Mirfield library where Sir Patrick Stewart spent childhood threatened with closure

  • Video report by Helen Steel

A home-grown Hollywood star has said Mirfield Library needs to remain open.

The library where 83-year-old Sir Patrick Stewart says he nurtured his love of reading is threatened with closure as part of a well-publicised cost-cutting exercise by Kirklees Council.

In an excerpt from his memoir the Star Trek and X Men star said ''The Mirfield public library had a very good children's section. And as I got older the selection of American literature became my obsession. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck...I read them all. You could only take out two books at a time so I spent part of every Saturday morning at the library.''

Cllr Vivien Lees-Hamilton, ward councillor for Mirfield, said: ''Can you imagine Star Trek without Patrick Stewart? If he hadn't come here it might never have happened. Who knows what imagination can be fostered here, it cannot close.''

In a bid to save almost £35m, Kirklees Council is proposing to transfer eight libraries to ''community management'', they are Honley, Meltham, Marsden, Kirkheaton, Skelmanthorpe, Denby Dale, Mirfield and Shepley.

But the Friends of Mirfield Library said this would effectively close them.

Cynthia Collinson said: ''Repairs, maintenance - lighting, heating - I can't imagine how much it would cost to run this 200 year-old building. It already needs thousands of pounds of repairs. And we are not equipped to run it.''

Members of the library described the facility as a lifeline.

Ron Powell - who became a member after his wife died in 2019, said: ''I was very depressed, being on my own - and even contemplated the worst. And then a little brochure came through my door...that was for a group at the library.

''Since then I've joined 4 groups in the library - and all of that, really, has saved my life. I just don't want to go back to square one.''

Diane Kelly who says she loves attending the library

It was a similar story for Diane Kelly, who lost her husband before the pandemic.

She said: ''He was always there, to hold my hand. I'm partially-sighted, and I relied on my husband for everything until he died. Then I had nothing.

''Now - I have friends to help me here. If I didn't have the library I wouldn't have that. I love coming here. I look forward to coming here. I actually get up on a morning and I know it might sound a bit sad to some but it's my life. It's what I look forward to.''

The local conservative MP Mark Eastwood said potentially closing the libraries was a 'terrible' idea. Asked what his response was to the fact Kirklees Council blames a lack of government funding, he said:

''It's been a shambolic financial mismanagement by Kirklees council. That's not me saying that - thats the finical auditors.''

The council argues that it has made much-needed investment in the area for many years. in a statement it said: “A proposal to integrate customer service functions in our libraries and to start talks on transferring some libraries to community management was approved at cabinet on 20 February. We will now begin informal engagement on the potential community management of some libraries with a range of key stakeholders. The outcome of the engagement will be put to cabinet for a final decision.

“Residents will still be able to access Customer Service support, and currently they can still get this from the centres at Dewsbury and Huddersfield where they need it. Kirklees Council is facing some tough financial challenges but despite this our priority remains providing an integrated library and customer service offer for residents.''

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