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The Library Walk Protest Goes On

Photos and Jonathan Schofield's speech from the event....plus a song

Published on September 12th 2012.

The Library Walk Protest Goes On

ON TUESDAY around fifty people gathered in the city centre to protest the Council's plans for Library Walk. Confidential highlighted the inconsistencies and needless nature of the proposals in this article here.

The meeting was arranged by the lively group the friends of Library Walk, and special thanks must go  to Morag Rose for organising it. It was good to see Councillors Karney and Davies there, listening to what was said as well.

Speeches camee from Aidan Turner-Bishop (The Twentieth Century Society), Eamomn Cunliffe (Manchester School of Architecture), Natalie Zacek (University of Manchester), Steve Millington (MMU -talking about lighting and fear etc ) and Morag Rose (The LRM/Friends of Library Walk).

There was also a speech from Jonathan Schofield, the editor of Confidential. His speech is produced below.

Library Walk - talk script 

As a tour guide since 1996 in Manchester I get to see the city through the eyes of local, national and international visitors.

Almost in every respect the city centre is a far far better place to walk around than it was in the nineties pre and post IRA bomb. 

We have rich heritage of old and new and people love that diversity. 

The way Manchester  City Council has steered the changes has been universally acclaimed. It should be congratulated for this, especially in the partnerships it has fostered with the private sector. Less good has been the Council's record with many of its own key building stock and public spaces. 

From Heaton Hall and Queen's Park in the north to Wythenshawe, Baguley and Hough End Halls in the south it has been guilty of a dereliction of duty, sometimes shockingly so. In the centre the situation has improved in Castlefield yet much still needs to be done. 

We are here because the Council wants to gate and glass Library Walk and raise huge ramps of pavement to obscure views of one its most prominent urban acts of generosity - the Central Library and Town Hall Extension Complex of the 1930s. 

This is a small thing you could say, a matter of a few metres, a minor change so what's the fuss?

Well, small things become big issues if they are mis-managed and unnecessary and spoil something lovely.

They also become big issues when they are wrong

The late and untrumpeted gating and glassing of Library Walk is wrong - normally at Confidential we get a proud press release about these things, but not this time, very sneaky.

Library Walks gating and glassing is wrong because it is aesthetically wrong. One of the places locals and visitors like best is Library Walk and its handsome, dignified and elegant curve. Aesthetically it’s been appreciated by so many for so many years, so why destroy its special status.

It is wrong because it is not needed, the new underground link between the Library and the Extension is generous in the new plans - I've been down there and seen it.

More to the point why spend so much money just so people don't get a bit cold walking between the two buildings on ground level? 

It is wrong because the gating and glassing has been justified by distortions of fact.

The official and partisan but apparently 'impartial' report stated that Library Walk is unlit and dangerous.

Unlit? Then light it properly. Problem solved.


Yes a horrible attack took place there not so long ago. But horrible attacks have taken place in many other alleyways and also on main streets of the city.

Maybe we should gate and fence Back Piccadilly, Back Pool Fold, even Oxford Road, but that would be nonsense wouldn’t it? 

Then there's the cost.

Around £3.5m apparently. £3.5m so that people don't get a bit wet and cold between buildings a few metres apart? Here's an idea spend that money on fixing the fountains around the city centre. Or maybe spend the money on a public area in one of the more deprived suburbs of the city.

One senior councillor has accused me of being 'middle class' for caring about Library Walk.

Interesting the use of 'middle class' as an insult. But worse still the implication that I suppose he meant the working class don't bother about the preservation of the valuable buildings and spaces in their city. How insulting.

Maybe he was implying that the Council is an old-style Soviet that needs to make decisions about what is best for us as we clearly aren't capable of such decisions ourselves. Maybe the implication is that once elected we have literally no say except the one from a ballot box at election time.

But that is no say at all if the same administration is returned every time. 

Given the 13,000 plus unique reads we have had on Confidential about Library Walk and the given the commitment shown by the people here it seems that a good number of citizens have decided that they are capable of thinking for themselves and they think that Library Walk is worth preserving.

By reversing the plans for Library Walk the Council could show how it does respond to the public especially when it get things wrong. It could show how it really understands the city and wants to improve its public amenity. It could show it’s not a Soviet but a modern democratic institution. It could show it knows how to recognise an error when it’s made one. 

Light Library Walk, clean it and pave it properly, but don't glass it in.

Don't gate it. 

It's a jewel.

A small thing perhaps.

But that's no reason to throw it away. This is an opportunity to show Manchester that its Council listens.

Library Walk ProtestLibrary Walk Protest

Library Walk ProtestLibrary Walk Protest

Library Walk ProtestLibrary Walk Protest

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29 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Ghostly TomSeptember 12th 2012.

The glass and gates are totally unnecessary and would ruin one of the most elegant views in the city centre. And it will cost us how much to ruin this space!!!??? Use the money to save the Mackie Mayor Market if it's going begging.

AnonymousSeptember 12th 2012.

Wow is this a first - Schofield "daring to criticise" the city council? More please!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Charllie BBSeptember 12th 2012.

What about the city centre car parking, the schemes for Piccadilly Gardens, the comments about waymaking, the problems East Manchester still faces, his allowance of Graham Stringer's column. Keep up would you?

Kevin PeelSeptember 12th 2012.

My colleague Cllr Davies and I are very happy to be supporting this campaign. I think the decision to gate Library Walk is barmy and urge my colleagues on the planning committee to reject the proposal.

1 Response: Reply To This...
the Whalley RangerSeptember 12th 2012.

Fantastic. Can we ensure that the moneys saved do not quietly disappear but are accounted for and used of other 'urban landscaping' measures in the immediate proximity of the project?

Would be sad to see this disappear in the contingency pot - as the moment project management finds itself in possession of another £3,500,000 - invoicing from Australasia could be on the rise...

CouncillorJoan DaviesSeptember 12th 2012.

I’m opposing the plans. They propose a pod-type glass-sided link with a stainless-steel roof. Although this would be open during the day it would need to close at night, turning the Friends’ Meeting House side of Library Walk into a cul-de-sac, hence the addition of gates to prevent it becoming a latrine. Architecturally Library Walk is a beautiful breathing space, unique in the city. I believe the space should be left alone, except for better maintenance and lighting. We have the technology and the architectural imagination to address the access to buildings issues in other ways. I’ve had more mails on this than on any other issue since being elected in May.

1 Response: Reply To This...
the Whalley RangerSeptember 13th 2012.

brilliant. Perhaps table every single one of your correspondence received at the relevant planning meeting and dreate a Bolshevik debate marathon? Make them all go to sleep, then count the votes against the proposal.

This comment was proudly sponsered by the energy drink industry.

AnonymousSeptember 12th 2012.

Middle class "somethings" was the insult used by the Town Hall against those who dared to criticise the redevelopment plans for Piccadilly Gardens too - wasn't it? (Yeah and look how brilliant that all turned out!!)

So what is this inherent antagonism, many in Manchester's corridors of power always seem to have, against good architecture and town planning? It's not a class issue is it?

Colin BrandSeptember 13th 2012.

Wow, two councillors breaking the Labour whip in Manchester

An alternative viewSeptember 13th 2012.

I do get the "middle class" point. When it comes down to it, in the grand scheme of things this doesn't *really* matter, does it? It is a class issue, anon above, because it shows where just how skewed the priorities of the chattering classes are. Where's the anger from the Chorlton and Didsbury types about the government cuts which mean that a large number of kids in Manchester are starving on a daily basis? Or that little old ladies relying on social care visits to, for example, get their arses wiped, are having to wait longer for fewer visits? There's an article in the MEN today about a guy who's been denied DLA - despite the fact he's only got one leg.

You don't read about that kind of stuff on Mancon. That's not a criticism of Mancon - because to be honest, Mancon's readers aren't interested in it so why should they cover it? It would be like the Daily Star covering the ballet. It is, however, an indictment on Mancon's readers that the only council issues you give a toss about is things like this and pay and display parking. The broader issues of deprivation in Manchester that affect shitloads more people in this city, and is actually the council's main business (which they have been effectively hobbled by the Tories), you care not a jot.

It's the type of middle class that cares more about organic than fair trade.

This doesn't detract from the fact that this proposed "thing" is pretty damned horrible and should be opposed. It's ugly, expensive and unnecessary. All I'm saying is - priorities people. If it goes in it does not signify the onset of the Apocalypse.

The most ridiculous thing of all about this protest is the picture above that shows "Fareinheit 451" and "Nineteen Eighty Four" placards.

Get a grip.

10 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 13th 2012.

"an indictment on Mancon's readers that the only council issues you give a toss about is things like this and pay and display parking"

And you know that... how?
How on earth can you know what other issues anyone involved in this campaign are concerned with? Ridiculous, baseless presumption on your part.

An alternative viewSeptember 13th 2012.

Anon, I don't think it's ridiculous or baseless at all. As I already said - if the readers were interested, the outlet would cover it. The Daily Sport doesn't generally cover Royal Opera House productions. Same principle.

And as for the campaigners. Well, the picture above shows that they equate the plans for Library Walk with an Orwellian assault on freedom. Which is ridiculous, has the consequence of significantly weakening their argument as it makes them look like loons and, perhaps most importantly of all, shows a complete lack of perspective.

AnonymousSeptember 13th 2012.

" if the readers were interested, the outlet would cover it. "

Because people only read one website to cover all of their interests? Ridiculous.

"the picture above shows that they equate the plans for Library Walk with an Orwellian assault on freedom."

That's entirely your - very specific, and incorrect - interpretation.

Calum McGSeptember 13th 2012.

It's a free country, Alternative View, so people can protest about what they damn well please!

An alternative viewSeptember 13th 2012.

Course they can, Ali. Did I suggest anywhere that they couldn't? Has anyone said they shouldn't? As it is a free country, people are also entitled to express views that may differ from yours, which is all I'm doing. Am I allowed?

AnonymousSeptember 13th 2012.

"people are also entitled to express views that may differ from yours, which is all I'm doing."

It's NOT all you're doing, you're also implying with your talk of 'priorities' and 'get a grip' that people shouldn't be protesting about this issue.

Jonathan SchofieldSeptember 13th 2012.

Dear Anon, oh dear. It is true that we can't cover the social and health issues in the city - that's largely because we don't have the resources - but are you implying that the middle classes don't care about the NHS or education or the disabled and that only 'the working class' do? What is 'the working class' anymore and is it a class that only ever worries about services and doesn't want their areas to be beautiful with lovely parks and well kept public amenity? Library Walk isn't a class issue it's an issue we've chosen to highlight because we're interested in it. At present we cover food and drink, architecture and buildings, health and beauty, it's as you say, our bag completely.

An alternative viewSeptember 13th 2012.

I'm going to go away now, you'll be relieved to hear. Most recent anon - I'm expressing a view. It's different to yours. You don't like it? Well, that's a shame, but tough - that's life in a free country.

Jonathan, my point is that if your readers wanted you to cover those issues I'm sure you would. In terms of class, I do think there is a certain element within this country's dominant class that only cares about stuff that directly affects them - but I don't mean that all of the middle classes feel that way, it's merely a sizeable element. I think that's borne out by the number of people who buy the Daily Mail.

Tom (below) - I do my bit, yes. Like most people though, I could probably do more.

Looking back at my first post, I've probably been too harsh and more provocative than I should've been. The ironic thing is I agree that the Library Walk proposals are unpleasant, but my objection is purely on aesthetic grounds. But those placards really wound me up. This is an issue of taste, not freedom (in my opinion).

Farewell, friends. I'm off to the MEN messageboards now to suggest that primary schoolchildren should be taught about gay sex by immigrants. In Urdu.

the Whalley RangerSeptember 13th 2012.

Library Walk obstruction does not affect me at all.

I am still against it.

Now guess which 'class' drawer has my name on it.

The Real IssueSeptember 14th 2012.

Dear Alternative View I think it's a disgrace that we have primary schoolchildren being taught about gay sex by immigrants in Urdu.

TomSeptember 13th 2012.

Alternative View - a lot of people involved in the campaign work very hard in the sort of (admittedly far more vital) social issues you're talking about - as Anon suggests it is possible to be concerned with more than one kind of issue and I don't see how this can be hard to understand. Opposition to the plans for Library Walk have come from all round the city and so characterising opponents as being Didsbury/Chorlton middle class types is just ignorant. You'd do well to try a bit more finding out and a lot less assuming.

May I ask whether you do anything to address the social problems you mention?

AnonymousSeptember 13th 2012.

Alternative view-i recognise amongst the protesters people who work getting social funding for grass roots organisations, political social justice singers, people who work with underprivelidged children, people who work with disability employment groups, and people who promote sustainable/wildlife and food gardening in urban spaces. Thats not bad from the couple of images above-im sure theres lots ive missed. The problem is inherent in the fact that i recognise so many people: campaign groups are small and overlapping circles. Many of the folk here could also be found on the marches against the cuts, the anti-edl protests and the slut walks too. youll often find that those who are socially aware work daily to try to make a difference, be it small or large, in day jobs and in their own time.
I havent joined this campaign because for me there ARE more pressing campaign priorities but people do what they can, where they can, and we're most effective in the areas we are most passionate about. If your passion lies elsewhere thats great. Go fight.

moragSeptember 13th 2012.

Hello everyone

Thanks for covering this issue ManCon, its appreciated. I just want to say first it was a proper group effort organising the event and I want to thank everyone who got involved.

I think the class issue is a bit of a tangent - partly becuase i'm not even sure what it means any more, but mostly because the streets and the streetscape belong to us all: they are a place where everyone should have the right to feel welcome and safe and experience good design. I also think everyone should be able to have their say about the future of those streets, that councils should be accountable and transparent and should actually be spending money on supporting people who need it most and not commissioning dubious reports and building follies.

It is true Library Walk is a small space but for me it illuminates these bigger issues as well as questions of aeasthetics. I feel incredibly angry at the creeping de facto privatisation of public space and the creation of a narrative of fear. Safe streets are lively, well used, well lit places; gating library walk at night wont solve wider issues and statistically it is very, very far from the most dangerous place in town.

As the last anonymous above says many of the people involved in the campaign spend much of their working and leisure time trying to make Manchester a better place in one way or another (I dont know all of them - having been involved in many campaigns over the years what has struck me about Library Walk is how diverse supporters are; but of course that isnt reflected in a photo becuase you are judging by appearances and assumptions)

Library Walk is a place and a cause I feel deeply about, no it isnt the number one issue in a city with such a shocking public health record, rates of poverty and myriad other issues. That doesnt mean it does not matter (and I'm not going to justify myself or disclose what else I am involved in here becuase its not relevant)

Places and spaces make people - I believe the environment does have an impact and those sensuous curves and brief respite from the city improve my day whenever I pass through them. Over 1200 people have signed the petition to say they agree, for all kinds of reasons and whilst also being involved in - and caring about - all kinds of other things.

best wishes to all who are doing more than posting on the internet to make manchester a better place.

M x

Jane SamuelsSeptember 13th 2012.

Sorry, i posted above as anon, which i dont like to do. Hello. :D

moragSeptember 13th 2012.

PS the giant books were leant to us from another campaign (yes, manchester is a village sometimes) we thought they added something visual to the event - which was meant to be celebratory and fun - and I liked the idea of a library walking. I didnt think through the potential semiotic analysis of the particular books; they were picked up and random and i'm somewhat bemused by the reaction to them if I'm honest. If we'd been able to carry them all you would have seen the cat in the hat and the happy prince too

Also, to address a question asked elsewhere: I would LOVE to debate the plans for Library Walk with Richard Leese and/ or Ian Simpson; I challenge the assertions they are making, their figures dont seem to add up and as Mancon has shown the heritage statement is questionable at best. I particularly dislike the assumption we are conservative and anti-change. But, of course, they have never responded to any emails or letters. Our FOI requests have not been answered either. I'm be delighted to engage in a robust and technical debate backed up by evidence but alas that seems unlikely to happen.

AnonymousSeptember 13th 2012.

i'm used to people shouting at people on demo's to get a job or have a wash - when did the heckles change to stop being middle class?!

DavidSeptember 13th 2012.

The Labour persons complaining about the protesters being middle class,are probably just as middle class as them.Of course in their patronising thinking,they are better,because they are acting on behalf of the working classes.Not that they are interested in actually asking the working class what they think,or having them attend their kids schools.

AnonymousSeptember 14th 2012.

And this "unnamed" senior councillor is???

Because they surely need to explain their self here. I mean, he or she, is only one of our elected politicians - er, sort of, like!

Jonathan TurnerSeptember 16th 2012.

Please please don't let them ruin this unique external space, it is one of the most magical hidden corners of our city. It just needs better lighting. Or dare I say the odd Bobby on the beat, yes not in a jam butty car!

How will it be cleaned? It is undoubtedly creating an ongoing management cost we can ill afford. I still mourn the loss of Piccadilly Gardens, don't let this happen again Councillors.

Ignore the middle class jibes and move on it will only divert energy away from the fight. I'm originally from Wythenshawe, as if that matters either way. But the dereliction of the Hall there, does not fill anyone with confidence that Council owned buildings get proper treatment from the Council itself.

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