Our petition was presented to Councillors, whilst outside messages of support were heard from women whose lives had been changed by the Feminist Library, such as a local resident involved in mental health campaigning, women from Iran and Bangladesh, and from prominent authors and activists such as Margaret Atwood, Sarah Waters and Gloria Steinem.
Banners and placards were held aloft and, to dramatically coincide with World Out Loud Reading Day, over 50 of us read from feminist books housed in the Library.
A stirring, collective performance, our voices reached a crescendo before falling silent. Over and over a chorus of herstories filled the air as we raised our voices in solidarity. It was an incredibly powerful night.
Over the past few weeks we have received many testimonials and statements of support for the Feminist Library.
“Having been a volunteer at the Feminist Library in the past, I know from personal experience that it is an amazing institution, offering information, support and unique resources to readers, scholars and community groups […] Southwark Council ought to be protecting and cherishing it. It would be a great shame if the kind of inspiration I found in the Feminist Library as a young author was to be denied to others because of Southwark’s shortsighted and ungenerous plans”. Sarah Waters, Novelist
“Without the Feminist Library, my work would not exist. Discovering the original texts of women who pursued DIY culture from the 80s, such as Spare Rib, helped me appreciate the physical value of the words that inspire us. If we can’t save this library, not only will the presence of my work disappear with it, there won’t be a space for like-minded peers to be emotional and to heal just like I did.” Zahra Swanzy, Founder of Road Femme zine
“As a Southwark resident I’ve been devastated to hear that we might be soon losing this unique cultural organisation. The Feminist Library is just what we need to hold on to in the Elephant and Castle area right now; a place that brings together women from all backgrounds and of all ages. It’s not only a valuable historical archive – it’s a very much alive and passionate community that Southwark should support and be proud of.” Minna Haukka, local resident.
“It is with great concern that we learn of the Feminist Library facing eviction. We at the Italian Women’s Library in Bologna are well aware of the importance of preserving and making accessible feminist knowledge and archival materials. This documentation is indeed not only a testimony of our history and identity, but also a crucial tool in understanding our past, changing our present and creating projects for a better future. In the last 30 years we had the opportunity to collaborate with our colleagues at the Feminist Library in European networks that proved fundamental in the advancement of both gender knowledge and library sciences profession. We urge Southwark Council to reflect on the disastrous consequences of the intended course of action and to reconsider its stance.” The Italian Women’s Library www.bibliotecadelledonne.it
“Oh Southwark! The Wife of Bath is deeply annoyed with you! Be reasonable!” Margaret E. Atwood via Twitter (@MargaretAtwood)