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Friday, 9 March 2018

Libraries Transformation and Brent as the London Borough of Culture

Some one recently asked me to justify my remark that "Without the building blocks in the Libraries Transformation Project, I doubt whether the Borough could have won the recent bid as a Borough of Culture." 

It is a fair question, I would say that the Libraries Transformation Project made an important contribution in the following ways:
  • The venues for events are now much improved.  Willesden Library Centre has proper sound proofing and a better design.  Wembley Library has a vastly superior offer to the old Brent Town Hall library it replaced.  Kilburn Library's refurbishment makes it far superior to its 2010 version, not least because the roof no longer leaks.
  • The emphasis of the Libraries Transformation on the Arts (which prefigured the Arts Council's interest in Libraries) led to Brent's first Poet Laureate and Brent's first Artist in Residence scheme. 
  • The continuing emphasis on events of all kinds and the improved marketing of libraries has led to all sorts of connections being forged that massively help in organising events (as did the Olympics influence).
  • The difficult decisions around the previous Arts and Festival Strategy (related although not strictly part of the scheme) removed a major set of distraction in the form of quite inward looking events that focused largely on street traffic management.
  • The outreach work by the Brent Museum further contributed to the capabilities of the Culture service.
  • The simple existence of a strategy and a plan that was being implemented helped focus thinking on a story that among other things could be used to lever in funding. 
Incidentally, I am also glad that the various attacks on the Tricycle Theatre grant have been beaten off, as the Theatre has proved its worth to Brent and to Kilburn High Road in particular.

Of course, none of this would have happened if Brent had just stuck to cutting opening hours to meet financial targets, as advocated by some.

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