I have spent the last seven days going to my local library. I have not borrowed books, used the internet, done a yoga class, increased my literacy, joined an elders group learning internet use and coding, taken children to a reading or music and dance or craft session, taken part in a new writing group, or joined the book group reading English as a second, third or fourth language. I have not done any of these things, even though they were regularly available until a week ago, because our local council has locked my community out of OUR local library, the Carnegie Library in Lambeth.
Instead, I have talked to my neighbours, standing in the street, on the steps of the iron-gated library. I have drawn in chalks on steps that are covered in hope for the return of a community hub we all support and believe in. I have encouraged and praised those within the occupation and those without. I have written blogs imploring local councillors to look again at a workable, no-extra-cost solution put forward by local librarians themselves. I have taken shopping to those hardy souls of all ages, who are, on our behalf, occupying the library and helping us all draw attention to our concerns. I have sung along and danced along with those creating art outside the library as they are not able to do inside.
I have loved my community. Loved the passion with which people, of all ages and from all walks of life, from the Loughborough Estate to the north and from leafy Herne Hill to the west, have stepped up to protect a vital community resource, a resource needed and wanted by the most vulnerable in our society – the elderly, the young, the disadvantaged.
That is what I consider to be Good London. Community. Neighbours supporting each other. People of all ages – including so many young people – out on the street, engaging about what matters, for their own community and for others.
I am also delighted when I see this spirit in times of joy, not only when we are on the edge of a local disaster, but because so many people want to engage, want to be engaged, make a difference, contribute, right where they live, all the time.
I see this in the community members who step up to create and curate Fun Palaces by, with and for their local community, creating events where arts and sciences, crafts and technologies are the catalyst bringing people together.
It’s great to see this kind of engagement around a crisis like that unfolding at Carnegie Library right now, it’s also great to see this kind of engagement without a crisis to prompt it.
There were dozens of Fun Palaces across London in 2014 and 2015 (100s across the UK as a whole) – including in all Lambeth libraries in 2015 – there are plenty signed up already for 2016 even though the next weekend isn’t until October. Our ongoing campaign in Fun Palaces is for culture at the heart of community – and for culture AS the heart of community. Sharing who we are and what we do as a way to create and develop community.
That’s what I think makes Good London – good anywhere – being ourselves, together.