Sunday, 14 October 2012

Went the day well? Broken Barnet fights back ...

As we have reported, later this month will see the premiere of the sequel to 'A Tale of Two Barnets', a new film - 'Barnet, the £1 billion gamble'- which updates the eternally evolving story of the political and social realities here in Britain's most turbulent Tory run borough. *See a short trailer here:

Yesterday, of course, the Barnet 'insurgency' featured in the Guardian, in a report which has caused some interesting reactions. On twitter last night, for example, someone observed what a good cinematic drama the story would provide, similar maybe to 'Made in Dagenham'. 

When filming my bit for the new sequel, I somehow found myself rambling on about a favourite theme on a similar note, because to me the whole Barnet uprising, and in particular the story of the occupation of Friern Barnet library, is like the plot of a classic Ealing film of the 1940s, those brilliant productions which focus on the tale of a small community taking on a common enemy or cause, and working together to achieve a joint victory, in a quintessentially British way, in outright obstinacy, a common goal overcoming class barriers, and uniting all generations and backgrounds in the fight for what is right, and what is fair, and what is just. The triumph of the underdog, in short.

Look at Passport to Pimlico: made in a post war, austerity bound London, (directed, incidentally by a Henry Cornelius - and how amusing it would be if he is related to the Barnet Tory leader ...) In this story the residents of Pimlico find some ancient documents from the reign of Edward IV (hello: back to the Battle of Barnet again ... ) proving that their land does not actually belong to England, and that the government has no jurisdiction over them: this inspires them to declare independence, creating their own state, their own society, their own boundaries ...

... all pitching in, improvising, making their own rules, rejecting a distant, disaffected authority in favour of autonomy, and freedom ...

Or perhaps a better analogy is the fabulous 'Went the day well' , made during the war ...

a personal favourite; an uncompromising, unsentimental, and even violent film in which a covert German invasion is thwarted by the courage and sacrifice of the residents of a sleepy, pretty, charming English village.

Apart from the treacherous squire, all of the villagers, men, women and children: from the genteel vicar's daughter to a young boy, the local young scallywag, the elderly postmistress, the local poacher: stubborn, strong, admirably resolute citizens, are united in their determination to resist the bullying Nazi paratroopers masquerading as fellow Englishmen, and finally manage, after a brutal sequence of confrontations, to confound the success of their mission.

Ok: we have no Nazi paratroopers to contend with here in Broken Barnet, in the bright, clear, chilly autumn of 2012, but we have been infiltrated by a covert invasion, by stealth, while we were sleeping, during the last election.

Our council is being run by an administration of quislings, traitors who have prepared the way for the encroachment of the enemy, a takeover just as significant in its way as a literal invasion. It's called One Barnet. 

Like any political dictatorship our council is unyielding, repressive, secretive, and rife with corruption.

Its perpetrators expect us to stand by silently, and offer a mute submission to their occupation. They may have expected this, but they were wrong.

Over the last year or so, a resistence movement has grown in Barnet that is now offering an ever more creative and effective programme of direct action, subversion, and counter propaganda. 

Not just the Barnet Alliance - the local unions, the local blogosphere, residents' associations, community groups, charities, families, men, women and children: all rising up to defy the unjust, undemocratic policies of a delusional Tory council, and a cabal of unelected senior officers intent on promoting the sell off of our borough to the private sector.

There is no better example of our own local insurgency, perhaps, than what is happening in the story of Friern Barnet Library, the 'people's library'. 

Here, if anywhere, the archetypal model of plucky citizens fighting against the odds is being acted out on an heroic scale. 

From the fight to stop the library closure, the temporary occupation on its last day,

 the pop up libraries held defiantly outside on the village green, next to the cherry tree;

the home made cakes supplied by local cafes ...  the hospitality shown by the neighbouring British legion, where D Day veterans sit below fading union jacks and portraits of our queen: the support for the squatters who moved in and reopened the library ...

 ... the contribution of five thousand books for the shelves emptied by the council ... and the supporters who attended the court hearing this week and left the council's deputy leader visibly shaken by the strength of their resistence: yes, this is England, at its finest: and a new England, in one of the most culturally diverse areas in the country. 

Look at the people who use the people's library: of all backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, of all levels of education, and occupation, or none. They are joined together in a common purpose, and the bonds that this issue is forging will last for a long time, I think.

The library that the residents of Friern Barnet are fighting for was built in another era, in the age of empire, funded by the profits accumulated by an unimaginably wealthy philanthropist, a capitalist with a social conscience, but here it is now, occupied and defended by anti capitalist activists, the unlikely heirs to Carnegie's vision of empowerment of the common man.

The local campaign by residents, led by the Save Friern Library Group, has brought together a whole community - no, let me stop there: in fact perhaps it is fair to say it has created a community where there was none, or at least has made that community visible to itself, and the outside world ... and the same is true in Barnet on a boroughwide level: wherever the impact of our lunatic Tory councillors' policies is hitting hardest, there is a network of resistence springing up to confront and oppose them. It's the end of Dave's Big Society, defeated by a much smaller one, the one we live in, in the real world, here in Broken Barnet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

fantastic analogies! spot on