Skip to content

Occupy Friern Barnet library 13/12/2012

Some info about the occupation of Friern Barnet library – let’s hope the new Phoenix will prove to be a similarly valuable community resource.



Friern Barnet Peoples Library
Local resident, happy after taking out 3 books

People’s Library defies Tory vandals

When Tory-controlled council closed Friern Barnet library in north London, they gave 24 hours notice. Then, in an act of sheer vandalism, the shelves were cleared and the books removed. Now a People’s Library is up and running. Photo report by Peter Arkell.

When the Tory-controlled council closed Friern Barnet library in April, local residents resisted, at first sitting in and collecting a petition of 3,000 names, then setting up a small book exchange on the green outside the library.

Then they got together with Occupy London to reopen the site as the People’s Library three months ago. The council have done their best to thwart the plan, but their efforts were knocked back in October when a judge blocked the council’s attempts to close it.

The council however has a further court hearing on December 17 as it persists in its “duty to its taxpayers to protect its assets”. According to the activists running the library, the council want to sell the building and the land for £400,000 to a private house builder.

Friern Barnet Peoples Library

The attempt to close the library is a part of the council’s plan to outsource to the private sector most of the services that it provides. It is preparing to award up to £1bn in contracts to the likes of Capita, and to surrender completely to the dictates of the market place.

However, the occupation of the library is popular locally. Not only have residents nearby re-stocked the shelves with between 8,000 and 10,000 books and handed over new furniture, but they help to run it.

Friern Barnet Peoples Library
Mother with daughter in the library

Volunteers do the work of the library, signing out books and CDs, organising community events such as yoga and drama, setting up play areas for children, cleaning and making tea and coffee.

The library, at first glance, seems like any other well-run library, with people on computers (there is free access to the internet available) and a steady stream of volunteers and book browsers walking in and out.

It is only the lack of high-tech equipment for registering the books going out and coming in, together with a few slogans and makeshift lists and rotas that betray the real nature of the change in management.

A World to Win talked to some of the volunteers:

Friern Barnet Peoples Library
Danielle Harley, local volunteer

Danielle Harley lives locally. She was in between jobs when she heard about the occupation and took some books and other things that were needed to the library. She decided to volunteer to help part-time. She told us:

“The community has really been brought together by this. You meet local authors, single mums, elderly people and others. If the library was not here, all these people would be isolated. They wouldn’t have a hub to bring them together as a community. I enjoy it here and I want to keep the library open.”

John Moser
John Moser

John Moser is a self-employed accountant who grew up in the area doing much of his homework as a teenager in the library. He said:

“This is our money and our community. And these vandals want to close down a public resource like this. We don’t need more flats and it’s not in their manifesto.

“Who do they represent? Nobody round here wants the library closed. Where is the representation in that? They only got about 25% of the turnout of 30-35% in the election, so who do they represent? You cannot put a value of pounds, shillings and pence on this kind of thing. It’s obvious. Now we have to jump up and down just to try to save it.

“On a national and local level, who represents us? A handful of people control everything. They have killed off belief in the system, so nobody votes. It’s become a self-defeating process, and the outcome is not for the greater good. People get very depressed. What can they do?  It seems the only way to live now is through relentless consumption. It needs the general population to stand up and change everything. Somebody’s got to stand up.”

Friern Barnet Peoples Library
Hymn, signing out books

Hymn normally lives with the Rainbow Community, “travelling light”. He was one of the occupiers at St Pauls Cathedral earlier in the year. He sleeps on the floor of the library on a mat:

“The council’s actions do not surprise. We are simply holding a space. There is no difference between the people staying here and the people who come in to help or borrow books. It’s about local people doing what they think is right. The less we ask for permission, the more we can do.”

Leon James has been at the library since day 2 of the occupation. He commented:

“Ordinary people are ignored by those who are supposed to represent them. There is a democratic deficit in this country. We want to see what the occupation of the library can do to unite the different groups in Barnet, to see if we can link them together as they are essentially the same.”

He explained that the Pinkham Way Alliance (fighting the construction of one of Europe’s largest waste sites), the Barnet Alliance, brought together to fight the privatisation of 70% of council services and the Friern Barnet Library occupation group were all essentially in the same struggle. “We have to connect the dots to the bigger picture, the bankers’ bail-outs and the austerity measures.”

5.	Phoenix and Joanna
Phoenix with his partner Joanna

Phoenix is an activist with Occupy, and says:

“The closure exemplifies the worst side of the cuts involving children, old people, the community, public spaces and public services. There is a revolt going on about these things up and down the country. If all the multi-nationals paid tax, nothing would have to close.

“Overall 260 libraries are being closed. This is a community centre as well as a library. It’s the last public building in Friern Barnet. If the library goes, the community goes.”

As the council prepares to evict the new librarians and market the building, their task has not been helped by a recent decision by planners to list it. The purpose-built library, opened in 1934, has been added to Barnet’s schedule of local buildings of historical or architectural interest.12 December 2012

Bookmark and Share


Occupy 12/12/12

Just received this link, mainly about Occupy Wall Street, but worth a read I think.  Also news of Phoenix rising !  I should have a premises up and running by new year  Watch this space for more info.

Here’s the link for the article:

Occupy in London 03/12/2012

I haven’t written anything about Occupy for a very long time.  Since the eviction in February there have been innumerable meetings and discussions about ‘What next ?’ bu,t until recently, and with no change in the seemingly endless ‘austerity’ measures being undertaken by the government it has not been easy to gain the momentum that the physical occupation at St. Paul’s provided.   However, I couldn’t let the exploits of one particular Occupy friend go unremarked, all the more so since, this week,  we will be seeking Assembly consensus to aupport this  courageous endeavour.  For  anyone who didn’t meet him, Earthian was a stalwart at the St. Paul’s occupation ‘in charge ‘ of tents and bedding, he announced his intention to undertake this mission at the one year anniversery get-together on the steps of St. Paul’s on 15th October 2012.  Listening to him I was in no doubt that, despite the nature of it (travelling across the world to Iraq without a passport or id) he would make it.  I was just settling down to write this piece when a mail came in from a friend ro say she had submitted the following article for publication in the New Internationalist so here it is – perfect timing, saving me from attempting to convey the unique flavour of a very precious companion on this journey towards a world of social and economic justice.  Please consider ‘following’ Earthian’s progress.  He needs the support of everyone and will appreciate it hugely.  Here is the story:

Occupy 27/07/2012

The glorious weather is not conducive to incisive daytime thought , however I liked this article by Alexander Cockburn, which more or less mirrors my thoughts , it’s certainly what a number of us are talking about .

Written with his usual verve this was one of the last pieces he wrote before his death on July 20th.

Biggest Financial Scandal in Britain’s History, Yet Not a Single Occupy Sign; What Happened?


Since what is now going is being described as “the greatest financial scandal in the history of Britain”  — the Barclays imbroglio – I have a question to ask. Where are those tents outside St Pauls? Or ones in solidarity this side of the Atlantic? Where are the vibrant reminders that – as has happened in the Barclays case – there is most definitely one law for the 1% (none, in fact) and another for the 99 %?

It was very hard not to be swept away by the Occupy movement which established itself in New York’s Zuccotti Park last September and soon spread to Oakland, Chicago, London and Madrid. And indeed most people didn’t resist its allure.
Leninists threw aside their Marxist primers on party organisation and drained the full anarchist cocktail.

The Occupiers , with their “people’s mic”,  were always a little hard to understand. And as with all movements involving consensus, everything took a very long time.
Was there perhaps a leader, a small leadership group, sequestered somewhere among the tents and clutter? It was impossible to say and at that point somewhat disloyal to pose the question. Cynicism about Occupy was not a popular commodity.
But new movements always need a measure of cynicism dumped on them. Questions of organization were obliterated by the strength of the basic message – we are 99 per cent, they are one per cent. It was probably the most successful slogan since ‘peace, land, bread’.

The Occupy Wall Street assembly in Zuccotti Park soon developed its own cultural mores, drumming included. Like many onlookers, I asked myself, Where the hell’s the plan?

But I held my tongue. I had no particular better idea and for a CounterPuncher of mature years to start laying down the program seemed cocky. But, deep down, I felt that Occupy, with all its fancy talk, all its endless speechifying, was riding for a fall.

Before the fall came there were heroic actions, people battered senseless by the police. These were brave people trying to hold their ground.

There were other features that I think quite a large number of people found annoying: the cult of the internet, the tweeting and so forth, and I definitely didn’t like the enormous arrogance which prompted the Occupiers to claim that they were indeed the most important radical surge in living memory.

Where was the knowledge of, let along the respect for the past?  We had the non-violent resistors of the Forties organising against the war with enormous courage. The Fifties saw leftists took McCarthyism full on the chin. With the Sixties we were making efforts at revolutionary organisation and resistance.
Yet when one raised this history with someone from Occupy, I encountered total indifference.

There also seemed to be a serious level of political naivety about the shape of the society they were seeking to change. They definitely thought that it could be reshaped – the notion that the whole system was unfixable did not get much of a hearing.
After a while it seemed as though, in Tom Naylor’s question in this site: “Is it possible that the real purpose of Occupy Wall Street has little to do with either the 99 per cent or the one per cent, but rather everything to do with keeping the political left in America decentralised, widely dispersed, very busy, and completely impotent to deal with the collapse of the American empire…

“Occupiers are all occupied doing exactly what their handlers would have them be doing, namely, being fully occupied. In summary, Occupy Wall Street represents a huge distraction.”

Then the rains of winter came. Zuccotti Park came under repeated assault, the tents were cleared from zucotti Park and from St Paul’s Cathedral and by early this year it was all over.

People have written complicated pieces trying to prove it’s not over, but if ever I saw a dead movement, it is surely Occupy.

Has it left anything worth remembering? Yes, maybe.  With Bob Diamond squirming before British MPs, and politicians jostling to apportion blame for the Barclays scandal, memories of the 99 per cent and the one per cent are surely at least warm in the coffin.

Everything leftists predicted came true, just as everything hard-eyed analysts predicted about the likely but unwelcome course of ecstatic populism in Tahrir Square also came true. ·I do think it’s incumbent on those veteran radicals who wrote hundreds of articles more or proclaiming a religious conversion to Occupyism,  to give a proper account of themselves, otherwise it will  happen all over again.

Occupy Olympics 21/07/2012

Further evidence of the madness surrounding the Olympics, although I’m sure those of you ‘lucky’ enough to have tickets are relieved that you will be allowed  to wear any brand of trainers,not just Addidas (one of the sponsors) you may be less thrilled to read this account of what happened in Trafalgar Square yesterday.

**For Immediate Release Friday 20 July 2012**
Olympic Protesters Arrested for Spilling Custard
Campaigners condemn heavy-handed policing of Greenwash Gold Award ceremony

(photos and footage available – contact details at the bottom)

A mock awards ceremony at the Olympic Clock in Trafalgar Square descended into farce today after police arrested six people taking part. Three people pretending to be corporate representatives from BP, Dow and Rio Tinto were awarded gold medals for being the worst corporate sponsors of the Olympics, before having small quantities of green custard poured over their heads. The good-natured performance took about 15 minutes and was clearly amusing a number of passers by.

After the ceremony was over and the performers were packing up, about 25 police officers arrived and arrested six people, including the three corporate representatives and people who were mopping up the small amounts of custard on the ground with paper towels.

When confronted, the police officers alleged that ‘criminal damage’ had been done by custard falling on to the stone surface of Trafalgar Square. Before the arrested were even driven away, the controversial custard had been completely cleaned up leaving no trace whatsoever.

One of the arrests was Laurie Flynn, the Chair of Trustees of the Bhopal Medical Appeal who was only observing the event and happened to have picked up the fake medals as part of the tidy-up.

The arrests took place despite the fact that Lord Coe himself has stated: “[the United Kingdom] is a democratic nation, we have a tradition of peaceful demonstrations as long as it doesn’t become a public order issue, we take it as that”. (See Notes)

The Greenwash Gold Ceremony was the culmination of a three month campaign in which members of the public were invited to vote online for they thought was the worst corporate sponsor. The awards were compered by Meredith Alexander, the ex ‘Olympics ethics csar’ who resigned over controversies surrounding Olympic sponsors.

Kevin Smith of London Mining Network said:

“Arresting people over small quantities of spilt custard is incredibly heavy handed policing. Peoples’ freedom of expression is being sacrificed at the Olympics in favour of the protection of the brands of controversial sponsors like BP, Dow and Rio Tinto.”

Meredith Alexander who witnessed the arrests said:

“It’s an Olympic sized overreaction to arrest people just for telling the truth about the Sponsors. Dow Chemical, BP, and Rio Tinto have bought themselves a global opportunity to present a friendly face. Greenwash Gold was set up to tell the other side of the story- the toxic legacy that each of these companies have left behind. It’s outrageous to think that a 15 minute street performance and some green custard required the attention of around 25 police officers. If the companies can’t stand a bit of critical attention, they shouldn’t have sponsored London 2012, which is meant to be the greenest games ever.”

Colin Toogood of the Bhopal Medical Appeal said:

“After Lord Coe’s own statement claiming he supported peaceful protests, these arrests look like giving LOCOG yet another PR headache. This was a peaceful and legitimate protest, against terrible corporate sponsors, and protesters seem to have been arrested for spilling a small amount of custard!”

For more information or comment, contact:

Meredith Alexander – 0781 4607826

Kevin Smith, London Mining Network
kevin@londonminingnetwork.org07847 830164

Colin Toogood, Bhopal Medical Appeal,
ColinToogood@bhopal.org07798 845074


At the final pre-Olympic press conference of LOCOG and the IOC, on 30th March, Lord Coe made the statement that:  “[the United Kingdom] is a democratic nation, we have a tradition of peaceful demonstrations as long as it doesn’t become a public order issue, we take it as that”. (See Notes)

He further stated that, after months of refusal,  he was now ready to meet the Bhopal campaign groups.  Neither Lord Coe, nor LOCOG, has made any attempt to contact the Bhopal Medical Appeal since then despite a registered letter, sent by the Bhopal Medical Appeal, on 2nd April, specifically requesting that meeting.


Occupy Olympics 18/07/2012

I was in Hammersmith bus station last night, on my way back from an Occupy meeting.  As always there were a number of us waiting, and complaining, about the non-appearance of the 266, all of a sudden, over the PA, the dulcet tones of ‘our’ mayor (in other words Boris) came booming out exhorting us to ‘enjoy our stay, travel safely and have a good games’, or words to that effect. Apart from one woman ,who looked a bit bewildered, the rest of us just collapsed in laughter .It seems that this is to be a regular occurrence at bus stations, train and tube stations.  Can we really bear weeks of this ?

I intend to amuse myself today designing stickers using combinations of words that are prohibited since they have been ‘legally protected’ and are ‘owned’ by The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games…….here they are:

London 2012 – 2012 – LOCOG – Javelin – Team GB – Get Set – Games Maker

An association can be created through the use of ANY representation whether in audio or visual form for example. However, the 2006 Act specifies certain ‘Listed Expressions’ and states that a court may take these into particular account when determining if an association has been created.

The Listed Expressions are: – any two of the words: Games, Two Thousand and Twelve, 2012, Twenty-Twelve OR – any word in the list above with one or more of the words: London, medals, sponsors, summer, gold, silver, bronze.

I thought you might enjoy this too.  It hasn’t had much coverage………………………………..


ABOVE: Waterstones’ suggestions for re-naming London 2012
Posting a list on their Twitter page, Waterstones gave customers five suggestions to decide from.
13th July 2012  By Greg Heffer

Book store Waterstones have mocked the heavy-handed advertising laws introduced by London 2012. As the high-street chain isn’t an official sponsor of the Games, Waterstones are unable to use a lengthy list of terms related to the two-week sporting festival But the store’s Oxford Street branch have got their own back by asking customers to come up with their own name for the Olympics.Posting a list on their Twitter page, Waterstones gave customers five suggestions to decide from.And one Harry Potter-inspired proposal was so popular that it became one of the most talked about subjects on the social network.So don’t be surprised to hear London 2012 referred to as “Lord Voldesport (it which cannot be named)” by punters from now on!


The family gathering was this weekend, here’s a picture of the children



Occupy 26/06/2012

We had two great speakers for the GA yesterday, but, and i’s a big but, there were only six people there.  As a consequence there has been a debate raging on our internal mail about why ordinary people are no longer interested in Occupy.  It’s my contention that it’s because we have been too inward looking, as a consequence of which we set up  a series of GA’s under the umbrella ‘Creating Alternatives’ and have invited speakers to contribute.  The first one, last week, attracted 60 people, so all seemed well, this week…….six.  Now I am being told, in no uncertain terms, that this is because people have lost interest, it is my contention that it is us who mistook a marathon for a sprint and imagined instant gratification and results.  I only feel able to offer a couple of my responses to these mails and would be interested in your feedback.  So here goes………………………

Mail 1

Occupiers created the buzz that encouraged the public to take a look, then stay to hear more.  It’s a fact of human nature that other humans are curious about a crowd.  They stop to find out if what’s going on interests them – in a non-commital sort of way.  If it does interest them they stay for longer so the numbers increase and more people stop to listen. So……..

it has to relate to them in some way
it has to be safe, ordinary people don’t want to, unexpectedly, find themselves in a direct action
ideally it has to suggest something they might do.  Their first tentative step to standing up to be counted.
Just agreeing, via a proposal, is an example of that first step.
I feel there are a lot of occupiers who are impatient to make the change we want to see, and frustrated by the lack of progress, but, as I have understood, Occupy is not a campaign making incremental change to achieve a single issue objective. It is a movement trying to encourage people to articulate their distress at the gross inequality and injustice that keeps the people of the world in an almost permanent state of anxiety about themselves, their children and their grandchildren.  Lest we forget this includes people who are apparently ‘well-off’ but who are, I hazard, even more aware of how fragile it all is.
Mail 2
I think it’s obvious that there are a lot of other things on a Saturday. (This in response to the previous mail which suggested numbers were dwindling due to all the other direct actions taking place on Saturdays) I’m not really clear what’s being said about this.  The ‘other things’ are events organised by groups other than Occupy.

Occupy presented a clear statement of intent which indicated to me that it was concerned with touching the lives of ordinary people who were not  currently involved in the process of challenging the 1%.
UK Uncut, the Coalition of Resistance,  Artists of the Resistance, Stop the War and so and and so forth were active, and have been active, in some instances for a long time.  Many of these groups, over many years, have organised excellent actions, imaginative actions, well devised actions, and there have been marches, and demonstrations and public disorder. Each time these things have been undertaken with commitment and enthusiasm and continue to be undertaken in that spirit and, I am sure, are exhilarating to people new to them and hopeful for a positive outcome for everyone involved, some of whom have gone through the rigours of the court system, fines and prison to clearly state their conviction.
However, as is clear, these things do not affect the status quo in any visible way.  So the Occupy movement had, I thought, embarked on a different way of approaching things, not instead of all the splendid single issue groups that continue to work so hard to make the change we want to see, but to complement it by encouraging the apparently quiescent ordinary person to get involved, express their concerns about a broken system, politicians they neither trust or respect, corporations and financiers exploiting not only the people of the world but the very resources we rely on for our continued survival.
That’s what Occupy is about for me, and I will continue to try and engage people in our process.
I would be interested to know if that’s what Occupy suggested to you, or not.