Harlow campaigners join library protest in Chelmsford

SIX hundred-and-forty-six people were counted marching on County Hall on Saturday at the Carnival for Libraries in Chelmsford. They braved the wind and rain in response to Essex County Council plans to close sixty per cent of the county’s libraries.

On reaching County Hall they heard speeches from Saint John Payne Head Tom Coen, eleven year old Josefine Blackman, and representatives of different library campaigns.

In spirit with the carnival atmosphere there was also music from Sarah Bligh and the One Tree Hillbillies, comedy from Greg Edwards, and performance poetry from acclaimed Wivenhoe poet Martin Newell.

The campaign has recently won the backing of top celebrities, including David Walliams, Billy Bragg, and David Baddiel.

“Other than the weather which was more October than June, the day went very well”, said Carnival organiser Andy Abbott. “In response to plans to close up to sixty per cent of our libraries – a third to be axed outright while nearly another third are in danger because of an entirely unsustainable plan to run them voluntarily without paid staff – Essex has seen an unprecedented level of protest. Sixty-thousand have signed petitions. Hundreds upon hundreds have protested in towns and villages. And now our county town has seen the two largest protests it has seen in decades. The message to Essex County Council is loud and clear. Essex says no this act of cultural vandalism.”

“One thing should be made very clear. If there has been any drop in usage it is already down to council cuts. In response to austerity libraries had their opening hours cut and the number of books were cut. Imagine if a book shop did business like this? It would lose customers.”

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