The ‘Save Kensal Rise Library Campaign’ has suffered a further setback, following a recent meeting with All Souls in which it was announced that the College is selling the library to a property developer to be turned into flats.
Campaigners who call themselves ‘The Friends of Kensal Rise Library’ held a rally on Saturday outside All Souls in the hope that Fellows would use it as an opportunity “to discuss a more meaningful future for Kensal Rise Library.”
Margaret Bailey, a Director of the campaign, said, “We invited the Warden and Bursar to come to speak to us on that occasion. They de- clined, but we have been invited to a further meeting on 20th November 2012. We have asked to meet with the College on other occasions and have been referred to Cluttons their property agents.”
They have also written an open letter to the College which expresses that they feel “misled” by the college. The letter, which has been sent to the Warden and all of the Fellows of All Souls individually, describes the college’s move as a “breach of faith.” In the letter Bailey said, “We represent a larger community that sees the Col- lege’s current proposal as nothing short of a breach of faith with this relatively poor area of north-west London, from which it has already profited handsomely.”
She continued, “Although the College do- nated the land, the library building from which the College and Mr Gillick now seek to profit was not paid for by the College, but by public subscription and a donation from Andrew Car- negie, the philanthropist.”
In a press release, campaigners asserted, “The Friends of Kensal Rise Library were shocked at a recent meeting with the College’s Bursar, Mr Thomas Seaman, to be told that the College was selling the library to a property developer to be turned into flats.
“On the 3rd August 2012 Mr Seaman, Bursar of All Souls, claimed that “this building will not be turned into flats. In reality the entirety of the old library is to be converted for residential use, with only a small part of the new building re- maining available for rent by the library.”
Campaigner Laura Collingon told Cherwell, “We are very disappointed by the way that All Souls’ have behaved so far. They assured us that the building would not be turned into flats but they are now saying that this will happen.
“However, they have said that we have persuaded them that there should be a library on the site. I don’t think this will be possible if we are shut out of our historic library building and forced into a tiny space where we have to pay a market rent to an unsympathetic property de- veloper, which is what is currently suggested by All Souls.”
She continued, “This is not a sustainable future for the library. It would be shocking if an educational institution like All Souls persisted in putting profit before learning.”
Bailey remains hopeful about the future, telling Cherwell, “We have a meeting with the college on 20th November and we hope the discussion will be productive.”
The library, opened in 1900 by Mark Twain, has been a source of tension between All Souls and the community in Kensal Rise. The cam- paign has been supported by numerous literary figures, including Alan Bennett, Philip Pullman, Zadie Smith, Jacqueline Wilson and Maggie Gee, as well as the Royal Society of Literature.