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Hundreds turn out to support Sydenham Library read-in with Baroness Warnock and Lucy Mangan

Location: UK » London » SE
Hundreds turn out to support Sydenham Library read-in with Baroness Warnock and Lucy Mangan

Sydenham locals turned out in their hundreds for Sydenham Library’s read-in on Saturday.  Sydenham Library is under threat of closure along with New Cross, Blackheath, Grove Park and Crofton Park in Lewisham.  Campaigners organised a celebration which included readings by local authors and members of the teenage reading group, a singing and music session for children, a visit from the Itinerant Poetry Librarian and an appearance by dub group Sly and Reggie performing their song ‘We Love Libraries’ from their Morris Minor.

Life peer and philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock lead the readings with extracts from David Lodge’s Deaf Sentence, while Guardian Columnist Lucy Mangan closed the read-in with an extract from her novel ‘The Reluctant Bride’.

Mangan said: “Libraries mean so much to so many people and to a sector of people that fly under politicians’ radars. That’s why it’s important to come along, raise awareness, make our feelings known to them, the big them.”
“There is enough money in this country ... if it’s taken from the right people and political will is there to not deprive the already deprived institutions and communities further.”
Baroness Warnock said of the proposed closure: “Sydenham library is one of many under threat. It must be one of the most beautiful library buildings. In times of economic misery and unemployment we need more not less consolation from libraries, more access to newspapers, books and computers, more places to sit, research and make friends. It is barbarism to close it.”

Also participating in the read-ins were author and poet Chrissie Gittins who read her poem ‘Longing to be Heard’ which she penned in honour of Sydenham Library, authors of illustrated children’s books Jim Helmore and Karen Wall read their new book ‘Oh No Monster Tomato’, and local author Julie Day who read an extract from her novel ‘Rosie and the Sick School’.  Two members of the teenage reading group introduced as Alice and Meliz meet weekly at the library.  Together they read from Knife Edge by Malorie Blackman.

Making an appearance outside the library were middle-class dub group Sly and Reggie on their tour of Lewisham libraries under threat of closure. They sang their song ‘We Love Libraries’ from their Morris Minor with built-in sound system.

The event culminated in the cutting of a cake by Baroness Mary Warnock and a somewhat failed balloon release sabotaged by Saturday’s high winds.

Sydenham Library is a popular library with around 6,000 visitors each month.  A decision on the future of the library has been postponed until 17th February.  Lewisham Council is currently reviewing bids from independent groups to take over the library.

Anthony Scully, Chair of the Save Sydenham Library campaign said: “There has been an amazing turn out today which is a true reflection of the community’s strength of feeling for our library. There has been a real party atmosphere with food and drink being donated by well-wishers and local businesses.”

With regard to the future of the library, Mr. Scully said: “We feel that the building and library service should remain in the ownership of the council.  We would be happy for independent groups to come in and contribute to the running of the library, but to shift the building or services from the control of the council risks the library’s future should anything happen to the group that takes over the ownership”

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