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"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Lambeth Libraries demo: true grassroots protest flourishes in the rain

Speakers at Brixton Library at 11am promised us there'd be sunshine when we got to the Tate South Lambeth Library in that bit of the borough known as Little Portugual.

The 600-strong march stretched half-way down Stockwell
Road,  en route for South Lambeth
Their words fired people up wonderfully, making the mile or two's march seem like nothing.  The guy who spoke about the importance of libraries for disabled people was especially good, as was the Green Party councillor for Streatham St Leonards, Scott Ainslie, who said he wouldn't've been here today but for the Edinburgh public libraries that opened his eyes to education and history and politics, back in his youth.

So many of us could have told similar stories. I was bowled over by the warmth of this crowd, and have to thank the lovely team from Upper Norwood Library for the loan of their orange "I love libraries" umbrella. (I will get it back to you soon, promise!)

 They also had a banner, "A library saved my life" which I would happily have carried, but it was definitely a two-person affair.

Among plenty of imaginative banners and placards, the prize must go to the polystyrene tombstone proclaiming, RIP Carnegie Library, 1906 - 2016". It was even entwined with ivy.

This guy led some great chants, wish I could remember all
the words...
Great also that library staff from Barnet (where a strike is planned) and Wandsworth joined the demo.

The organisers reckoned about 600 people marched, and that seems a fair estimate. The police are saying about 100. Judging from photos, it was certainly more than that.

Whatever the true figure, it was more than enough to make an impact, stretching half-way down Stockwell Road. There was plenty of encouragement from the pavements and from passing cars and vans. Even a cabbie tooted his approval.

The crowd was cheerful and the chanting - while not the angriest I've heard - occasionally had some bite. I mean, we're library lovers, much more used to keeping quiet…instead of yelling in unison (and with Unsion at times), the following:

"No ifs,  no buts, no more Lambeth Library Cuts!"

"What do we want?"


"When do we want them?"


And many other much better ones whose words I have already lost….

In fact it was raining even harder in SW8 than it had been in SW2. But it didn't matter a jot. This was a real grassroots protest and as everyone knows, grass thrives on rain.

Almost the end of the road: after a warm welcome from Tate South Lambeth Library staff,  three young marchers went inside to hand a petition over to councillors, who were holding their surgeries.

So, the Lambeth councillors inside failed to come out into the rain to meet us (see more on this in the comments section of Brixton Buzz story).  Sad but not surprising. The time will come, maybe next Tuesday...

The next step: on Tuesday 10 November, there's a public meeting 6.30 pm at the Lilian Bayliss School, 323 Kennington Lane. It's a chance to question elected representatives on the library policy, so should not be missed!

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