Archive for the ‘Library Cuts (Gloucestershire)’ Category

Chloe with Save Our Libraries banner at Bourton on the Water

Trying to Save Our Libraries 2010-11

I’m 54 and live in rural England. Whatever you see on the tourism websites, life round here is not glamorous. We endure low wages, expensive housing (second homes and tourist prices), poor public transport, poor work prospects, unaffordable leisure and arts (tourism again), lost banks, closed post offices and libraries. If it weren’t so stonkingly beautiful every time I look out of the window, there’d be no point living here.

Anyway, the UK holds a General Election next week. Mindful of what British women went through to get the vote, and of how many countries deny their citizens any vote at all, I’ve been trying harder than ever before to understand what the political parties are offering.
And NEVER have I felt so excluded, misinformed, disinformed and generally treated like an idiot.
For once it’s not the BBC’s fault. The wretched political parties release tiny dribbles of information. Partial glimpses of the truth as they’d like us to see it. There are no facts – only opinions and sniping. It’s impossible to make an informed decision.
 
The only possible conclusions to draw are:
  • Nobody in power actually understands Britain’s finances, and they have no idea what we need or what we can afford. This is terrifying!
  • In 2015 vote Tory = vote cruelty
  • Vote Labour = vote incompetence 
  • Vote LibDem = vote not sure what will happen
  • Vote Green = vote naive
  • Vote UKIP = vote rabid racist and cut us off from Europe. Although this morning UKIP leader Mr Farage sounded like he’s been fitted neatly into Mr Cameron’s pocket [prime minister since 2010; Conservative]. Both of them are ‘insisting’ they want to ‘offer the country a referendum’ on leaving the European Union. Talk about distraction technique!

Westminster politicians are incapable of representing the electorate because they don’t live real lives – they have NO IDEA what it’s like to struggle for a fair chance in Britain today.

I see my friends’ lives, their creativity either sidelined or crushed by the daily grind to pay the bills. Members of Parliament have never lived like that. Nor do many County Councillors have to worry about paying the Spare Room Tax. None of these people has had to go without food or warmth because their benefits were sanctioned when the bus made them 10 minutes late for the Job Centre. Note that it’s County Councils – under the Westminster thumb – now relentlessly taking away services which directly affect daily life.

Clever people have said “Nations get the government they deserve” – well, we deserve better than what’s lining up for Westminster now. I see nobody capable of governing this country with intelligence let alone compassion and decency. It’s a shock to get to my middle age and realise how bad things have become and how powerless we are.
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Chloë of the Midnight Storytellers

Library Blues

I’ve supported the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries campaign for about a year. It’s been utterly brain scrambling and I would not have been capable of following matters through to court, in the amazing way that FoGL core team has done.

However, we have to work with the world as it is. My local library was to be cut to 3.5 hours of staffed opening a week. If it can open for 12 or 21 staffed hours, that’s better. If it also becomes an easy access point for public services, that’s great.

..If it moves into a broom cupboard instead of its current shoebox, that will be difficult. LIbrary users will have to get used to pre-ordering books from the Online Catalogue. Not impossible.

We can’t keep fighting Gloucestershire County Council: they have too much bullying power. Democracy is dead in Gloucestershire. It took a High Court judge to stop GCC steamrollering on with their first destructive plans. They’ve made so many librarians redundant, they couldn’t run a full service if they wanted to. They still won’t answer their taxpayers’ questions. I don’t understand why GCC behave so arrogantly… They just do…

And I don’t want to see any more of my friends with health damaged and careers at risk because of the stress of trying to stand up to GCC. Library supporters must find more subtle methods. We shouldn’t have to, but the point is to win the war not every battle.

Good negotiations start when participants find points of agreement. Regardless of anybody’s previous actions or statements.

It should be easy enough to agree that we all want a Library Service that meets its users’ needs and which can take advantage of modern technologies.

I believe the library service should also draw on different funding sources, including commercial sponsorship.

Hospitals, air ambulances and schools can’t cope without support groups. It’s all shamefully wrong but it’s the real world. Library users will have to organise along the same lines.

At least there’s a proposal for a Mobile Library with Public Services. So a health advisor or similar could travel round with the librarian.

I’m keen to support this. I’ve suggested a Magnificent Mobile project designed to increase its usage, with costs shared among council, public services and community minded businesses and organisations.

Victorian philanthropists paid for many good works including libraries. In some cases the money was dirty. But the money did good things. Since rich = bad in the UK these days, let’s see if these outcasts can rehabilitate themselves by pouring money where it’ll do good. Developers, supermarkets and other big companies with image problems are ahead of the game: they have budgets for social responsibility… What do you want for your library? Who’re you gonna call? Because – let’s be clear – your council and your national government have other priorities.

I’m equally keen to support serious development of Online Library services.
A lot of access problems (not all) can be solved by hardware and training given to disadvantaged people; the groups are identified; funding can be part GCC, part donation.

If Gloucestershire’s remaining libraries are to squeeze into smaller premises, users must get the habit of online ordering. Many people do it for films, groceries and other shopping. LIbrary service must maintain a good delivery system.

Thinking about isolated people, I hope existing Library Clubs can continue. I further suggested ideas for online community activity (eg reviews and recommendations, so people can be involved in choosing library stock).

Young people gravitate to electronic media. GCC online library service must be well made and up to date. Right now it’s limited and clunky to use. But children and young adults are the people whose literacy and job prospects we most want to support. Don’t we?

Of course you can easily shred my ideas. But I don’t give a twisted d*mn for anybody’s politics: I joined FoGL to help stop our library service being destroyed, and I’m staying to try to help it adapt.

Until you get elected to Gloucestershire County Council, you can’t stop what they do to our future. We can’t change other people’s behaviour. But we can change our response to it.

So until we sweep the polls, perhaps if we can put our fury and frustration aside and show overwhelming goodwill – it might just turn out that GCC can’t do anything except follow our lead.

It just hit me that, for four hours of performances to lively teenagers in which I’ll need all my 25+ years’ experience; plus hours of preparatory research and rehearsal; plus writing a teachers’ brief for follow-up work in the classroom, plus travel…
…for A FULL DAY’S WORK I’m charging LESS than a solicitor does for ONE HOUR.

It’s the going rate. I might be worth more. Tough cheddar.

But as the doors slam shut for ever on public libraries and theatres all over Britain, and as councils cut off arts funding for schools and young people, rage is overwhelming me.

Let’s boil this down to basics for council numbskulls who think it’s a good idea to strangle the next generation’s access to inspiration.

If you want young people NOT to riot and steal, if you want people of any age to behave with any sort of gentleness, generosity or just plain intelligence – THEY MUST READ.

Reading can help
Books can fly you around the world when the cheapest travel is beyond your pocket. In fiction and history you can find out that people who seem very different actually share your fears, hopes and laughter.

When you can’t afford much heating or food, when you’re so depressed you can’t even wash, reading helps. Re-reading my childhood books stopped me committing suicide.

If you want employees and business leaders who communicate well and treat each other fairly, reading builds key skills. If you want your train to stay safely on the tracks, if you want your washing machine to work, then the technology guys must read and write clearly.

Yes, people are more strapped for cash than ever. Who will buy books when they could have playstations, itunes, booze and cigs? – Ok, sorry, most people pay their bills first. I do know.

But books are for posh gits, innit? I keep hearing stories about the only book in a home being a telephone directory. Children of families like that need books more than anybody else.

And they’re exactly the children who will never get them. Their nearest library is closing. Their parents won’t take them into charity shops to buy 30p storybooks because their parents never think about books.

See a wider world
Meeting writers, artists and performers in school is just about the only chance many youngsters have of seeing that their life doesn’t always have to be what it is now.

In an urban Britain where being from the wrong postcode earns you a blade in the guts, and when there are no rural buses of any practical use, people need to see – or need reminding – that the world is wider and more wonderful than their own frustrations. Telly and film do it a bit. Books do it better.

E-books are changing the game. You can buy a whole novel for £1.79. Mainstream publishing is in meltdown. Hooray! Anyone can be an independent publisher thanks to online technology. Yes, even worse rubbish than we see now will get published. Next February I launch my own spoken word CD and accompanying book. But readers will vote with their £s and the good stuff will win. More importantly right now, Kindles and their like need to be a whole bank balance cheaper before wage slaves (or the newly redundant) will buy one.

Silk dressing gowns + champagne?
The vast majority of authors, musicians, actors and other performers aren’t paid shedloads. We have very little opportunity to swank about in silk dressing gowns, swigging champagne. Ha! I wish! All too often it’s a struggle to avoid paying to work – by the time we’ve done our goodwill freebies and dodged the “Oh, we thought you’d do it for nothing, it’s for charity you know” brigade.

Paperback sales earn about 7p a copy, a couple of pence from each library loan, and it’s going to be similar for e-publishing. I shudder to think what bands (don’t) earn from iTunes. We all have to pray that high volume sales will make up for being forced to sell our work at less than £1 a song, less than £2 a novel – when something can take years of loving care to bring to market.

The abiding snobbery around Art and Literature demands that authors etc do stacks of work for free – after all, it’s Art, we’re doing what we love, we shouldn’t want paying for it!

But that‘s only half the story. The national loathing and mockery of those who dare to be intelligent and articulate mean that culture is practically a dirty word in today’s UK. We’re clobbered coming and going!

The last visits
I’ve suddenly realised that summer 2011 was the last time many British schools and youth/community organisations will ever get visits from real, live, working writers, illustrators, musicians or other performers.

These people were uniquely equipped to inspire your children to succeed in their lives. But only the top flight handful can afford to do it free of charge. Thousands of excellent but less well promoted writers etc simply have to earn money. Either by being paid to ply their craft or by taking full time jobs – and hardly having time/energy to be creative, never mind visit schools.

By cutting off funding for arts and theatre in education, you might as well have cut our throats. Educational work was the only way that many individuals and small, dedicated companies could keep a roof over their heads. Now what? Factories aren’t hiring. Shall we, too, compete for shelf stacking jobs or go hungry and cold on so-called state benefits?

Are you pleased to see this happening?

I hope you saw that our work with young people was good value.

I’d like you to think about how your children will turn out when there’s nobody left to teach them about morals and values, about thinking independently. About creative daydreaming. No, teachers haven’t got time: they have to concentrate on stuffing kids with curriculum so they’ll pass exams and keep the school looking good in the league tables…

I’d like to think you will rise up in your thousands and demand that the inspiration continues.

Go on, Big Society, do something useful!

♥  Next National Storytelling Week – 28 January to 4 February 2012 – Chloë releases a CD and illustrated book of dragon stories featuring the voice and extraordinary knowledge of Agent Green, draconics expert from DCHQ [Dragon Conservation Headquarters]. The recording is live; the book offers the stories in their full versions. So you can enjoy the differences and connections between spoken word and written storytelling! Suitable for ages 9-12.
–  Both will be available online as well as in physical form
–  Watch this space for launch date confirmation.

Chloe by Vesi

Shh! Storyteller invades libraries... (Photo by Vesi Kovacheva)

Looks like National Storytelling Week 2011 might actually get noticed, out here in the wilds of the Cotswolds.
It is the 10th anniversary, after all.

Between Saturday 29 January and Saturday 5 February – with overspill! – the storytellers of Britain get their tiny annual chance to be heard among the wailing of TV talent shows and the deafening, deadening drone of politics. 

I’m doing FREE performances to promote the cause: 3 Feb for adults and 5 Feb for families. See my website February page  http://www.midnightstorytellers.co.uk/wb/pages/diary/february.php 

This week I join a babble of Gloucestershire storytellers to record interviews and stories at our local BBC Radio Station. Diana, Fiona, Glenn, Josie, Kirsty, Tim and I are fabulously diverse in our styles and storytelling subjects. We include a business consultant, a coracle maker and museum staff.

We’ve juggled diaries so we can go into studio together and be each other’s live audience. Talking to a microphone is weird if you’re not used to it.

It’s a bit of a breakthrough. But I must confess to flinching when the nice BBC lady told me that our stories should not exceed three minutes. As if we were doing songs.  I pleaded, Don’t cut our wings off! – at which the lady relented and allowed us five minutes each.

She quoted the latest BBC research which states that radio listeners can’t cope with more than 5 consecutive minutes on one subject. Hmm… Better not try to force Radio 4 into that straitjacket…

Nine years of presenting solo one-day seminars around the English speaking world – before I took to storytelling – taught me that humans need a new topic about every eight minutes. Live storytelling is different again: so vivid, so gripping, that New York’s Story Café advises ideal story length is 12 minutes.

…Anyway, BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s 9am-12noon programme features a group interview on Saturday 29 January plus a different voice and tale every morning Monday 31st – Saturday 5 Feb. All scheduled for 11.30am unless displaced by news.

I’ll also be allowed a little rant on behalf of the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries campaign. You’ve seen in other blogs (and on national tv news!) my winter forays to protest against drastic cuts that look increasingly likely to be imposed, regardless of loud and clear public opinion.

Listen on 104.7FM, 95.8FM, 95FM or 1413 AM or online at www.bbc.co.uk/gloucestershire

And one of our storytellers has announced he’s turning up in ‘evening dress’ (frock, lippy + eyelashes!) – it’s Dress UP for Work Day (for the Cobalt health charity).

Gloucestershire NSW events 

  • Saturday 29 January 10.30am Children’s Storytelling – Fiona Eadie and Kelvin Hall at Ruskin Mill, Nailsworth. Tel 01453 837537     www.rmet.org.uk
    www.fionaeadieltd.co.uk
  • Monday 31 January 7.30pm ‘Winter Tales’ – Valerie Dean and Glenn Smith from Newent Story Circle entertain at Newent Library. FREE SHOW.
    ‘Gloucestershire Storytelling’ is a FaceBook group.
  • Thursday 3 February 7.30pm ‘Tales of Lust & Chocolate’ – FREE performance of Chloë’s best selling Story Cabaret at Lechlade Library. A delicious assortment of romance and mild naughtiness from around the world. Contains playful adult references; suitable for age 16+ only. Chocolate nibbles by Dolci di Lechlade. Limited space; please book 01367 252631.
    www.midnightstorytellers.co.uk
  • Saturday 5 February 12 noon Read-In at Moreton in Marsh Library – With FREE family storytelling by Chloë of the Midnight Storytellers. Suitable for age 8+ and for adults. Supporting the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries campaign against excessive cuts. Part of a UK wide day of celebrating libraries as a vital resource, especially for rural communities. (Library staff are not involved in this event)
    www.foclibrary.wordpress.com
    www.midnightstorytellers.co.uk
  • Sunday 6 February 2pm-4pm ‘Woven Yarns: Stories from the loom’ – Fiona Eadie at The Museum in the Park, Stroud. Inspired by myths and legends surrounding the weaver’s craft, and by the long tradition of weaving in the Stroud Valleys. Suitable for families (age 7+). www.museuminthepark.org.uk
Chloe at Bourton on the Water

Chloe campaigns for Gloucs Library petition at Bourton on the Water; photo by Charlotte Fothergill

Libraries are important. I only survived a lonely and often unpleasant childhood because I could escape into library books.

Gloucestershire County Council plans to cut library services by 43%. They want to stop running 11 out of 26 libraries; they want my local library at Bourton on the Water to become a so-called ‘self service’ library opening only three hours a week; and they want to do it all NOW.

I need libraries partly to research material for my performances, and partly for leisure reading. The proposed cut at Bourton is especially stupid because it will make library books and other services inaccessible for people without cars. Among the shut out will be Bourton’s many older residents and parents with young children. You try waiting for one of our rare rural buses in the freezing cold/rain with a pack of toddlers, or even if you’ve just got a bad back..!

Libraries cost only 1.46% of the total Gloucestershire budget, yet they’re expected to accept 2.3% of the total cuts. Specialist jobs are apparently to be replaced by unpaid, untrained volunteers. Gloucestershire’s mobile libraries and the housebound library service will be wiped out. Once these services are gone and libraries closed, we’ll never get them back.

There’s still just enough time to sign the anti cuts petition, either online at http://www.foclibrary.wordpress.com or you’ll find petitions to sign in lots of local shops and businesses – all to be returned by 31 December, please! You can only sign the petition if you can give a GL postcode ie if you live, work or study in Gloucestershire.

5,000 signatures will oblige GCC to formally review their proposals. More than 3,000 have been collected in three weeks.

I’m supporting Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries because I want Gloucestershire County Council to change their plans for library service cuts. Certainly libraries must share in the county’s economy plans – but reductions must be fairer and less destructive. Current proposals were put together based on an earlier consultation with fewer than 1% of Gloucestershire residents.

You can complete the county council’s alleged new consultation Library Survey online at http://ww5.gloucestershire.gov.uk/surveys/Library_Service_Consultation . Sadly I see this survey as fake and fixed: questions seem slanted so as to prompt the answers that the council wants to see…

BUT your views definitely won’t have enough effect unless you also complete GCC’s budget consultation at http://ww5.gloucestershire.gov.uk/surveys/Corporate_Strategy_and_Budget_Consultation

* You can ask for physical copies to be sent to you by calling 01452 425551
* Surveys must be completed before the next GGC corporate strategy meeting on 7 January 2011

At lunchtime I glammed up as best I could for the Gloucestershire Echo photographer’s snap of me and my protest banner in the snow at Bourton Library. Then  I lurked outside local shops for couple of hours collecting 50 more signatures for the libraries petition.

It was cold and wet, and not much better at home with no radiators and no LPG delivery date. But I grew up without central heating – was a toddler in ’63, y’know! – so what’s a bit of cold compared to the chilling prospect of a whole generation effectively denied a public library service. And we’ll still all be paying for it in Council Tax!

Last few ‘DROP-IN’ CONSULTATION DATES at Gloucestershire Libraries

! Subject to sudden changes!

Cirencester Library:             13th January, 10am-1pm

Tewkesbury Library:            14th January, 10am-1pm

Churchdown Library:          19th January, 6.30pm-8.30pm