Current catastrophe at Carnegie Library Beyond Belief


In April 2016, desperate library supporters occupied the Carnegie library in Herne Hill, Lambeth. The story went worldwide. When the occupiers left after 10 days, 2,000 people marched with them in the biggest demonstration seen in Lambeth in 30 years. (Pics attached)

The issue? The council had closed the library – the busiest children’s library in the borough, with all-age usage climbing fast – in order to spend millions replacing it with a gym that nobody wants. All protests had been ignored.  

The plan made no sense. 

Incredibly, it makes even less sense now. 

Work is due to start at the end of August on wrecking the listed building.

Local residents are struggling to believe that the council still persists in a scheme that looks even worse than it did year ago.

Can you believe…?

In August 2017, the library is STILL closed. Nothing has been done to the building. Yet it has continued to incur all the costs – rates, utilities, insurance etc – that it paid when open, PLUS a massive extra £93,210 on security guards (up to March 31, 2017).

Can you believe…?

Council neglect has led to flooding within the building and the spread of pernicious Japanese knotweed in its garden. Staff and the Friends of Carnegie Library formerly ensured proper routine maintenance

Can you believe…?

Lambeth is now committed to spending £1.25m of taxpayers’ money on digging a hole in the basement of the library, to accommodate the gym. Just the hole. But it has not got gym company GLL to sign a commitment to fund or operate any gym. 

Can you believe…?

Lambeth has been negotiating with GLL since at least July 2015. (The negotiations have always been kept secret, but this much has been established via Freedom of Information.)

Can you believe…?

If gym does open in the library, fit-out costs are an estimated further £1.75m. GLL will pay no rent until 2023. What happens after 2023 is unclear. Lambeth has budgeted £1m revenue to support the gym.

Can you believe…?

Neither Lambeth nor GLL have ever produced any feasibility study, business plan, financial rationale or market research to support the gym idea. Yet four local surveys have shown that local people don’t want a gym, and Lambeth’s own physical activity strategy states that no more gyms are needed in the area.

Can you believe…?

Lambeth has now decided to hand the building (via asset transfer) to the “Carnegie Community Trust” (CCT). CCT has five self-appointed trustees, no members and a structure that specifically rules out any democratic participation. It has never held a public meeting and its plans are secret. Three of the five trustees have strong connections with the ruling Labour party.

Can you believe…?

Lambeth turned down a rival bid from the “Carnegie Library Association” (CLA). CLA has nine elected trustees and over 300 members that include the Friends of Carnegie Library, all the community groups that formerly used the library and most local amenity societies. It has held an AGM and two public meetings to discuss its plans.These are fully costed and published on its website.

Can you believe…?

The “independent” board that assessed the bids was formed of four Lambeth council officers and one local business that receives money from the council.

Can you believe…?

The reasoning behind the decision is obscure. But the clincher seems to be that the CCT bid is more “ambitious” – it wants to spend £5m on unknown alterations to the building, for which it has no funding.

Can you believe…?

At recent public meeting (August 3) a CCT trustee said the idea of a gym is “a disastrous mistake”, and the CCT does not in fact have a worked-out plan at all (“The council chose the bidders, not a bid”). He added: “We don’t know if we will be able to come to any agreement.”  

Can you believe…?

Work on the building is currently due to finish in May 2018, although even the start date has been put back twice already. A substitute library is due to open at an unknown date. It will be, the council says, “staffed for approximately two hours per day … consist of self-service facilities providing residents with access to a limited supply of books available for lending and drop off” Essentially, a much diminished service.

Can you believe…?

The recent People’s Audit of Lambeth’s finances has raised serious questions about the council’s financial management, and highlighted wastage running into millions. The report includes a whole chapter on the libraries fiasco. The council has far declined to respond.

Can you believe…?

Lambeth calls itself “the co-operative council”!



07914 491 145

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Croydon Literary Festival Saturday 9 September



Croydon’s first Literary Festival will be held on Saturday 9 December at the David Lean Cinema.

Jonny Rose explains  the background thinking at

Session 1. 10am. What’s so funny about Croydon?

Croydon has become a shorthand for everything awful. Jeremy and Mark from Peep Show had a dull flat here; Terry and June lived in Purley, where the wife who “went” in Monty Python’s Nudge, Nudgesketch was also from. “Eric Pode of Croydon” on Radio 4 comedy The Burkiss Way was the grotty, ridiculous character on the show. The characters from The Good LifeReginald Perrin and Charles Pooter from George Grossmith’s classic Diary of a Nobody are also classic suburban figures who are very much part of British culture. So clearly suburbia is an inspiration for comedians and comedy writers. Comedy expert and author Louis Barfe explores, alongside writers Nev Fountain and Jim Bob Morton, what makes the land of semi-detacheds and housing estates so ripe for comedy. Book at:

Session 2. 11am. Keeping Calm In Croydon

The stresses and strains of everyday life affect us all. Sometimes things get on top of us; one in four of us will, at some time, suffer from some kind of mental illness. Croydon is growing fast, and sometimes we can feel a bit isolated if we’ve moved somewhere new. But it needn’t get on top of us if we know how to find help. Book at:


Session 3.  12pm. So you want to write?

If you’re serious about writing, and would like to take your work to the next level, this is the place to find out what you could do to get your words out there. Successful authors will tell you how they’ve been published; top publishers and agents will tell you what they’re looking for. Book atok Festival on its Facebook page at:

Session 4.  2pm. The Joy of Croydon

Authors John Grindrod and Peter Watts, both raised in south-east London, discuss the pleasures of the much-maligned borough – the architecture, the countryside, the culture. Book at:

Session 5. Details not yet available

Session 6.  4pm. Killer Women Bestselling authors Erin Kelly and Melanie McGrath are members of the pioneering Killer Women group of crime writers. They will be discussing their latest books, why female writers are so outrageously successful at writing crime and thrillers, and why the suburbs are such a fruitful location for murder and mystery. Book at:


You can attend for the whole day or for individual sessions at

 You can follow the detail of the Festival on its Facebook page at




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History events & news at 4 August

Tuesday 29 August. The Spirit of ’77: Revisiting and Contextualising the Battle of Lewisham

History Department, Goldsmiths

 September. Lambeth Heritage Festival

1-2 September. The British Society of Sports History Annual Conference, University of Worcester

 Tuesday 5 September. 7pm. ‘The Big Hewer

Talk  Eric Wade. North East Labour History Society.

Old George Inn, Bigg Market, Newcastle.

 Saturday 16 September 9.30am-4.30pm. Fifty Years of Activism, Northumbria University  Day School

A collaboration between the Histories of Activism Group at Northumbria University, and the North East Labour History Society.

This day school will reflect on the last fifty years in the North East, and especially the great changes that have occurred in politics, culture and society.

Keynote Speaker: John Charlton. Workshops on Culture and Music, Labour Activism, Women and the Women’s Movement, The Peace Movement, Politics, Co-operatives, Trade Unions and the World of Work, Growth of Ethnic Diversity in the North East.

The backgrounds of the participants will be mixed, including academics presenting their research, as well as activists and historians working outside of a formal academic framework.

To book your place in this Day School, please let us know at Attendance is free, and coffee and lunch will be provided.

Updates and new information will be posted on the day-school page:

Tuesday 26 September. 7pm. North East Labour History Society Annual General Meeting

With talk by Nigel Todd on Responses in the North East to the Russian Revolution

Mining Institute, Newcastle.

Tuesday 26 September. Launch of Manchester Black History Month

Tuesday 3 October. 7pm. Joe Wilson, the Gallowgate Lad

Talk by Dave Harker for North East Labour History Society.

Old George Inn, Bigg Market, Newcastle.

Tuesday 7 November. 7pm. ITG on Tyne – The Work of the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation,

 Talk by  Doug Miller for North East Labour History Society.

Old George Inn, Bigg Market, Newcastle

Northamptonshire Archives drops charging plan

Northamptonshire Archives  proposed  a £31.50 an hour charge for people using its facilities. In response to growing objections they have dropped the plan.

(Thanks to Prof. Andrew Prescott at Glasgow for drawing this to my attention.)

Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust Newsletter

Len Johnson, Manchester’s Communist Black Boxer

African resistance to the slave trade

Earl Cameron unveils blue plaque to Ira Aldridge in Coventry

The diversity of the Caribbean and its role in world history

Listen to the discussion on Patrick Vernon’s Museum of Groves. It includes Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, author of The Caribbean and the World.

Thomas Spence, Land Nationalisation and the Housing Crisis

On Saturday 29 July Malcolm Chase gave a lecture on the life and ideas of Thomas Spence and land nationalisation for the Socialist History Society. Discussion included the question of whether his ideas remain relevant today. There was a consensus that the issue of land ownership was a major problem at the room of the housing and developer crises.  I suggested that his ideas on building a democratic Britain up from the parishes remained an inspiration to thinking about the need for major reform in governance.  I have written a piece stimulated by the lecture at







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Croydon events and news at 4 August

August events At Ruskin House

  • FOLK & BLUES EVENINGS £2 at 8pm every Sun

6th – Singers’ Night

13th – Molly and the Blackbriar Band and Singers’ Night

20th – Andy Smythe and Singers’ Night

27th – Singers’ Night

3rd Sept – Singers’ Night

10th – John & Di Cullen and Singers’ Night

  • Other

 Sat 19th – Cinema Ruskin – £2 at 8pm.  Third Saturday in the month.  ‘Johnny Concho’ (Frank Sinatra) 1956 and comedy shorts

Thurs 31st – Jazz Night 8.30pm – ‘Jazz with Soft Winds’ – playing standards, Latin, ballads and be-bop on sax, flute, clarinet, guitar and bass.  Free.

Council starts action against illegal smoking in shisha cafes

Developers want to build 68 storey tower block

Stuart King criticises TfL plans to reduce bus services

Planning to open up Norbury Brook and improving Norbury Park

The Environment Agency is studying the options and costs on opening up Norbury Brook through Norbury Park as part of an exercise to reduce the risk of flooding along the Brook as it flows from Thornton Heath to Streatham Vale.

I have summarised a 2008 consultants report for the Agency as background on my Norbury Watch blog site. The first part can be seen at

Clicking on an arrow allows you to move into the other three parts.

The Agency work is linked in with the Council’s master planning exercise on Norbury Park. The consultants have organised a community day on 19 August to ask residents and users their views. See

Local Plan – Ecological Studies

As a result of representations made at the Local Plan Examination Hearings in May the Council commissioned Thomson Ecological to undertake two ecological surveys:

  • Addiscombe, Woodside and Shirley Leisure Gardens….pdf

  • Land at Kent Gate Way….pdf

Indigo justify Green Belt development at Coombe Farm

Following the discussion at the Local Plan Hearings about the potential development of the Coombe Fram site owned by Croydon based developer AA Homes Ltd, Indigo Planning has submitted a note to the Inspector. It argues that ‘The Coombe Farm site is available and deliverable now to provide much needed housing to assist Croydon with meeting its identified OAN. It therefore is capable of being taken out of the Green Belt due to the exceptional circumstance, namely the failure of the Council to meet the OAN. Should the site need to be retained as Green Belt, the enclosed documentation shows two options as to how development can be delivered whilst having regard to the openness of the Green Belt.’ The OAN is the objectively assessed housing needs. The document can be seen at…_Redacted.pdf

Sarah Jones to meet with local anti-knives campaigners

When I worked for it (1984-9) the Community/Police Consultative Group for Lambeth supported a pilot scheme re-carrying knives led by the Chief Superintendent of Kennington Division. We persuaded the makers of East Enders to run the issue as a powerful story line. Unfortunately the Met did not pick up the conclusions of the pilot after it ended.

In 2009 when I was working for Riverside Community Development Trust an innovative project was created at Stockwell Park High School as I reported in the first issue of RCDT Kennington Alliance Enews (June)


Over the last three to four years there has been a lot of concern about young violence and death in the area. On 3 March the Stockwell Park High School launched the Black Rose Foundation an idea devised and developed by a team of pupils to harness children’s creativity in developing their potential. The pupils were conducting research  in response to the national Make Your Mark Challenge during Enterprise week. They aimed to devise a product or service based on the Olympic values of determination, excellence, friendship, courage, respect, inspiration and equality.  The team decided to develop a product that would recognise children’s concerns about street safety and crime, but would also emphasis young people’s creativity in finding positive solutions to problems. Inspired by the Poppy Day Appeal, the team came up with the idea of designing a pin badge which could be worn as an emblem in a similar way to the poppy. The Black Rose Badge would commemorate young people who had been victims of knife and gun crime. Wearing the badge would symbolise a commitment to opposing violence. Black Rose Month will be celebrated annually and The Black Rose Foundation will be established to promote the creativity of other pupils in London. The funds raised will help to develop sustainable projects for young people who will be able to apply for scholarships and bursaries to develop creative and enterprising pupils in their schools and communities. Pupils involved in Black Rose also plan to give advice to children at other schools about how to set up and run a campaign and business.’

The School gave permission to the Lewisham Community Police Consultative Group to use the Black Rose logo in the report of its Special Conference ‘A Community Call to Action’ Working together for solutions on gun, knife, gang and drug related crime’ held that year.


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Charlton Mansions Archive Installation from 10 August

Thursday 10 August 6pm

Charlton Mansions – Opening of an installation by Alex Talbott

Then till 30 September

Carlton Mansions


Alex has been working at Lambeth Archives for the last three months with the recently-deposited archive of the Charlton Mansions Short-Life Housing Coop as part of her collaborative MA dissertation. Part of this work has been to create an installation around the process of cataloguing the collection.

In 2014 Lambeth ‘The Co-operative’ Council re-possessed the Mansions on Coldharbour Lane as part of its ambitious plan to redevelop Somerleyton Rd. There has been a long history of the Council seeking revenge on the co-operative housing movement in Lambeth which grew out of the squatting of houses left empty as part of Lambeth’s over ambitious plans from the 1960s and into the early 1970s to knock down slums and housing capable of renovation and build new Council estates.

In January this year the Mansions were still empty!

What has happened to Carlton Mansions has to be seen in the wider context of the running of the Council. This is what MP Kaye Hoey had to say in the House of Commons in December 2011 on the then Council attack on co-operative housing:

‘Many of these issues have occurred because of the local authority’s inadequacy and incompetence over many years, for which we can blame many people, but at the end of the day the people who are suffering are the residents, whose fault it is not.’

‘… the council’s policy is misguided and has been built on many years of mismanagement and neglect. As I said, there are many people to blame for this, but they are not the residents.’

‘This is a complicated situation that is somewhat historical and almost unique to Lambeth, but sometimes in such cases, where there is clear injustice, we must find a way to stop it happening.’

Questions about the Council

In a talk I gave on community action history in Lambeth at the 2012 Lambeth Archives Open Day I posed the following questions about the Council include:

  • How has it coped with  opportunities and constraints?
  • Has it run efficient services?
  • Has it ensured that its policies and procedures have minimised the difficulties of accessing the use of its services?
  • How has it sought to moderate the worst possible effects of reductions in budgets?
  • How effectively has it planned the continual changes in the nature of the local economy, the high turnover of population, the changes in Government policies, and the demands of local people and their organisations?
  • Is it fit for purpose?

These questions still seem pertinent today and will continue to need to be asked in the future. The fiasco of the Libraries provides a massive negative answer to many of these questions.

Co-operative and Social Action History in Lambeth

I discuss aspects of the squatting and short-life co-op movement history in Lambeth in my pamphlet

Organising Things Together in Lambeth. A Historical Review of Co-operative and Mutual Social Action

£2 + £1 postage from

or by ordering through the PayPal link at the bottom of the page at






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Croydon news at 30 July

Council Parks News

  • 10 Green Flags awarded

  • Last two master planning events

Norbury Park 19 August – noon-4pm – in the centre of the park.

Happy Valley 16 September  – noon-4pm – at the Fox Pub car park and outside Aldi, Brighton Road.

Town Centre decline leads to closure of café

Fairport Convention at Fairfield Halls on new CD

Croydon History

Croydon and Culture

Anna Arthur discusses

Tory Critique of Labour’s housebuilding record

HMRC staff move into Ruskin Square and MoJ into Apollo and Lunar Houses

Note that this will include existing HMRC staff in Croydon. The Ministry of Justice is planning to relocate many of its staff to Apollo and Lunar Houses to a total of 1,500 according to the design and access statement with the current planning application (17/03109/FUL). The intention is to erect a three storey external fire escape stair to Apollo House; installation of ventilation grilles to the lower window sections at third floor level to the Apollo House pod; installation of two new glazed security access pods to the staff reception area in Lunar House.

The proposed materials are: ‘RAL 9010 PPC perforated aluminium cladding panels. White RAL 9010 prefabricated steel stair sections with RAL 7012 grey non-slip surface and contrasting nosing. RAL 7012 grey steel structure and stair balustrading.’

In searching for information about RAL 9010 cladding I came across this assessment of fire risk and cladding from 2016.




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Stop moaning and re-negotiate Whitgift tower blocks

Council should re-negotiate Whitgift tower blocks

Instead of moaning about the fact that the revised planning application for the new Whitgift shopping centre has not yet been approved, Council Leader Tony Newman should be negotiating for the proposed tower blocks to be replaced by lower rise flats above the shopping centre. The stumbling block to delay appears to be no agreement over the provision of ‘affordable housing’.

I have recommended that the Labour Councillors should read planning expert and Labour Party member Duncan Bowie’s reflections on the wider housing and tower blocks issues raised by the Grenfell fire tragedy in the current issue of The Chartist magazine, which can be seen at

Meanwhile Hammerson’s profits up:


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