Our Story

When the Waltham Forest Branch Library at Harrow Green was threatened with closure a strong campaign was fought which resulted in a petition with over 4,000 signatures being presented to Waltham Forest Council.

It was a much loved library that was important to many in its local community – the Cann Hall and Cathall Wards in South Leytonstone. Comments gathered during the campaign underline this:

We need this library – a haven, solace, a place for dreams…

I was brought up in that Library.

I need a library nearby for me and my kids.

Why close a key educational point for the community?

The most recent statistics available for the area indicate that over 40% of children in the Wards are considered to live in poverty. Over 26% of the population of Waltham Forest aged three and over do not speak English as their main language. These and other related statistics suggest that easy access to good quality reading material and support for its use should be a priority locally.

Despite this the Library was closed down in December 2011. There seemed no alternative but to establish a volunteer run Library. This was eventually achieved through much hard work and good support by early 2013, and with the offer of temporary space in the Epicentre.

Harrow Green Community Library came into being!


Our progress

The Library service is provided totally by hard-working volunteers. Many of our volunteers are younger people studying and/or looking for longer-term employment, and many have gone on to get full time employment. So we always welcome new volunteers. For further details see Volunteer.

Our membership has grown slowly but surely. Our biggest users are young children. You can find out about many of our books at Library Catalogue.

We have been fortunate to receive some Ward Forum funds to help with special events and activities. The Lottery grant we received enabled us to run the kind of activities that we had aimed to offer to establish the Library as a community resource. From January to July 2105 we ran a weekly Saturday Family Storytime and English Conversation Group; and monthly Creative Writing Groups (daytime and evening) and Reading Club. These activities proved very popular and overall were attended by 680 adults and children. Most of these activities are continuing.

We celebrated our first 6 months with a special event to thank our volunteers and supporters at which a video about us was made.

Poet and performer John Hegley and local dancer Theo Oloyade helped us celebrate our first birthday with an afternoon event for local school children and an evening of entertainment.

We are now in our third year and very much hoping to expand our space and activities.


Waltham Forest Ward profiles for Cann Hall and Cathall (collations based on the 2011 census).

Waltham Forest (2015) data and statistics: https://www.walthamforest.gov.uk/Pages/Services/statistics-economic-information-and-analysis.aspx