Sunday, 7 May 2017

The silence of falling trees by Dawn Finch

I live in a flat, and at the end of our shared terrace area there is a little patch of ground. This ground seems to have no owner and on it stands a tree. This tree, a simple sallow, gives shade in the summer and is a nursery to a family of blue tits. Throughout the year it is regularly filled with tiny little baby blue tits learning how to fly and fend for themselves. It whispers of summer in the wind, and glows vivid green in the rain. It adds to the quality of my life and gives me something that is hard to quantify. In an area of bricks and mortar, it speaks to me of a different world, of green spaces and of peace. It helps me to be creative.

A couple of months ago I came out of my home to discover a man with a chainsaw cutting down the tree. I must confess that I had a bit of a tantrum. I managed to make him stop, and then I called the parish council, my local councillor, and the local tree officer. All through this the man responsible for paying for the tree to be cut down kept insinuating that it was “only one tree”, and not a “very important” tree at that. The man with the chainsaw muttered that I was a "bloody tree hugger."

If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?

If a library closes and no one protests, does it make a difference?

The call for a snap election has left many of us in a dilemma. Frankly, we are all exhausted by the process and are losing energy for the fight. We battled hard around the referendum, and now we have to go through yet another battle. I don’t blame anyone for feeling that they simply can’t carry on any longer – but we have to.

It’s really difficult to know what we, as individuals, can do against the proverbial chainsaw – but there is something we can do, we can speak out and we can ask questions. We can ask “why?” We are writers and creative people and we have something many people don't - we have a public voice, and we should never take that huge privilege for granted.

The Society of Authors has set out its stand for the elections and has created a very useful document that details what they expect of politicians. This document – More Than Just Words – provides all creative people with the information they need to ask pertinent questions of their MPs.  It calls on the Government to review legislation over contract terms, to support stable copyright legislation, to back and fund the creative industries, and to protect and preserve our libraries - and much more.

CILIP (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) has launched its Facts Matter (#factsmatter) campaign to run alongside the General Election. This calls all parties to strive for wholly factual content in their campaigns, and to lobby to recognise the vital role of facts and evidence in public life. They have also released a document detailing comments from a meeting with Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, about the importance of school libraries.

These documents are particularly useful because they give you material for the kind of questions to ask your MP. Ask them direct question in a public forum – I find twitter is a great place for this, and Tweet Your Candidate is a brilliantly quick way to find them. Screenshot their answers for future reference! Find out what their voting record is, and challenge them on it. You can find their contact details and voting history on They Work For You.
  • Ask them what they plan to do to protect public libraries.
  • Ask them what they plan to do to support the creative arts.
  • Ask them what they plan to do about our lack of school library funding.
  • Ask them what they plan to do to protect our green and open spaces.
  • Ask them what they plan to do for nurses, doctors, teachers, librarians.
  • Ask them what they plan to do for refugees, the sick, the vulnerable, the disenfranchised.
Ask them anything, but don’t presume someone else will do it for you. Be heard. Be the one standing in the forest hearing the sound of falling trees and trying to do something about it.

Oh, and as for that tree?

It’s still there.

Dawn Finch is a children's writer and librarian, Past President of CILIP and a member of the Society of Authors' Children's Writers and Illustrators Group committee. 

On twitter as @dawnafinch and regularly tweeting about children's books and libraries using #factsmatter and #iamalibrarian

You can download the full Society of Authors document - More Than Just Words - by following the link.

You can download the full APPG Document about school libraries - The Beating Heart of the School by following the link.


Sue Purkiss said...

Great piece, Dawn.

Rowena House said...

So glad about that tree! Joining you in taking (another) deep breath to fight the good fight. At least we'll go down noisily.

Heather Dyer said...

Well done! And well said.

Catherine Strover said...

Beautifully put. Tree huggers, library lovers, fact providers, unite!