Thursday, 5 April 2012

Occupy: the residents of Friern Barnet take back their library

*Updated Friday: see below (much better) pics by occupier Citizen Barnet/ Vicki Morris

occupy: the residents of Friern Barnet, locked in, in protest, ending the battle for their library on their own terms ... for much better pics, in focus, take a look at Citizen Barnet's:

What a fabulous day it turned out to be, here in Broken Barnet.

Yeah, ok - a library was closed - in theory, but how great it was to see what happened, instead of the sneaky early closure planned by Councillor Robert Rams and his Tory chums.

What happened was that sixteen residents entered Friern Barnet library this morning, but when told the library was closing, refused to leave. The official closing time was 4pm, but an earlier shutting time had been arranged. In the end, the protestors stayed until six o'clock, until they felt their point had been made, and then left, to applause from the supporters waiting outside.

Mrs Angry went to visit the protest this afternoon, and what fun it was. A large crowd had gathered outside, residents of all ages, campaigners, local councillors: Tory rebel, the lovely Kate Salinger, Labour members Kath McGurk, Jim Tierney, Barry Rawlings, Pauline Coakley Webb, and Alan Scheider, amongst them - oh, and the local GLA Labour candidate Andrew Dismore, see below.

APart from reporters from the local Times group, and the Barnet Press, the BBC were filming the crowd outside, and the protestors inside. Music was playing, someone had a loudspeaker, banners & placards were held up, cars were tooting, the local pizza place sent a gift of supplies for the Friern Barnet 16 - carefully calculated in radius to slip through the window, passed over by an enterprising young guy standing on a wheelie bin.

Mrs Angry pressed her nose up to the window to greet fellow blogger Citizen Barnet, and Adam Langleben, and the other protestors. We had a ridiculous exchange of garbled conversation through the medium of mime and lip reading, from which Mrs Angry gathered that a. Citizen Barnet was cold, hungry, and b.rather disgusted by the state of the loo, to which they had only been allowed access after protest by Councillor Salinger. Before that, due to the intransigence of staff acting on orders from on high, they had been obliged to make use of a One Barnet wastebin. If Kate Salinger had not intervened, Mrs Angry surmised, it would only have been a matter of time before some sort of dirty protest would have broken out, Maze prison style.

And ff the pizza had not arrived, who knows what desperate measures they would have resorted to in order to stay alive: it hardly bears thinking about.

Friern Barnet library is - was - marked by a rather lovely old fashioned pub type of sign, swinging from a wooden arm, in faux archaic style. Mrs Angry commented to one or two of the supporters outside that it rather resembled a gibbet. Can you guess which councillor was voted everyone's favourite candidate for the noose, readers? And no, it wasn't Robert Rams, detested though he is by the residents of Friern Barnet. Think of a short fat Tory councillor, prone to upsetting people, and detested by the residents of the entire borough of Broken Barnet. Yes, him.

One or two senior council officers turned up on cue, as expected: rumour had it that Mrs Angry's no 1 fan, the Tooting Twister himself, Mr Chris Palmer, head of PR and (obstructing) communications on behalf of the London Borough of Broken Barnet, had been admitted to the siege, via the back entrance. Ooh er, Mr Palmer. Yes: it was true - here he was, all of a sudden, in his rather nice coat (Paul Smith?) and serious specs, outside, looking on and - goodness me, almost smiling. For the camera, perhaps? Smile, you're on BBC London, possibly.

Oh, but here comes another senior officer. He is an officer, but looks like an estate agent. He smells like an estate agent. He is a property valuer.

As he walked under the gibbet, Mrs Angry was reminded of the unpleasant practice of Victorian hangmen visiting the soon to be executed prisoners in their cells, to measure and weigh them, in order to estimate the swiftest method of despatching them. It seemed a rather premature display of intent, in any event, but spoke eloquently of the real reason that Friern Barnet Library has to die.

The library has been officially valued at the bargain, knock down price of around £400,000 - the price of a modest house in the area. In fact, like Church Farmhouse Museum and Barnet Museum, the official valuation is a nonsense, disguising the true value of the property and its grounds, and the development potential. Mrs Angry understands that the true value of these sites would take it beyond the limit whereby any proposed development would need scrutiny from a higher authority

There were a couple of community police officers hanging around, looking slightly at a loss as to what to do, bemused by what was after all, a very British sort of protest, a sort of Passport to Pimlico, Went the Day Well, morale boosting event, the kind of thing we do so well, where ordinarily really well behaved people just won't take it anymore, and decide to stand up and say, actually, we don't want this, and we are not going to take this crap from you, if you don't mind, and even if you do.

The great gift that the Tory administration of this authority has given us is something quite unexpected, and yet something David Cameron told us we ought to have: the idea of the Big Society, of people coming together voluntarily to work for the greater good of the community. The sort of community, the feeling of solidarity that is forming in this borough is probably not what Dave intended, but it is real enough anyway: a new network of residents being formed into a common opposition to the havoc being wreaked on our community by the people we naively elected into office in order to represent us and take responsibility for our well being. They have betrayed the trust passed over to them, and now the residents of Broken Barnet are taking back control over their own lives.

The battle for Friern Barnet library may have been lost, but the war against the petty tyranny of the Tory administration here in Broken Barnet goes on, and the strength of opposition has been galvanised by today's events. Mrs Angry predicts a long, hot summer of discontent here in our troubled borough: May 3rd is where it starts. Watch out, you empty headed councillors: looks like you've started something you may live to regret.

*Update Friday: thanks to Vicki Morris, aka Citizen Barnet, for a selection of photos she took while banged up in Friern Barnet Library. Vicki always records these events brilliantly. For more, please look via the Flickr link above. And yes, every picture tells a story.

Notice of closure: after 78 years, the last day in a library's life, 5th April 2012

Some of the occupants

press team

occupants were forbidden from using the toilet, allegedly on the orders of the council's spin doctor, who rushed to the scene ... below you can see the patented One Barnet Palmer piss pot

Luckily, local councillor Kate Salinger, seen below laughing at a very rude joke by Mrs Angry (just out of shot) about one of Kate's Tory colleagues (can you guess which one, Brian?) intervened and demanded that staff allowed access to the loo

Mr Reasonable

the Barnet Bugle, playing with his tripod. Frank was told to stay at home.

the Barnet Eye
Mrs Angry, still having a bad hair day

The Friern Barnet 16 emerge blinking into the fading daylight in triumph

Says it all, really, doesn't it?


Vicki Morris aka Citizen Barnet said...

Apols if you end up with this comment twice... I cocked up...

There are some nice points in this post, thank you.

I took a flattering (miaow) pic of you and this is how you reward me!

Can you id the tall, lanky bloke hovering in front of the bookcases in my pics?

I didn't get Chris Palmer, I don't think, is he shortish with curlyish hair?

Bill Murphy you can see, looking bored. Bet he doesn't bother with PAYE!

There are many interesting vignettes from this day, many small lessons learned. But for now, a beer, I think, and I might see if there's something interesting on Ch4...

Mr Mustard said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mrs Angry said...

well, Citizen Barnet, you shouldn't have stuck your tongue out in that impertinent manner: I'm sure your mother told you not to make faces like that ... anyway, I'm fed up with horrible footage of me illustrating the fact that I should have had full rather than half head of highlights last time and/or looking like a madwoman. Don't know about the the lanky bloke, will take another look.

Mrs Angry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mrs Angry said...

ok, that is quite a nice photo, for me, but then I'm not sticking my tongue out, for once.

great pics of the occupation:

Mrs Angry said...

grr link won't work, will try to add to text.

Mrs Angry said...

Mr Mustard, I have censored your comment on constitutional grounds, and because it does not relate to any item on the agenda,and because I have decided it is too rude. In fact I have been tossing and turning unable to sleep wondering about it, and had to get up to come downstairs & delete it. Also it is too cold and I can't sleep.

Mr Mustard said...

Oh dear Mrs A, 02:09 when a blogger with only the purest thoughts is fast asleep. I do have the comment saved on my phone and anything once published is on the internet for ever. I was also going to add an amusing comment about "down under" as Australia is known, but I can't now as it will look silly.

Mr Mustard said...

You are right Mrs Angry. It was rude of me to point out that the cabinet didn't close the HGC library because they are mercenary idiots. Here is the comment again without any sexual content.

I happen to have the Asset register of the council as at 31 March 2011.

It is normal accounting with freehold properties to not devalue them or to do so very slowly and that is the case with Friern Barnet which is in the books for £266,392 Revaluation for accounting purposes doesn't happen in profit-making companies as they don't then have to account for the profit.

Hampstead Garden Suburb library is not in the asset register as it is a liability with a few years left on the lease still to go so Barnet cannot make a profit by closing it and might as well use it run by volunteers as it will cost very little and avoid bad publicity.

Mrs Angry said...

Hmm. Well, yes, that is more suitable, Mr Mustard. It is after all, Good Friday, when we should be examining our consciences and repenting. Not in your case, probably.

As to the valuation comment it will be interesting to see how much the library and museum go for, in relation to the official value, as well as to see who the eventual purchasers will be. Bad grammar, sorry.

Anonymous said...

So how many of you have boycotted, Sainsbury's and have written to the company to protest at their proposed, purchase if the library?

Mrs Angry said...

erm ... this is news to me, Anonymous: please tell us where you heard this?

Mr Mustard said...

The pub on the corner opposite the old town hall is already a Tesco local so does Friern Barnet really need another supermarket vying for world domination? No. One day the pendulum will swing back and little local shops will be the norm.

Mrs Angry said...

hmm, and Sainsbury's are planning to open a branch next to Lloyds in Finchley Central, bottom of Winston House. Wonder if they will also get planning permission for FB, Mr Mustard?

Mrs Angry said...

Update: Mrs Angry has asked Cllr Robert Rams on twitter, about this rumour. He has said it is not true. Mrs Angry has asked him who they ARE selling the library to, and will keep you advised of any response ...