We Love Highgate Library campaign provokes emotional response from residents

Charlotte Newton

BEST-SELLING authors, renowned actors and people of all ages and backgrounds turned out in force this week to show their vehement opposition to the possible closure of Highgate library.

Roger Lloyd Pack, best-known for his role as Trigger in the TV sitcom Only Fools and Horses, his wife, poet Jehane Markham, best-selling authors Tracy Chevalier and Julian Barnes, writer Mark Piggott and Frank Dobson MP, were among the impressive line-up of public speakers who took part in the two-hour meeting on Saturday.

The actors and authors performed readings and stirring speeches as part of the We Love Highgate Library campaign, to illustrate why the Chester Road library must be saved.

Mr Lloyd Pack, who lives in Kentish Town, read the poem There was a Naughty Boy, by John Keats. He denounced the council’s consultation – which gives Camden residents an opportunity to comment on which library they wished to close – as “tautological madness”.

“It’s like saying we’re going to war but we want peace,” roared Mr Lloyd Pack who is the President of the Friends of the Library.

Afterwards he told the Ham&High: “Books are lovely things; they are an object to hold, a friend. They are part of what makes us civilised people and it beggars belief that they [the council and government] should want to close libraries. It’s the only way for children to learn about the world of imagination. If they don’t have books at home, the only way for them to do this is through libraries.”

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He said Camden’s consultation was “insulting and patronising”.

“None of these options is acceptable; it’s like saying would you rather have your left or right foot cut off?

“Libraries are a civilising influence on people. This country has one of the lowest standards of literacy which is shameful considering our legacy and language. We should be encouraging children to relish language and stories.”

The author Mark Piggott, of Cathcart Hill, read an extract from his novel Fire Horses. He told the packed library why he had joined the campaign to save it.

“From a young age, I saw libraries as a place where you could seek refuge. They are not just a place where you can read and learn,” he said.

He added that he had spent hours in the library with his two children, both of whom are at Brookfield Primary School.

“It’s a great place for children to be, where they can touch and look at books; it gives them a love of reading. There are parts of the community that you can’t put a monetary value on. There aren’t enough places where you can meet indoors, where you’re not expected to part with money.”

Sarah Sutcliffe, 42, of Bromwich Avenue has three children aged 10, seven and four.

Mrs Sutcliffe who was among the throng of concerned Brookfield parents, told the Ham&High: “My children go to Brookfield and everybody’s talking about this. The kids at the school use the library all the time. No one wants it to close, which is why we’ve all come here.

“The library is at the heart of the community. It’s used by people all over this area and it would be a disaster if it closed.

“There would never be a community space here again if it’s lost. We should be doing everything we can to save a space like this for future generations. If we want a literate society people need to carry on learning and reading.”

o There will be a public meeting on the future of Heath Library in Keats Grove on Wednesday March 16 at 8pm.