400 protestors gather outside Cardiff Central Library
Following the success of hundreds of protesters outside Cardiff Central Library, Cardiff Council has announced that it will axe its plans to cut funding to its seven libraries.
The news follows after mass protests took place on Saturday, February 7th with more than 400 students and local residents attending to speak out against the proposed cuts. During the event, participants held up posters and banners to voice their anger over previous decisions to close libraries including Cathays and Roath and convert Cardiff Central library into office space.
The grassroots protest also featured prominent members of the Welsh literature scene, including National Poet of Wales Gwyneth Lewis, crime novelist Belinda Bauer and novelist Francesca Rhydderch.
The funding cuts received wider attention after James Dean Bradfield, lead guitarist of the Manic Street Preachers, wrote a public letter about the issue. In the letter, he accused the council of turning the city into a ‘cultural wasteland’.
International bestseller author Ken Follet also criticised the plans, describing it as a ‘Dickensian decision’ that would ‘make worse any divisions in our society’.
Expressing concerns over the library closures, the author attributed his career to the use of his local library as a child in Canton, Cardiff.
‘Everyone should have access to books and the internet. This is the kind of thing which holds us together as a society’, he said.
Talking about the protest, Cardiff student Jack Pickering explained that he attended the event after finding the council plans for libraries in Cardiff ‘inadequate’.
He said: “Being a student with massive access to books, and as someone who used libraries a lot when I was younger, I appreciate the need for them. They’re relatively inexpensive, and provide an essential and important tool for people without access to education in many cases.”
Mass petitions were also created in response to the cuts, with more than 2,500 people voting against the closure of the library in Rhiwbina.
Three days after the protest took place, the council ruling group announced its decision to stop the planned closure of Cardiff libraries for the next 12 months. However, they explained that ‘alterative’ measures would have to be considered.
The decision to axe budget cuts was praised by Assembly Member Julie Morgan, who said: “the campaign has had huge support from the local community. People have shown their passion for libraries with artwork, music and all sorts of creative ideas.
“People feel so strongly about their local libraries and we are glad that the libraries will stay open.”