And indeed sir ’tis true sir

If you go into the waiting room on platform 6 at Derby railway station you will see a large colourful display board. It was placed there by Derby College, and recounts how the college has restored the old railway roundhouse and associated buildings to the east of the station and converted them for use as college buildings. It is worth quoting from the board at length (emphasis in the original):

THE ROUNDHOUSE: Breathing New Life into Derby’s Historic Railway Quarter

Open to the Public

You don’t have to enrol as a student to visit The Roundhouse Campus. Derby College extends a warm welcome to all at The Roundhouse where you can enjoy the cafe and social facilities, take part in special events and guided visits…

This iconic building now has a new lease of life as part of Derby College and will bring lasting benefits to the people of Derby. The Roundhouse is open as a visitor centre and social hub where people can discover more about Derby’s proud industrial heritage with iconic and interactive images and information…

The site… focuses on The Roundhouse which is the social hub of the site – open to students and the general public.

Now that surely is a tempting thought for one interested in railways and cityscapes. But it’s lies, all lies. Leave the station on the east side with a view to visiting the Roundhouse and you will find it closed off by an ugly steel security fence which obscures the view of the complex and ruins the perspective of the variegated buildings, preventing proper appreciation even from outside of the architecture of this large piece of Derby’s history. The only entrance even to the courtyard is through a staffed hutment, and entry is only permitted to those who can show college ID or state definite business. This sealed fortress brings no wider benefit whatever to the people of Derby. And the students, who could have mingled with the public at the college and courtesy of the college, are kept apart from the society in which they should be mingling and taking their place as citizens.

If I find this policy detestable, as I do, I recognise that it is not altogether the college’s fault. The problem is the unsatisfactory state of the law, which continues to regard 16 and 17 year olds as children when they no longer are, and so in need of protection from a threat which does not exist; and this is one of many ways in which we are nowadays officially encouraged not to trust each other, to the detriment of civil society. But if this must be the policy the college has no business showing publicity saying in as many words that the college is open to the public when it is not. Yet the display board remains, extolling the college’s openness and public spirit, “And if you had been in Derby / You’d have seen it as well as I”.


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