Friday, May 31, 2013

Centre stage

My ward colleague, Cllr John McClurey, and I headed up to Marley Hill Community Centre this morning to make our first delivery of books to the library we are setting up there. A Land Rover load of books was deposited by us under the stage in the main hall. We will find out whether or not this experiment in recycling 2nd hand books will work soon. We booked the date of the first two library sessions. The first will be on Sunday 30th June at the monthly craft market I run at the community centre. The second will be held on Friday 12th July, from 9am to 1pm. We will have the cafe open at both events.

The space under the stage was the best place to store the books for the time being but ultimately we want to get some shelving and have the books kept permanently in the dining room which we are looking to refurbish (we are expecting a report on this soon).

I called into Sun Hill, the aged person's unit in my village, last week to deliver some cakes left over from our cafe at Marley Hill on 19th May. As a result of this, I offered the services of John to take Sun Hill's residents in his Land Rover to forthcoming events at Marley Hill Community Centre. So hopefully they will want to come to our library and cafe on 12th July as well as the craft market and cafe on 30th June.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Becoming a librarian

Five libraries in Gateshead are becoming voluntary - ie the Council will no longer staff them but volunteers will run them instead. Gateshead will still provide the building and books, but the labour will be provided by people in the community. In Marley Hill, one of the villages in my ward, we seem to be going in a different direction. The village has no library but at the Community Centre, my proposal to set up a second hand book library was agreed at the management meeting on Tuesday.

It will work as follows: people will be asked to donate books; on the days we open the library, our cafe will also be open; people can read the books whilst consuming coffee and cake; if they like the books they can buy them and take them home and once they have finished reading them, they are welcome to donate them back to the Community Centre. The aim is to get more people through the doors of the building as well as to raise funds.

We already have our first donation of books. Two large boxes arrived from Whickham Rotarians yesterday at my house. They collected them at their shop in Whickham and have an unending supply. We can have as many as we can take. As yet, however, we haven't set the date for the first library sessions – that’s one of the jobs I need to sort over the coming days.

On delivery of the books yesterday, I was inspired to start sorting through my own books to filter out the ones that can be donated. As a result, Marley Hill library is going to have a fantastic history section!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Creating new allotments

We could be in the fortunate position in Gateshead of being able to reverse the fall in the number of allotments. Two years ago the Council decided to get rid of 100 plots, nearly 10% of those in Council ownership. That's the background against which I am working.

I am a trustee of Marley Hill Community Centre and we are in the process of undergoing a community asset transfer. The building is owned by the Durham Miners' Welfare Association and is held in trust by Gateshead Council. The community asset transfer will mean the building is leased to the community association. However, a large amount of land to the rear is also owned by the Welfare Association but held in trust by the Council. It is open green space but otherwise is not used. Once or twice a year the Council cuts a path through it. It would be an ideal location for allotments and community gardens.

I spent a couple of hours walking over the site a few weeks ago and worked up in my mind a few ideas for using the site. I then discussed these with officers from the Council who are looking into the legal aspects of the transfer as the Miners' Association have conditions on what can and cannot go on the land. Last night at the Community Centre management committee meeting we discussed the proposals further and it was agreed that I take the project forward by drawing up more specific plans for the site.

As well as allotments, I will be looking to include community gardens and smaller beds for people who can't take on bigger plots. I am especially keen to get community groups involved. If the project goes ahead, it will help to address demand for allotments in the area and create a great asset for the area.