Thurrock Council have picked the wrong fight

Residents protesting outside the Thameside Complex in Grays against threats by Thurrock Council to close it
Residents protesting to keep their local library at Prettygate in Colchester fully open

In the days since we attended a protest on Wednesday 22.9 – The people turned up… – against proposals by Thurrock Council to close the Thameside theatre, library and museum complex in Grays, we’ve been doing a bit of thinking. The conclusion of that thinking is that the council have picked a fight they cannot win.

If Thurrock Council had taken note of the sustained campaign by Save Our Libraries Essex to ensure the library service across the county remains fully funded and professionally staffed, they would have learnt what libraries mean to local residents. They’re not just buildings full of books – they play a vital role in the well being of a community.

A few years ago, when residents across the county saw the cuts that the bean counters at Essex County Council proposed for the library service, they mobilised and Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE) was formed. SOLE are tenacious campaigners and are not going to give up until they win. A campaign that can mobilise street protests in places such as Shenfield, Galleywood, Manningtree and Coggeshall to name just a few places, clearly has a lot going for it!

Clearly, Thurrock Council did not pay attention to how through SOLE, residents have mobilised against library cuts. If the council had paid attention, they would have understood that residents value libraries because they recognise the benefits they bring to a community and will fight like hell to save them if threatened.

It’s the same with the Thameside complex. As we explained in our previous post, what goes on in that building means a lot to local residents. That was abundantly clear from the protest on Wednesday 22.9. Reinforcing that were the horn beeps from many passing drivers…

The bean counters seem to have this mindset that we’re all becoming atomised consumers who don’t really care about the libraries, theatres and museums that help cohere our communities and give us a sense of who we are. They may have been hoping that the isolation resulting from the lockdowns plus the shift to doing more things online would have made people less concerned about what these places mean to them. If they had been hoping for that, they have made a serious miscalculation. If anything, after months of isolation, people are even more passionate about saving and enhancing the spaces where we can interact with each other and build a sense of community.

Suffice to say that Thurrock Council have picked the wrong fight with their ill conceived bid to close the Thameside complex…

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