Friday 31 March 2017
Guest Blog - The April Fools Day Massacre - By Gerrard Roots
By Gerrard Roots,
Former Curator of Church Farmhouse Museum
April Fool's Day 2017 is the sixth anniversary of the closure of Church Farmhouse Museum, in an act of cultural vandalism by Barnet's Tory Council. The Museum's collection having been hawked-off for a piitance, the Grade II* listed mid-17th Century building (the most important buidling that Barnet owns) is now leased rent-free by Middlesex University, and used as offices. (At least the University has restored this splendid building from the poor state that Barnet Council's neglect had left it in. Well the University might: Barnet gave Middlesex over half the money it claimed necessary for the restoration work!) When the lease was agreed we were told that there would be 'community use' of Church Farm. No such 'community use' has been announced, and I doubt that it ever will be. The Museum's front door once offered everyone a free way into the history of our area; now you can't get through it without a Middlesex University swipe card.
I April 2017 also marks the beginning of another act of cultural vandalism, on a grand scale, by Barnet Council. It's the day that many experienced and dedicated library workers become redundant, whilst the libraries they ran so successfully are closed for 'refurbishment'. When these re-open in September they will be libraries in name only: most of their space turned over to 'letting opportunities', open much of the time with no librarians present, or staffed only by unqualified volunteers. (The current issue of Barnet First, the Council's propaganda-sheet, celebrates unpaid library volunteers with the slogan: 'thanks for getting stuck in': pleasant reading for those librarians who have just been sacked.) Once upon a time people crossed the world to see the achievements of our area's libraries; after September they'll be unlikely to cross the street.
At the last meeting of Barnet's Children, Education, Libraries & Safeguarding Committee it was agreed to make an 'approach for the development of a strategic framework for art and culture in Barnet'. It should be a short document. Hermann Goering said that 'whenever he heard the word 'culture' he reached for his gun'. Barnet's Tories, whenever they hear the word 'culture' reach for a cruder weapon- their axe.