Saturday, October 27, 2012

Trahison des Clercs in NW London

 LIBRARIES struggle united generations.

WE had a good night at the Preston pub in Wembley on Monday night. A year or so after Brent's Labour council closed six libraries in the borough (they called it "reorganisation") the campaigners who resisted closure had marked the anniversary with a torch relay around the sites, readings and other events, and on Monday October 22 the Preston Park campaigners held another of their fundraising pub quiz nights.

My trades council team-mates being otherwise engaged I hooked up with three local teachers instead, and thus got an update on the serious fraud case involving their former head, while also enjoying the company and a few pints. And we managed a reasonable score in the quiz too. The class struggle can take many forms as I'm always impressing upon younger comrades.  

Alas for some of the Brent campaigners the news this week is a bit of a disappointment,

When I first moved into Brent in the early 'Sixties the area had lots of factories large and small, but you could travel from Kilburn to Harlesden via Kensal Rise, and not pass a single drinking establishment, The reason aas it was explained to me was that the landowner for much of the area in between was.All Souls College, Oxford, which did not approve of boozers.

There is an All Souls Avenue and College Road, while over Cricklewood way there's Chichele Road, sharing its name with a chair and scholarship, Henry Chichele being an All Souls founder. There was also a College Park pub across the Harrow Road, but that was over the boundary in Hammersmith.

Nowadays the area has quite a few pubs and until recently it also had a positive amenity provided by All Souls College, in the shape of Kensal Rise library. This had the honour of having been opened by Mark Twain in 1900. Cricklewood library was also donated by All Souls, though both were run until last year by Brent council. Having decided to close these libraries, the council helpfully suggested that users could go to Willesden Green library centre instead, and then announced that this too would have to temporarily close while the site underwent redevelopment.

Remembering that the Cricklewood and Kensal Rise buildings, though used by the council, had actually belonged to All Souls, and been dedicated for use as libraries, campaigners who had failed to persuade the council to change its plans had an idea. They would appeal to the college to help them reopen their libraries.      

Alas the  Brent and Kilburn Times reports that All Souls College are to sell the Cricklewood and Kensal Rise libraries to developers, despite the pleas of local library campaigners that they be handed over to the community. LINK Friends of Kensal Rise Library had raised more than £70,000 to fund their proposal. The land is now likely to be used to build flats.

Henry Chichele was an Archbishop of Canterbury. Founded by him and Henry VI in 1438, All Souls College,  is today a registered charity with assets of £264,000,000. But evidently, business is business. Still, in disappointing the good folk of Cricklewood and Kensal Rise, the college has true to its educational aims, given them a quick lesson in the priorities of capitalism.

  •  It's not all closures. Brent's new £100 million Civic Centre will be opening its doors to the public on November 9-10.Skanska, the company overseeing the £100m project, and incidentally well-known to those fighting the building industry blacklist, is joining with the College of North West London to promote construction careers, by inviting people to visit the site and "take a tour of the UK’s greenest public building".  Local trade unionists and campaigners say they are not so green as to welcome the council's concentration of resources on this project, or the working conditions planned for staff.  As the open day comes on the eve of Diwali, which is a big occasion in Brent, they could show their appreciation of the council's plans by taking along a suitable white elephant.   
To follow and keep up to date with matters in Brent, and particularly Wembley::

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