Council doubles rent on eve of Women’s History Month
THE Feminist Library issued a last-minute plea against eviction yesterday — ironically on the first day of Women’s History Month.
Southwark Council, in south London, is demanding £30,000 a year rent — up from £12,000 — and has threatened to close the library down on March 1. The library has been on the site for almost three decades.
The volunteer-led charity, which holds one of the biggest collections of feminist literature in Britain, has launched a 38 Degrees petition, that has nearly 4,000 signatures, to get the local authority to reconsider its decision to impose an extortionate rent rise on the self-funding charity run by volunteers.
Volunteer Una Byrne had said that because of the lack of affordable properties in London, it’s crucial that the charity can collect enough funds to stay put until somewhere suitable is found.
The library said that the building it occupies was “never intended to be a place of commercial venture” and that it goes against its purpose for the council to charge market-level rents.
The building was acquired in 1983 by the Greater London Council (GLC) ethnic minority committee for a resource and planning centre to tackle racism in the capital. The GLC was abolished three years later.
Earlier this month, Southwark Council approved a report that “highlights the need for a thriving voluntary and community sector that mobilises community action and makes best use of community resources, skills, knowledge and spaces.”
Ms Byrne added: “We cannot understand how treating our organisation in such a way is consistent with approving this report.”
The Feminist Library holds exhibitions and community events as well as keeping more than 7,000 books, archives, 1,500 periodical titles, pamphlets and posters on the women’s rights and liberation movement.
It has also launched a campaign and a special appeal for supporters to donate to its emergency fund in order to be able to challenge the council.
Other feminist organisations that have been forced to close include Lambeth Women’s Project, Peckham Black Women’s Centre, and the London Irish Women’s Centre.