Sunday 11 November 2012

"Have a soul, All Souls!"

This Saturday, the 10th of November, there was a protest outside the prestigious gold-leaf-covered gate of All Souls College, Oxford.  As an Oxford-based author, I went along to show some solidarity, although the protesters had been there for hours by the time I managed to arrive (delayed by guests and then by an accident that held up traffic on the Botley Road).

The people who stood there on the pavement from eleven o'clock till three were the concerned friends of Kensal Rise Library, in Brent, young and old, mums and dad and kids in pushchairs, who had come on a coach all the way up to Oxford, to ask All Souls College - one of the wealthiest colleges of the University of Oxford - not to sell Kensal Rise Library to a developer, Platinum Revolver Ltd, who wants to turn it into flats.

In case you don't already know the story, Kensal Rise Library was built by public subscription, and was opened in 1900 by Mark Twain on land belonging to All Souls.  You can find out more about it here, and read a description by Maggie Gee of what it used to be like, here.  Unfortunately that was before Brent Council summarily removed all the books and shut it down in October last year

The question now is whether All Souls, to whom building and land has now reverted, will act responsibly, and in the spirit of the original foundation - and restore the building to the community?

You can help by signing the petition , and joining the facebook group Save Kensal Rise Library.

You'll see in the top right hand corner of this picture, a reference to All Souls' famous "Codrington Library".  It would be easy to argue that All Souls ought to be just as proud or even prouder of Kensal Rise, which might not be as old as the Codrington Library, but at least wasn't founded by a man who made his fortune from the Jamaica plantations. (Christopher Codrington (1668–1710).  But why should either library be endangered?

The latest news - after a highly successful and visible day out - comes from library campaigner Jodi Gramigni.  She says, "All Souls were invited to join us, and although they weren't available on the day, a meeting to discuss their plans for Kensal Rise library is scheduled in a week's time."

Let's hope the news will be good news.


 All photos copyright Simone Gramigni


  1. This is horrible: to turn the library into flats! I mean...who can even come up with such idea?! I hope your protest will be heard and taken into account. All the best!

  2. Great you went to this, Kath - I couldn't make it. Hoping the meeting next week will be positive.

  3. What is this crazy thing about closing libraries? They haven't yet come for public libraries where I live, but with school libraries being understaffed or staffed by non professionals and sometimes closed to save money, who is going to want to go to the public library in a few years? :-( surely this library you mention should be protected as a heritage building if nothing else?