The Feminist Library is currently facing eviction from their home of 30 years on Westminster Bridge Road, London.
Campaigners are now calling for Southwark Council to overturn its decision to charge the volunteer-run organisation rent. The council is threatening to close the library unless they agree to pay £18,000 rent, on top of the £12,000 service charge the library says was previously agreed.
The library was set up in 1975 and houses feminist literature, research and archive material, including a large collection of Women’s Liberation Movement resources.
A spokeswoman for the library said, “It is ironic that the Feminist Library is in danger of being made homeless on March 1, when March is Women’s History Month and March 8 is International Women’s Day.”
“Many libraries, women’s organisations, and longstanding community projects have been forced to close in the current climate of austerity, including Lambeth Women’s Project, Peckham Black Women’s Centre, and the London Irish Women’s Centre”
“Southwark Council forcing the Feminist Library to pay market rent immediately is another symptom of this.”
Associate Professor of Modern British History, University of Warwick, Dr Laura Schwartz has called the council’s move ‘cultural vandalism’. She said “The Feminist Library is a wonderful cultural resource that needs to be defended at all costs. Generations of my students have used it for their academic research…If the Feminist Library is evicted from its current premises, Southwark Council will not only be guilty of cultural vandalism but also of silencing women.”
However, Southwark Council argue that the library must pay open market rent just like other organisations under the council’s jurisdiction. Councillor Fiona Colley, cabinet member for finance said, “For the past seven years the Feminist Library hasn’t paid any rent for its premises. Whilst we recognise and appreciate the work that’s been done by the library, we have a very clear duty to ensure our assets are being managed responsibly, and that we are being fair to other tenants who are paying open market rent.”
“We have offered the Feminist Library a new lease with rent levels that reflect what other organisations in the building are paying. We have also given the library the time to find alternative premises.”
“I have personally offered to meet with them to discuss the situation and try to find a way forward that meets both our needs, but at a time when the council’s funding from government is being cut by £47m we are simply unable to continue to subsidise their rent.”
The council has since announced that it has extended the decision period until 30th April as a ‘gesture of goodwill’.
To find out more about the Feminist Library and its work, click here.