New Folkestone Society and AFRA campaign with community groups to save Folkestone Library
– with our thanks to Mark Hourahane of New Folkestone Society for compiling the content of this page
On Thursday 23 March 2023, Councillor Jackie Meade asked a question at KCC’s full County Council meeting (Question 3) and the statement that it would remain closed until at least £1.8 million for repairs – or an alternative venuewas released that afternoon. Vice chair Mark Hourahane spoke with Jon O’Connor, who sits on the committee of Sunflower House and is AFRA (the Alliance of Folkestone Residents Associations) ‘facilitator’ (he dislikes ‘chair’!), about the possibility of using the venue for an emergency meeting of community groups. The following three days remain a bit of a blur, but apparently we contacted dozens of organisations, giving them 53 hours’ notice if they would like to attend.
With such short notice, we were quite taken aback that 24 people gathered in Sunflower House at 7pm on Tuesday 28 March, representing various groups – some with multiple hats. We collectively discussed the announcement of the prolonged closure, considered the repairs detailed in approved Listed Building Consent application 21/1925/FH (granted in October 2021 but almost entirely not actioned), gave our thoughts on the situation, looked at the letter, proposed tweaks and had packed up the hall all within 90 minutes!
Once the letter had gone out, further groups, as well as businesses who use the library, pledged their support.
Supporters – groups and businesses
- Bayle Residents Association
- Books for Change
- Enough is Enough
- Folkestone & District Family History Society
- Folkestone & District Local History Society
- Folkestone Art Society
- Folkestone Art Trust
- Folkestone Bookshop
- Folkestone Fringe
- Folkestone Literary Group
- Folkestone Music Town
- Folkestone Plimsoll Memorial Campaign
- Folkestone Research & Archaeology Group
- Folkestone Then & Now
- Folkestone Walking Tours
- Folkestone’s Fishing Heritage & History Museum
- Friends of Folkestone Library
- Friends of Leas Pavilion
- Friends of Old Folkestone Cemetery
- Friends of St. Mary & St. Eanswythe
- Go Folkestone
- Gorddinan Consulting
- Here Before Us
- Hythe Remainers Book Group
- Leas Pavilion Archive
- Leas Residents’ Association
- Marrin’s Bookshop
- Pavement Pounders
- Poets’ Corner Folkestone
- Save Folkestone Library
- Shepway HEART Forum
- Shorncliffe Trust
- St. Eanswythe Research Group (a continuation of the Finding Eanswythe project)
- Strange Cargo
- Sunflower House
- Urban Room Folkestone
- Wealden Strand
- Write by the Sea
Supporters – individuals
Nicolette Jones, Hon FRSL
Nicolette is a writer, journalist, literary critic and occasional broadcaster. She is the Sunday Times children’s book critic.
“Libraries are our most valuable civic asset and should never be allowed to close. They facilitate every object councils should be pursuing, including social mobility, literacy, educational standards, community cohesion, economic growth, health and well-being, reduction in the crime rate, inclusivity, social justice, levelling up, equal opportunities …
I wish you luck.”
The letter, as sent at 5.40pm on Friday 31 March, can be seen below.
An immediate response?
Either our timing was exceptional, or we received an almost immediate response! At 6:50pm, barely an hour after the letter had been sent, the Folkestone Libraries Facebook page made a post, which included a statement that includes frequently asked questions.
Whilst we appreciate this initial attempt to explain the situation to the public, it doesn’t answer some of the points raised in our letter, and we do not believe it goes far enough in detailing how we have got to this situation, what is being done to remedy it, how long that will take and when the public will be properly consulted.
We also have serious concerns about the splitting up of the heritage collection, especially some of it going into storage. This is a vital resource for the community, and many people are being inconvenienced by not being able to access the collection. Access must be maintained in its entirety.
We are pleased to hear that KCC will be applying for Round 3 of the Libraries Improvement Fund but we have to ask, when the building has needed repairs since at least 2018, if not earlier, why the Council didn’t apply for Round 1 or Round 2.
Action you can take
If you represent a community group or local business and would like to add the name of your group / business to our list, or if you are a public figure and would like to pledge your support, please get in touch!
We would suggest individuals consider the following actions (and for groups to recommend them to their members):
Sign the online petition
The petition needs:
- 1,000 signatures to be debated at a local meeting
- 2,500 signatures to be debated by Cabinet
- 10,000 signatures to be debated at County Council
Join the Facebook group
Save Folkestone Library
- Have your say on the closure of the library
- Help contribute to a tally count of supporters
- Keep up-to-date on the latest public events
Make a complaint / question
- Speak to your KCC councillor – click here
- If the FAQ didn’t answer your question, ask it!
- For questions or complaints, click the button
N.B. The Facebook group Save Folkestone Library is not run by, or affiliated with, the New Folkestone Society or with AFRA.
We are pleased to collaborate with them, however, and suggest individuals join their group.
A second group has been formed, Friends of Folkestone Library, which aims to collect stories about how Folkestone Library has had an effect on people’s lives, speed up the re-opening of the building and perhaps look at future options for sustainability.