There was a problem with the Northern Line on Monday night, and as a consequence quite a few people due to arrive at the Phoenix cinema in East Finchley were delayed, so the screening of the new Barnet film, 'Barnet - the £1 billion gamble' was held back until they arrived.
The difficulty was caused, unfortunately, by the all too familiar 'person on the track' incident, a circumstance, most probably, of personal tragedy to someone, but one which provoked the following reaction on twitter from Barnet Tory cabinet member Councillor Robert Rams:
"Stuck underground on a tube as there r people on the track at East Fin ... Have the socialists going to the Phoenix got a bit over excited?!"
Our Tory councillors need not have worried about the number of socialists at the viewing last night, as it happens: it is the number of completely non political residents, and the disaffected Tory voters who were sitting in the audience, which ought to serve as a warning to the council of the strength of feeling, and the strength of resistence, to their hapless, bullying administration.
These people are not natural protestors, they have been stung into action by their sense of fury and their deep concerns over the damage being wrought on their community by Rams and Cornelius and Coleman and all the rest of our shabby Tory councillors.
Before the film began, Roger Tichborne, who has produced the film, addressed the audience. His announcement that Councillor Brian Coleman had been charged with two alleged offences was met by what you might describe as - well: a thunderous reception.
The film began with uncomfortable testimony from some residents of the borough who have disabilities and needs that make them dependent on support from the local authority, and from their carers: Susan, and John, Linda, Philip, and Janet. Janet, an elderly resident whose husband's care has been severely affected said " ... senior officers and councillors would rather we didn't live here ...' which is, as she commented wrily, 'not a nice feeling' ...
Cut to a council meeting where the deeply insensitive young Tory councillor Tom Davey is caught spitting out a contemptible observation: 'You can't help those who won't help themselves ...'
Young Councillor Davey is the Barnet cabinet member for housing, and has hardline views on social housing, wanting to encourage 'aspiration' amongst the feckless, undeserving poor who might require assistance from the local authority. He has introduced limited tenancies for tenants, and a requirement to show 'a positive contribution to the community' before being fast tracked for council accommodation.
The new film features one family living in clearly unsuitable accommodation despite the special needs of one of the young daughters, who has 'triple x syndrome' but is forced to share a bedroom with a sibling: this family have been in 'temporary' accommodation for a staggering eleven and a half years, and have been subject to a whopping 200% rent rise. If only the mum had time to start a youth club, or join her local Conservative Association, you might be tempted to think.
Next up: the library that refused to die, Friern Barnet library, given a new lease of life since the occupation by community squatters Phoenix and friends.
Library occupier Phoenix - at the Phoenix
Alfred, a former refugee from Rwanda, and now a resident of Friern Barnet, made a brief but significant comment: he explained that to him and his children, the library had offered new hope: when you have hope, he said, you can have progress.
Perhaps, thought Mrs Angry, the most important feature of the story of Friern Barnet library will be, after all, the fact that it has given people hope: hope for change, of taking back control of their own lives, and of their own communities.
On to the explosive parking issue: Helen and Paul spoke about the 'irrational' new charges and payment policy, introduced by our former Cabinet member Brian Coleman. Mr Mustard spoke about the lie that the new parking contract to NSL would bring about savings: £600k a year - so far, in the first quarter we are apparently about £1.2 m behind. This is a klaxon alert for all the £1 billion worth of contracts that are to follow in the main body of One Barnet outsourcing, of course. Will the Tories stop, and listen? What do you think?
(In Cornwall yesterday, the county council voted through a motion based on a petition by Cllr Andrew Wallis to halt the joint venture process of privatisation that has caused so much controversy, leading to the resignation of the Tory deputy leader, and the loss of the leader, after a vote of no confidence.)
Next up was someone pretending to be Mrs Angry. Can't remember what she said, as I had my hands over my eyes and was moaning softly in the dark. Later in the pub ...
Rog T apologised for 'accidentally' tangoing Mrs Angry and Helen Michael when he was wielding the camera and 'forgot' to press some filter button. (You can see the pair of hapless directors pretending to try and fix this on the London Tonight news clip here
Ms Michael and Mrs A know perfectly well he did it on purpose, of course.
The film also featured footage of Mr Reasonable's wonderful party trick,
... an explanation of One Barnet, the black hole in a box ... and finally the whole tale is brought together by some observations by the brilliant Ken Loach, whose comments on Barnet have already been noted in an earlier post.
After the film, Mrs Angry, Mr Reasonable, Mr Mustard and library campaigner Martin Russo were obliged to take part in a debate with members of the audience.
This was a daunting exercise, but Mrs Angry was distracted by the novel experience of performing in the red and gilt art deco theatre, finding the experience unnervingly reminiscent of a childhood fear, generated by visits to the panto at Golders Green hippodrome, an event of great anticipation each year, but over which the dreaded threat of audience participation always loomed like a dark cloud.
It never happened, being dragged on stage to kiss Danny La Rue dressed as Cinderella's stepmother, or a wizened old Arthur Askey as Buttons (have I made that up?), but here we were now, on stage, Mrs Angry in panto, playing herself. Didn't kiss anyone, mind you.
The film is something to be really proud of: made by the community, for the community: and for the second time this year, the residents that Barnet Council would rather, as Janet said, not live here at all, and who have been denied a part in consultation over their futures, have made their own voices heard, and told their own stories.
The picture they have created will not be the one that leader Richard Cornelius - or 'Dr Evil', as he helpfully refers to himself in the London Tonight interview - tell us he sees, through his One Barnet tinted spectacles: 'Barnet, a successful London suburb'...
Janet, and Linda, and Susan, and Philip, Alfred, Helen, Paul, Tirza, and all of those who take part in the film show us something altogether different: they are the voices for Broken Barnet, and they are part of something that is quite remarkable: a community which is taking on the politicians who claim to represent them, reminding them of the duty they seem to have so easily betrayed: to serve the residents of this borough, and fight for what is right, and in their best interests.
We don't intend to be sold into bondage to multinational companies, our needs outsourced and offshored in order to make a comfortable profit for fat cat directors and their shareholders, thank you very much: so here we are, this is us, taking Cllr Davey's advice on aspiration, and helping ourselves, fighting back: and if we fail, we fail with the satisfaction of knowing we gave it a go - and recorded the events for others to see.
If you haven't seen the film, it will be shown at various local venues:
Tues 23rd Oct.7.30 pm Wyburn Room at Wesley Hall, Stapylton Road, High Barnet, EN5 4JJ
Thurs. 25th Oct, 7.00 pm The Larches, Rectory Road, Edgware
Sat. 27th Oct 2.30 - 4.00 pm New Barnet Community Centre, Victoria Road, New Barnet, EN4
Thurs. 1st Nov. 6.30 pm Cafe Buzz, High road, North Finchley, N12
Tues 6th Nov - 8.00 pm North Road Community Centre, Edgware
the House of Commons, Monday 19th Nov, 7pm - 9pm - The Grimmond Room, Portcullis House, London, SW1A 2TT