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Author said closing libraries is child abuse during campaign event

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Author Alan Bennett put Kensal Rise Library on the map last night after making controversial comments during a campaign event to save the reading room from closure.

The 77-year-old author told a packed audience that “closing libraries is child abuse” during a speech at the sold-out event held in St Martins Church in Mortimer Road, Kensal Green.

Mr Bennett added that he felt morally obliged to take part in the campaign and that “once a library goes, it doesn’t come back”.

He said he did not support the plan to have a super-library in Brent and said that “libraries have to be local… the early part of a child’s reading life is vital”.

The Talking Heads and Madness of King George playwright also read from his diaries to the audience of more than 400 people.

Kensal Rise Library in College Road is one of six in the borough which will close its doors for good in the summer.

Tokyngton, Preston, Barham Park, Neasden and Cricklewood libraries are also facing the axe in a cost-cutting exercise to save Brent Council £1million.

Margaret Bailey, co-chair of the Friends of Kensal Rise Library which is running the campaign, said: “Not only was it a great honour to have such a great writer at our event. It was heartening to have someone of that stature support our campaign.

“He’s regarded with lots of affection by people. He himself acknowledged that he would not be where he is now without having access to libraries growing up.”

The event raised several thousand pounds which will be used to mount a legal challenge against Brent Council.

Ms Bailey said: “Mr Bennett was fully supportive of that.”

She also praised people from the community who helped out, including the local vicar and people who donated cakes, food and drink for the event.

Library campaigners have written to Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, urging him to step in to overturn the decision made by Brent Council.

The council announced all six libraries would be axed despite 82 per cent of residents who took part in a consultation process saying they were against the closures.

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