Alan Moore said he will scrap plans to shoot a TV series in Northampton if plans to close the majority of the county’s libraries go ahead.
The writer and film-maker – who has endured an unfair reputation as a recluse because he chose to remain a Northamptonian when success as a graphic novelist beckoned him to America – accused council decisions of turning his beloved town into a “degraded, devastated wasteland” and declared: “I’ve had enough.”
Northamptonshire County Council announced radical changes to the library service this week, launching a consultation on a number of savings plans which they hope will enable £9.6 million of cuts. A further £27 million of cuts to services is being announced in December.
Suggestions included small local libraries passing into community or business management. The mobile library service would be scrapped. The county council would retain a core service of larger libraries but in a worst case scenario over 20 libraries could close.
A final decision on what gets cut will happen next February but the looming threat to the library service has already prompted an outcry.
Moore, 63, has campaigned on behalf of the library service in the past and reacted with fury to the announcement.
“Twenty-one out of 29 libraries being closed? Why would anyone do that? Why would anyone increase the levels of ignorance and illiteracy because that is what this will do. Why would anyone do that unless they were hoping to increase their natural electorate? People who think: It is actually better for us if everyone is not very keen on reading, not very well informed about things and will just respond to any headlines that we care to serve them. I can see that makes for a much more malleable population,” he said.
Moore is famous for writing a string of ground-breaking graphic novels such as Watchmen, V for Vendetta and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and refusing the royalties from Hollywood cinema versions in protest at the way the industry was treating its creatives. He has gone on to work across a number of artistic disciplines including novels, songwriting, poetry and film-making which produced the well received Jimmy’s End series of short gothic films.
A full length Jimmy’s End movie is about to start shooting in Northampton with Mitch Jenkins but a planned TV series set in the town now hangs in the balance.
“I have had enough,” Alan said “I am not going to be reduced to a shill that will somehow validate their continuing destruction of this town. The film will be made but the two or three seasons of the follow up television series – much more lucrative, much more lasting – they will either not be happening or not happening in Northampton if this goes ahead. I suspect it will go ahead and I hope people know me well enough by now that once I have said something there is no way I am ever going to change my mind on it.
“The council can do this and save a little bit of money so they can squander it on some other ridiculous development like the new bus station and they will be in the long term missing out on something that could have been really good for this town.
“They will be missing out on any future goodwill. I will continue to work with people of this town who need it but I am not going to be advertising this town and saying come to this town, it’s really nice and historical and Alan Moore lives here. No.
“This town is a degraded, devastated wasteland and it really needs something doing about it quick and by that I don’t mean closing down 21 of the libraries.”
Alan speaks to Northampton Film Lab on Save Our Libraries Day in 2011
Moore, who was born in Northampton and contributes articles to The NeneQuirer, was expelled from the then Northampton Grammar School (now NSB) in his sixth form but continued to educate himself with a voracious appetite for reading.
“I doubt that Alan Moore would have been very much at all without the enormous help I got from having a well stocked easily accessible town library when I was a child,” he said.
“I grew up in a home – although my parents were very concerned I should have the rudiments of reading and writing before I started at Spring Lane Primary School – where there weren’t many books in the house. There were a few books that my father and other children in the Green Street area had been given by charitable institutions at Christmas time and that had been carefully kept and handed down. But once you had read the Children’s Golden Book of Wonder for 1934 from cover to cover a couple of times it started to lose its glamour.
“I could read and enjoyed reading by the time I was five. At that time I also found out about the existence of the library. I suddenly found that any book in the world was available to me. All right I couldn’t understand most of them at the age of five but in principle at least the whole knowledge of the world was available to me. As I grew up I took more and more advantage of that fact. Books that I wanted to read but couldn’t find them anywhere I could generally find them at the library.
“When I started my professional career before I had such a big library of my own, that was the only place when something needed research that you could find the materials. Various parts of my early work wouldn’t have been the same without access to the library. This was the way we stored and guarded knowledge back in the day. In fact, when I say ‘back in the day’ that is going back to Alexandria, a couple of thousand years. It was the destruction of libraries that brought on the Dark Ages.
Alan has been fighting for Northamptonshire’s libraries for years
“Yes we can say we can look everything up, we don’t need libraries, I would say that there is a radical difference between knowledge and information. The fact that we can look everything up doesn’t mean that you know what to look up. You don’t have a fundamental basis of knowledge on which to base your questions. Much better to have knowledge than information because being able to look everything up how much do you know in event of a power failure or if you are away from your device?
“Something we are having to deal with in this century is the frightening dominance of the internet companies and all sorts of things about our lives are being eroded by the omnipresence of these things. These large internet companies don’t seem to be any more scrupulous than the non-internet companies that preceded them. They have more opportunities for malpractice because we don’t yet understand the difference between practice and malpractice in these areas. It is all new to us.”
Moore, who refuses allegiance to any political party (although believes his parents would have voted for Jeremy Corbyn), has been an outspoken critic of all levels of local and national government in defence of vulnerable communities. He is aware that councils are used to hearing him take them to task over the development of the town.
“I’ve had enough of being used as some kind of poster boy for Northampton… I don’t like the inference that I take from that, Alan can say what he wants, we won’t do anything about it and we will continue to enjoy whatever benefits Alan can bring to this town, which I’m not interested in doing.
“Yes I do love Northampton, the place that I grew up in, whereas this council and preceding councils have turned it into a hellhole. Let’s face it the Upper Mounts district looks like Sarajevo in the 1990s. The only businesses that seem to be doing really well in town are plasterboard manufacturers. What is there about this town that we have hung on to, that we have managed to preserve? If these people are Conservatives what have they ever conserved?”
Moore questioned the morality of the Government inflicting cuts on council budgets when it handed the DUP money to prop up its majority in the House of Commons.
“They gave a billion to the DUP in order that Theresa May’s personal career as prime minister can be extended another few months, weeks.
“It is ok for the rest of the country to rot as long as this tiny privileged few can continue to have their greedy lives exactly as they have enjoyed them. I don’t think we can put up with this. I know I certainly can’t.”