3 Sefton Libraries on just 3 or 2 day a week opening – 3 on 6 day opening

Maghull Library has been on a 2 day week as a consequence of Covid Lockdown for quite some time now and I’d been assuming, always a dangerous thing, that it would soon be opening up 6 days per week. However, a recent enquiry seems to indicate that increased hours/days may not presently be on Sefton Council’s agenda. Anecdotal evidence indicates, I might add, that staff shortage may be the reason for keeping it to 2-day opening.

Time to try and get to the bottom of this me thinks so I’ve approached 2 Sefton Councillors asking them both to try to find out what’s going on.

Maghull Library is within Meadows Leisure Centre and has been since the centre was opened in 2009, although sadly Sefton Council has steadily been reducing the size of this library in favour of other activities. It’s now, I guess, less than half the size it started out at just 11 years ago. Interestingly, Meadows Leisure Centre itself is now opening, according to Sefton Council’s website, at these times –

Monday to Friday 6:30am – 10.00pm
Saturday and Sunday 8:00am – 5:00pm

Whist Maghull Library only opens on a Tuesday and Friday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.

A check on the opening hours of the other Sefton Borough libraries reveals this:-

Bootle –
Tuesday 10am-4:30pm
Wednesday 10am-4:30pm
Friday 10am-4:30pm

Crosby
Monday 10am-4:30pm
Tuesday 10am-4:30pm
Wednesday 10am-4:30pm
Thursday 10am-4:30pm
Friday 10am-4:30pm
Saturday 10am-1:30pm

Netherton –
Wednesday 10am-4:30pm
Friday 10am-4:30pm

Formby –
Monday 10am-4:30pm
Tuesday 10am-4:30pm
Wednesday 10am-4:30pm
Thursday 10am-4:30pm
Friday 10am-4:30pm
Saturday 10am-1:30pm

Southport –
Monday – 10.00am-4.00pm
Tuesday – 10.00am-4.00pm
Wednesday – 10.00am-4.00pm
Thursday – 10.00am-4.00pm
Friday – 10.00am-4.00pm
Saturday – 10.00am-2.00pm

I’m not sure what’s going on here as personally, I’d expect there to be reasonably common opening hours across all of Sefton’s libraries. Clearly, 3 libraries, (Bootle 3 days and Netherton/Maghull 2 days) are bearing the brunt of whatever problems Sefton Council are facing but I fear the short opening hours could well have further-reaching consequences. Firstly, what about vital access to IT equipment which those who are job seeking and/or on benefits use our libraries for as the cost of having broadband at home is beyond their budgets. Surely the 3 libraries in the Borough on 3 and 2 day opening only cause problems for them which if they live in Crosby, Formby or Southport they don’t face. A postcode lottery you might say?

My other concern is the viability of these 3 short-hours libraries because reducing them to just 3 or even 2-day opening is akin to reducing the number of buses on a route or trains on a railway line; you get to the point where folks just stop using them and try to find other ways around the lack of availability. In my view Sefton Council needs to get the 3 short-hours libraries back up to similar opening hours as the 3 that are already running 6 days per week and this needs to happen sooner rather than later.

As always, if I’ve got any facts wrong in this posting please let me know and I’ll try to put things right.

Birkenhead – It’s rather lovely Williamson Art Gallery & Museum

I recently visited this art gallery and museum with daughter Jen and a fine place it is too. Sadly, due to austerity and money troubles for Wirral Council, it’s had more than a few threats to its continued existence but thankfully it is safe for now. Here’s a link to its website:-

williamsonartgallery.org/

I took quite a few photos of the exhibits and here are my personal favourites:-

Trams at Woodside by George Anthony Butler 1927 – 2010 – Painted in 1988

Winter Twilight by James Thomas Watts 1853 – 1930 – Purchased 1913

A beautiful display of pottery. The wooden and glass case is as beautiful as the exhibits

There are some cracking lasrge scale ship models such as these Mersey Ferries

An interesting former Birkenhead Corporation ferry poster

Well worth a visit I’d say. Can’t really understand why it’s taken me all these years to have my first visit, but glad we went.

We’re exploited for our intolerance and fears

We live in a society where far too many of our political representatives seem to all but promote intolerance and fear. Those two words are often at the heart of what, usually in more deliberately vague language, is being peddled and promoted. Of course, much of our press is on the same regressive agenda. They work with politicians to exploit intolerance and fear which they then manipulate to enable messages to be sold to folk who, to put it bluntly, are being played.

Politicians know that most of us can be tribal in outlook and tribalism is the big brother of intolerance and fear. If you can gauge what sections of the voters are intolerant about and then feed those voters fears which magnify such intolerances then you can lead them by the nose into voting for things that they feel will ‘deal with’ what they fear and can’t tolerate.

Of course, virtually no one will admit to being a racist these days as it’s deemed to be socially unacceptable but that does not mean there are fewer racists about; they’re still there but don’t like being labelled racists. However, you’ll often hear them say ‘I’m not a racist but’ and that ‘but’ often means that in reality, they are a racist. So the fears of racists are there to be exploited by dog-whistle political comments seemingly made to us all but actually aimed at the racists who get the message. Words like immigrants, refugees, illegal immigrants etc. are used in contexts that blame such people for our ills and try to make us think they are from a DIFFERENT tribe, they ARE a threat, they are using scarce resources which OUR OWN poor should be accessing etc. etc.

Think which tribes you are a part of – religion, football team, your colour, the language you speak, straight or gay, the town you live in, the party you vote for, the paper you read, the clubs organisations and societies you’re a member of. Most of us are members of quite a few ‘tribes’ and we can view those who are members of different tribes as ‘not one of us’, or we can exhibit intolerance towards them, indeed we can even fear/hate them. It’s those doubts, worries and fears which unscrupulous politicians are openly exploiting together with a press/media friendly to such agendas.

If you’re being told that ‘we are losing our Britishness’, ‘our way of life is under threat’, that ‘outsiders are taking our jobs’ then our first reaction should be why are we being told that and what’s the agenda of politician or media outlet sending me such messages. But those producing the messages know that the vast majority of the time we don’t act logically, we simply hear messages which seemingly fit with our own often ill-informed perspective and they comfort us because they agree with what we’ve been thinking.

Of course, the less educated and more insular someone may be the more they can be open to being exploited by the unscrupulous. That’s why we need our up and coming generations to be well educated, with open minds rather than them carrying the prejudices and intolerance of previous generations of their families like a weight on their shoulders. I’m firmly of the view that we don’t hate as a matter of course we do it because it’s taught behaviour. Tribalism, prejudice and intolerance are simply the irrational fears of previous generations (anti-Semitism comes to mind) which are passed down as a right of passage. They close down young minds, they create fear where none needs to exist and they lead to racism and manipulation by media and politicians.

If you’ve ever said in front of a child ‘I don’t like the French, Italians, Irish etc.’ what are you trying to do? You’re probably hoping that child will come to hold the same view when logically they’ve no reason to hold that view. Or how about ‘I hate supporters of X football club’, again you’re hoping the child will think likewise; you’re trying to close down a mind because you don’t want them to come to a different view to your own. So what if you keep saying migrants, illegal immigrants? Yes, you’ve guessed it you’ve done it because you think such people are a threat and you want the next generation to think that too. Future generations will be open to being exploited by unscrupulous media and politicians if we don’t open up children’s minds so that they welcome their views being challenged and want to get to the truth rather than what passed for the truth from someone banking on them still carrying their family prejudices on their back.

We can be free of intolerance and fear and the exploitation that comes with it but only if we open our minds up and stop closing the minds of children down.

Maghull – The 1955 opening of its County Secondary School (Ormonde Drive)

My good friend Robbie Fenton has loaned me her copy of the brochure produced for the opening ceremony of what was called at the time (June 1955) Maghull County Secondary School. She was 12 years old and participated in the ceremony as part of the school choir. Robbie has lived in Maghull and Lydiate all of her life and has been a local councillor I might add.

I’ve scanned the brochure and here it is, a document very much of its time:-

The school looks very different now as the building that was the subject of this 1955 opening ceremony was demolished recently to be replaced by a brand new one:-

Maghull High in March 2019 as construction of the new main school building was ongoing.

My thanks to Robbie for sharing the document as it’s very interesting to me personally and I’m sure those who have attended the school over the years. I was there 1969 to 1975 and am now a Governor of the school. And my favourite teacher? Jack Petty every time. He taught Geography and History in the first two years I was there and after that craft. He was an expert builder of Christmas displays and he would build one every year mainly from polystyrene in the foyer of the 1955 building. They were beautiful with motorised figures and my old school mate Pete Roberts only mentioned them to me recently. I learned a lot from Jack.

Click on the photos and documents to enlarge them

Rashford, feeding children & UBI

That Marcus Rashford has highlighted the fact that even in 2020 too many children live in such poverty that they don’t have sufficient nutritional food to eat is a given. His well known solution is to try to get government to provide free school meals in school holidays, a battle he won for the last summer holidays but is presently losing for the next Christmas holidays. The BBC has the latest on its website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/54550587

I support his campaign but is it really a long term solution to fix child poverty? Is it not just another sticking plaster for our failed welfare system?

My view is that we need to be looking towards a solution that does not require high profile campaigners to launch a renewed fight before every school holiday to ensure children eat well. In short we need to revolutionise the way our society runs so that we really do tackle poverty properly. Form me there’s only one way to do that and it’s a rather obvious solution which has been talked about for many years – Universal Basic Income or UBI.

Yes I know that those on the right of UK politics will straight away will say things like ‘how on earth will we pay for it?’ or even ‘I’m not paying for it through my taxes’. Yes UBI will be expensive but at it’s core it’s about trying to say goodbye to poverty once and for all. And yes I also know that many on the left oppose UBI (Kier Starmer for one) but it is gathering ground amongst politicians who see themselves as being progressives, including many liberals and some socialists.

That UBI has gained such significant traction in recent times amongst liberals has even surprised me as a radical social Liberal of the left because often liberals, particularly those with a middle class background, can be fearful of promoting a social policy that has taxation implications. Maybe it’s a sign that liberals and progressives across the political spectrum are finally realising that fighting poverty by chucking crumbs off the table to the poor has never solved and indeed never will solve the poverty that’s so endemic in our broken UK society.

Good luck to Rashford, a wealthy man from a poor background who really does want to do some good for those with nothing. However, if we back what he’s doing let’s do it in a way that brings about a more permanent solution to poverty rather than engaging in a regular battle with government about whether children will eat in the next school holiday. As I say the solution is rather obvious – UBI.

NI report shines religion in a poor educational light

I’ve come to regard religion as something that individuals should choose to either follow or not. It’s not something to be handed down from one generation to another just as it should not be the norm to follow the same politics as your parents. Individuals can grow into much more rounded citizens if they make such choices themselves.

The report, linked below, on the effect of religious governance of schools therefore interested me:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-54063908

I was brought up in my Dad’s religion, baptised and confirmed into his religion and I went along with it not thinking or knowing of any alternatives until I was about 15. Around that time I recall looking at my religious world which, whilst not being a big part of my life, did mean I was in a church choir and I wondered why I was doing it. I talked to a friend who was to a lesser degree following his parents religion and we both wondered why we were following a similar path.

Me sat in my old choir stall at Sefton Church. I recall sitting in this very seat – if memory serves me well of course – it was 47 years ago!

This thinking led us both to walk away from religion as being something which was not for us, although we removed religion from our lives politely and certainly not in away to offend others who held strong religious beliefs.*

I can’t say I’ve ever looked back and regretted that move indeed the older I get the more I feel I did the right thing for me.

I got married in a church, of my (former) and my wife’s religion, because that was what my wife wanted and we had our daughter baptised for a similar reason. However, that’s where any religious direction for our youngster ceased. The religious, political and pretty much everything else direction she then took in her life has been her decision and hers alone. As far as I’m concerned such is her business and not mine.

Having read this far you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m not at all keen on religious schools** being used by parents to reinforce their own religious beliefs upon their children. Education is all about bringing well rounded citizens to adulthood with the skills to be able to be a part of society and the knowledge to be able to gain and hold onto jobs, it’s not about religion. Having said that I’ve no problem whatsoever with youngsters being taught about world religions, what they each believe in and why some people choose to follow them, indeed to understand how society works such knowledge is vital.

All these thoughts came to me having read the article linked above about how schools are governed in Northern Ireland. Whilst the situation there is unique in the UK due to historic religious/political intolerance it’s nice to see that calm and sober assessment of how the mainly religious NI schools are run will probably lead to change for the better, although such change will sadly take far too long to come about.

* Ludovic Kennedy’s book published in 1999 ‘All in the mind – A Farewell to God’ is an excellent read about losing your religion.

** I think my first primary school may have been a religious one although it may well have been chosen because it was within easy walking distance of our family home. I was only there about 18 months though and the 2 subsequent primary schools I attended were not religious based, neither was the high school I went to.