Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Kensal Rise Library 29th May 2012 Part 2

Read Part One of today's goings on

Read Maggie Gee's powerful plea in
the Guardian on 31st May 2012

And a comment from All Souls College in the Guardian to the effect that "we find it distressing. We had told the council that we would have been happy for them to have kept the library open, possibly through co-operation with the Friends of Kensal Rise Library, who had developed an interesting business plan. This was not to be, however"

Aliens? Well, you could say that, but it might be unfair to aliens.

Sorry my filming skills aren't up to much. It's mainly for the chanting anyway. (Enviro/Video activist Lorraine... where were you?)

Just back from Kensal Rise Library where a large group of us waited for Mo Butt's promised visit. And... he came... he smiled... he waffled... he swore on the life of his children... he gave no clear assurances or reassurances or explanations of anything. That's the summary - but there's more below if you can be bothered. But first here are some pictures

The questions were generally much better than Mo's answers. Pertintent and to the point (and polite on the whole). He was asked

By a vicar "Why can't the Friends of Kensal Rise library have a crack at running the library... it would be an easy community win"

By a Willesden Green library supporter "Why are you surreptitiously mismanaging the libraries and treating Brent as your personal fiefdom?"

By a boy "why are you stopping kids from reading?"

By a campaigner "so who does the building belong to now then?"

By Rachael "Are you saying as Leader of the Council that you didn't know that the books were going to be taken out in the middle of the night?"

By a campaigner "Will you keep the books intact? Will you try to promise it?"

By a campaigner who was present when the books were removed "Why was there such a heavy police presence of 15 officers when there were only 5 women there?"

By Maggie Gee "If you want Labour to be forgiven round here you must act quickly. Will you bring back the plaques?"

By Margaret "Why did you jeopardise our position by triggering the reverter of the library building to All Souls College?"

By a campaigner "Is it fair to say that you are very embarrassed by the whole situation?"

Mo's replies were "All Souls College have been telling us to take everything out of the library... I've always made it clear that I will support you guys... I made it absolutely clear that the books were going to come out... I didn't realise they were going to come out so quickly...The murals are safe and sound... When we negotiate with All Souls for the library to come to you we'll get the murals back...The books were part of an Executive decision to be distributed between the other libraries... I can't promise it... It will be looked into..."

Read the Kilburn Times report

And Michael Rosen has put us on his blog

More later

Kensal Rise Library update 29th May 2012

Please come to the library at 3.30pm today (Tuesday) for a gathering. Bring banners, pots and pans, whistles, football rattles if you feel like making a noise. Brent's latest betrayal of its residents does not mark the end of the campaign!

Since I wrote this writers' support has been flooding in

Maggie Gee : The cowardice of Brent's Labour Council in stripping Kensal Rise library, and the philistinism of unscrewing the brass plaque remembering Mark Twain from its wall in the middle of the night, would horrify anyone who still recalls Labour's founding mission to share education, knowledge and hope with the people. We will continue to fight for our library.

Michael Frayn: They took the books out - and the plaque down? So the library is now an unlibrary, in the way that people became unpersons in the darkest days of the Soviet Union. I hope they took the titles of the books off as well. Removing unbooks from an unlibrary - who could possibly object?

Sir Michael Holroyd: The wanton destruction of the Kensal Rise Library - its books removed, its history erased - is a gross act of philistinism which will bring lasting shame to all involved" Sir Michael Holroyd

What's going on?

If you've been following developments since the dramatic defence of Kensal Rise Library on Wednesday 16th May, you'll know that the replacement of Ann John as Leader of the Council by Mo Butt seemed to give some cause for optimisim.

But, do you know what? Mo Butt has just betrayed not only the Save Kensal Rise campaigners, not only the users of Kensal Rise Library, not only the residents of Brent, not only everyone who believes in universal access to books and a place to study, but also anyone who has ever voted labour.

Let me go back a day or two. After the defence of the library two weeks ago when the impromptu street party of supporters prevented Brent officials from removing books, murals and other fittings and furniture from the library Mo Butt agreed to meet campaigners.
On 17th May Kensal Rise campaigner David Butcher spoke to Mo Butt who said he would arrange a meeting between campaigners, the council and All Souls College, and also
"significantly he agreed that the council would not remove shelves, tables or chairs. And he will make sure they don’t remove the large murals painted for the library, which is great." (see below for the worth of this statement)

Over the weekend of 19th and 20th May I was busy organising the Queen's Park Book Festival at which Save our Six (seven, now including Willesden Green) Libraries campaigners had a stall. Imagine my surprise to spot a small gaggle of Labour councillors and members of the local Labour party deep in conversation at the SOS stall. Mo Butt, Navin Shah and others I won't name because I'm holding on to some hope that they may yet be able to help sense to prevail here (you know who you are... we've spoken about this several times). Mo and Navin were in affable mood and happy to enjoy our hospitality in the "Space Bar" and make positive noises about sorting it all out....

The meeting then took place on 22nd May, and later that day Margaret Bailey circulated a note summarising it. It began

"On 22 May representatives of the Kensal Rise Library campaign met with Muhammed Butt, the new leader of Brent Council and his Deputy Ruth Moher. It was encouraging to have the leader of the Council agree to talk to us, especially as Cllr Butt had also said publicly that he wanted to call a meeting that would include All Souls College (who originally donated the land the library sits on) as well as campaigners. His openness was encouraging and we are grateful to Cllr Butt and Cllr Moher for meeting with us but disappointed by his failure to give any kind of practical assurance

Margaret concluded, however, by saying

On [the issue of keeping the books in the library] and several other points, Cllr Butt was unable or unwilling to give way. He said he would need to consult with Brent’s legal team and other officials to see if he had any room for manoeuvre and if our suggestions were viable.

We have not yet heard back from him.

Obviously, we are concerned about the extent of Cllr Butt's goodwill. He may hope to fob us off with bland reassurances while offering nothing concrete. He may also hope he can shift blame for the loss of the library onto All Souls if they refuse a meeting, or if they resist a compromise arrangement. Clearly his main concern is to take the political heat out of an issue that has caused the Council huge problems and a lot of bad publicity. Cllr Butt and other councillors may now regret how the library closures and community aspirations have been handled, and they are obviously nervous about the pubic perception of the council and would like to change that, but if this new 'support' for us is simply a devious attempt to achieve 'good press' we will not be happy about being used in this way and this community will be very angry if this is the case".

"So we do wonder if this is what the meeting with councillors was all about - damage limitation for the very bad public image that they have created for themselves and an attempt at co-opting us to help with its restoration, because, after all, we left that meeting empty handed.

So we need to keep up the pressure, and we need to remain alert for any further attempts to empty the library."

How prescient Margaret's words have turned out to be because at 2am today this is what happened

This is Margaret's 6.33am e-mail message today

"This morning between 2 and 3am Richard Barrett, Brent's Property Officer, raided and stripped our library. About 15 workers took the books from the library and also took the murals painted in the 1930's specifically for the library along with all the plaques commemorating the library's opening by Mark Twain.

They took tables and chairs and other assorted objects including a microwave and a box of sticky tape.

They were assisted in this action by about 12 police officers.

In a meeting with campaigners last week the new leader of the council Mohammad Butt promised that the murals and furniture would not be taken.

We asked him to hold off stripping the library until he had organised a meeting with All Souls College, the council and ourselves.

This action this morning is proof that the council had no intention of trying to ensure that the reverter on the library had not been triggered.

Cllr Mo Butt said he wanted to listen to the community, engage with them.
This is how he listens. By taking this action he has jeopardised the ability of this community to run this library.

We may be finished with Brent council but our campaign continues. We will not let their cowardly, middle of the night plundering defeat us. Cllr Butt's words to us are worse than meaningless.

They reveal what a cowardly, conniving, bunch of dishonest panhandlers they are, but what else would you expect in the Banana Republic of Brent?"

Margaret Bailey

Please come to the library at 3.30pm today for a gathering. Bring banners, pots and pans, whistles, football rattles if you feel like making a noise. Brent's latest betrayal of its residents does not mark the end of the campaign!

This is a comment on Wembley Matters blog Every single labour cllr needs to be told that they are going to suffer in 2014. How can this be a council that represents us if it belligerently betrays us. The fact that this was a 2am operation shows the sheer cowardness of Mo Butt. SOMEONE in the labour ranks has got to come out and challenge him publicly on this cowardly act.

I agree. Thanks for reading - I know it's long and written in haste, but this stuff really really matters. We cannot let Brent get away with this behaviour.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Kensal Rise Library - update 17th May 2012

Go to my Queen's Park Book Festival blog post here

You've heard about the stand-off on Wednesday 16th May at Kensal Rise Library between library supporters and Brent council staff attempting to empty the library of books etc?

This is the latest news (Friday 18th May)from David Butcher of the Save Kensal Campaign

I spoke to Muhammed Butt, the new leader of the council, earlier and followed up on the events of yesterday.

He is making very positive noises as far as they go. He is keen to build bridges with our campaign and find a way forward. He reiterated that he wants to arrange a three-way meeting with us and All Souls, although his legal advice is that the reverter has been triggered and All Souls have acknowledged as much.

However, nothing more will happen in terms of the transfer of deeds for now. He wants to meet with us (just us, initially - tripartite meeting later) next week and no clearing of the library will happen before then, he says.

As regards the books, he says he needs to allow them to be taken and redistributed, and the council also needs the computers. I argued the point on books and we can argue further next week.

But significantly he agreed that the council would not remove shelves, tables or chairs. And he will make sure they don’t remove the large murals painted for the library, which is great.

So the property transfer is on hold and we have a chance to take stock. And for once there's the prospect of face-to-face discussions on a way forward. Obviously we need to be careful that Mo (as he is known) is not buying us off with bland assurances only to sell us down the river later. But so far so good.

Huge credit to everyone who fought our corner and gave quotes to the media yesterday. Terrific coverage across the board today, and I'm sure that has had an impact within Brent.

Also big thank you to those of you that sent emails to Cllr Butt.

That's the end of David's message. This is me again!

Thanks to twitter word soon went round about what was going on and a sit-in, lie-in, read-in and stand shoulder-to shoulder-in was in place.

Margaret Bailey summed up the events of the day in a message which is so good there's no point in me re-writing it
Hi Everyone,
Firstly, thanks for the magnificent response to the attempt by officers of the council to remove the books from the library today. Another great holding action.

And not just remove the books. The murals that were painted specifically for Kensal Rise Library in the 1930's are also propped up ready to be taken away. For display in the new £3 million library in Wembley? To remind them of the libraries that they closed? To be pulped? Who knows? Our very own Elgin Marbles!

It is just amazing how all of a sudden when the library is under threat people seem to materialise.

Thanks to your support and action and the intervention from Cllr Mohammed Butt, the new leader of the council, the council officers left the building without removing any of the books.
It would be very good if you could email him to thank him for his intervention on our behalf, cllr.muhammed.butt@brent.gov.uk and also to remind him of the importance to this community of our library. He said he did not know there would be an attempt to strip the library today.
Hopefully we can look forward to a more conciliatory council leadership than the one we have known for the past 18 months. And our fingers are really crossed on that one.

The danger has not past and we need to be vigilant about the library.
Cllr Butt is said to be trying to organise a meeting between us, the council and All Souls, and we will also continue with our own negotiations with the college. Wouldn't it be fantastic if negotiation was the way forward, rather than the hostility and intransigence we have known during this campaign?

If it was thought that the campaign had gone away, today's action would dispel that notion.
Regards to all and job well done for today.

Margaret Bailey

Read more on the Save Kensal Rise Library website including up to the minute tweets if you're not on twitter

And another great report by the Kilburn Times

and another report

And in the Guardian

The pop-up library was open for business yesterday as usual

And on World Book Night (23rd April) there were readings and World Book Night give-aways at the Library which I didn't have time to blog about yet.... Despite the cold and damp it was a great event, and the Evelyn Waugh letter was really funny (click on the link in the photo caption) By the way, if you like letters, there's an excellent website Letters of Note by Shaun Usher, where he publishes "correspondence deserving of a wider audience". Shaun's on twitter too @LettersOfNote
Richard reading a hilarious  Evelyn Waugh letter

Rachael reading from an Agatha Christie

My box of World Book Night books

Annie and Estella with "How I live now"

I'll say more about why I chose Meg Rosoff's "How I live now" as a book to give away on World Book Night once the Queen's Park Book Festival is over

Monday, 14 May 2012

Queen's Park Book Festival 19th and 20th May

It's nearly Book Festival time folks!
Next weekend in Queen's Park, 19th and 20th May
So the organisers are frantically e-mailing, ordering in the authors' books, putting the finishing touches to the volunteer rota, testing the best gin for a crisis and generally checking that everything is ready..... while the Festival goers are browsing the beautifully put together programme, weighing up the merits of various author events, reading the latest Linda Grant or Kate Summerscale, and deciding whether to wear wellies or flipflops. You do know there's no overnight camping, by the way, not this year anyway....

What do you mean - you didn't know there was a local Book Festival? There's only

and a great article today in the Kilburn Times online

and another great article in the May edition of Grove magazine

and another great article in the May edition of Absolutely Notting Hill magazine

and a mention in Saturday's Guardian by Justin Cartwright about his event with John Lanchester When I'm back from the pub I'll tell you more... or if you can't wait go to the QPARA website Well I'm back from the pub now... I know it's the next day, but time has to be elastic at the moment. I've put in the Bookbugs timetable on the QPARA website. The authors are great - have a look at their websites which I've linked to.

Did I mention Robert Muchamore and Sophie McKenzie, both brilliant teen authors?
And Che Golden and Lil Chase, two more great teen authors. More soon... there are tents to put up, crayons to buy (for Marcia Williams' event), signs to fix, tweets to tweet

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Untidy but productive veg gardens

At last - professional endorsement for my messy gardening style! Thank you Lia Leendertz in the latest issue of the Garden (the Royal Horticultural Society mag), and thanks to Helen for the mag (as I'm not actually a member).
Purple sprouting broccoli and a muddle of other vegetation

"Every year", says Lia "we clear the ground and start all over again from scratch... We just think it's what we have to do to produce edible crops". Lia explains that this is a hangover from agricultural practices, and unnecessarily high-maintenance for our allotments and vegetable beds. Hooray! Lia's moving to more perennials - fruit bushes, Jerusalem artichokes, rhubarb, sorrel and vines.
She's right - especially on heavy clay soils with a lot of slugs waiting in the wings - where it's very hard to get new plants established in spring. The soils takes a long time to warm up and it's not that easy for the roots of young plants to penetrate it (apart from young dandelions which have no trouble). That's another approach of course - advocated by Alys Fowler - eat those weeds - dandelions, ground elder and hedge garlic - all of which grow in my garden, and can be foraged as Alys explains
Take spinach or chard for example. I left a row of chard from last year - it didn't do anything over the winter, and looked pretty manky, but in March it started to grow again (it was warm then, remember?) And I've had several great bunches of leaves from it already. Meanwhile chard seedlings which I planted out last October in another patch were all eaten by slugs and snails in February, and so were their replacements, and so were the ones I tried growing from seed directly in the patch. It is really hard to get started, but once it's established it's good to keep it going as long as possible
Chard in late September
Frosty chard in February

Last year's chard plants now in May

Another family of veg plants which can go on and on are brassicas (you know - cabbages, kale, sprouts and broccoli). Don't be too keen to pull them up - they will often do something unexpected and produce more growth - leaves or side shoots. Sprouts for example (thanks to Alison for the plants last spring) produce really delicious leaves at the top (sprout tops) and sprouts, but will then make side shoots and tender leaves.
Sprout plant with leaves ready for cutting
Cooked sprout tops 

Sprout plant growing new side shoots

Even just a bare brassica stem will grow more young leaves, especially if you make a cross shaped cut in the top of the stem (my exceptionally frugal Yorkshire grandad told me this). These venerable broccolis and kales can withstand quite a bit of slug attack too as it would take a beaver to chew through their main stem - you'll just get holes in the leaves. The big, tough lower leaves are useful too - if you surround young plants with a barrier of them slugs may stop there rather than eating your young beans or courgettes. Again, it looks messy, but it works!
Picked today - chard, parsley, landcress, mizuna
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