‘The library was now the property of the citizens': Bloomsbury Branch Free Library: 1892-2013


For the advantage of the public at large…

Originally posted on Notes FROM 19TH CENTURY bIRMINGHAM:


In 2013 Birmingham City Council announced the closure of Bloomsbury library because of a difficulty with the heating system.  I found this particularly sad because it was a favourite haunt of my childhood and youth. It now appears to have been the thin edge of a wedge of library closures. While there is currently a focus on the slashing of services at the new Library of Birmingham (and rightly so), the loss of local libraries should also be of concern to all of us.  It is good to know that Bloomsbury library is listed, so the building should survive in some form or another, but hopefully it won’t be sold to the planners and might continue in providing the service for which it was built.

The introduction of free libraries in the nineteenth century was a source of much civic pride and a great asset to the people of Birmingham…

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Love is in the air…



Love is in the air, says British Corporate Thriller writer A A Abbott. But in a dark way. We were both reading at ‘Hearts of Darkness’, a live fiction evening last night at Brewsmiths in the Jewellery Quarter. The theme of the evening was the darker side of love, with the result that the love stories were twisted around themes such as murder, jealousy, ghosts, sex toys, genetic cloning, and ecclesiastical senior management (as applied to the saints).

Big thanks to Andrew and Angela who made us welcome, and to Donna Marie Finn for organising it.Brewsmiths

Telegraph Creative Writers Group January short story



The theme for our January competition was ‘Something Old’, preferably a short story written some time ago and never used.

Arrivals’ is a 600 word shortish piece written a couple of years ago, while I was doing Open University A215. We were asked to do a freewrite and base the story on that. I took my notebook to Heathrow T5, where I was meeting someone, and did the freewrite while I was waiting in the coffee bar. Afterwards I wove a brief story around it. I edited it again just prior to posting.

What is happening to libraries?


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Tweeting about the petition to defend the Library of Birmingham and its archives led me to a petition to save the Imperial War Museum library.

I had just been re-reading Sebastian Faulks’ introduction to his WW1 book ‘Birdsong':

“I wrote Birdsong…in a sort of frenzy, completing about 1500 words each morning, then taking the Tube to the Imperial War Museum and reading documents from the enormous collection until the reading room closed. At night I dreamt I was in a trench.”

Now that reading room is under threat. Please consider supporting the on-line petition (it can be signed from abroad).

A search of change.org using ‘library’ as the search term produced 7,690 results. It’s time our politicians realised that even in the Internet age, libraries and archives are important. Without archives, we have no history. Without history, we cannot make democracy work. We have to learn and remember the lessons of the past.


Campaigning against library cutbacks


Library of BirminghamOutside the Library of Birmingham for two hours today. My ears are still numb with cold! But at least I’ve done something, however small. It’s fascinating talking to the library users. Visitors from outside the city – I spoke to a lady from Iran who said she had travelled the world and visited almost every town in the UK – as well as local residents. I’d estimate that at least half the library users are young people – especially college students.

I spoke to a young man who said he wants to get his qualifications and go to university, and he needs the library and its facilities as a place to study. He needs it to be open during the evenings and weekends. He said: ‘Why won’t the politicians listen to us?’  I said: ‘If we don’t say anything, they will have nothing to listen to. Maybe I’m not doing any good, by standing here giving out leaflets. But at least I haven’t remained silent. Write your views down, and we will send it in to the Council.’

Then, it was as if he realised that his views mattered, even if only in a small way. And he went and filled in a petition slip and gave it in. LoBPetition


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