Brent Council strips Kensal Rise Library of its contents at 3am

Campaigners slam ‘spiteful’ decision but vow to carry on the fight

Campaigners have slammed a ‘spiteful’ decision to strip an axed library branch of its contents at 3am this morning (Tuesday).

Brent Council emptied the contents of Kensal Rise Library surrounded by police and security men days after they promised to listen to the community after meeting with campaigners.

The clearance comes just two weeks after protestors managed to hold off an attempted removal by forming a blockade in front of the building’s entrance.

Cllr Muhammed Butt, the new leader of the council, eventually called off the operation after agreeing to listen to the community.

However, days after Cllr Butt met campaigners the decision was still taken to remove all of the books and a selection of 1930’s murals painted especially for the building in the middle of the night.

Margaret Bailey, a campaigner and member of the Friends of Kensal Rise (FOKR) campaign branded the move ‘spiteful.’

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She told the Times: “Somebody rang me at around 2.30am this morning and we saw police officers and officials emptying the building.

“There were too many of them for us to be able to do anything.

“We were under the impression that the council would speak to All Soul’s before emptying the building but this is a really spiteful move.”

Kensal rise residents and award-winning writer Maggie Gee OBE and Vice President of Royal Society of Literature, has also slammed the move.

She said: “The cowardice of the council in stripping Kensal Rise library, and the philistinism of unscrewing the brass plaque remembering Mark Twain from its wall in the middle of the night, would horrify anyone who still recalls Labour’s founding mission to share education, knowledge and hope with the people.

“We will continue to fight for our library.”

Last year, Brent Council, under the leadership of Cllr Ann John OBE closed six libraries in the borough including the Victorian reading room in Kensal Rise, which was opened by American author Mark Twain.

The building was recently handed back to its owners; All Souls College in Oxford scuppering campaigners plans to run a cost free community library at the site.

It was alleged he told campaigners the books would have to be removed ‘at some point’ but added that the murals could be kept in the building.

Ms Bailey added: “We were assured the murals would not be taken and we have given Brent every opportunity to listen to us and hear what we have to say.

“The new leader was making noises about being our friend but it doesn’t seem like much has changed.

“We will speak to All Souls from now on; it will be a relief to not have to deal with Brent anymore.”

Campaigners will be protesting against the move outside the library at 3.30pm this afternoon and have urged council officials to come and speak to them.

Cllr James Powney, Brent Council’s lead member for environment and neighbourhood, who oversaw the closures told the Times the removal was agreed on the advice of the police.

He said: “We acted on the advice of police that this would be the best time to complete the removal because last time it was halted.

“The books were always going to be removed and I believe the campaigners were aware of that.

“The remaining books will now be redistributed among the other libraries for Brent’s library users.”

He added: “I have not seen the murals but we have a duty to protect council property and we will need to discuss what to do with them as well.”

The move to close Barham Park, Cricklewood, Kensal Rise, Neasden, Preston and Tokyngton libraries will save the local authority �1m.

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