Saturday, 4 February 2012
Save Friern Barnet library!
The thing I like best about my job (Barnet blogger and trade unionist and all-round hyperlocal activist - unpaid internship: they promise me it will lead to a wage one day) is getting out and seeing different parts of the borough.
I've been whisked through Friern Barnet a couple of times in a motor vehicle, but never 'been there'. Today I rectified that, by attending the Save Friern Barnet Library campaign's demo to mark National Libraries Day.
It was sodding freezing but I had a really nice time, both on the demo and just looking around at the area. You can sense the village that lies beneath today's Friern Barnet.
There are weird monstrosities nearby such as the former Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum (honest, that's what it was called) which has now been developed into flats by the Comer Group (who also own North London Business Park where Barnet council has its main offices). It is now named Princess Park Manor.
Friern Barnet old town hall is not a monstrosity, and it isn't a town hall anymore either. I think it is rather a handsome building. Shame it isn't in public use.
But underneath all of this lurks, still, the tiny village, one of the tens of thousands that made up the landscape of Britain before wholesale urbanisation. The population was much smaller, but it was far more evenly dispersed.
Now the local roads bear masses of traffic; close to the small library are streets and streets and streets of Victorian and later villas and houses. The library was built in 1934 to serve them.
With its neighbours, the library makes a lovely, natural cluster of buildings. Opposite is the parish church, St John the Evangelist. Next to the library is a small green which local residents have applied to have recognised as a village green. At the far end is the Royal British Legion, who served hot drinks throughout the march today, and who are supporting the library campaign.
I stepped inside my first Legion - not my natural territory - today and felt very at home.
After the march, and some speeches outside the library, including from councillors Barry Rawlings (Labour) and Kate Salinger (Conservative, but opposing her group's plan to close the library), and Andrew Dismore, Labour's candidate for the Barnet and Camden GLA seat, we went inside the library to look around. There were activities for children, and some special guests were due later. But I ran home to process my pictures, which you can see here.
It will be grotesque if this well-used library and true heart of the community is closed, bulldozed, and the land flogged off for a developer to build another anonymous block of flats or supermarket. Ask the locals!
Yet that is what is scheduled to happen on 31 March if we don't pull our fingers out.
Please support the campaign to save Friern Barnet Library. You can read more on their website. I'll try to keep you posted on specific actions you can take.