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Protesters slam 'act of betrayal' surrounding Bancroft library sale

PUBLISHED: 16:43 01 October 2008 | UPDATED: 13:39 05 October 2010

Bancroft protesters stage vigil outside library

Bancroft protesters stage vigil outside library

A PUBLIC meeting convened to discuss the proposed sale of Bancroft Library to Queen Mary University have sounded a simple and unanimous message to college bosses: Back off! The warning came at a meeting of 140 angry East Enders on Saturday whe

Ted Jeory

A PUBLIC meeting convened to discuss the proposed sale of Bancroft Library to Queen Mary University have sounded a simple and unanimous message to college bosses: "Back off!"

The warning came at a meeting of 140 angry East Enders on Saturday when one ex-MP described Tower Hamlets council's proposal as a "gross act of betrayal".

The group packed the Arbour Youth Centre on the Ocean estate in Stepney before marching en masse to the threatened library and archives in Bancroft Road.

The protest was spearheaded by retired teacher Tom Ridge, former MP Stan Newens, and Prof Jerry White, the acclaimed social historian and local government ombudsman.

Even Nigel Glendenning, an honorary fellow and emeritus professor at the college, condemned the proposed £1.2million deal.

The world leading historian of Spanish art told the meeting: "I'm extremely disturbed by what's going on and I'll be feeding that back to the college, as well as some of the false things that have been said here unfortunately."

The two hour meeting was dominated by three major speeches.

Mr Newens, who was born in Bethnal Green and represented both Epping and Harlow in Parliament until 1983 before becoming a Euro-MP, told campaigners that Tower Hamlets council was engaged in a deception exercise.

He said: "The proposal by the council to sell off the building without proper provision for the accommodation of the collections is in my view a gross betrayal of the people they are supposed to represent.

"It's a gross betrayal of the sacred trust that they are here to honour."

A frequent visitor to Bancroft, Mr Newens was invited by the council for a "consultation" event about the archives at the Rich Mix centre in Bethnal Green last year.

"That has turned out to be a cynical deception and the smoke-screen by the council," he said.

"More than 90 per cent of the people at that meeting would have been opposed to the sell-off, but we weren't even asked about that."

Among others to speak from the floor were three Queen Mary students, all of whom attacked college authorities for failing to consult student bodies.

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