PROTESTERS gathered in their hundreds to show solidarity against proposed library closures.

Darlington’s Crown Street came to a standstill on Saturday afternoon as arts campaigners and library users of all ages joined together with homemade placards and posters during the ‘Save Our Library’ protest.

The town’s arts group, Darlington for Culture (DfC), organised the demonstration in retaliation to Darlington Borough Council’s £12.5m cuts package that would see Cockerton and Crown Street libraries close.

Under the proposals, Crown Street Library would be relocated to run a reduced service out of the Dolphin Centre and the mobile library would be scrapped entirely.

Around 35 members of staff face redundancy if the plans to sell the Crown Street site for £300,000 go ahead.

Protesters arrived shortly after 1pm, on Saturday, March 12

John Dean, DfC chairman, led the protest which proudly paraded through the town centre on Saturday, March 12.

He said: “These people deserve a better alternative to just closing. As an organisation we’ve already said we’re prepared to work with the council but it has to be a genuine consultation.

“These people want to see alternative ways of the problems being looked at and we don’t want to see in five or six weeks the closure decision has been made and that’s it. 

“We want more time to put together a credible plan. 

“We don’t think it’s enough just to say times are hard let’s give up – let’s think of more imaginative ways of working. The Dolphin Centre isn’t one of them.”

Young children and their grandparents joined in with protest chants

Darlington Trade Unions and Darlington Green Party threw their support behind the campaign and led speeches and chants using a loud-hailer throughout the hour-long demonstration.

One determined protester in her early eighties missed a bus from her home in Mowden to the town centre and walked the two miles into town to show her support. 

The Northern Echo:

Protestors lined  both sides of Crown Street to make their feelings known. Picture Peter Giroux Northern Echo Camera Club

And the council’s cabinet member for leisure, culture and transport, Councillor Nick Wallis, attended the protest and handed out flyers advertising an upcoming DfC meeting to “find another way”.

Cllr Wallis said: “I fully understand that people are demonstrating because they love their library service and Crown Street means a huge amount historically to the people of the town.

“I’ve always understood that. 

“The difficulty is the local authority only has £10m or £12m to spend between now and 2019 to 2020 and that jam has to spread incredibly thinly. 

“One of the ways we can mitigate that is shifting the operation of the library to a purpose-built facility in the Dolphin Centre. 

“But there’s clearly a lot of work to be done on that and I’m here to listen to what people have to say.”

Two council-organised meetings will be held on Wednesday, March 16, for residents to have their say on the proposed cuts package followed by a separate DfC meeting.

The daughter of a Crown Street employee and PhD researcher, Joanna Clement, recited a poem she wrote in front of the protesters.

She said: “Darlo council’s got a plan and they say it’s non-debatable – laminate all the books, make us read on the inflatables.”

DfC’s Another Way meeting begins at 7pm at the Forum Music Centre, on Thursday, April 7. 

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