December 13, 2011

Book-sharing libraries on London’s tube


Public idiot Boris Johnson in totally ineffectual post-riot broom-shaking embarrassment

Ever eager to jump on board with a no-brainer of a free idea, public idiot and Mayor of London Boris Johnson has announced his support for book-sharing schemes to be launched on the city’s tube network in time for the 2012 Pointless, Expensive Disaster Olympic Games. He’s quoted in The Guardian, speaking in characteristically succinct and thoughtful style:

“I think it’s a very good idea and would say something powerful about the kind of city we are and our commitment to literacy, which obviously we are trying to demonstrate in lots of ways particularly with young people.”

He made these comments at the two-day London Policy Conference at the Southbank Centre, which began yesterday. The possibility of a book-sharing system was raised by Chris Gilson, who runs Book Swaps for London and set up a sharing scheme in West Ealing, inspired by the one in nearby Wimbledon.

Seeing more tube-users reading books instead of the dizzyingly awful Metro (London’s free newspaper) would be a Very Good Thing Indeed, and congratulations to Chris Gilson for successfully starting his own scheme, and for getting this issue discussed at such a high level. It’s depressing to note, though, that in the rest of the conference there seems to be not one event devoted to culture. Literacy and culture are not Big Society issues that can be delegated to private individuals, they should be at the heart of policy-making, especially in a city like London, which has proven literacy problems and which relies financially on tourism and so on its cultural cachet. For the ever-opportunistic BoJo, expressing his support for this scheme is easy, especially as (with any luck) he won’t be Mayor any longer by the time the Olympics come around. Where is the space in the conference for integrating the city’s world-famous cultural industries into its economic recovery?


Ellie Robins is an editor at Melville House. Previously, she was managing editor of Hesperus Press.