Tuesday, 22 March 2022

The Greatest hits of the Barnet Eye week - Day 1 - Friern Barnet People's Library

 Last week we announced that this was Greatest hits week at the Barnet Eye. As it is 15 years since the blog was conceived (like many people when they are in the act of conception, I didn't have a clue that this was what I'd done). I'd alwaysconsidered myself as pretty illiterate and dyslexic. My old English teacher is probably spinning in her grave at the the size of what I've achieved. As a dyslexic, it is quite unbelieveable to me that it should have reached the corners it has. For the rest of the week, I'll be featuring the stories I'm most proud of. There is a long list and many will be surprised by what I don't list. For instance, I won't be listing the Barnet Council Metpro scandal. Although this was the one of the biggest stories in the Borough relating to bloggers, it was a shared effort with the other bloggers, so it would be wrong to claim too much credit. 

Ten years ago, on the 4th April 2012, Barnet Council Tories voted to shut Friern Barnet Library.  This happened the very next day, giving locals almost no time to organise a response. None the less a small protest and a sit in was staged. Like many bad management teams (P&O take note) what seemed like a clever wheeze turned into a PR disaster. As I sat in the Bridge Tavern, crying in my beer, I realised that I couldn't possibly allow the B******rds to get away with it. But what could I do? I only had one weapon. My blog. I could write a million words, but what good would that do? Then I had a brainwave. There's a large green outside the Library, the weather was good. Why not hold our own library on the green outside? I wrote a blog announcing that the Barnet Eye was opening a 'People's Library' on the green outside the Library on the following Saturday Saturday. Bring your books to swap, bring cakes, teas, music. 

In truth, I immediately regretted it. I was terrified that I'd be standing on the grass on my own. I'd be exposed for the fraud and charlotan than I always feel I am deep inside. But having said I'd do it, there was no way out. To my delight, the local paper swang behind us. The other bloggers such as Mr Mustard a supported us. On the day, over 400 people turned up. Blogger Mr Reasonable noted the success of the event. The event was such a success that the People's Library became a weekly event and was even featured on The One Show.

A stock of books was buiilt up, the Occupy movement got involved and in September the Library was reopened by the people. The Council launched eviction proceedings, when the council realised that it was unlikely to win the appeal they relented and the library was handed over to the Community. I can't claim responsibility for saving the Library, there were too many people involved, most who did far more than me, but I will go to my grave proud that it was me who planted the seed for what happened. 

I was recently asked to speak about what happened by the Campaign group Liberty as part of their campaign opposing the new policing bill, which would have sent me to prison for ten years for organising the People's Library. Would I do it now, if I knew I'd end up in clink for ten years. I like to think so, but I'd be 70 when I came out, if I served my full sentence. Then again, if you stand by and do nothing, what is the point of being alive?

Please watch this video. It's rather good, IMHO

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