CHILDREN chanted "no ifs, no buts, no Essex library cuts" as they led peaceful protesters through Colchester town centre today.

The Young People's March against plans to slash the number of libraries was a vibrant display from Colchester Library to Firstsite.

Shoppers were stopped in their tracks as the large group shouted slogans and to "save our libraries" through Lion Walk and the High Street.

Their melodic protest was accompanied by a bagpipe player and a group beating on bongo drums.


A child holds a banner with the words "Listen to me"

Nina Godden-Murphy, 10, said being there alongside her mum and brother Marvin, 12, made her feel empowered.

The Hamilton Primary School pupil said: "Lots of people from my class are here as the news got around in school.

"We use the library a lot. My brother uses it more than me but I think they're very useful, and we've got a lot out of them."

Gazette: Everyone gathered outside Firstsite art gallery. Picture: Lorcan Whitehead

The march is part of a day of action across the county organised by the Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE) campaign.

It included speeches from the young people, who made many of the banners on show, and badges which were sold at the Colchster event.

Baker Joanne Smith, who owns JoJo's Cupcake, designed and donated a cake especially for the event.


JoJo's cake was inspired by the famous children's book the Hungry Caterpillar

Five of the seven libraries in Colchester are at risk but so are a further 39 across the county.

Josefine Bäckman's video, which urged other young people to attend the protest as their favourite book characters, has had several thousand views online.

The 11-year-old was there with mum Pia, who wants her daughter to recognise the power of her voice, and said they are "bookaholics".


Walking towards Eld Lane. Picture: Lorcan Whitehead

Ms Bäckman said: "The authorities never listen to the children. But if they decide to do something which affects their future, those are the people which need to be asked and aren't.

"I tell Josefine if she wants to make a difference, she can, but she has to do it herself. Everyone has the right to say what they want but people are too afraid."


Josefine Bäckman (left) holding up the main banner

Katy Vargas, spokesman for Colchester SOLE, said: “Under 19s are the biggest users of our libraries, from toddlers attending rhyme time, to school children participating reading challenges, and young students using libraries as a quiet place to study.

"It's therefore shocking Essex County Council has failed to directly seek out the views of this group which will be disproportionately impacted by their plans.”

JaJaJa Books founder, author Genevieve Yusef, marched with daughter Carmen, 5, who held a homemade banner with friend Ella Withy.


Carmen Yusef and Ella Withy, both aged 5.

"It's not just about borrowing a book, libraries are a meeting place and hub, and a brilliant place for new parents, particularly when the Sure Start Centres have been shutting down.

"They bring the community together in more ways than one."

Find videos from the march at the Gazette's Facebook page by clicking here.