Maureen Lipman: Saving libraries is as important as saving your local pub

Thursday, 23rd January 2014


Published: 23 January, 2014

LIBRARIES are as important to society today as people’s favourite local pubs, actress and comedy performer Maureen Lipman told an audience on Monday night.

She appeared at an event at the Royal Free Hospital as part of an ongoing fund-raising push by the group who run the Keats Community Library in Keats Grove, Hampstead.

They need to find £60,000 a year to keep it open.

It was threatened with closure two years ago after Camden Council insisted they could no longer could afford to run it and two other libraries in the face of 25 per cent cuts to the leisure department’s budget.

Ms Lipman, who revealed how when she lived in Rosslyn Hill in the 1970s and 1980s she was a regular visitor to the library, said: “Some think the book is dead, that libraries are dead, that the written word is only available now down a wire on the internet. But libraries are not only about being a book exchange. They are the hubs of our communities. They are like the Rovers Return in Coronation Street or the Bull in Ambridge."

She added: “They are for those in communities who may not go to the pub to meet and socialise. They are a safe and warm and cultured environment. It is something we must not give up easily, something we must not lose without a fight.”
She added: “It is costing the Keats Community Library £250 a day to keep it open. It must be supported. It is irreplaceable.”

The actor told the audience of more than 200 people about how she had taken her daughter, Amy, as a child to the library. She also spoke of her relationship with her late husband, the playwright Jack Rosenthal, and spoke of the importance of books to her parents, Morris and Zelma Lipman, who ran a gentlemen’s outfitters in Hull.

Ms Lipman added that she had been asked to appear on the TV dancing talent show Strictly Come Dancing and said that while she loved to dance and would appreciate lessons, she felt that the show was part of a sad trait in British TV today where people were held up to ridicule.

She said: “I was asked to do it, and part of me would love to. But I can imagine they wanted me to come on as the older woman they could poke fun at, like Edwina Currie or Anne Widdecombe, and I will not be humiliated by four screaming idiots who would tell me I’m no good. I would punch them in the face.”

She added that Jack, who won three Baftas for his TV plays and wrote over 150 screen plays, would not be impressed.

She said: “Jack would have become very despondent if he saw what was on the TV today. Much of it is simply about endless humiliation.”

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