More than 320 people packed out Wednesday night's powerful Save Newcastle Libraries public rally - called in response to Newcastle Council's plans to axe 10 of the cities 18 libraries
“Culture and learning are for everyone. It's absolutely fundamental that we don't give it away.”
- Lee Hall
The keynote address was delivered by Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall who has spent the last two months engaged in a very public spat with Council Leader Nick Forbes over plans to close the libraries and cut all public funding for local arts bodies.
In a call-to-focus pressure on the councillors he said “we need to pick off every local councillor, one by one. We have to barrack them, petition them with the fiscal arguments, with the cultural arguments and ...we should call on each one of them to defend the libraries, especially the ones in their ward”
He received several standing ovations and continued: “We do not have a right to stand by and let them do this. These things have been fought for tooth and nail for generations and generations ... by little pit laddies in the dark and all those generations of people who were exploited by commerce, who were deprived the right to read and learn and share the very basic things of life that are just normal for the rich and cultured.
Joining him on the platform was top-selling North-east based crime writer Ann Cleeves who was recently commissioned by New Writing North to produce an essay celebrating the importance of libraries in their community in the light of the council's plans to close over half of its 18 libraries.
She said "I was angry about the closure of Newcastle's libraries before I spent time at Cruddas Park library: now I'm furious...We shouldn't be planning to close Cruddas Park but to develop it. In communities like this, libraries provide people's only access to the arts. So let's use these safe, welcoming spaces to introduce people to poetry, music and drama as well as to books."
Other speakers included branch secretary of Newcastle City Paul Gilroy, local playwright Peter Mortimer and Librarian Rachel Kirk.
The rally received blanket coverage from the local media with 3 camera crews and a number of journalists from the local papers and newswebsites. It made front page news of The Journal and was featured prominently on the BBC's regional news programme Look North.
Local Coalition of Resistance activists initiated the Save Newcastle Libraries campaign with a public meeting attended by 120 last November. Since then the campaign has gone from strength-to-strength organizing a 150 strong march and sit-in of Newcastle Council chambers and a a well publicised petition on 38 degrees which currently has more than 3400 signatures.
To find our more and to support the Save Newcastle Libraries campaign please visit: savenewcastlelibraries.org
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