All posts by Nicholas Edwards

Annual General Meetings, Thursday 14th March 7pm

The Friends of Carnegie Library and Carnegie Library Association CIO

invite you to their Annual General Meetings on

Thursday 14th March 7pm (Gathering from 6.30pm)

St Saviour's Church Hall on the corner of Herne Hill Road and Finsen Road SE24 9LY

Find out what's happening, and then enjoy

The Friends' Musick chamber choir performing a short programme of songs to commemorate the centenary of the death of Andrew Carnegie (1835 - 1919), comprising Scottish songs, popular drawing-room part songs and a famous song from the American Civil War.

There will then be an open discussion where you can have your say!

All are Welcome


"A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people.  It is a never-failing spring in the desert."                            Andrew Carnegie

The Gym and After It Folds

The gym is open but is doing very little trade.  It has been closing half an hour or so before the advertised time, presumably because no one is using it.  Lambeth's own research showed that the gym is not needed.  People who know about the market for gyms have been telling us all along that the location is wrong for a gym and that it will fail to cover its running costs.

Lambeth have made the gym even less appealing by charging a sky high subscription of £40 a month.  The nearest comparable commercial gym appears to be Puregym near Camberwell Green.  This charges £23 a month, reduced to £18 a month if use is confined to the less popular times, comprising weekends, early afternoon during the week and night time.

According to the senior ward councillor, Jim Dickson, Lambeth are due to consider the future of the gym 12 to 18 months after opening.  They are bearing all the losses and there cannot be much doubt that they will close it.  The interesting question is what will then be done with the windowless basement excavated at great expense.  The rental estimates per square foot obtained by the Friends and the Council respectively are a mere £1.50 and £2.50, which is hardly worth the cost of letting and management.

Readers who have been following the history of this matter, will be aware that excavating the basement has been part of Lambeth's plans since at least 2011, though the reason for the excavation has never been disclosed.  Possible uses for the basement, including a gym, were considered but all were rejected.

The excavation of the interior and underpinning carried out at great expense only begins to make sense if it is the first stage of a two-stage process.  The second stage would be excavating externally and inserting windows in the basement.  This would entail the loss of the front garden.  But even if this were done it would not be a good reason to excavate the basement.  The only plan previously disclosed by Lambeth which would justify the excavation is the one announced in 1999, that is, sale of the building for redevelopment as flats.

Other aspects of the recent work also suggest that those designing it are working towards a conversion to flats.  Until a late stage Lambeth were proposing that the internal excavation would be only 2.7 metres deep, which would be enough for basement flats but obviously impractical for gym activities. Conversion to flats would involve building a large extension on the rear of the building and the Council appear to have eased the way for this by destroying as much as possible of the back garden.

We should be ready to campaign against any proposal to excavate the exterior because this would not only be objectionable in itself but also further step towards depriving us of the library.

Iris Fudge

We were very sad to hear of the death of Iris Fudge, a founding member of the Friends.  Iris was born July 25th 1927 and lived all her life in south London.

The first time I saw Iris was at the public meeting in the library on a Saturday in January 1999 attended by 300 people, when Lambeth announced plans to close our library and four others, sell off the buildings and retain five town centre libraries as “centres of excellence”.   Iris faced the top table, challenging councillors and officers with hard questioning and cogent arguments.  When the officials left, fobbing us all off saying “we’ll make a note of your comments”, several, including Iris, signed a contact sheet and went on to form Friends of Carnegie Library.  That March at our first general meeting, Iris was elected onto our first committee.

Over the years, Iris and her husband Sidney remained stalwart members of the Friends and attended events and AGMs as long as their health permitted.  Sadly, Sidney died over a year ago, and Iris’s health failed.  Even when bedridden, she took a keen interest in the library.   When members looked in on her or stopped by to deliver newsletters, she asked what was happening and what she could do to help.

Other organisations Iris supported included Amnesty International and various health, research and women’s issue groups.  Iris passed away in her home in Dorchester Drive on January 1st 2019, aged 91.  She will be greatly missed.

Jeff Doorn

Farce and Worse

In 2011 Lambeth Council set up a Project Group for the library building, which subsequently turned itself into a Shadow Trust Board and eventually the Carnegie Community Trust.  The Council is intent on transferring the ground floor of the building and the first floor room to the Trust by way of a long rent-free lease.

The ostensible purpose of setting up the Trust and its predecessors was to replace Council funding with grants from outside bodies.  However, none of those bodies will provide funds for a public library.  They take the view that funding libraries is the responsibility of local government.  The Trust have been telling local people that there will still be a proper library but telling grant-making bodies that there will not be a proper library!

The Friends' committee were concerned to hear that the Trust has succeeded in obtaining a small grant from Heritage Lottery Fund.  We therefore obtained from the Fund a copy of the application.  It is seriously misleading about:

  • The extent to which the building is and can be expected to remain a public library.  The library use is and always has been the main use.  The current indications from Lambeth Council are that they will require this to continue for the foreseeable future.
  • Past and future activities in the building.
  • Supposed community and other support for the Trust.

We have therefore written to the Fund pointing out inaccuracies in the application.  Herewith are copies of our letter and a plan and email correspondence sent with it.

Letter to HLF

Correspondence with CCT

Library plan