St James St Library Campaign

Great news for Walthamstow!
February 20, 2011, 7:55 pm
Filed under: latest news, walthamstow

St James Street Library Campaign and local residents association Blackhorse Action Group are delighted to announce that they have together won a major grant from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA).

This is a huge step towards bringing St James Street Library building, in Coppermill Lane, back into community use.

NESTA’s Neighbourhood Challenge received more than 600 applications for community projects around the country. Ours was one of only 17 winners — thanks to terrific work by everyone involved, especially Alison Griffin who put many hours’ work into meeting every requirement of the application.

We plan to create a community centre in part of the library building, bringing back a welcoming space for old and young that has been deeply missed since the library closed in April 2007. The funding will bring twelve months of funding and expert support to the neighbourhood. We hope to engage the whole community, using local talents and creativity.

The closing of our library remains a real loss to our community.  Residents, library-lovers and campaigners across the borough are starting to respond to further threats to library services.  Having seen how much harm it has caused to our part of Walthamstow, the St James Street Library Campaign and BAG urge the council not to close any more libraries.

But after nearly four years of effort and campaigning — with, in recent months, backing from Cllr Clare Coghill and Stella Creasy MP and a new spirit of cooperation from the council — we have won the chance to create a new community centre.

We’ll have lots of work to do over the next 12 months, and we look forward to welcoming you as volunteers, community members, with whatever skills and enthusiasm you can share!

Soon, St James Street Library campaign wont’ be needed for that specific building anymore, but we hope to set up a network to help share experience with other library campaigns around the borough.  We don’t want to see any more libraries closed.


Fantastic News for the St James Street Library!
December 14, 2010, 9:18 pm
Filed under: latest news

Blackhorse Action Group (BAG) and St James Street Library Campaign have been shortlisted for a grant from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts!

More than 600 community groups applied for NESTA’s 10 Neighbourhood Challenge grants. Only 40 have made it through to the next round.

The NESTA shortlisting is a terrific achievement, and it shows how strongly we made our case. We’ve not only shown that our community needs the library building. We’ve also proved that we have the ideas, energy and expertise to make a success of it.

It’s the second exciting piece of news this month, in our efforts to bring the former St James Street Library back into community use.

BAG – the residents’ association covering the area – had a meeting in October with Cllr Afzal Akram, who is in charge of Waltham Forest council’s properties and was planning to put the closed library up for auction. We persuaded him to give us a little time to find an alternative. Then we sent out a call for a public-spirited tenant or buyer to take over the building and let us use part of it. Our call was answered by Alert Ltd, the owners of Community Place in Leyton.


Alert Ltd have approached the council to lease the building for at least five years, sub-letting to community groups and charities. So we already have a chance to be back in the building early next year.

As long as the council accepts Alert’s offer, we’ll be able to work on creating a new community space in the St James Street building.

And the NESTA funding, if we get it, will help to bring it back to life as the heart of the community.


St James Street Library, in Coppermill Lane, Walthamstow, was closed in April 2007. It was scheduled to be sold at auction. A huge local campaign sprang up to reopen the library – the only community facility for everyday in use in a deprived area. Although Waltham Forest council has ruled out reopening a library, it has recently started talks with local people who want it reopened as a community space.

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,