Frivolous Monsters

The Reading Room 01

The Central Library, right by the bus station, is a large Edwardian building built after the Victorian paper manufacturer Thomas Wrigley bequeathed his sizable art collection to the people of Bury thus requiring somewhere to house it.1 It became an ever-modernising cultural centre containing, alongside the art, a museum, an expansive library, reading rooms, computer rooms, and the town’s historical archives. A treasure which undoubtedly still goes unappreciated by many.


It was in April when I entered the foyer with a camera around my neck as I’d been out taking some photos from a point of view askew; all tarmacked cobbles, interesting skylines, sculpted stone figures, and worn pub posters declaring Book now for Valentine’s Day. I walked on past the community notice board, past the recycling display, and past the librarians behind their counter before passing through into the reading room where, away from the throng of newspaper readers near the magazine shelves, I went and sat in the quiet far corner beyond the photocopier and the wall-mounted flat screen TV, which for inexplicable reasons broadcast rolling teletext, to do some writing.

Book Now for Valentines

You would have thought that there’s very little connection between comings and goings, especially separated by an hour and a half, but when I packed up my stuff and put my coat on I first walked over to the window a few paces away and, concealed behind a bookcase and thus drawing no attention to myself, I turned my camera on and took one photo. Talk about failing to fly under the radar because before I could even make my way out of the reading room I was pounced on by a middle-aged librarian who came bearing down on me like Himmler’s Gestapo.

She wanted to know what I was doing, concerned with the photo she somehow knew I’d just taken, as if someone had been watching me covertly for ninety minutes and the whole department was on edge just waiting for me to strike. The confrontation quickly descended into a battle of her insisting on reading me the library photography regulations whether I wanted it or not – of how I was welcome to take any photos, in any room of the library, just so long as I had asked the permission of everybody who happened to be within my sphere of influence – against me waving a digital camera in her face, displaying any offending photograph I may just have taken, with an innocent offer which descended over the unstoppable tide of library regulations:

Do you want to see them?

Do ya want to see them?

Do ya wanna see them?

Do ya wanna see ‘um?

D’ya wanna see ‘um?

She did not want to see them.

Throughout this stand-off what I’d presumed was supposed to be the muscle that she’d bought along with her stayed mute and just stared at me menacingly, like a hired henchman, which was both threatening and unnecessary as it wasn’t like I didn’t go in there all the time. What can I say: I’m a regular, and just the day before the same goon had engaged me in conversation, asking me if I was responsible for the bicycle outside, so it wasn’t like I was an unknown character of no consequence about to flip out and go all crazy on them.

And what was this illicit snap which I seemed to have been willing to run the gauntlet for? Of no-one I should have asked the permission of in the library, it wasn’t even in the library, but an upturned military jeep full of soil, foliage, and flowers in the memorial gardens opposite which the Council had presumably installed as a tourist attraction. I had thought, before I shared the image with potential visitors, that with the height that the vantage point from the library offered that I’d be able to get a better angle. Sometimes I wonder why I bother.

P1030163 120417

It wasn’t the only camera incident I’d ever suffered as a few weeks earlier I’d already been stopped by some council official who was driving by and hurriedly stopped her car, wanting to know what I was taking pictures of, thinking I was collecting “evidence” of some complaint by taking photos of a fading anti-fouling message, sprayed on the pavement to resemble a road sign, alongside the message Bag It – Bin It, and when I explained to her I was taking photos of nothing more than artistic “stuff” to post on the internet and amuse people in other parts of the world she backed off very slowly.2

Bag It Bin It

However, by far worse, I then left the library and went on to be abused across a car park and called a paedophile by some screeching harridan when I was trying to take a picture of a gargoyle on top of a pub. It was about ten meters above the head of the girl who’d tumbled out at 6 pm and not only was I clearly not taking a picture of her, but by definition she should have been above school age anyway, unless the Robert Peel were running an after-school club, which was unlikely, I’m guessing.

But then, camera aside, this is just a snapshot of the town I live in. Tourists welcome.


1 – The  Wrigley collection contains ceramics, watercolours, and oil paintings which include John Constable’s Hampstead Heath, JMW Turner’s Calais Sands at Low Water: Poissards Collecting Bait, and Edwin Landseer’s A Random Shot which the former England cricketer Phil Tufnell came to visit for a slot on BBC’s The One Show. A whole load of those Victorian paintings subsequently went off on a money-making tour of China.

2 – I have enjoyed the comments from abroad about my pictures as these sort of things are what we all take for granted and it’s perhaps only when you view them presented in isolation that they become something more interesting. In a previous collection of Manchester photos the one most clicked on was the picture of the over-flowing bin! Figure that?


Single Post Navigation

9 thoughts on “The Reading Room 01

  1. The ‘anti-camera’ people in the library must feel like King Canute as everybody and his dog take photos (and videos) of anything and everything these days and it surely must be an unstoppable tide. I think your mistake was taking photos with a ‘real’ camera and not a phone. It is apparently acceptable to take images of anything at all if you are using a phone camera. My particular favourite is if you go to a concert and, instead of watching what’s happening in front of their very eyes, people record it on their phones and, in the process, obscure your view with a line of wavering rectangles of light. Why? I genuinely want to know.

    The overflowing bin was of great interest to me as a part time, unpaid and unsolicited social commentator . Is the wrong bin better than no bin at all?

    As for the ‘bag it and bin it’ sign, I appreciate that being on the pavement has caused it to become faded but surely that is a smoking fire coming out of the dog’s behind. Mind you, I have three dogs myself and, on occasion, that doesn’t seem too far from the truth especially when they’ve been eating the fallen plums and figs in late summer.

    • That is my mistake exactly. The low-hanging fruit of people unashamedly carrying cameras. When I got done by security elsewhere that’s exactly what I pointed out being surrounded by thousands of kids who all had fancy phones. In Manchester’s new library they seem to be of the opinion of “anything goes” and I applaud that.

      That bin is/was in Manchester so none like that around here. In Bury they have three public bins together with one for paper, one for rubbish, and another. That one seems to have a very small slot.

      And yep that dog does seem very toxic. To be honest I might have been taking a picture of the over-flowing bin near that when the council person stopped. At least they were taking an interest and ownership of their wider responsibility.

      However, to get the order of these pictures correct for above I went through all my photos and could not find the one of the gargoyles on the Robert Peel pub. And I don’t know why. Either I didn’t take it, put off by the abuse, or it was so blurred I deleted the original. Don’t know.

    • ‘I have three dogs myself and, on occasion, that doesn’t seem too far from the truth especially when they’ve been eating the fallen plums and figs in late summer’

      Laughed out loud at this line. I have so been here!

  2. This ‘no taking photos’ thing is just another petty rule for the petty minded to morph into officious, big-boots, zealots. It’s amazing how they pick on people with cameras as opposed to phones and I’ve noticed the more professional the camera looks the more hassle the photographer gets. I often want to take pictures of textiles in special exhibitions, but these pay to enter exhibitions all seem to have the ‘no photography’ as standard. I once asked a security guard who was a little vague and when I pushed him about no pics he suddenly noticed one of the curators walking into the show. Guess what, when I asked the big cheese he told me as long as I didn’t use flash it was fine! Apparently it’s often to do with the corporate sponsors and/or sales of exhibition catalogues. It’s not enough you’ve paid between £10 to £20 for a ticket.
    You can tell that this is something that really bugs me. I suppose the librarian thought you’d photographed her and were thus stealing her spirit!!!!!

    • If only I could steal their spirits. I started getting treated very oddly after this incident, by some librarians. It is a jumped up mentality trying to cause waves in their domain, even though as a public library it’s ours. I never did work out exactly what went on because the library was (mostly) spread over three large rooms and where I was sitting I wasn’t visible to them unless they walked around to that side.

      And it is the bigger the camera the more trouble you get in to. I’ve learnt that lesson.

      • Maybe they’ve been spying on you for ages and were just waiting to pounce the minute you committed a minor infringement. Perhaps it was all fun and games for them to see who’d catch you first. You probably made their day!

  3. Hi, Fab blog! I have just set up mine, but still in the very early stages! Just making efforts to link in with fellow bloggers to improve our followers and get the word out there for us both. I would appreciate you having a peek at my blog, as I have just published my first post. Feel free to like, comment, follow or just take a peek. Thank you 🙂

  4. Your Central Library and surrounding buildings are beautiful. and I’m amused and entertained by your pictures so thanks for taking them. Maybe you can sneak a picture of ‘your’ table inside Costa Coffee? I’d ask for some of the characters in the library but privacy is maybe an issue 🙂

    • It is. Much unappreciated my most. Saying that the council have not always been the guardian of our heritage (sometimes dubiously so) and a number have been needlessly destroyed to be replaced with standard modern buildings. Our first and second market halls looked glorious, but the first mostly fell down, and the second burnt down, although the really good bit of it which would we be proud to have today survived… so they knocked that down too.

      If you watch the series Scott & Bailey then you might like to know that if you look at the jeep picture then their Police station for the first few series was just a bit left off that picture.

      I never dared take a picture inside Costa, other than very close up with my cheap phone, and sadly my table outside the toilet where nobody ever wanted to sit is no longer there. They redesigned the place, knocked through into the next shop, and put in two more toilets. So the place is a lot bigger and has, I think, lost some of its charm. I now just have to make do when I can although admittedly get in there less these days. As for the library… well, this list of tales it isn’t going to end well!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: