How an Oxford College sold my community library

Save Kensal Rise Library book The book is a powerful symbol of learning. This book was discarded on the pavement in the rain, when agents for All Souls College Oxford brutally dismantled my local pop up library in Kensal Rise in North West London in the early hours of Friday morning, 31st January 2014. Books were left piled at the edge of the road, and they were still there today, when I took these photographs.

With this action, All Souls College have demonstrated their disregard for this community and its books. All Souls is Oxford University’s third wealthiest College, with an endowment of £245 million.

Kensal Rise Library was first opened by Mark Twain Save Kensal Library 2in 1900, and served the local community for over a hundred years. Brent Council closed the library in 2011 in order to save money, and, as part of the process, passed the library to All Souls College Oxford for nothing under the terms of a covenant. Last year All Souls sold the option to buy the building to Andrew Gillick, a developer, who is now in the process of seeking approval for his plans from Brent Council. He is required to include provision for a community library.

Our local community group, Save Kensal Rise Library, set up a temporary library on the pavement outside the library. This is the library that was demolished on Friday. The campaign to save the library has support from our local community, as well as high-profile figures including Alan Bennett, Jacqueline Wilson, Philip Pullman, Zadie Smith, and as far afield as the Mark Twain House and Museum in the US. I was lucky enough to hear Alan Bennett speak in Kensal Rise during a fundraiser for the campaign… What an inspiration!

These are the questions that our community would like to ask John Vickers, Warden of All Souls:

Save Kensal Rise library1. Why didn’t he post a notice up on the Pop-Up or in the local press, warning residents to dismantle it?

2. Why did he smash up the half of the Pop-Up which did not not stand on College land and then dump our books on the roadside in the rain?

3. Why is he disingenuously blaming the Council, when its Enforcement Department had no intention of demolishing the community’s Pop-Up Library? Ward Councillors from all three main political parties visited and supported the Pop-Up, while Cllr Roxanne Mashari (Lead on Libraries) came to see the damage for herself, after distressed residents alerted her.


I wrote today’s post in response to WordPress’s weekly photo challenge on the theme of Object. I have also written separately today about the importance of this library to our family, and in particular my adopted son.



  1. Shared this on Twitter.

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