Tuesday, 29 May 2012

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.

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