Hundreds of well-wishers attended the library’s grand opening ceremony on September 27th 2019, which coincided with the anniversary of its opening by Mark Twain in 1900.
Actress Tamsin Greig gave a Twain reading, there was music from violinist Dmitri van Zwanenberg, and the Kensal Choir sang Moon River in homage to the “Huckleberry” writer.
Brent Council leader Muhammed Butt, along with MPs Tulip Siddiq and Dawn Butler, local councillors, and Grenfell United/ North Kensington Library fellow campaigners such as Edward Daffarn, also lent their support.
Cllr Butt apologised to the community on behalf of Brent Council for closing the library in 2011, saying on social media: “#HumblePie time. We can work with the community to deliver positive outcomes for the everyone.
“Thank you to everyone for their hard work. Hasn’t been easy [but] we got there.”
The opening marked a final triumph for the community after its decade-long, multiple struggles with the Council, freeholder All Souls College and developers.
Central to the celebrations was the return and unveiling of the totemic original Mark Twain plaque, which was removed along with books in a Council raid on the library in the early hours under police reinforcement in 2012.
Margaret Bailey, chair of trustees of the Friends of Kensal Rise Library (FKRL), said: “What has kept us going for almost 10 years is the constant support from the community and beyond.
“We all feel pretty vindicated – it was right for us to challenge the council, the developer, All Souls College Oxford – our fight means we have saved something that is important to us.
“What a tremendous victory for a community to have fought the powers ranged against us – fought and won.”
FKRL campaigner and Library Manager, Stephanie Schonfield, added: “The opening of Kensal Rise Community Library is a profound cause for celebration after such a long, collective struggle.
“The fight has demanded almost 10 years of extraordinary effort by people who have never made a library before. The community’s stubborn passion has prevailed.
“Let lives be brightened and inspired by Kensal Rise Library. And let that light continue to shine, as future generations take up the torch.”
Alan Bennett, who sent a message of support as he was unable to attend the launch, said: “I’m delighted Kensal Rise has kept its library.
“It’s a real cause for celebration and generations of readers, parents and children will be in your debt. Alleluia!”
Lady Antonia Fraser, creator of the Jemima Shore detective series and celebrated history writer, who took part in a Q&A fundraiser a couple of months before, said: “I’m delighted that the Kensal Rise Library is once again open, thanks to tremendous local community spirit and a group of wonderful volunteers.”
Margaret Bailey added: “Libraries are important to people – they provide a civilising thread that strengthens our communities giving them a coherence born out of shared values that respect the written word.
“The world of stories, skills, history, ideas, information, reflection and respect for different points of view.
“Communities know their worth and that is why they fight for them.”
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