It may have been replaced by Arcadia Library & Leisure Centre, but this isn’t the last chapter...
After the council announced the closure of Levenshulme library and baths in 2012, protestors filled Albert Square and even camped in the library overnight.
With both having been valuable community assets for decades - over a century in the case of Levenshulme Library - feelings understandably ran high.
While the area now has a new purpose-built baths and library, opened in 2016, the old buildings remained a concern. What would become of them?
Well, the baths is now derelict (though a circus company hopes to save it) but the library was taken on by an enterprising group - who met while protesting - and is soon to launch as a community arts centre.
Conceived over two years ago, after consultations with Levy locals, the initiative has been in development ever since; extensive works to the building have made it safe, while volunteer project manager Phil and his team have undertaken the mammoth task of registering as a CIO (charitable incorporated organisation), seeking necessary funding and negotiating a long-term lease.
The premise is simple: Phil and his team of trustees will let community groups use the space for a small fee - whether for rehearsals or events - and also host their own calendar of happenings, starting with a soft launch on 23 February before proceedings kick off properly in April.
“We’ve already had loads of interest from people wanting to use the space,” Phil tells me, “from Levenshulme Players theatre group to Heart and Parcel. The idea is to become a community hub, too, where people can share skills and ideas.”
Levenshulme Old Library will also be tenanted by three other small companies; including All FM Radio and Levenshulme Youth Project - who have already moved in - and The Owl and the Coconut, a community interest company focused on mindful art.
Naturally, the majority of funding will go on maintaining the building (something experienced project manager Phil estimates at £55-60K annually) but there are also plans to host a Heritage Lottery project exploring its history.
Opened in 1904 with an endowment of £2500, as one of many Carnegie Free libraries - a worldwide network funded by Scottish businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie - the red brick edifice was also part funded with £500 of local money via the council’s ‘penny on the pound’ levy; meaning it’s been firmly embedded in Levy life right from page one.
Now, with the launch of Levenshulme Arts Centre, the legacy of both Carnegie and community looks set to continue.
Levy Old Library launch event, 23 February:
Music from the Jazz Biscuits and opportunities to chat to library tenants
MP for Levenshulme and Gorton, Mr Afzal Khan, delivers congratulatory speech
Celebrations continue next door in the Bluebell
There will also be a final opportunity to win Decourcey Designs’ bespoke chair, and announcement of the winner
Levenshulme Old Library, Cromwell Grove, M19 3QE