Kensal Rise library, opened by Mark Twain in 1900, was closed by Brent Council in 2010 – despite dedicated protests by local people, writers and celebrities across the literary world.
Since the doors closed five years ago The Friends of Kensal Rise Library have continued to campaign to bring the library back into community hands – resisting council plans, rejecting proposals from developers, taking their case to the high court and even setting up a pop up library outside the building to continue to provide books for the community.
And finally their hard work, creativity and commitment has paid off.
We heard about the campaign to bring back the library. We heard that locals wanted to meet any developers who would be prepared to renovate the site, restore the historic building and at the same time return the ground floor library to the community.
And so we met with Margaret, Peter and the Trustees of The Friends of Kensal Rise Library. And we talked and we listened. And we decided that together we could make it work.
As our Director Peter Cadwallader said when we completed the purchase last week:
‘We're delighted to have the opportunity to restore this lovely building in a way which not only creates new homes but allows the community to bring back a much loved library and gathering place after a long and effective campaign. We have the utmost respect for the history associated with the building and the determined campaigning shown by locals to maintain a library service in the area.'
Margaret Bailey, Chair of FKRL, is understandably pleased and relieved too:
'Residents know how significant this moment is for the community. It has been a long and hard-fought campaign and we can now look forward to having the library at the heart of Kensal Rise once more. We have been in talks with Uplift Properties and we believe that their refurbishment will be sympathetic and they have taken seriously the importance of the library and public space for this community.”
Of course the hard work is now about to begin for both Uplift and The Friends of Kensal Rise Library. But that's ok. Work feels less hard when it's good.