Folkestone protest to save library. Photo: Southern SP
Folkestone protest to save library. Photo: Southern SP

Eric Segal, Kent Socialist Party

When Tory-controlled Kent County Council (KCC) announced that Folkestone Library was to be permanently closed, South East Kent Trades Union Council (SEKTUC) made a public call for a demonstration against this decision. As well as book services, the library is the centre for registering births, marriages and deaths. It has a significant reference library and valuable local historical collections.

Local activists spread the word for a protest and within 24 hours of the call, a demonstration of around 120 people gathered outside the library demanding that it must be kept open. Anger against the threatened closure has spread quickly, shown by the support for the ‘Save Folkestone Library’ Facebook page.

We decided that the pressure must be maintained and so we called another demonstration and rally. Over 200 people, mums and children, young and old, marched from Tory MP Damien Collins’s offices, through the centre of Folkestone, to a rally outside the library. Red Unite the Union flags and the SEKTUC banner led the way.

The speakers demanded that the library remains open, pointing out that it has been the negligence of KCC and its elected representatives to fail to carry out the necessary maintenance on the 135-year-old Grade 2-listed library building that has caused damage to the building, not nesting seagulls.

KCC has proudly announced that it’s cut £820 million over the past twelve years and is now looking at further cuts including the library.

Collins, former minister in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, says he has a plan to save the library. But it is completely insufficient.

He says: “When libraries like this were first created they were very often the only places that people could access news, information or get hold of a book they wanted to read.”

He says “the world is very different now”. We say: “No it isn’t!”. Not everyone has a laptop or tablet or can afford to have Wi-Fi and access to the internet or afford to buy a book. Not everyone has a warm and secure place to study or read. That’s why we must fight to keep this library, not just for ourselves but for future generations. The fight continues against the cuts in Folkestone!