Friday, 28 September 2012

Ye Big Olde Society: Or, A Great Saturday Night Out in Friern Barnet

News update from the Friern Library community hub (as the occupation is now named). Please note that tomorrow evening (Saturday 29th) there is a great programme on at the library featuring blogger Mr Reasonable and his 'One Barnet' magic box, and the wonderful Pete the Temp, a comic poet and singer and general bundle of energy.

I feel that we should be producing some sort of music hall style posters for the happenings at Friern Barnet Library these days. In Barnet we are back to making our own entertainment - and providing our own library services! Is this what they meant by Ye Big Olde Society?!
Friern Barnet library update

FANTASTIC NEWS: over 3,000 books have been donated, **thank you** everyone. We also need SHELVES! CHAIRS! TABLES! COMPUTERS!

Meeting with council officials, Friary House, Friary Park WEDNESDAY, 3 October, 3pm (tbc) - all welcome.  
Various working groups have been set up - come into the library and join us.
Please bring food to share - evening meal every night at 7pm
Tues 6.30-7.30pm - Pilates
Wed 6-7pm New Author - reading from his novel
7-8.15pm Yoga - come, enjoy some peaceful exercise
Thu 11.30am-12.15pm Teddy Bears' Picnic - stories and activities
7-9pm-  Music night - open mic
Friday 4-5pm - French - beginners and advanced

THIS Sat 10am-12noon Chemistry Lesson GCSE/A level

7-9pm -  Mr Reasonable and the Magic Box:
one of Barnet's famous five bloggers tells us about "ONE BARNET" plans for privatisation, followed by discussion.

also Pete the Temp and Catherine (Cat) Brogan

Get involved!
We need your help to save the library:

Sign up to the rota:  the library will be able to stay open only if we have enough people to staff it. We need people to volunteer for two-hour slots to check books in and out, accept donations, etc. If you can spare the time, please stop in at the library and sign up to the rota.

Make yourself heard: phone, email, text, tweet and visit Barnet Council and the media explaining why the library is important.

Spread the word: tell friends and neighbours about us.

Come and meet us: we have organising meetings each Monday at 6-7pm

The Friday Joke: You can lead a horse to water but a pencil must be lead

I am indebted to the wonderful Laurel and Hardy for the above actual joke! Will they ever be bettered? (Not their best joke, but memorable!)

Speaking of jokers, Brian Coleman has been blogging again, unchastened by his recent scapes. He reminds us that he is a member of one of the City of London Livery Companies, the Worshipful Company of Farriers (blacksmiths) of all things.

When you look at their website, you have to feel quite sorry for them having this oik on board, because this organisation actually seems highly respectworthy, organising training for young people that want to pursue this genuine and honorable trade.

Quite how Coleman managed to insinuate himself into their ranks is hard to fathom.

Still, there it is and we can enjoy some mirth noting that the Farriers rank 55th out of 108 in the 'precedence' of Livery Companies, below the horn workers but above the road and highway pavers.

The Farriers' motto is Vi Et Virtue, Latin for By Strength and by Virtue. Phnar!

What on earth does Brian Coleman know of - or care about - horses?!

P.S. This Friday's joke was just too easy to write. Political life in Barnet is too ludicrous for one even to be able to compete. I think the bloggers should go somewhere more prosaic - Nuneaton? - where we will have to learn to be truly inventive.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Hot tickets in Barnet tonight...

My plans for Thursday evening are looking scuppered. I might pop along to one of these hot events instead:
Open Mic in Friern Barnet Library tonight, Thursday 27th Sept  
Tonight, amongst others: 
Arnie playing jazz  
Laraine with belly dancing show; and other special guests  
Everyone welcome! All performers welcome!
8pm THE BLUE BEETLE Adjacent to St Mary-at-Finchley Church, Hendon Lane, N3 1TS  
"The Scandal of Public Sector Commissioning"  
We invite attendees to make a voluntary donation of £3 - £5 to help us meet the cost of the hall and other expenses.
We have a tough time of it, campaigning against the Tory administration's hare-brained schemes, but we have fun too!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Barnet library staff to be cut from 24.5 to 6

Is it a good day to bury bad news? Hm, don't know about that, but we hear that Barnet's library staff are to be cut from 24.5 to 6 in a planned restructure. All books will be issued by machine; the 6 remaining 'frontline' staff will no longer deal with borrowers.

Management numbers will remain the same.

I'm trying to find out some more details, such as, how volunteers will be used in place of qualified staff.

Read more about this shocking cut in this report from Barnet Unison.

A bad business

Barnet's bloggers are bound by the same reporting restrictions as everyone else so you can't expect to hear what we collectively - no, once again, I wasn't there myself - know about the events in North Finchley yesterday afternoon until - if - things get as far as a trial (!).

But we're safe enough saying Cllr Brian Coleman was arrested for common assault yesterday (or early this morning), has been bailed and must attend a police station again at the end of October.

You can "read all about it" - or as much of it as we are allowed to read about - in this report - "Councillor arrested for assault after camera row" - in the Evening Standard today.

Whether Coleman committed an assault or not, and whether or not it involved North Finchley's Cafe Buzz owner Helen Michael, this is for certain a bad business. Best wishes to Helen.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Again: Who runs Barnet Council? (And do they know what they're doing?)

Barnet bloggers wrote to Barnet Council leader Richard Cornelius recently asking "Who runs Barnet Council?"

This came after a senior Council officer sent an email to staff telling them the decision had been taken to turn the privatisation of Development and Regulatory Services (DRS) into a Joint Venture between Barnet Council and one of the outsourcing companies bidding for the contract.

Richard Cornelius, returning from holiday, said no such decision had been taken, this in spite of his deputy Daniel Thomas telling the newspapers such a move would make sense.

At the Budget and Performance Committee last night (which I didn't attend) the Tory group appeared to deny that a JV had ever been contemplated.

You can read about this in reports from bloggers who were there! For example, Reema Patel, Mr Reasonable and Barnet Unison.

So, again, who runs Barnet Council? And, more to the point, do any of them know what they are doing?

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Friern Barnet Library opening hours

According to this excellent blogpost by Roger "Barnet Eye" Tichborne, Barnet Council appear to have made a rather poor fist of things in court on Tuesday, and the Friern Barnet Library occupiers to have played their hand rather well. In short, the eviction hearing has been postponed till 9 October in order for the occupiers to prepare a case why they should not be booted out of the re-opened Friern Barnet Library.

In the meantime, the library is now open 6 days a week, lending books and providing a meeting place for the community.

Here are extracts from their latest newsletter:
Friern Barnet Library has been reopened by activists and local volunteers and is open Monday-Saturday from 11am to 7pm. Your library is not just a place to borrow books - it is a community space which also offers a range of free activities for all. Books have kindly been donated by the local community. However, we understand that running this library effectively requires the expertise of a paid librarian so we are putting pressure on the council for reinstatement of funding.
Please drop into the library to find out more about our special events. If you want to run an event email us.
Get involved!
We need your help to save the library:
Urgent: Fridge needed
Bring more books: We need more books, especially for older children. We are also collecting toys, DVDs and CDs.
Sign up to the rota: the library will only be able to stay open if we have enough people to staff it. We need people to volunteer for two hour slots to check books in and out, accept donations, etc. If you can spare the time, please stop in at the library and sign up to the rota.
Make yourself heard: phone, email, text, tweet and visit Barnet Council and the media explaining why the library is important.
Spread the word: tell friends and neighbours about us.
Come and meet us: we have organising meetings each Monday at 6-7pm and Saturday 1-2pm.
Hope to see you there soon,
Friern Barnet Community Library

Monday, 17 September 2012

Support Friern Barnet Library occupiers, in court Tuesday (probably)

An administrative and political vortex currently swirls around Friern Barnet Library, but the main thing is that it's open and people are borrowing books again. In this context, I like the phrases 'facts on the ground' and 'possession is 9/10 of the law'.

Barnet Council simply can't decide what best to do. They are still trying to push the idea of a community library in Friary Park. And sending senior officers to parley with the occupiers and local residents. And admitting that the much-bruited 'landmark library' at the Artsdepot is not likely to happen.

However, one fact we can't ignore is that the Council has also, simultaneously, begun eviction proceedings against the occupiers. There is an initial hearing tomorrow. If you can, please go along to the court and support Phoenix et al.

The Save Friern Barnet Library group has discussed the occupation and is now supporting it.

Here is a notice regarding the court hearing:
The council is putting through an eviction order of the gallant people who have returned our library to us, and are helping us in developing it as a community centre. The first round of this nasty game of council vs Friern Barnet is in court on Tuesday 18th at 10am - Barnet County Court, St Mary's Court, Regents Park Road, N3 1BQ (very near Finchley Central station).

Please come if you can, and show your support... This is our community. Let's protect it.
(Disclaimer: who knows, the Council might decide at the last moment not to go ahead with the eviction proceedings. So if you turn up tomorrow and it's all off, please don't blame me! Finchley is a nice area for shopping and sitting in cafes so it need not be a morning completely wasted.)

Barnet's newest blogger (last time I checked - I have been away from my computer for a whole day), Reema Patel, has an interesting blogpost in which the occupiers (who I'm no longer calling 'anarchists', because, well, I don't know that they are) lay out their position. It's an interesting read.

There were some tensions between what the occupiers initially seemed to be interesting in doing, and what the Save Friern Barnet Library group wants. From that point of view, this passage is reassuring (at least, to me!):
We are happy to announce that your library is now reopen and is lending again. It is now run on a voluntary basis; books, DVD’s, videos and tapes have kindly been donated by the local community. However, we understand that running this library effectively requires the expertise of a paid librarian so we are putting pressure on the council for reinstatement of funding.
I'm not great at the old Latin, but another phrase I like is 'deus ex machina' (God from the machine) or a bolt from the blue, which (lazy) authors introduce when their plots are going awry and they need to find something to tie up a load of loose ends.

In the saga of Friern Barnet Library, are the occupiers playing the role of deus ex machina (only, in a good way) - or are they just complicating the plot even further?

Who cares, as long as the library is lending again!

Friday, 14 September 2012

The Friday Joke: Booooo!

I was going to apologise for posting this great joke for it being slightly dated. But I decided to plough ahead because, frankly, there is an added poignancy in watching this.

It seems now to belong to an earlier, more innocent age when all we had to worry about was the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition's ideologically driven austerity drive, with its sombre repercussions here in Barnet in the shape of the 'One Barnet' privatisation programme.

Since those halycon days, all of a week ago, when we enjoyed brilliant weather, brilliant sport and a warm, fuzzy sense of all quite liking each other (apart from the Government, of course), it feels like something significant has changed.

We have seen ambassadors killed and embassies burned over some stupid film that some deservedly anonymous fool made in the US; harrowing revelations about the Hillsborough disaster and cover-up including the shameful role of South Yorkshire Police; a miserable reminder of the pathetic preoccupations of the mainstream media in the furore around the contemptible invasion of privacy of a nice enough, middle-class woman aka the Duchess of Cambridge, who happens to be married to the future King (the what?!).


I'm sure I've left something out, oh, yes, the return to prominence in Barnet (small pond? Turn left at Hampstead Heath) of one of the most venal, arrogant and insensitive excuses for a bourgeois 'politician' ever spawned. I don't even have to say the name.

Gosh, if he were handing out the medals now, Chancellor George Osborne should think himself lucky only to be booed. Oh, yes, I nearly forgot, the 'joke':

Q. Why did 80,000 people boo George Osborne?
A. Because that's the maximum capacity of the Olympic Stadium. (Kevin Mcveigh)

An injury to one is an injury to all

Following Brian Coleman's outburst at Tuesday night's council meeting, the Chair of the Barnet Council Unison branch has written this letter to members. It is worth bearing in mind, Barnet Conservatives, that one of the favourite sayings of the trade union movement is "an injury to one is an injury to all".
It is unprecedented for a Councillor to name a Council Officer (an employee of the Council) in a disparaging way in public. Why? Because a Council officer has no public right of reply. So when the employee being attacked is the branch secretary of the biggest Council union, namely our John Burgess, it is particularly offensive. The same Councillor uses sexist, denigrating language to people sitting in the public gallery.  
“Ah, but that’s Brian Coleman for you,” I hear you say, “The Councillor who just lost his GLA seat and seat on the Cabinet”. I do not much care for speculation about whether he was there to provoke or not etc. I do know this: He was asked/allowed to make a key speech for the ruling Conservative Group on a key issue facing our workforce – the One Barnet Programme. That group and the leader of that group allowed him to be their public face. Rightly or wrongly he was chosen.  
During the whole debate (and I was there throughout) Cllr Coleman made no apology. His leader, Cllr Cornelius, did not distance himself from the comments made by Cllr Coleman or insist on an apology, instead he smiles and nods approvingly. The Mayor does not choose to make any kind of statement regarding conduct expected from Councillors serving in public office but only addresses his comments to members of the public, many of them women incensed at having been insulted, nor does he choose to remind Councillors about protocols around naming employees of the Council. Cllr Harper (portfolio for Children’s Services) is clearly seen smiling when his colleague uses sexist language to residents of Barnet. What does this say about our Council’s ability to conduct Equality Impact Assessments?  
I hope you would agree with me that we think our Branch Secretary should continue writing emails on behalf of our members to the Councillors. If they think this is “increasingly desperate”, that is their problem.  
We elect our Branch Secretary precisely to represent us, amongst other things by telling the Council when we think they have got it wrong. The fact the leading Conservative Group refuses to debate with us (and we have offered many, many times over) on the detail of the One Barnet Programme, but can only resort to name calling is a critical sign of weakness in their case. Nonetheless they think they can get away with it. We must show them otherwise.  
Listen to the speech, listen to the way the Councillors express their views via Cllr Brian Coleman about you as a workforce. They just do not care about you. Now what was that about Barnet’s Values...? Who do you stand by? Come to branch meeting 25th September.
Councillor Coleman One Barnet speech
Bite size clips of the above speech
· Councillor Coleman attacks Barnet Alliance residents in public gallery
· Councillor Coleman calls residents old hags
· Councillor Coleman says staff don't matter
·  Councillor Coleman attacks staff and UNISON Branch Secretary
· Councillor Coleman and Leader share private joke

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The King of Something, OR: Brian Coleman's blog

I've been rather out of the loop lately, but I'm catching up now.

I thought I would register that Brian Coleman is now blogging with a blog called 'The King of Bling is Back'.

The pictures along the top of the front page show where he thinks he is headed: Tower Bridge (Tower of London more like); Houses of Parliament (extremely unlikely to make MP, however, Mike Freer might take pity and invite him for a drink one day); Buckingham Palace (might sneak an invitation to a garden party at some point).

I feel slightly uneasy being, well, mean about Brian on a personal level, but he does invite it, especially after last night's performance at the Barnet Council meeting.

There is footage on the Barnet Bugle blog.

Coleman gives his own version of the evening's events in today's blogpost titled "Get a Life!".

Is the Coleman blog real? I would lay money on it.

The 'bio' panel reads like something you read on the dustjacket of an autobiography: Coleman is rumoured to be writing one.

Knowing him, it won't be ghost-written, but he will need the services of an editor with a strong will and perhaps a strong stomach. No, I'm not offering.


Now that I've read Coleman's post I find that it is not about last night's meeting at Hendon Town Hall. Instead it is an attempt to pre-empt any negative comeback on himself from that by making a scathing and fanciful attack on Barnet bloggers he doesn't have the courage to name - although he includes pictures of Mr Mustard, Mrs Angry and the Barnet Eye.

The worst thing one can say about any writer is that they indulge in loose talk. Sometimes people make mistakes; sometimes they exaggerate. But the insinuation Coleman makes in one passage that Barnet bloggers are responsible for attacking his elderly mother in the street is beyond pardonable.

Man, you are on very slippery ground now.

Friern Barnet Library: liberated, occupied and reopened to the public

The occupiers of Friern Barnet Library have sent out a colourful statement today, along with a link to a very good article on the Guardian website about the situation for libraries in the UK, as well as in Barnet.
The destruction of public services stops right here. After 18 months of protests fell on dead ears, the beloved Friern Barnet library ceased to operate in April. Now the library is declared liberated, occupied and reopened to the public.

Come down to browse and borrow, have your say and mobilise to save our public services. The space is available for public meetings, working groups, film nights workshops and lectures.

We are open Monday to Friday, 11 until 3. Contact us on 07592 231150.

Things we need: Volunteers, Food, Books, Donations

Events at the Re-opened Friern Barnet Library

Wednesday 11-1pm - Make Friends with a Book - come and read and listen to a short story - no obligation to read. Plus tea & biscuits.

Thursday 10am - BBC are coming to film the library. 5-7pm - Live Music

Next Tuesday 6pm Pilates

We will keep you up-to-date with news and events. Everybody welcome - forward emails to friends. Come and run a workshop or event. Pop in, say hello, bring books, and sign up for the rota.

Hope to see you soon, Phoenix

Saturday, 8 September 2012

You wait ages for an anarchist... OR: If you go down to Friern Barnet Library today, you're sure of a big surprise

News that anarchists have occupied Friern Barnet Library came as a surprise. Well, sort of. I mean, the building closed in April by Barnet Council is crying out to be reclaimed for the community. Now it has been. What was surprising was that there were some anarchists local enough to do it.

In my capacity as Barnet TUC publicity officer, I maintain a large database of contacts to inform about our activities. I once went looking for anarchists in Barnet. After all, other boroughs have stable communities of anarchists who produce magazines, run film nights, and so on, and can be relied on to support anti-cuts activity.

But in Barnet, other than a pleasant, lone anarchist who operates on the margins of the Barnet Alliance, I drew a blank.

Now a group of anarchists hearing on the anarchist grapevine that Friern Barnet Library has closed, have occupied it. Squatted it, you might say, but whereas squatting residential property has recently been made a crime, squatting other buildings has not.

Like anything that involves politics - people having different views - there are tensions in this situtation, but with luck it can be used to put new fire into the campaign to save Friern Barnet Library.

The Save Friern Barnet Library (SFBL) campaign have not given up for a moment their fight or their belief that their purpose-built library will open again in the heart of their community. Barnet Council rather bizarrely hurried down on hearing about the anarchists and took them to see the house in Friary Park that they have been trying to get SFBL to take over as a library substitute.

If you know anything about anarchism, their core idea is that the State is the enemy. To my mind they neglect the value - even if it is often ambivalent - of the welfare state, the idea that the state can mean, as well as repressive institutions, welfare services, publicly accountable and publicly owned.

SFBL have been clear from the start that they want Barnet Council to provide a library service in Friern Barnet Library. Their earlier offer to run community services from the library was in order to supplement the library service, not to replace it.

The anarchists are less clear on this, it seems. Of course, the anarchists have done their own work and have the right to express their own views. But their goals and those of SFBL do overlap and where they do I hope they can work together to advance the aim of saving Friern Barnet Library.

Today, SFBL have organised one of their pop-up libraries - everyone is invited to go and support this. And you will have the added excitement, if all goes to plan, of using the library itself, where a number of workshops are being held. Details:
The Save Friern Barnet Library group will be holding its monthly pop-up library today 11am-1pm on the library green.
The Friern Barnet library building will be open via the rear door (facing the green) from 11am onwards, and occupiers are inviting any individuals in to have a look round. There are some free creative writing workshop at 1pm in the library by Greenacre Writers, and Dr Natelson offers a Physics / Chemistry lecture and tuition from 11am-1pm.

Sign the petition -