St James St Library Campaign

Campaign progress report, Nov 2010
November 29, 2010, 8:11 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Janet Wright of the St James St Library Campaign gave this report on what progress has been made, in the public meeting on 28th Nov.


I’m glad to say St James Street Library Campaign has already made a lot of progress since the summer.

For a start, we’re now working with local politicians, including our new MP Stella Creasy (who sent a message of support this evening) and our new councillor Clare Coghill.

We’ve had a meeting with Cllr Afzal Akram, who was planning to put the library building up for auction. That would have meant a cheap sale, probably to a developer. But as a result of our meeting, Cllr Akram has given us a bit of time to seek a tenant for the building, or a more suitable buyer.  This is already a big step forward after our years of trying to talk to the council, and we hope to continue this dialogue with further negotiations.

After the meeting with Cllr Akram, we sent a message out far and wide, and have had some very positive responses, including at least one potential purchaser who would be good news for the area. We’re not putting all our eggs in one basket, so we’re also looking into several other options.

We’ve been in touch with groups that might be interested in sharing a tenancy of the building, or in being lead tenants with us with us having use of some of the space.

Our ever-growing network reached an urban-regeneration organization in Brussels. We’ve already had one meeting with its director, who gave us some helpful leads for possible funding and resources. He was very supportive and we hope to have further meetings.

We’ve put in an application to NESTA (the UK National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts). It’s an independent organization that promotes innovation in the UK, and we are waiting to find out if we have been shortlisted.

David Cameron is talking about The Big Society Bank. The money is apparently meant to fund community projects. We’re inviting him to put his money – our money — where his mouth is and send some of it our way. We reckon we’re out ahead because we’re already set up and ready to go.

Stella Creasy has organized us a meeting in December with Bert Provan, deputy director of the government’s Department of Communities and Local Government, to find out about the potential for government funding or support with our search for other sources of money.

We’re also doing research into community funding models such as bond issues, which might enable us to buy the library building ourselves.

And we put in a bid to the council for a survey to map community needs. This application was successful, and we’re now pushing the council to get the mapping carried out. Having these official statistics will support us in our further applications to other organisations.

So as you can see, we’ve not only done a lot of work on keeping the building from being sold to developers. We’ve also made progress on funding it for the uses we all want to see in our reopened library building.

And now we need help from you on the next steps towards making that happen.

Thank you,

Janet Wright

Public Meeting – tell your friends!
November 20, 2010, 9:49 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Public Meeting

The future of St James St Library building?

What do you think should happen to it?

•Come and share your views with St James Street Library Campaign, Blackhorse Action Group, MP Stella Creasy and  Cllr Clare Coghill, Senior Citizens Asian Group.

Sunday 28th November 2010


Blackhorse Road Baptist Church Hall

(Corner of Southcote Road & Blackhorse Road, entrance on Southcote Road)

•Waltham Forest Council want to sell it to the highest bidder and it may never be a community space again.  What do you think?

•St James Street Library are campaigning to keep the building open as a community centre, and are looking to raise funds to buy the building.
•Your views are important, and will show the Council that the local residents really care about what happens in their area.

It’s the last chance to save the building

The people of St James & Coppermill community speak
November 8, 2010, 2:53 pm
Filed under: campaigning

The people of St James & Coppermill community speak:

“What we think should become of the St James Library building”

Compiled Sat 3rd July 2010 by St James Street Library Campaign


“OAP groups, teenage group space, toddler groups, single parent associations, special needs groups, Citizens Advice, party rooms”  Karen Reed, Haroldstone Road E17

“I want to use it as a community centre, because there is nothing around here.  And we need something for the whole community to benefit.  Especially young people”   JK Mensah, Coppermill Lane

“It  could be a place to share ideas and knowledge about different religions and cultures”  Shamin Aktar, Glenthorne Road

“We would like this area used for the community.  An area where children can come, especially for classes or groups such as toddler groups, reading area or for classes such as yoga.  Definetly for all the community”   The Walsh family

“Community centre- things for everybody- exercise classes, childrens parties, events for the elderly” Hargreaves family

“Important to keep it as a community building, for yoga studio, food co-op, art workshops or community support”    Anna Bushan, Riverside Close

“Reading room, toddler group, computer training, meeting place for the community”    Mohebat Ali, Hazelwood Road

“Would like to see the library re-opened and used as a library and other community engagements such as local surgeries”   Justine and Matthew Wilkinson  Haroldstone Road  E17

“Toddler groups, young people community group, rooms for rent for meetings or parties”  Chad Leonce, Rensburg Road

“A library”  Christine Roberts, Hervey Park Road

“A library or community centre”  Steve and Sharon, Edward Road

“St James Street needs all the help it can get.  Closing the library was the nail in the coffin.  No community facilities will not help the community”  L. Haukim*


“Would love to see library re-opened, my exams are coming up and I would love a space to revise in” Vernisha Campbell

“A community centre, maybe a youth group for children 11+, a homework or quiet study zone.  Hold exercise classes or yoga for all ages.  A venue to host a club for the elderly”    Rachel and Kier Lawson, Salop Road

“Playgroups, arts& crafts, youth clubs, space for parties, teaching rooms to help kids with maths and English” Dee Mistry, Morland Road E17

“Community centre not a drug centre, a space for the local children and young teenagers” April Beeson, Rensburg Road

“Library and somewhere for various clubs for young children”  Louise Mitchell,  Cazenove Road

“Reading for teenagers.  Could be based on computers as part of the scheme so they don’t feel threatened or self conscious.  Teenage material of course.  Maybe with some music in the background”

“Homework club that kids need somewhere on the weekend.  Some younger secondary school students and older primary not allowed to go to central library on their own as they are worried about gangs”

“It’s a real strain going to central library.  Its too far for the kids to go by themselves to Central.  It would give them independence if they could go to the end of Coppermill Lane. Also a space for older people”  Coral Jepson, Chester Road



“A space for the Community Council to meet, could hold it more regularly or during daytime for elderly people, like they do in Priory Court”   B. Marsh, Pretoria Road

“OAP centre, reading room, council meeting centre, toddler group, arts and crafts”    Mussarat Butt, Coppermill Lane

“A friendly home from home for people who are old or disabled and don’t have chance to go out much”*

“My father is 85 and he used the old library a lot as he lives in Hazelwood Road.  This gave him the opportunity and reason to come out of the house”  Zahoor Ahmed, Markhouse Road*


“Would love library back or rooms opened for community space- yoga, reading room, arts and crafts, toddler groups, play sessions in school holidays, computer and internet basic training and teaching” Amanda Simonson and daughter Azrael

“Use it for craft classes and have sewing machines.  I could show people how to use the sewing machines”   Florrie Cleary, Leucha Road

“Sewing and Cake making classes”

“Music venue- one off gigs, folk club, lessons, jam sessions” Chloe, Lloyd Road

“It should be a library, or have fitness centre, mini-cinema or language centre”  Jasmin Begum

“The library helped me a lot when I just arrived to the country, when I didn’t know the neighbourhood at all. I got all what I needed from it, information, culture, leisure”  Lamia Berrant Hazelwood Road*

Other ideas for community uses we collected by email submissions in July 2010:

  • Local artist exhibition space
  • Community language schools
  • Space for job finders
  • Welcome new arrivals to the community
  • Councillor surgeries
  • Adult education classes
  • Homework club
  • Computer and internet centre
  • Gardening clubs
  • Photography clubs
  • Bike maintenace and repairs
  • Food co-op distribution centre
  • Community toilets
  • Baby change
  • Arts and crafts


*Quotes compiled in 2007

Love St James Street Library event
November 8, 2010, 2:52 pm
Filed under: press releases

4 July 2010

Walthamstow residents turned out on Saturday [3 July] to celebrate a much-loved building and call on the council to bring it back into community use.

“It was a beautiful sunny day,” said Mo Gallaccio, who organised the ‘Love St James Street Library’ event. “We promised to provide a fun day for all the family and we did!”


St James Street Library, closed since 2007, was decorated with flowers and artworks, including a mobile of toy animals reading books under a colourful umbrella. Supporters brought homemade cakes to share and musicians entertained the crowd. Among the decorations were banners including residents’ many ideas for community use of the building.


The ‘open-air library’ – a book-swap stall run by a group of library-lovers with donated books – attracted readers of all ages, just as the real library used to. Children who hadn’t brought a swap ‘paid’ for their books with drawings which were then displayed.

New MP Stella Creasey joined in the ‘Love St James Street Library’ event, as did councillors Clare Coghill and Liaquat Ali.

“To have two ward Councillors and an MP join us was encouraging,” said Ms Gallaccio. “We were able to make the point that there is very strong local feeling about the need for a space which serves all the community.”

Sale would be another scandal
November 8, 2010, 2:51 pm
Filed under: press releases

5 October 2010

Council plans to sell St James Street Library would create yet another Waltham Forest scandal, warn campaigners.

“With the town-centre arcade site vacant for over a decade, the EMD cinema neglected since 2003 and Walthamstow stadium still empty, surely Waltham Forest doesn’t need the anger caused by another boarded-up public building?” says Janet Wright, a member of St James Street Library Campaign.

The council admitted on Monday [4 October] that it intends to sell the library, despite Cllr Afzal Akram’s recent promise to consult local residents before putting the building on the sales list. It was closed without warning in April 2007, to save £70,000 a year towards a pay rise of £230,000 for councillors.

“The buyer would be the only person to benefit from this fire-sale of public property,” says Janet Wright. “The council has been wasting £20,000 a year on guarding the empty building, while the exterior becomes derelict. We have been asking the council to do its duty, find a tenant for the building to cover running costs in the short term, and allow part of it to be used by the community.”

The densely populated Coppermill Lane area has few facilities, so plans for yet more flats with no added infrastructure would be strongly opposed by residents.

Instead, residents have been asking the council to co-operate in putting the library back into community use. Experienced local fundraisers have offered to help reduce the council’s costs still further. Detailed proposals to form a community trust (which could bring in external funds to cover community projects in the building) have been put forward to Cllr Akram and to ward councillors, who say they would be enthusiastic.

November 8, 2010, 2:46 pm
Filed under: latest news

St James Street Library Campaign press release 7 Nov 2010

Walthamstow campaigners are racing against the clock to save their former library. And they’re calling on David Cameron’s planned Big Society Bank to back them.

Waltham Forest council wants to auction the St James Street Library building, valued at £350,000. But it has given protesters till the end of the year to offer an alternative. If they find a tenant who will let them share the building, the council will consider renting it out.

New Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy is taking campaigners to meet communities minister Greg Clark, who will be overseeing the Big Society Bank. With a cooperative lead tenant using the office space, campaigners hope to create an arts and community centre. And, they say, they have realistic plans.


“There are so many things local people want to do with the space,” says Janet Wright, of St James Street Library Campaign. “No one would consider funding us till we had use of the building, but the council wouldn’t even speak to us until last month. Being offered the chance of renting it is a breakthrough – if we can do it in the time.”

Local estate agents say the 395-square-metre building is worth about £30,000 a year in rent.

“There’s a huge unmet need in this area,” say campaigners. “The building is at the heart of a densely populated area with few public amenities. The library offered books and a social space and so much more. We can recreate part of that, and add some of the new ideas local people have come up with.”


St James Street Library was closed without consultation in 2007, sparking a campaign that has fought off earlier efforts to dispose of the building. The library was used by many old people during the day and by parents with children on the way home from primary schools. Students living in overcrowded housing did their homework there.

The council has ruled out reopening the library, which cost £70,000 a year. But local people have drawn up plans for an arts and community centre including a reading room, meeting rooms, workshops and a gallery — the borough has a large number of artists and the last council-owned artists’ workshops are currently being demolished.

“The economics of selling it to developers don’t make sense,” says Janet Wright. “We would lose an irreplaceable asset and whoever bought it would get a bargain, subsidised by the public. We don’t need more flats. We need facilities for the people living here. Leaving it empty costs at least £20,000 a year in security. If we had use of the building, we could provide many of the services that have been missing since the library closed.”

The campaigners are looking at various financing options and welcome all offers of practical and financial support from the community.


Contact Alison Griffin, or

Janet Wright,

Buy or rent the library!
November 8, 2010, 2:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

At a meeting with St James Street Library Campaign last week (20th Oct 2010), Cllr Akram said that if we can find someone who will buy or rent SJS library and allow us to use part of the ground floor, he’ll consider their offer. Otherwise he’ll put it into auction in January.

At last we’ve got a chance to make the library a well-used asset again, as it was up till the closure in 2007. It will be good for everyone if we can do it. The council will be getting income instead of paying to keep it empty. Local people will have a place to drop in and children will have space to do their homework. After three and a half years, people are still asking us when they’re going to have it back in use.

If it’s sold, it will be a bargain to the buyer. So it’s best if that’s an organisation that will at least provide community space in return for the loss of a public building.

It’s a bit frustrating to be given just over two months to accomplish this, after years of trying to persuade the council to let us show what we can do. We have supporters with professional fund-raising skills. Once we have access to the space, we’ll be able to show potential funders what we can do and how popular it is with the community. It’s harder now than if the council had let us start this before the credit crunch, but it’s not impossible.


So now we’re asking everyone to put the word out and try to get a community-friendly tenant or buyer before Christmas!