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Friends plan wake to mark demise of city's Central Library.

Byline: Fionnuala Bourke

THEY spent more than a decade battling to save it.

Now the Friends of the Central Library in Birmingham have admitted defeat - and are planning to mark its passing with a wake ahead of its demolition this year.

The "brutalist" building opened in 1974 and horrified the likes of Prince Charles, who infamously declared that it was "looking more like a place for burning books, than keeping them".

But it was loved by others, including Alan Clawley, the secretary of the Friends organisation, who were equally horrified when it was announced it would finally close as the PS189m Library of Birmingham opened in its place.

The Friends are now planning to hold a wake in Chamberlain Square to celebrate the controversial building which is being knocked down to make way for the PS500 million Paradise Circus scheme, which is billed as prioritising people over cars with shops, offices, restaurants and a new hotel.

Mr Clawley said: "We've been banging away for 12 years to try to persuade the council not to knock it down, but it didn't work.

"We always said that they should keep the old library and build an extension and that it would work better than building an expensive new library, which is a splendid building, but probably too big and more like a tourist attraction than a library.

"We are not sure of the exact date that they are going to bulldoze the Central Library, but we have decided to hold our wake on January 31. We held an event there to mark its 40th birthday last year.

"There will be food and drink and we will have a good gettogether.

"Prince Charles might not have liked it, but lots of people did. I don't expect he would like the new library any better."

The Friends have released a 'death notice' ahead of the demolition.

It states: "We are sorry to announce the premature death of Birmingham Central Library at the early age of 41.

"Created by John Madin and his colleagues, it began life as Europe's finest municipal library in 1974 when it was opened by Harold Wilson, Leader of the Opposition, who went on to become Prime Minister for the second term later that year.

"Despite growing support here and around the world, the Central Library lost the battle to survive in the face of wilful neglect by Birmingham City Council, the unbending aspirations of Argent PLC and its opponents who shared Prince Charles' visceral dislike of its uncompromising appearance.

"The Friends of the Library grieve not only for the loss of a great and memorable building but for the cultural reputation of the city of Birmingham.

"To celebrate its short life a wake will be held in Chamberlain Square starting at 11am on Saturday, January 31, 2015.

"Wear warm clothes, bring a candle, food and drink."


The Central Library nears completion in 1971 |

Workers begin to move into the Central Library in 1973 |

John Madin, the man who designed Central Library |

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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Jan 10, 2015
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