Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers blasts library closures

In a Guardian editorial, the Manics' bassist explains the importance of free public libraries to him and his band.


Words by: Charlie Jones

“There’s a tendency to resort to romantic cliche when talking about libraries; clearly in a digital age they aren’t a “sexy” alternative. Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I still believe that the core of libraries will always be printed words rather than screens or keyboards. In any town or city, you can walk in and pick up the works of TS Eliot or Brett Easton Ellis, extremes of taste that you can dip into and thumb through without having anyone nudging you to make a purchase. There really aren’t many things in life that can enrich you for free yet ask for nothing in return.

As an utterly self-made band, in our formative stages we vociferously consumed high and low culture – magazines, literature and TV. Without money, libraries became something of a lifeline, offering a clear window on to a wider world. In the summer of 2009, the band were honoured to be asked to open the new Cardiff Central Library. For us, it seemed like a chance to give something back to Wales. Seeing one of our lyrics – “Libraries gave us power”, from A Design for Life – inscribed on the opening plaque was in its own way as affecting as playing the Millennium Stadium.

That opening line was adapted from an engraving above the entrance to Pill library in Newport that read: “Knowledge is power.” The weight of those almost Orwellian words became intertwined with an idea about what the miners had given back to society when they built municipal halls and centres across the country – beautiful looking institutes that they proudly left for future generations. The lyric was me railing against what I saw as a flippancy pervading the country with the rise of Britpop, a wholesale adoption – and bastardisation – of working-class culture.”