Friday, 17 February 2017

Refuge for Ruskin Readers

11 Months ago Ruskin Readers, along with several other community groups, were ousted from Carnegie Library by Lambeth Council.  The council had made little effort to engage with the groups to ensure they would be safely housed and accommodated elsewhere. It was left to the community group leaders to find new premises and endure the agony of how they would do that with limited funding or none at all.

As a Ruskin Readers tutor I found myself in the midst of the anxiety faced by our Lead Tutor (Caroline Knapp).  I was angry and astounded at Lambeth for their lack of thought regarding this matter.  And you know from my Private Protest post in January how I went about dealing with my anger.  But the fact still remained that Ruskin Readers was effectively homeless.

At The Cambria

For a while we had to split the club into two with the Monday night group putting up shop at The Cambria and the Wednesday group parcelled off to Norwood Library.  Our resources (two cupboards worth of games, dictionaries and teaching materials as well as hundreds of easy readers) languished behind the locked grill of The Carnegie Library. 

Caroline was forced to keep a selection of hastily gathered necessary resources stored in boxes and bags in the front room of her home. This involved her carting books, reading lamps and stationery to and from The Cambria.  She will not mind me telling you what an arduous task that was as she doesn’t own a car and is also a disabled pensioner.

It was always obvious The Cambria could only ever be a very temporary solution.  Caroline was scouring the internet, calling contacts and posting desperate messages on Facebook to secure us a new home.  St Faith’s was suggested and we were warmly welcomed by Reverend Susan Height who offered us the use of the main church. 

The Monday group in St Faith's

She was very happy for us to install our now parred down, retrieved resources, in a cupboard and book shelf. Unfortunately not long after settling we began to think our stay there was becoming precarious as it was difficult to heat the large space sufficiently for our small group. Once more Caroline agonised over what to do.

Moving our cupboard from the church
to the upstairs room of the community centre
But St Faith’s came to the rescue yet again.  It turned out they had a community space on the top floor of their community centre.  We investigated to see if it could work and were wildly excited to discover it would. Ruskin Readers has finally found a more permanent state of refuge.  We’re settling into the top room of St Faith’s community centre and relishing the warmth, easy access to resources and integrated kitchen where we can prepare goodies for the crucial tea break.  Now all that remains is for us to find a suitable cupboard or bookshelf to house our stock of books and we’ll be all set.

A jubilant smile from Caroline
as the cupboard reaches its new home

And where has Lambeth Council been in all of this?  The funding for rehousing of the evicted community groups which was promised is still to materialise.  I cannot speak for the other homeless groups but Ruskin Readers has received the most significant help from private donations, an outside agency grant and the kind generosity of a church in a neighbouring borough.  Lambeth Council – this is what we call Community Spirit – something which seems decided lacking at #mylambeth Council.


  1. Pleased to hear the news, but am shocked and sadened by the lack of support from the council - although I know my local council would be every bit as bad. Thank goodness for people, including yourselves, the volunteers.

    1. Yes, indeed Lindsay, the volunteers and Caroline are what makes the club carry on.