Alan Moore is a keen supporter of public libraries and for a number of years has made public appearances to support them, in the face of government cutbacks. We've covered a few of those efforts.
Earlier this year, the Northampton Herald & Post reported on Alan Moore working with the library and children who had been excluded from school, as Moore himself was as a teenager. A very personal connection, he agreed to gie the project the name Voices Of The Fire, after Moore's Northampton-set novel Voice Of The Fire.
The paper reports,
More than 40 years later Alan's anger and hurt has transformed into an empathy for excluded pupils that prompted him to take up the invitation from National Literacy Hero and Northampton youth library worker Ruth Gasson to help expelled students re-engage with the education system.
"I personally know what it is like to be excluded. Everything that you are experiencing and being told hammers home the fact that your life is effectively over," Alan said.
"The mechanism that was meant to convey you from your childhood to the world has malfunctioned in some way and you have been thrown off of the conveyor belt. It is over for you.
"That is the sensation that I certainly had when I was 17 but I was trying to convey to these kids that in many ways my expulsion from school was one of the best things that had ever happened to me.
Alan is so impressed by what Ruth has put together he finds himself in the unusual position of wanting to praise the County Council when he is perhaps more familiar with the politics of protest.
"I know that in the past I have had some issues with the authorities in this town but for once I am completely delighted and have nothing but respect for the way they are handling a really sensitive issue," he said.
"These kids are in a really vulnerable place and it is hats off to the council. It is not very often you will hear me saying that."
And not for long, it seems. More recently the paper reported,
Northampton writer Alan Moore is "deeply concerned" after an award winning youth library worker was mysteriously removed from a project they launched together.
National Literacy Hero Ruth Gasson has been dropped from the Voices of the Fire scheme – named after Alan's novel about Northampton – which aims to help excluded pupils get back into education.
After running for several weeks – including sessions where Alan met and talked to the pupils – it has been taken over by an arts group called Threshold and Ruth is now believed to be taking advice from her union. She has not been available for comment since her absence from the project began just before half term.
"The first I heard of this was when I went down to the central library with some books for the kids. I asked to see Ruth and was told she was no longer on the project. When I asked why they wouldn't say. They admitted it would be impolitic to tell me," said Alan, who expressed his support for Voices of the Fire in a Herald & Post interview last month in which he praised the scheme and the County Council for allowing to go ahead.
"I was very impressed by her story. She has overcome dyslexia and was once an excluded pupil herself. She knew that I had been excluded from school and thought that I might have something useful to say to the kids that she works with," said Alan.
"I get a lot of invitations but I liked her and I liked what she was trying to do so I agreed to help. As far as I am concerned my commitment was to her and to her vision so I am very worried she seems to have suddenly disappeared from the picture."
No one else chose to comment at the time. But that hasn't stopped Alan, who has now taken it to another level, making the front page of the paper with an open letter to the council.
To whom it may concern,
I apologise if the above seems impersonal, but since nobody has had either the courage or civility to tell me whom I should be speaking to, it's the best I can do.
Some months ago, at the request of youth library worker Ruth Gasson, I undertook to meet with kids excluded from education in an enterprise centred upon my involvement and named, after my Northampton-based novel, as the 'Voices of the Fire' project. It was an incredible experience, and readers may recall my extravagant praise for the authorities concerned in this newspaper.
This was before I learned (after visiting the library, as nobody had thought to notify me) that Ruth had been removed from both the project and her job for reasons no one would explain, and was furthermore forbidden to contact me. Through the Herald I made extremely polite requests for an explanation, only to be met with squirming silence. So let me explain where we are now:
Unlike you, I and my work have a reputation. I can't allow my name to be attached to underhand machinations or lowlife practices of any kind. You'll understand that henceforth I will never again be able to trust you or any related body, including institutions like the library which are dear to me. In contrast to those badly let-down youngsters that I met, your behaviour is consistently to the detriment of this town and its people and I believe you are far superior candidates for exclusion.
To that end, having had friends prevented from contacting me, I'd be grateful if no one connected to the project except those persons – along with the schools and pupils themselves, obviously – contacted me in future. Meanwhile, I hope somebody dimly comprehends what's been irretrievably broken here.
The council issued their own response, also printed by the paper,
Here at Northamptonshire County Council, and in the library services we provide, we pride ourselves on being fully open and transparent in our dealings with customers, partners and the public in general. Indeed we have a national reputation for such transparency and openness.
There are times however that we cannot be as open as we would otherwise be. This is where the subject matter demands we act with sensitivity and with confidentiality.
As a result, in this situation we have not been able to keep Mr Moore fully informed. Needless to say that we therefore find accusations of 'low-life practices' and 'under-hand machinations' deeply offensive and inappropriate.
We have and will continue to try to contact Mr Moore to speak with him on this matter.
Customer and Library Service Manager
One person close to the issues told me that it "seems to be a situation where bridges were being built quite spectacularly only to have obfuscation and an almost cloak and dagger secrecy take over. It's no wonder Moore feels that progress in reaching out to the community has been snuffed out when personal connections have been severed by the council itself."