Protest urged over library closures

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Public protest could prevent library closures, according to Alan Gibbons, Manchester-based children’s author and campaigner for Save Our Libraries.

Councils in Bradford, Doncaster and Manchester have all threatened to close libraries because they say they can no longer afford to run them.

Up to 500 libraries across the country have been threatened with the axe, sparking campaigns against the proposed closures.

More than 110 events took place on Save Our Libraries Day on 5 February, which saw mass read-ins and author talks in libraries across the UK. But Gibbons said more could still be done if groups worked together.

Right to read

“The government is taking the basic human right of being able to read away from us – they are cutting reading,” said Gibbons at a Manchester Coalition Against Cuts meeting at Central Hall, Oldham Street.

“They are taking away the right to read and the right to try and better yourself for a better job and a better life. In reality we need a revolt – we have got to do something about these library closures.”

The author ended his speech with a poem playing on Shadow Chancellor George Osborne’s Ballylemon baronetcy, including the line “He’s never Bally worked in his life”.

Lee Jasper, from Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) and Billy Hayes, general secretary of the Communications Workers Union, also spoke at the meeting.

Jasper, former equalities adviser to Ken Livingstone when he was mayor of London, talked about how the cuts are hitting black people.

“Cuts are affecting minority groups, black people and in particular black women. We need to make sure there is racial diversity, and the unions need to make sure they represent black people too,” he said.

Hayes said campaigners needed to take a “Gradgrind” approach to campaigning.

“Like the character in Charles Dickens, we need to look at the cold facts and numbers,” he said.

Unemployment rise

“We need to tell it like it is. Unemployment has risen and so has the deficit. We have to ask ourselves, what has been the result of the coalition government?”

The meeting was held to follow up the London March for the Alternative protest on 26 March. Suggestions were made for more demonstrations in Manchester.

A number of speakers from the floor voiced their opinions, including threatened alcohol unit Newbury House residents, Love Levenshulme Hate the Cuts members and disabled workers.

The group is urging people to vote in the local elections on 5 May and to protest against cuts to Access Advice and SureStart at a Manchester City Council scrutiny meeting on 25 May.

Alexandra Rucki

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