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Brent Council spends £3,500 on artwork for Willesden Green Library....days before it will be closed for good

PUBLISHED: 16:14 18 April 2013 | UPDATED: 16:22 18 April 2013

Residents have criticised the art-project at Willesden Green Library Centre

Residents have criticised the art-project at Willesden Green Library Centre

Jonathan Goldberg

Building will be demolished to make way for cultural centre and flats

Cash-strapped council chiefs have been criticised for spending thousands on an art project in Willesden Green Library – days before it is due to be closed for good.

The town hall commissioned work from artists who have been asked to paint large “murals” on the front of the soon-to-be-emptied building which includes the popular Willesden Bookshop, closed just a few months ago.

Brent Council, which is battling to save £100million over four years, claims the £3,500 project will celebrate the past and future of the library in High Road, Willesden, ahead of its demolition and redevelopment.

Artists will also work together with schoolchildren to create signs pointing residents in the direction of temporary facilities while the rebuild takes place.

But residents who have been fighting against the rebuild for more than a year have criticised the move as double standards, rubbing salt into the wounds of their failed campaigns.

Kate Spence, a member of campaign group Keep Willesden Green (KWG), told the Times: “Clearly it [the library area] is regarded as a well-used public space or it would not have been seen to be fit for investment for school projects and installations such as this.”

A major part of KWG’s efforts to halt the development centred on attempts to register the area in front the library as a town or public square.

But they failed to stop the plan to knock down the library and rebuilt as a cultural centre plus 95 private flats.

Tony Antiono, chairman of Brent’s Safer Neighbourhoods Team, said: “Why is the council wasting money? We are already suffering with cutting costs and we are trying to cut back. My concerns are that it could encourage graffiti in the area as well.”

In a series of emails leaked to the Times and sent to councillors and council officers, angry residents accuse them of showing “ignorance and disregard” for residents.

One says: “I now seem to live in the Bronx not Willesden. It’s truly ridiculous, the complete ignorance and disregard shown for residents. Will there be similar projects pencilled in for Brent’s lovely new town hall? No, thought not.”

In response Beth Kay, a member of the council’s regeneration and major projects team, sent an email to Willesden Green ward councillors saying: “We are aware that the graffiti art has had mixed reactions from residents.

“To counter the negative comments you have received please see below some of the comments received on site.” It lists unattributed comments such as “wow it’s beautiful” and “thank goodness someone is brightening the place up”. The artwork will be boarded up at the end of May.

A spokesman for Brent Council said the murals had been done free of charge, but added: “The three murals, which are going to be installed on the high road, will cost £3,500 for design and installation and will double up as signage for temporary services for the next 18 months.”

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