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Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Willesden Library as a White Elephant

At a Labour Party meeting recently, I encountered someone who was still virulently against the new library in Willesden Green, referring to it as a "white elephant".  This is the first time I have encountered criticism of the new library since it opened.  Most of its critics went quiet once it was up and running, and many of their objections were shown up as just illusory

The "White Elephant" line is just untrue.  It is reasonable to call it a prestigious development, from the same architectural practice that has just produced New Scotland Yard.  Yet it is cheaper to run than the old building, and was always designed as self financing.  In other words, the sale of housing at the back paid for the nice new building at the front in a similar way to Clapham Library.

It is also worth remembering what the old Willesden Library was actually like.  Here is a description form November 2009 by the "Willesden Herald":

Friday, November 20, 2009


Willesden Library Centre: Filth and dereliction in Brent


Gigi's closed months ago and is still empty. Now the Bellevue Cinema has closed and the fitments have been ripped out. Last night the centre's mens' toilet was in the most nauseatingly filthy condition. Dirty paper was strewn around the floor, there was fluid underfoot. In one cubicle somebody had closed the lid and defecated on top of it. In the other the bowl was clogged and foul. The word disgusting is inadequate to describe the state of the place. The people responsible for the filth are horrible lowlifes but what about the people who run the place, i.e. Brent Council? The council tax this year for a house near the library centre, in Band E, is £1672.93. It's not rocket science - compare the Tricycle Theatre in neighbouring Camden council control also in Brent [correction], or the Southbank Centre or even a typical motorway services, or the loos at Victoria Station. Then ask yourself why Brent gives us nothing like that and instead something more like the opening scenes from Slumdog Millionaire.

Sounds disgusting doesn't it?

Both the cafe and the cinema ceased to operate long before the building was demolished, and it really had a rather run down look.  The commercial failure of the old building had a lot to do with its dead frontage, which contrasts with the new shared space outside the building (more images here).     

1 comment:

  1. Brent Labour was responsible for building the former Willesden Library - only opened in 1989. Not long for the life of a building.
    Pity such a bad mistake was made and at what cost? For the old one and the new one. It too was regarded highly when opened.

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