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Lionel Shriver defends free speech at Library fundraiser in Kensal Rise

PUBLISHED: 18:20 01 February 2018 | UPDATED: 18:50 01 February 2018

Lionel Shriver at a fundraiser in support of Kensal Rise Library (Picture: Margaret Bailey)

Lionel Shriver at a fundraiser in support of Kensal Rise Library (Picture: Margaret Bailey)

Archant

Free speech was a topic discussed between two writers at a library’s fundraising evening in Kensal Rise.

Lionel Shriver (Picture: Eamonn McCabe)Lionel Shriver (Picture: Eamonn McCabe)

Award winning author Lionel Shriver was in conversation with journalist Tim Lott at a ‘thought-provoking” evening on January 28 that raised more than £1,000 for the Kensal Rise Library in Bathurst Gardens.

Speaking about free speech the We Need to Talk About Kevin author, said: “Free speech is about allowing people to express ideas that we may find horrific.

“These days, whenever this topic is raised, people rush to qualify, and cite all the instances in which free speech should be curtailed.

“We need more bravery here, and more determination to return to first principles.

“Most of all, we have to strike down this notion that there is such a thing as a “right not to be offended.”

“There is no such right. To the contrary, it is your right to say things that offend me that it’s most important to protect.

“In a time when many are “offended” merely by hearing opinions with which they differ, a right to not be offended means nothing less than the end of free speech altogether.”

The library, first opened by Mark Twain in 1900, was closed alongside five others by Brent Council in 2011 to save £1million-a-year.

Residents formed Friends of Kensal Rise Library (FKRL) following the closure and after the branch was axed they launched a successful seven year battle to be allocated space within the new building to open a community-run reading room.

Supporters have managed to raise more than £200,000, which goes towards the refurbishment of the empty space and towards the first year of operations.

Margaret Bailey, chairwoman of FKRL, commented: “We are grateful for the talk given by Lionel. She is absolutely right. We do need to talk. Closing down debate is a very dangerous path to go down. We would not have saved our library without a challenge to those that wanted to close it.

“If we had not spoken out and campaigned we would not be where we are now – looking forward to opening our library in the spring of this year.”

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