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Dame Joan Bakwell tight-lipped about Chalk Farm Library donors

PUBLISHED: 09:00 25 November 2011

Dame Joan Bakewell is patron of the campaign to keep Chalk Farm Library open. Picture: Polly Hancock

Dame Joan Bakewell is patron of the campaign to keep Chalk Farm Library open. Picture: Polly Hancock

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Veteran broadcaster Joan Bakewell has spent a glittering career unafraid of strident straight talk about sex, nudity and much more.

But the Primrose Hill resident of more than 50 years is uncharacteristically tight-lipped about potential donors she is approaching to raise £1.2million to keep Chalk Farm Library open.

Speaking to the Ham&High this week, Dame Joan said: “I’m engaging with people we hope will contribute to the appeal. We’ll ask a broad range of people.

“What I’m not going to do is offer you a string of celebrity names – I know that would make the headline – and, in any case, I haven’t approached people like that. It may be part of it later.”

She is working in her role as patron of the community campaign to take over the library in Sharpleshall Street, after Camden Council decided it could no longer afford to keep it open.

Primrose Hill Community Association and the Friends of Chalk Farm Library are now forming plans to take ownership of the branch.

Dame Joan has been an avid user of the library ever since it first opened when her daughter was three years old and she now makes fortnightly visits and borrows DVDs to watch with her grandchildren.

She remains cautiously optimistic about the community’s chances of securing the future of the cherished library despite the scale of the challenge ahead.

“I’m not in despair and I’m optimistic – which means I’m about seven out of ten confident,” she revealed.

Despite her efforts to support the community takeover, Dame Joan remains a staunch advocate of the need for libraries to be publicly funded.

“Categorically I believe that this library should be funded by Camden and I hold the government to blame for imposing cuts on local authorities that make it imperative that they cut,” she said.

“I think they’re making the wrong cuts but I agree when they say, ‘It wasn’t our fault, we were told to do it by the government.’”

And she says the cost of hardback books and electronic alternatives such as Kindles make libraries ever more vital – even in the digital age.

The many different people Dame Joan encounters at Chalk Farm Library have also inspired her passion for the space – which could yet prove an invaluable asset to the community campaign to keep it open.

“You see tramps keeping out of the cold, you see a lot of old people who like the social aspect of calling in, you see a section of mums with toddlers, you see everyone, it’s a community,” she said.

“I’m very keen that we keep the library and that it keeps being this important centre of the community. I do think there are a lot of civic-minded people that will come to our help and we’re blessed for that.”


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