His Dark Materials author Pullman raps London councils’ for library closure

08:01 12 December 2011

The Firework Maker

The Firework Maker's Daughter is one of Philip Pullman's earliest works.

Archant

When Philip Pullman was invited to speak about the library policy of Brent council he took the invitation for two reasons. Maggie Gee, the local author who invited him, is a good friend, and Pullman noted the historic importance of Kensal Rise library, which was opened by Mark Twain.

“You would think that in a country that has pretentions of being the home of literature the public purse would be used to keep things like this open,” says the Northern Lights author.

Pullman has been very vocal about library closures, both in Brent (whose library policies he calls “political bulls**t”) and in his home county of Oxfordshire since councils began cutbacks.

He is still following the story and, while we are on the topic, he cites a judgment that he found that links library closures and inequality. “It will be harder on some people than others,” he summarises. “The library building is a place where people can go for all sorts of reasons and this is what has often been overlooked.

“Services that libraries provide for young mothers, for example storytelling sessions, are things that children need desperately. It’s also a way for young mothers to get out of the house and do something with their children – something free and close to home.

“It’s so unreasonable to close them down and say: ‘It’s only a short bus ride to the town centre library.’ That overlooks the fact that taking young children on public transport is not an easy business. This is what has angered me so much about the cavalier way in which some councils have decided to close the libraries that don’t seem to them to matter very much. Maybe they don’t matter because they don’t have many of their voters in those areas.”

Outspoken

During the course of his authorial career, Pullman has been outspoken about a lot of things, including religion and the library cutbacks. For him, it’s part of the job description of being a person, rather than because he is a writer. “I am a citizen as well as a writer, I hope I’d be speaking out whatever job I had,” he says. “What I do for a living gives me a bit of a name so people notice when I speak, but I feel I should do it as a citizen rather than as a writer.”

As a writer, Pullman’s vast contribution to literature has seen his work succesfully transfer to screen and stage. This Christmas, one of his fairytales, The Firework Maker’s Daughter, is to be staged at the Bloomsbury Theatre. Pullman is excited about seeing his work in different mediums. “I’m not nervous because I know that the stories are great and by and large they always work on the stage.” He’s praised the production, which goes some way to showing how relaxed he is about interpretations of his work.

Although important, all this taking a stand as a citizen and watching new versions of his stories spring up all over the place means Pullman is often drawn away from his main business of writing. For the last few years his main project has been the Book of Dust, a mammoth story to follow on from the Northern Lights trilogy that he has decided will come in two parts. “I shall be really glad to get back to The Book of Dust and give it my full attention – and this time finish it,” he says.

Pullman has recently been busy with writing a film script from the John Blake comic that he created. “I hope it will be made, but you have to use the word ‘hope’ rather than ‘expect’ because it is such a difficult business these days. If it comes off, a film of John Blake will appear in the next two or three years. Meanwhile I shall be writing The Book of Dust.” Although Pullman continues to go to his desk in a morning and stays there until he has done a certain number of words, there’s still no date for the finished product.

Pullman seems unhurried; the book will happen when it happens. It’s one of the many things he has on his plate as a writer. Another goal is trying to write a good short story, something that most people would think comes easily to someone like him. “Short stories-like those in The New Yorker are a particular form and they are rather difficult to do,” he says “It’s got to be like a poem. Every word, every phrase has got to carry some weight in a short story.” It’s surprising to hear that an award-winning writer has difficulty with some forms of writing, I say. Pullman responds humbly with a joke: “I haven’t won awards for short story writing, though.”

Sign up for our news alerts today!

Our editors' picks for the day's top news delivered to your inbox or phone.

Sign up for email alerts Sign up for mobile alerts
1
2 3 4 5 6
7

Latest London news

Thursday, March 5, 2015
Police say Jade Watts should not be approached [Photograph from Metropolitan Police]

Police are urgently seeking to trace a woman who has gone missing from a mental health unit in Sidcup where she was receiving treatment.

Thursday, March 5, 2015
Do you recognise these young men? [Photograph from British Transport Police]

Police are looking for two young men after a teenager was punched so hard in a fight at Watford Hight Street Station that his jaw fractured in two places.

Thursday, March 5, 2015
'Gift Horse' by Hans Haacke has become the tenth sculpture to be installed on Trafalgar Square's fourth plinth, in London [Photograph by Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire]

The giant blue cockerel ‘Hahn/Cock’ that loomed over Trafalgar Square has been replaced with a new statue - a skeletal horse that shows the stock exchange prices.

Thursday, March 5, 2015
Do you recognise this man?

A six-year-old boy was sexually assaulted by a drunken pervert with a large belly after going to the toilet in a King’s Cross community centre.

Thursday, March 5, 2015
Khedidja told her mother she would not be coming home from school [Photograph from Metropolitan Police]

Police in Ealing are growing increasingly concerned for a 16-year-old girl who has gone missing from Hanwell.

Latest Stories from SNAP.PA

Can you relate to these classic #RowingProblems?

Read more

The comedian took on the #GimmeFive challenge to support Flotus’ campaign in the US.

Read more

Promoted content

A look at one of our previous Design Fairs

Chelsea Old Town Hall will be the venue for the renowned Desire Fair from 6-8 March 2015. This stunning mixed media jewellery and silversmithing event where visitors can purchase direct from contemporary designer makers selected from the best in the UK is an event not to be missed.

(Not guaranteed)

Mothers Day is fast approaching, so we’ve rounded up some unusual and beautiful gifts for you to dazzle the most important woman in your life come March 15th.

What is this?

Near You Now

Don't Miss...

A one-off version is being auctioned off for Comic Relief.

A man has now been jailed for the attack which left the officer unconscious.

The thieves were in and out in one minute – much like in the films.

Quirky London