13.04.18…..The Victorians and Edwardians built to reflect the confident swagger of Empire and ambitions for the prosperous future…..that’s over. But having those sturdy, built-to-last-forever reflections of a proud and important country, are still all over London (where they impress the world and STILL ensure it is seen as one of the most important cities in the world). Those buildings are the foundation of the tourist trade, and in spite of the hysteria-driven fancy dress party of tipsy skyscrapers clustered in the West End and City area, they ensure the world still sees this country as being of importance and of real substance on the world stage. Past glory? So what. Fake it til you make it (again) as they say in celeb world!
Now that our older, Listed and valued pre-war, 18th and 19th century architectural legacy no longer reflects days of Empire Glory or posturings before other European Empires, we need to see their continuing value in another light.
Buildings are the clothes on a city’s back, reflecting levels of pride and self-respect along with financial, educational and social status. Allowing developers to build hit-and-run dross is not about that. Their rubbish encourages people to read ‘loser’ when they pass by instead of ‘covet’ or ‘would love to live/work/go’ THERE!’ Retaining and treasuring the proud show-off civic architecture of the past is also about having an example of the status this country once boasted on the world stage still there to be read and be proud of and to inspire. Hove has exactly ONE such public-access, civic building….Hove’s Carnegie-endowed Library in Church Road.
Clothes maketh the man, it was once said. Hove Library is top class bespoke couture and Grade 2 Listed inside and out to reflect that. For BHCC to dismantle this treasure, to cynically begin the process of tearing away any claim to still be a library is vandalism, destruction of civic pride and architectural heritage and a disvaluing of literacy and culture. The world’s ambitious developing economies send their kids here to soak it up, to learn English and be educated here. Sadly, there is 20% functional illteracy amongst our own people; and across the land councils now treat libraries in the same way as public toilets: as expendable and unnecessary expense, as cuts are sought. Indeed BHCC has dumped responsibility for Hove Library out of Tourism, Development & Culture & tossed it into the Communities pit for piecemeal degradation and disposal from there.
The Administration’s lack of civic pride and demonic determination to get the public to disvalue Hove Library as much as the Labour Party does can be read off visually, just by walking through the library’s front door and marvelling at the bits of paper blue-tacked all over its walls like graffiti, the prioritising of small-scale mobile shelves and assorted other bits and pieces that junk up the floorspace. The visual noise is both squalid and disturbing as the beauty of the room is buried beneath it all. What is barely visible are actual books. Shelves are half empty and, having already removed Grade 2 Listed radial shelving for DDA compliance purposes in 2005, BHCC plan to remove even more to create a staff room – leaving the remaining few original radial oak shelves over a proposed noisy basement nursery school. Readers normally like a bit of hush, don’t they?
And to achieve what? Is it so 50% of the annual library budget can continue to be spent on servicing the PFI contract that built the Jubilee Library in Brighton? Residents should know about that and know too that many years of payment obligation remain. Why should the Grade 2 Listed 1907 Hove Library treasure be dismantled and eventually sold off to pay for that?