but it is used for floral displays. We believe that it was once elsewhere in the Village. Can anyone tell us where?

Free copy of the Blackheath walkers’ guide to the first person to get it right.

Their email address is:
office@blackheath.org

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Bookshop on the Heath selling up

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Massively sad to hear that yet another independent shop in the village is selling up. The Bookshop on the Heath is a fantastic place. I really hope they find a buyer to continue the shop as a going concern.

Their press release is below. If anyone has any good examples of how local communities have managed to stem the exit of local businesses from their high streets, please place them in the comments.

Richard and Jasmine Platt, founding owners of the Bookshop on the Heath Ltd in Blackheath, South East London, have announced that they are selling the business in order to pursue other interests in the leisure industry.
During the past ten years, the business has won awards for excellent customer service and it has been independently rated as one of the country’s finest bookshops. From day one, it has posted excellent year-on-year profits.
There has been a bookshop in this location since 1949, making it one of the longest continually running bookshops in South London. The bookshop has become a real fixture in Blackheath Village and it has generated a tremendous local goodwill. More recently it was the setting for part of an episode of the BBC1 drama “Spooks”.
Richard says, “After a very happy and successful ten years here, we feel that the time has come for us to step back and pass on the legacy and reputation of the business to someone else. We hope that they can now also realise their dream like I did ten years ago by taking over and further developing a super little shop in a marvellous trading position. It would be lovely to think that the long tradition of bookselling could be continued by someone who shares our passion for offering fine books, maps & posters with friendly, personal service. Trade has been exceptionally good and there is also the opportunity for the new owner to develop web sales and sales of new books (children’s in particular) – areas which we have barely touched upon.”
The bookshop continues to open every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and by appointment at all other times. If you are searching for a quantity of specific quality stock or you are interested in buying the whole of this successful and profitable turn-key business, please contact Richard Platt for more details on 01526 352267 or email richard@bookshopontheheath.co.uk

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Filed under books, planning, politics, shops

Blackheath mentioned in Dan Brown’s latest novel

Inferno novel by Dan Brown
As spotted by Neil Short on Twitter, Blackheath is mentioned in Dan Brown’s new novel Inferno (he who wrote The Da Vinci Code, and other cheesy thrillers)

Here’s the passage:

“The bio was a gushing account of a child theater prodigy—Sienna Brooks—with an off- the-chart IQ, who had, in a single night, memorized every character’s lines and, during initial rehearsals, often cued her fellow cast members. Among this five-year-old’s hobbies were viol- in, chess, biology, and chemistry. The child of a wealthy couple in the London suburb of Blackheath, the girl was already a celebrity in scientific circles; at the age of four, she had beat a chess grand master at his own game and was reading in three languages.
My God, Langdon thought. Sienna. That explains a few things.”

Gripping eh? Who would have thought such an accomplished author would resort to using Blackheath as shorthand for wealth and privilege…

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Tractor production is up 30%

Particularly choice quotes about the library from July’s Blackheath Assembly minutes (emphasis mine):

The meeting received information that the temporary library set up at the Bakehouse has been successful to date. The resource continues to attract more people particularly children and young mothers and these numbers will only increase once the new library is up and running[...]

With regards to the main replacement library project, an £800,000 investment project is on coursee[...]

It is envisaged that the new facility will be open on the 22 November 2012 by Sir Steve Bullock, the Mayor of Lewisham and David Grant, the Mayor of Greenwich. Over the next month or two there will be a competition for the public to put forward their ideas of what the new centre should be called so there is a sense of involvement and community spirit. The competition will carry a prize of £1,000 and the winner will be announced at the opening ceremony by Sir Steve. Participants can put their entry forward via email or through the website.

If you have any suggestions for library titles, please send them here: localassemblies@lewisham.gov.uk

See previous post for a clearer picture.

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Filed under age exchange, blackheath, blackheath village, books, lewisham, library

Turkey coming and going

The Bookshop on the Heath has interesting books about Turkey in its windows. Never read The Eunuch of Stamboul, but according to this blog post, looks like an entertaining read. Apparently it was also made into a film in 1936, which can be viewed for free at the BFI’s Mediatheque.

The Eunuch of Stamboul by Dennis Wheatley in the window of The Bookshop on the Heath

Book about Turkey in the Bookshop on the Heath's window

Speaking of Turkey, Blackheath’s dabbling with Turkish food has come to a close. Not a huge surprise given some of the competition nearby. It was never a great place, as many of the reviews here have mentioned. Will Cote be any better?

Fistik about to become Cote

Cote coming soon

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Amnesty International Book Sale

The Blackheath and Greenwich Group of Amnesty International is holding its annual fund-raising book sale on Saturday 16th June at the Church of the Ascension, Dartmouth Row, London SE10 (10 minutes walk up Lewisham Hill from Lewisham BR, DLR & Bus Station). Doors open at 9am. (facebook link)

9am-5pm Saturday 16th June
Church of the Ascension,Dartmouth Row,London, SE10 8BF

google map

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Blackheath Book Club

Blackheath Book Club. Nice idea. I frequently get emails asking whether I know of any book clubs in the area.
They’re on Evil Facebook, and also Twitter @BlackheathBooks

They’re planning to meet on the last Tuesday of every month, and there’s a vote on their facebook page to choose between the following three books before the next meeting:

Before I Go To Sleep by S J WatsonBefore I Go To Sleep
by S J Watson

Pigeon English by Stephen KelmanPigeon English
by Stephen Kelman

Pure by Andrew MillerPure
by Andrew Miller

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Ex Libraries

Look at these two charts, and tell me when you think our library was destroyed.

Number of books issued in Blackheath Village libraries from April - October 2011

Number of books issued in Blackheath Village libraries from April to October 2011

Visits to Blackheath Libraries between April - October 2011

Visits to Blackheath Libraries between April - October 2011

The Age Exchange Library is a joke.

In May 6,758 items were borrowed from the library in Blackheath Village. Then the library was closed, and replaced with a community library in Age Exchange. In October, after the Age Exchange library had been open for 3 months, only 832 items were borrowed.

“I didn’t come into civic life to close libraries”, I believe is the familiar refrain. So don’t. Re-open the real library. I don’t care how you do it, find a way. Otherwise you’ve just guaranteed the quickest, most efficient way to dumb down an entire generation. Shame on you vandals.

The data comes from questions by councillor David Britton (a Tory with a slightly scary looking union jack on the blog head), made available by Lewisham councillor Christine Best, the cabinet member with responsibility for libraries, at a council meeting on 29th November:

Here are the two google docs: Question Answer

Including an apology for the crappy numbers:

There have been some initial difficulties with data collection from the Community Libraries, and the Service overall has had a difficult year, completing a major staff reorganization and the introduction of new technologies. The implementation of such major change has had a negative impact on performance, but the Service is confident that both issues and visits will now begin to increase.

Yes, a bit. Maybe. Or perhaps it will just be wound down and closed.

See also: The Bookseller: Catastrophic plunge in lending at Lewisham’s community libraries

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Books about Blackheath

Here are a few suggestions for books that are either about or inspired by the local area. For each one that you buy, I get a few pennies from Amazon that might go towards a lump of coal for Mrs Bugle…

Seriously though, please go and check The Bookshop on the Heath for these books first – the links below should be a last resort! If there are others books that I don’t know about, drop me a note in the comments, and I’ll add them to the list.

All the Neil Rhind books
The Heath by Neil Rhind
They’re the best source of historical information about Blackheath bar none. There are 2 large volumes – Blackheath Village and Environs Volume 1 covers the village and Blackheath Vale. Volume Two is almost impossible to find cheaply as it is out of print. I found it in Blackheath’s Cancer Research shop for a few pounds, but this was a miraculous discovery – it’s usually £50 or so.

There’s also a third volume, called The Heath, which unfortunately I don’t possess (yet).

Fiction

The Blackheath Seance Parlour by Alan Williams

A new addition in 2013 is The Blackheath Seance Parlour by Alan Williams. It’s a great spooky tale about two sisters in Victorian Blackheath, who decide to open a seance parlour. Highly recommended, read my full review here.

A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff

In terms of books inspired by Blackheath, the one that springs to mind was published a couple of years ago – A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff is pretty much exactly how it looks… Easy to read, fun, and primarily aimed at a female audience. Here’s my review of it from 2009.

Nathaniel Hawthorne - Our Old Home

Going back into time, and Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a series of sketches about living as an American in England. Called Our Old Home, it contains reminiscences of his time living in Blackheath. His novel The Scarlet Letter (although not about Blackheath) was the inspiration for the (very funny) movie Easy A from last year.

Charles Dickens makes passing mention of Blackheath in Our Mutual Friend, and also in David Copperfield, as mentioned previously on the blog.

UPDATE:
The Most Intimate Place by Rosemary Furber - a thriller set in Blackheath
The Most Intimate Place by Rosemary Furber is a thriller set in Blackheath. Looks great, and gets excellent reviews. I might try it over Christmas! Thanks to @helstweets for suggesting it.

EVEN MORE!
Some excellent suggestions from The Greenwich Phantom:
Blackheath Poisonings on DVD
Blackheath Poisonings on DVD

Greenwich and Blackheath Past by Felix Barker
Greenwich and Blackheath Past by Felix Barker

The History of Lee by F H Hart
The History of Lee by F H Hart

The Dead of Summer by Camilla Way
The Dead of Summer by Camilla Way sounds like a chilling read, set in the tunnels beneath Greenwich Park – see the Phantom’s review from 2007.

And Jennifer’s suggestion from the comments below:
A couple of duffers go to war by Geoffrey Lee Williams
A couple of duffers go to war by Geoffrey Lee Williams

Another one from a commenter:
The Twelve Days of Christmas by Stuart Weatherby
The Twelve Days of Christmas by Stuart Weatherby – set mostly in Blackheath, it’s a nice (fictional) read by a local author.

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