This morning a letter was hand-delivered to my home. This is the second time I have received a letter from this gentleman, someone I have never met, both times hand-delivered, both times about Carnegie Library. I don’t know how he has my address.
The letter is in response to this blog, posted 6 days ago, in relation to the situation of the Carnegie Library and the other libraries in Lambeth, the concern of local people resulting in a 2000-strong march yesterday.
In the letter (as well as asserting that those of us protesting the libraries’ closures are ‘attention seekers’), the gentleman suggests that I have publicly demonised those who do not think the same as I do.
- I did not publicly name anyone in the blog
- I do not believe that saying ‘I believe this’ is demonising
- in the post he is offended by, I am talking about the community of those protesting the library closures. Obviously he and his colleagues are not part of that community, as they are not protesting the closures.
- the blog in question has been read by less than 1000 people, clearly he assumes I have a far wider reach than I do.
- I have not engaged in or seen the personal demonisation of councillors he alleges, I have however, seen Lambeth councillors block people on twitter for asking genuine questions about the closures, seen other Lambeth councillors speak out about the unfortunate way this whole matter has been handled, and seen Lambeth councillors accuse those protesting about libraries’ closures of not caring about other vital social services.
I do acknowledge, given the many years of service he cites, that the gentleman clearly perceives himself to be part of the Herne Hill community, regardless of views on the library closure and occupation, and therefore of course I am sorry he feels my blog excludes him from this community. I would never want to intentionally offend a neighbour – anyone – whether I know them or not. (Incidentally, I live in Loughborough Junction, also served by Carnegie and Minet libraries until their closure by Lambeth Council a week ago.)
Obviously I am not the only local person who believes that the Carnegie Community Trust does not represent the community – this is stated clearly in the #CarnegieOccupation demands. I do however wonder, how many others who have spoken up have received a personal letter, hand-delivered to their own home, on a Sunday morning, by someone they have never met, who somehow has their address.
Further, the Friends of Carnegie Library passed a vote of no confidence in the Carnegie Community Trust at the 2016 AGM, stating “They are not a community organisation but a self-appointed group who do not represent or engage with any community groups. This passed by a large majority, the only votes opposed being from the two Trust members present.”
Here is Sara Bredemear’s witness statement from Friday’s court appearance, a document that has been made public, stating the reasons behind the Carnegie Occupation. You will see on page 3 that the statement deals with the Community Trust – and the mistrust between them and other local organisations who protest the libraries’ closures and transfers.
There are some stunning images of yesterday’s protest and march here. I am proud to have been part of it.
I attach a pdf of the letter I received today here, with a request to Carnegie Community Trust that they no longer hand-deliver anything direct to my home. I have blanked his name and address to offer him the privacy that the Community Trust have not afforded me.
I was shaky and upset on receiving this letter, especially as it was hand-delivered by a stranger, to my own home. Now, I simply feel more determined to support my neighbours and community against Lambeth’s library closures. And I’m going to get back to work – Sundays are writing days for me – and libraries also need books.
You have nothing to apologise for to this person, in my opinion and I am very sorry to hear about this singling out of you as a campaigner. This is something that all those I have met associated with defendtheten, from the leadership to the babes in arms (I am referring quite literally here to the twins who occupied the library) have studiously avoided at all times. I have always been puzzled as to why the self-styled “Community Trust” does not work with the Friends of Carnegie Library. My confusion is only increased by the declaration here by the letter writer of his or her membership in FOCL. It seems to me that it is rather the CT which is trying to exclude the community of people who are concerned about the future of Carnegie Library by seeking to make private deals with the Council without FOCL’s participation. And the FOCL, btw, is now a CIO (Charitable Incorporated Organisation) so it is quite qualified to take “ownership of the library, if the Council is determined to give it away. The characterisation in the letter of the defendtheten demands as “impossibilist” is unfair, in my opinion, and is a good example of the misunderstanding and mistrust that has developed between the CT (and indeed the Lambeth Council) and the FOCL and library users and staff. This sort of misunderstanding points precisely to the need for “Community Trusts” as well as elected representatives to engage and consult with those who use and operate the services they would presume to take charge of. The failure to do so, which at the risk of causing further offence I would say both the CT and the LBC have been guilty of, will unavoidably lead to questions of democratic legitimacy. That questioning, however vigorous, cannot be characterised as “demonisation”.
“All are included and all are welcome.” This is a very hypocritical thing for the gentleman to say when representing a ‘community’ organization where all are not included and all are not welcome. In reaching out to this organization, I had the same experience as Sara described in her witness statement — the attitude of ‘no community needed; we’ll take care of it.’
I can’t say for certain the true intentions of the Carnegie Trust group as they remain a closed group. However, I have no doubt that if they want support from the *wider* community in their efforts for Carnegie Library, they have gone about it in completely the wrong way. And I fail to understand why such a group would not be working closely with the Friends which is already established to represent the the ‘community’ of library users.
On Saturday, between 2000 and 3000 people marched in support of the Friends fighting for Carnegie Library. How many people were at the last meeting organized by the Carnegie Trust?
We’re with you Stella. Or rather, you’re with us. Thank you for speaking up and representing us.
Thank you so much for this reply.
Thank you. I’m so grateful for these replies. I’ve spent a lot of time questioning myself today, as I genuinely want to be of use to my community. Very grateful.
What is really strange about this is that the person did not write a comment directly on your blog post, since this is what they were responding to. I imagine if they had, it would have been a welcome part of a debate, rather than a creepy stalking situation. I’m sorry to hear about this Stella. It is this kind of thing that stops people from feeling that they can voice their opinions. I’m glad it hasn’t stopped you.
yes, I find it weird that he didn’t respond to this blog too. esp as I have often welcomed disagreeing voices here. ah well, it takes all sorts … x
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Well said, all of what you’ve written.
I’m no longer in busines up the road at the Sun and Doves or living around the corner from Minet and Carnegie on Denmark Road, because not entirely unrelated problems of dysfunctional society and money flow killed my business, bankrupted and made me homeless in 2011 and I had to move away from what was my family home as my relationship disintegrated under pressure of those events… But having spent the best part of two decades in the area through my business and by years’ chairing Camberwell Arts and SE5 forum trying to help positively impact the diverse range of community both sides of the Lambeth / Southwark boundaries and with family and friends still living close by I’m still very interested about what happens to your home area.
I’m vicariously outraged by the letter posted through your door. Shaking and Upset too.
It’s a good idea if you’re going to drop a letter into someone’s life to ‘reach out’ to them then make sure you get the thinking joined up..
The fundamental problem here is that bunkered, siloed, parallel communities live side by side and local authorities fail to understand this fully which leaves people with closely aligned interests to sort it out for themselves.
Engagement ought to begin with local democratically elected authorities using the tools and resources of the administration. That rarely happens effectively and very often the well intentioned actions of local authorities manage to create division instead of cohesion. Lambeth, ‘the cooperative council’ hasn’t come close to living up to its label and pointing a finger at councillors and trusts who’ve not done what they say, for whatever reason (lack of resources usually is the bedrock problem, but it’s also backed up by a lack of creative imagination as to how to get people involved), is needed.