Mobile Library

I took a walk around the Green this morning and the sight of the Magistrates Court reminded me that I was going to write something about the proposal to move the library. As you may or may not know, Southwark Council have an 8,000 sq. ft. prefabricated building in Bermondsey which is now unused, and they’re considering moving it to the plaza in front of the Court and using it to house the library (currently on Church St.), a meeting space, and cafe. You can see the plans in this consultation document [PDF].

The Camberwell Society object to the proposal on the grounds that the building’s just too big; it would occupy most of the currently open plaza, making it very cramped, and involve cutting down some of the orchard (which they say is ‘becoming lovely’, although I’d dispute that) and some and nearby trees. Also, planning permission was granted only last year for children’s play resources and tree re-planting.

They say the move is likely to cost somewhere in the region of £500,000, and the building itself has an estimated life span of only 10 years, so would rather see the money spent on developing the existing library and meeting spaces in the leisure centre. There would also be costs involved in breaking the leases that are held on the current property.

I received an email from someone suspecting ‘ulterior motives’ for the Council’s proposal, and the author has some questions that they feel haven’t been answered, including:

  • Has an application for planning permission been made?
  • What is the total projected cost of the move?
  • Have estimates been made for repairs to the existing building?
  • What will be done with the old building?

Someone on this blog mentioned a Tesco opening in the current library’s position, but I’m not sure if that was any more than a joke or speculation.

I have to say that I’m not against this proposal if it brings benefits, but I agree that the proposal for meeting spaces and cafe could easily be met by funding the leisure centre, in which case moving the library doesn’t seem to make much sense.

The Council are running the public consultation until 21 April; download a copy [PDF] and fill in your responses if you’re interested in making your voice heard.

Author: Peter

Long-time resident of Camberwell, author of this blog since July 2004.

241 thoughts on “Mobile Library”

  1. The consultation is a bit of a joke.

    It mostly asks what you want from a library. What it does not ask are detailed questions about what the benefits or disadvantages are of having this specific library building in this location.

    I know that some of the librarians are unhappy about this because (surprise, surprise) no-one in the council seemed to think it might be a good idea to ask them what they thought. One of their concerns is that they may feel a little bit out of the way there and get less passing traffic.

    Half a million for something that will only last ten years seems a lot. We could do a lot more with that if we had, say, an old bingo hall that could be made into a central community centre.

    Right, off to do some gardening (it’s looking lovely by the way) and then watch the grand national at the Hermit’s Cave…talking of which… big news there, but refuse to be the first to say it just to wind Brendan and Moira up.

  2. As Brendan and Maura aren’t likely to tell anyone anything so here we go:

    Hermit’s have got the lease on Funky Munky… We tried to get it as well but it was too much dancing around and they persisted more than we did.

    Well done to them; I really hope they get it right — it will be great for Camberwell if they make a success of it.

  3. On the mobile library piece, and lest there be misunderstanding I have my flat cap on; this is my view NOT SE5 Forum’s (for those who don’t know; I am co founder, and now vice chair, and my habit of saying things on public fora appears to create confusion in some places about what I am representing when, really, I would NEVER say anything on the part of SE5 Forum without stating so very clearly). ): (:-) This is me.

    It’s a shame but the way the library consultation is presented puts the administration at Southwark in a very poor light. Following Southwark’s silence (along with other political bods such as Harriet and Tessa) over Gala Bingo (where there was a very loud and car park full busy service this evening by the way); the planning department’s numerous odd behaviours over Camberwell for years; the very messy scenarios over Burgess Park consultation; the vacating of the Town Hall and taking Council business to the already rich north without so much a nod or a tip of the hat hasn’t helped either.

    People KNOW a lot of this is to do with previous administration but to locals the traditional arms-length behaviour feels to have carried on seamlessly since Labour were elected when really, they had a good head start for getting some great PR in, and a LOT of people behind them, if they had played their cards right from the day they got in, what with that dreadful coalition in place at Westminster, to gain a LOT of feel good support among Camberwellarians — by tapping into a widespread wave of sympathy, even empathy, among The People toward any new local administration who got into power at such a calamitous time anywhere.

    Instead of any attempt at a PR boost there has largely been silence from this administration since they got in and now this consultation doesn’t come across as a consultation at all. In the context in which it appeared this is more like an advert for a plan already hatched behind closed doors: ‘we’re doing this because we know it’s what you want, and we think you’re worth it, thank us and we might even try and put a few of the things you suggest in there when it happens. If you don’t like it? Well, you won’t get anything and see how you like that’ is how it feels.

    It seems familiar. Things get done to Camberwell and few people locally appear ever to have an input into how it should be done before it’s too late. This has been going on forever as far as people who live and work here are concerned, with the exception of what happened to the Baths — and even that’s run into shortfalls and shortcomings recently which directly impact on people’s thoughts and views about the proposal to spend a LOT of money moving a building to a piazza in the hope of solving a problem there’s not any proof it will address adequately.

    Camberwell needs a closer dialogue with its local authorities more urgently now than ever. The feeling held across a wide range of groups, individuals and even some of the local statutory bodies and third sector organisations is that Southwark is remote and closed off when it comes to anything to do with Camberwell. ‘Local democracy that’s top down and Stalinist’ is how several people have described the state of affairs for the Camberwell community in the past. To my own surprise even Labour insiders have said the same… off the record of course. And so it goes on.

    Camberwell needs to be looked at holistically. This has never been done in spite of it having been asked for innumerable times. I know this was being suggested by local people from a wide range of backgrounds and opinions well before I set up business here in 1995 and to my knowledge nothing substantially has changed in all that time.

    A Town Centre Manager has been on the cards for over a decade. The most recent development on that front is a ‘virtual town centre management team’ — of officers from both sides of the borough divide. How many of you know about that? A ‘Virtual Town Centre Management’ team of people who don’t live here, don’t directly work here but who clearly know all the nuances of what needs to happen to our town better than we do, I mean the people who live and work here who will be living with the outcomes of their decisions made remotely in meetings we know nothing about for decades coming.

    That’s not Big Society, it’s not Civil Society, it’s not Localism. It’s not getting the best bang for our bucks. It’s not making anyone feel better about anything to do with their local lives.

    It does not need to be so. It could change. It’s never too late.

  4. And we’re back. Apologies for the lack of website on Sunday; hopefully it forced you, bleary-eyed, into the bright world outside.

  5. Tonight, 9pm on BBC4, Michael Collins, the DJ of concrete council estate critical theory — his programme on council estates. Camberwell is sure to loom.

    “The People of Providence”, edited by Tony Parker, was a fascinating collection of views from Camberwell estate folk. Parker was the British Studs Terkel.

    Mark, I am constantly stabbing myself with my own stupidity, stubbing my toe on my own clumsiness and stumbling over my own cumbersome misapprehensions, mumbling as I bumble.


    The Hermits is a textbook example of how a pub should be run.

    The Munky has been a different sort of creature but was always a real laugh. To have two versions of the Hermits as the Gates of Camberwell each side of the road bodes well for the world-weary entering herein.

    Maybe there should be a Bridge of Sighs over the road for the safe decanting of revellers from one opportunity to the other.

  6. I picked the National winner and got an each way on the 4th. Not bad eh, two results from three bets. Small stakes though.

    Very interesting about Hermits/Munky. Much as I have spent many, many hours in the Hermit and visit each week, I do wonder what they (Who is they anyway? The snowy haired Irish guy? The buxom bar manageress?) will do with a space like the Munky.

    Love the Hermit but on decor, music, food and the rest it has to score no points.

    Or are they going to hand it to the art students? Be good if they could reinvigorate Munky. I shall watch with interest. A long time since I’ve been to the Munky after 11pm.

  7. Looking forward to the Munky becoming the music/food wing of the Hermits. Wonder if they’ll change the name, and if so what too? IIRC it used to be called The Artichoke.

  8. The Artichoke it was and after that it was Brambles and then it was Cafe Katz and then it became Funky Munky.

    Peter, a long post is still awaiting moderation from some days ago. Any chance you can release it please?

  9. That was a good programme by Michael Collins tonight on BBC4 about council estates, topped off by the mighty Heygate, hey, hooray, yay!

    It’s no use saying the Heygate is not in Camberwell, because it is in Heygate, which is just as large as the SE5 which it abuts.

    My man with the pint of Shires and pipe full of Churchman’s Old Shag billowing under the peak of his flat hat into the eyes of the nearby sound design and customer insight MA students reckons that the new Funky Munky will take some time to develop — years, maybe — unlike the whizzbang, self-consciously themed places which come and go. With narrowed eyes, he opines that any pub should be built up like a cairn with stones rolling down as the core slowly rises.

    With that, he stuffs his dog into the pipe and is gone in an instant into the swirl of night fog that has taken claim of the early summer that has unseasonably intruded into the ever-changing yet never-moving crossroads of Camberwell life.

  10. As I said in my library consultation response the roads around Camberwell Green need to be remodelled somehow so that the area feels more connected with the rest of Camberwell town centre — ie Church St and Denmark Hill. Currently the far side of the Green feels very cut off by the at times six lane road that runs through the centre of Camberwell. Also a nice bus station type arrangement near the Green (linked to a reopened Camberwell station) would free up the pavements greatly — whether the council has the political will to or means to press Transport for London is a different matter but we live in hope.

    The redevelopment of the Munky could be good for the area — I can remember good nights upstairs there in 2003–5ish — I would have thought there potentially could be lots of demand for a late night venue in Camberwell.

  11. @monkeycat & J Mark Dodds

    Spot On…As ever

    The library consultation is really poor — same old, same old — how depressingly familiar — I felt insulted filling it in.

    Good news about the funky munky…It would make sense to let the art students have a hand on the tiller…

    I’m sure Brendan and Maura are wise and experienced enough to rein them in if things got a bit too obtuse (although I like that at times!) — but it could work beautifully.

    The Artichoke does sound like the perfect name for a gastropub though.

  12. J Mark Dodds

    Looks Great…

    I’ve just got back from the Lake District (North Lakes) and I’ve been stuffing myself with great food and walking it off in between.

    I even got to the Hartside Top Cafe.

    perfick 😉

  13. i’d quite like to see both the little roads around the green closed for traffic & the green itself extended onto the roads and onto the platform in front of the court — the two little roads are not tfl so, ‘in theory’ could be done. and it would make a massive, positive difference for the area and the people.

    or a library+arts & culture/community centre in the former, reclaimed, gala bingo hall.

    or the entire area around butterfly walk pedestrianised (so that the roads off church st link up with daneville rd) and the car park transformed into something beautiful/breathable?

  14. It’s like an axis of booze. People outside the Munky checking out people outside the Hermits.

    The kids and normals wondering through the middle as they make their way to and from their swimming lessons at the Baths.

    Bizzaro set-up.

  15. ^edit: wondering should have been wandering. But it kind of works anyway… walking past the Munky wondering, who are these creatures?

  16. Some good ideas there lili 🙂

    I fear that the Camberwell Society’s officers and committee have lost some of their edge; the current issue of the magazine acknowledges that they’ve misread the mood of the membership. (There was also the embarrassment of being anti-bus last year. Did they have a view on the future of the cinema/bingo hall?

    And on other matters can anyone recommend a friendly local who fixes washing machines? I think mine is fixable but it needs a strong chap (or chapess) to move it — beyond the strength of this OAP.

  17. @SouthLondonJohn

    Regarding the ex-Gala Bingo Hall/Cinema and the Camberwell Village Hall campaign…The official line was that the Camberwell Society didn’t wish to get involved whatsoever.

    Although we were extremely dissappointed by their stance…the door remains open but alas we have heard nothing more.

    It is interesting that you mention the magazine acknowledges it has misread the mood of the membership. I wonder if certain events over the course of the last year has caused some to question the way things currently stand?

  18. So, Gabe, you are not a fan of the Heygate. Did you read that long article in the Guardian about the ‘Gate recently?

  19. I just watched the Michael Collins doc on iplayer…I really enjoyed it.

    As someone who lived in an L.C.C, 4 story red brick block whose parents moved there because we lived in cramped lodgings with a landlady — the flat inside was great, we always loved it.

    But as the film explained it was the relaxation of the rules and regulations together with the hideous experiments of the late 50’s to 70’s period and then the Thatcher government which helped to undermine the strong social structures and relationships maintaining such places.

    Then Labour becoming anti-Labour which did absolutely nothing to get back to the original purpose and point of some of these magnificent pieces of architecture.

  20. Walworth Garden Farm has this coming up:

    Free one-day workshop: Introduction to herbal medicine.

    Open to anyone aged 19+
    Tuesday May 10th or June 14th. 10–3pm.
    at Walworth Garden Farm. Manor Place/ Braganza Street. SE17 3BN

    This one-day workshop will take a brief look at the history and politics of western herbal medicine, then look at traditional uses of some common kitchen herbs and wild growing plants. We’ll explore one herb more fully in depth and then look at the different ways of preparing and using herbs, including making an ointment.

    Places are limited. To book please phone: 0207 582 2652

    or email: womenshealthproject@​yahoo.​co.​uk

  21. lili wrote

    “i’d quite like to see both the little roads around the green closed for traffic & the green itself extended onto the roads and onto the platform in front of the court — the two little roads are not tfl so, ‘in theory’ could be done. and it would make a massive, positive difference for the area and the people.”

    Firstly I must say I live on the Peabody estate on the green.

    This seems to appear to be a good idea until access by emergency vehicles comes into the scenario. I’d hate to be burned to the ground because someone wanted more green bits.

    Also how would I load the lorry if I decided to move, walk all my furniture 200 yards or so?

    You could green the area from Church Street to the main gate perhaps, but then it would be just another area for people to drop used beer cans etc.

    Greening the area fronting the court house would be good however, perhaps with paths as required. This area is very bland.

    Just my two cents worth.

  22. @Lili and Chunters: How about a compromise?

    You could keep the road to the Peabody estate, but only have access from D’Eynsford Road round the side of the Magistrates’ Court. There would also be access to the OAP home and the terrible doctor’s surgery but there would be green “bridge” from the Green to the Orchard and the square in front of the courthouse.

    Re the Camberwell Society. I think it is becoming an increasingly irrelevant organisation as it becomes clearer and clearer that it is only concerned with the retention of the look of buildings in a very small area around Camberwell Grove and Grove Lane.

    I seem to remember putting a rather strongly worded comment on this blog to say how disgusted I was at the Camberwell Societies stance regarding the bingo hall. They are happy to complain about They seem interested only in that which directly affects Camberwell Grove and Grove Lane and the immediate environs. Nothing I saw in the latest copy changes that, but gladly will be corrected and still think their attitude to the bingo hall and their lack of raising objections smacked of naval-gazing self interest and showed that they have no real commitment to those who are less fortunate than them in improving the area other than to object to any building that doesn’t match their ideal (idyll?).

  23. @chunters: fair point re emergency access — it may be that alternative access could be worked out ?

    the one thing i was trying to do, rather than give ‘finished proposals’ is show that, if the council actually bothered asking the local residents what they would like to see happen, many would have many ideas, some workable, some maybe less so? x

  24. I use the libraries at Camberwell and Peckham quite regularly, sometimes Newington. Having tried many services UK wide, I quite like this one. It’s one of the few times I feel I’m personally getting any tangible value for the £1K council tax I wear.

    Though I’m not going to object to a new library for Camberwell, it does seem a bit mad that one of the main justifications for a new build and all the upheaval is that the kids’ books are downstairs and staff have to go round the back to get to the office. Is that all? FFS I thought the council was short of cash.

    Also, in an effort to drive vistor numbers and stay ‘modern’, our libraries seem to have turned into web cafes. Folk there messing about on laptops, not like they’re studying either half of them. It should be about books, and reading.

    All in, I think the current library is fine.

  25. I support the provision of free school meals.

    I think it’s a sensible priority. Certainly more important than electronic whiteboards.

  26. The council have introduced free school meals, but I understand that as a result they now need to start charging, or charging more, for after-school clubs to balance their books. There’s no simple answer, but putting off the parents of young children from going back to work or working full-time because they have to meet additional child care costs is likely to cause as many problems as are solved by free school meals.

    For anyone who feels the Camberwell Society is not being an effective local force, the AGM is next month. Join and elect a committee that you think will do a good job.

  27. I support extending the school day too.

    Certainly a better use of funds than administering qualifications in ‘citizenship’.

  28. A central library is essential to a healthy Camberwell. Only recently, I was reduced one night to reading the back of a Woodpecker cider can in a small, dark, cobbled yard. Squinting at the small print, I could make out the word “unit” and the word “limit” but could not quite tell the difference between the two. Rather embarrassingly, two friends passed by on their way from dinner to the Hermits Cave nearby and saw me interrogating the can, my lips moving slowly, my hand scratching my head.

    Joining them in the pub, the interplay of “unit” and “limit” so confused the binary-system wiring in my brain that my resulting mental intensity began to discombobulate my two friends. Eventually, I was reduced to scribbling notes on pieces of paper to hand over to them, like fragments of text from a dead prehistoric language, before shambling off into the night looking for answers in imaginary runes carved between the London buses on the moon. They have not looked at me in the same way since.

  29. Here’s ONE of the things that could happen, alongside the library, and a theatre/dance/performance/film/live music programme in a venue LIKE the Gala cinema building:

    Then there could be residential, a hotel and a number of other income generating things, community wardens and many vountary and third sector organisations could be based there too.

    It’s a good model to repeat and there are many others out there already doing exciting things that are community based and financially sustainable.

    I was once sitting on the pavement opposite Pacifico in Covent Garden, having been unexpectedly royally sick in the loos after too much Margarita (I didn’t feel even a bit pissed until I stood up to go for a pee) and was recovering with a friend who was similarly afflicted. He was ex Oxford and there we were looking like street drinkers who’d fallen into the gutter when John said ‘Oh my god NO. Hide me’. As Darius Guppy and three other posh bods strolled by… ‘Hello John, how are you?’ he said. They had been in that dining club together and this was the first time they’d bumped into each other after leaving college. At least I was invisible.

    It was a long time ago.

    On Thursday 5 May there will be a meeting at The Sun and Doves for people who are interested in registering interest for their children to attend the Michaela Community School which we hope will open for Year Seven in September 2012…

  30. Good call by the council regarding free school meals — Credit where it’s due. I greatly approve!

    @J Mark Dodds

    There are so many examples of what the ex-Gala cinema theatre building could be — The potential is endless as are the varying permiatations for what it could be…

    Arts Mix in Bethnal Green Road in Shoreditch is another good example as is Albany Deptford — both are excellent but are limited by a shortage of space — The site in Camberwell doesn’t have that problem.

    It’s space an asset and main advantage to do something truly fantastic and unique for this community and it’s environs. Which would leave a positive lasting legacy for years to come.

  31. Alan, how’s our application for a boris bike stand on The Green coming along?

    I can get as far as the petrol station dock at the top of Walworth Road, but have to resort to the bus from there.

  32. Thought i’d say it now before i forget. Number 67 at the South London Gallery is now open until 11 from Wednesday til Saturday. Just eating cakes and food there now and it’s yummy! Will be back for more very soon.

  33. ON the new school:

    There’s going to be an information evening at The Sun and Doves on 5 May at 6pm. If you’re interested please register via the website so we can accommodate numbers.

    It will be a good opportunity for anyone concerned about new schools being set up by people rather than corporations or local authorities to meet the steering group face to face.

  34. Had a Spanglish in the sun at No. 67 this morning; very tasty. I enjoyed the exhibition that’s on at the moment; it feels like you’re entering a television studio mid-shoot; there are cameras, scaffolds, and signage. Three screens show different films; on one, there are dancers in the same space you observe it from, but the footage looks as if it were shot in the 1980s. I liked it.

  35. Tipped-off by Gay Camberwell on here, we went to Zeret Kitchen the other day. Vegetarian special for £7 each. Lentils, split peas and all that stuff I like. The sourish pancakes are different, thou.

    The woman running the place has a fabulous, beaming smile. Worth going just for that.

    Spanglish? That sounds cross-cultural.

    @Mark — the school meet in your pub is mostly for parents with a child going to secondary school in September 2011?

  36. @Gabe it’s for anyone really but if for parents it those who have children in year five and four now who will be applying for secondary entry in September 2012. ‘It’s too late for our eldest chhildren now what’s the point of bothering?’. My eldest son may well be going to a Catholic boys’ school. Nothing to be concerned about if you’re Catholic or want your children to have an education that is engaging and stimulating at the level they are used to. I don’t want my youngest to be in the same leaky boat.

  37. The Lighthouse mob are planning an Easter celebration and a Reggae weekend too at the Gala Bingo Cinema anything but a church building. It looks like they must have got planning permission for change of use after all?

  38. If you have the fortune to be social mediad to the hilt and are Facebook enhanced then please do see HERE and perhaps become a ‘LIKE’ of the new Michaela Community School. It will offer a genuinely comprehensive, rounded education for a broad intake.

  39. Mark, I actually support the school you are now supporting. But I am amused and confused by the silence on this blog. After all it is a Coalition backed idea and our own former Deputy Head of St Michaels Katharine Birbalsingh is behind it — she who was slated badly here by you and everyone else when she spoke at the Conservative Party conference. If this blog is anything, it is pro Old Labour and everything (far) left of that. Those of us more centrist or right aren’t exactly welcomed. So none of you think starting a free school ala Toby Young is a bad idea? Odd…but good news from my (minority) perch.

  40. I thought she came across quite well when her book was serialised on the radio in March. But then it was her book so that’s not very surprising.

    Mark certainly wasn’t very complimentary at the time, but it’s fair enough to change your mind:

    There’s a lot about that Birbalsingh woman that immediately doesn’t ring true; a shallowness; a false sincerity. Someone not at ease with herself, someone desperately in need of success. Someone lacking integrity, someone who will cut corners to get where she wants… and so on.

    I certainly think that a lot could be done to improve inner city education and I won’t criticise anyone for trying as long as they are well intentioned and not doing anything that likely to cause irrevocable harm to kids or the community.

  41. “If this blog is anything, it is pro Old Labour and everything (far) left of that. Those of us more centrist or right aren’t exactly welcomed.”

    If this blog is anything, it is neutral. I present stories as I find them, and try to keep party politics out of it — although as it’s a safe Labour seat, I’d say I’m more critical of Labour than any other party.

    The commenters and general debate drifts left (although I’d debate the ‘far left’ label in the majority), but I don’t agree that anyone else is not welcomed; I am happy to say I’ve never censored any comment for opinion (I do occasionally remove personal details).

    That said, comments will be disputed or debated — especially if your comment doesn’t chime with everyone else. I myself have short shrift with people who try to create a divide between ‘hard working people’ and ‘the left’, as if the two are mutually exclusive (I’m not accusing you of this, I’m referring to past incidents).

    I would say that yes, if anything, I am ‘old Labour’ — the party of the working class; but that party no longer exists. However, I’m not rabid about it, I am a realist, and I try to keep this blog in that spirit.

    As to free schools, I’ve no idea; I don’t have children, let alone school-age children, so I’m currently preoccupied with other stuff.

  42. Fair point Peter, and I try to separate your quite political personal tweets from your fair moderation here. The “unwelcome-ing” comes from the masses (well majority) who do seem to get worked up if anyone deviates from the party line. Especially Dodds who shouts loudest. Fair enough, but now he goes way off piece and.…silence. Just find it odd.

  43. Chin up David you’re not alone. We don’t all vote Labour. Though what use that serves in this ward I often wonder.

  44. @David; I’m unclear as to how I have gone way off piece. And certainly not clear about what the party line on this blog is. I thought it is as Peter describes it.

    The quote above is me being straight about what I picked up from The Press. Hissssss. Having met Katharine my view is better informed and, based on conversations with her, I’ll say that any caution I had is gone and I will support her to the hilt in setting up a new school. Education needs more people like Katharine.

    IF you support the idea of the school then please do go and actually support it and come to the meeting at S&D on 5 May.

    If there is scepticism about free schools out there in Camberwell why not come to the infomation evening at S&D on 5 May and ask questions?

    Reserve your space,

    Perhaps it’s silly to point out that a great education for all should not be a political football but given that it is — it’s worth supporting this new school.

  45. THIS just in from Southwark:

    Are you a parent or carer who has recently applied for a Southwark Secondary school place for your child?

    Southwark Council are undertaking a review of schools admissions and support for parents and carers. As part of this we would like parents and carers whose children have applied for a Southwark secondary school place to complete a questionnaire.

    The council would like to hear about your experiences so we can make suggestions for improvements. We would very much appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to fill out a questionnaire. Please follow this link to access the survey.

    Alternatively a paper copy is attached (I can’t attach it here;MD) with a freepost address to return.

    If you have any questions or have more to say then please contact the Scrutiny team on 020 7525 0514 or email Julie.​Timbrell@​southwark.​gov.​uk.

    Survey deadline is 13 May 2011.



    Julie Timbrell
    Project manager
    Scrutiny team
    0207 525 0514

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