So I tabled a public question to Cambridgeshire County Council snapping at their heels on the future of Shire Hall very recently.
…because I still have this crazy idea of expanding the Museum of Cambridge onto the Shire Hall site as the county council move off of it. For the record I’m grateful to councillors for clarifying that they are looking at a long term lease that will provide an income stream rather than selling off the site in its entirety.
But what you didn’t see was the amount of spoons used to get up early and be out and about in time to table that public question. And the inevitable aftermath.
That was the day after the election of the new mayor of Cambridge – Cllr Nigel Gawthrope (Lab – King’s Hedges) at The Guildhall.
I was planning on sticking around for the ‘political debate’ on the various party groups’ plans and policies, but with no one wanting to keep the tradition of ‘cross party drinks’ at the Cambridge Beer Festival going, I went home and crashed out.
The crisis of the Mill Road Library Building
At first glance I thought “Oh no – the Tories want to sell off yet another historical asset!” (See the papers here). Looking closer at it, the problem is that the current tenants have not been maintaining this wonderful grade 2 listed building as their lease requires them to. What astonished me is that hardly anyone seemed to be aware of these problems. Hence when it came to the County Council for debate (see the video here), I was astonished that this had come as a surprise to so many.
Above- the Petersfield Area Community Trust (local residents’ association) commenting as I live-tweeted.
Stuck inside a dragon-shaped political box
I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s as if I don’t really get to do much with other people outside of the worlds of history and politics – even less so with people around my own age (mid-late 30s). Again this week I had people telling me how wonderful the work I do for Cambridge is, and how essential it is.
The problem is in our current economic system, it does not enable me (or anyone) to make a living. Therefore as far as the system is concerned, it is not essential. If it was, it would pay. But it doesn’t. That’s not a criticism of individuals – this is a big picture thing – it’s structural.
Furthermore, I was also asked to film a large political event outside of the county – being told that the organisers were desperate but unable to pay me. This would have involved a fair amount of expense on my part just getting to the venue. Sorry ladies and gentlemen but I’m no longer prepared to pay my own way for an unpaid filming session, no matter how important you think it is.
“D’ya want to meet up for a coffee to talk things over?”
This came up in a previous blogpost here. In the grand scheme of things, I’d rather do something different – more active, more exciting and something that collectively we can talk about long after the event.
And that’s part of the disconnect.
The fallout from my mental health problems and lack of proper treatment over the past couple of decades (again as discussed here) has been that people who I would have liked to have stayed in my life have moved on. Accordingly – and this is really upsetting for someone with a strong interest in local history – there isn’t a single person in my day-to-day life who shared any of those experiences in the different phases of my adult life:
- Year out,
- university on the south coast,
- post-graduate years,
- civil service and dancing years,
- London, and
- my post-civil service years.
Is this how it’s going to be?
Because that’s kind of what I’m reconciled to. Again, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogposts, the problem is structural. Funnily enough, this came up on RTE Radio in Ireland today when they were discussing the results of the Repeal the 8th Referendum. Just listening to who was saying what was an education in itself. Though those on the side of the church establishment were coming out with increasingly bizarre explanations as to why their side performed so badly. eg. longer commutes meaning people are living more individualistic lifestyles and thus are moving away from the church therefore they didn’t vote according with the church’s wishes.
The Irish vote and how it resonated with me
I was watching Ed Byrne on The Road to Santiago not so long ago. Like me, he had to go to church as a child. His comment on how he felt all of that time was wasted every Sunday morning when he says he could have been doing something constructive like playing a sport, learning a musical instrument, or learning a new language, was one that really touched my heart. He had something to say about the referendum too.
Breaking away from that sort of institutionalisation is never easy – not least because it also meant breaking away from people who you’ve known since childhood. Yet as I said to myself at the time, I could no longer live a lie. The more I read about the institution at university – the first time in my life I had access to a large library and also, the internet (this was late 1999), the less I wanted to have anything to do with an institution that discriminated against so many.
Which is why the above really struck a chord with me – a new generation had struck back and crushed an oppressive institution and an oppressive mindset and had made history.
The above by @Stavvers also explains why I felt ever so disconnected to the Remain campaign. The two options (Leave or ‘Call me Dave’s deal’) did not reflect my views at all. Also, there is one person in this photograph who I could not bear having the dragon in the same photo.
Both campaigns were largely driven by men. The footage from the Irish referendum campaign is strikingly different.
We never got the sense from Remain of “What is going to improve if we vote for you?”. I get the sense that the #RepealThe8th campaigners have torn up the old rule book. Good.
It doesn’t solve the disconnection problem though.