Graffiti artist Banksy has offered to help support Bristol's threatened library service.
According to the Bristol Post, mayor Marvin Rees revealed that Banksy had been in touch to help keep the city's 27 libraries open at Bristol City Council's cabinet meeting on Tuesday (3rd July).
The surprise announcement was prompted by a public forum question in which an audience member asked if there was any truth to “rumours that a philanthropist had stepped forward to help libraries in Bristol”.
Rees confirmed the speculation but warned, “You have to be careful with rumours”.
“It’s just that a very well known person from Bristol wrote in and asked us the nature of the challenge and to outline what support we need as a city to meet that challenge and that person was Banksy,” he said. “He has come forward and talked about supporting us and we will see how that plays itself out. There is nothing signed and delivered and so far it is just a conversation that we had.”
The council is currently in talks with community groups, library users, and staff to discuss how to develop a “relevant, modernised and sustainable” library service .
A Twitter account called Save Redland Libraries said it welcomed Banksy's gesture but questioned why Bristol's libraries should rely on donations from the public in order to run.
"We have to ask if donations provide a viable and sustainable future for all of our Libraries," it tweeted.
Last year Rees announced a £1.4m budget cut for libraries which would have seen 17 of the city's libraries close, but the consultation was met with strong opposition, including three public petitions garnering more than 12,000 names altogether. Blackadder actor Tony Robinson also blasted the plan on social media.
Then, last month Rees announced he was scrapping plans to save £1.4m from the libraries’ budget, which would have seen the city draw on community support to maintain provision, although current levels of funding are only confirmed until the next mayoral election in 2020.
A cabinet report will now set out how investment can keep all the city’s libraries open. Rees said he would engage with community groups and councillors to “transform and mordernise” the service for the future and is calling on local groups to offer ideas on how to save money on provision.