HE might be a dab hand at pulling a pint or two in Still Game pub, the Clansman, as Boaby the Barman, however for actor Gavin Mitchell he is much more at home in the security of one of Glasgow’s libraries.

For Mitchell libraries are a place of solace and comfort and he says he wouldn’t be where he is today without them. Growing up he was a regular visitor at Springburn library which he describes as an escapism for someone with such a love of books.

More recently he had been a familiar face at Maryhill library before lockdown and is a well-kent face in libraries across the city.

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It is this passion which has led to him become involved in the fight for the city's libraries to be reopened and the Still Game star can be found on the steps of Maryhill library of a Saturday morning with fellow campaigners leading weekly read-ins.

The Herald: Gavin Mitchell, right, at George Square with fellow actor Tam Dean BurnGavin Mitchell, right, at George Square with fellow actor Tam Dean Burn

“When I received my honorary doctorate a couple of years ago it reminded me that everything I have done is because I have self educated. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for my local libraries,” said Mitchell. “I am just a lover of books and have an addiction to libraries. I can’t walk past a library without going in and I must know most of the librarians in the city.

“Libraries have always been a huge part of my life and saved me in a way. Whether it be Glasgow, Lanarkshire, or somewhere abroad where I don’t speak the language, I will hunt out the library first.”

He has been supporting the Save Maryhill Library campaign since it was revealed it wasn't one of the libraries with a reopening date as we emerged from lockdown. Glasgow Life, the arms-length charitable organisation which operates the city’s culture and leisure facilities on behalf of the city council, is responsible for 33 libraries. While some have reopened their doors such as Hillhead and Govanhill, others including Maryhill, Whiteinch and the Couper libraries are still waiting for news.

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Glasgow Life lost £38m last year due to lockdown and its estimated income for 2020/21 is around £6.4m. An agreed council funding deal will see Glasgow Life receive a guaranteed £100m for the next four years to open 90 out of its 171 venues. Without further funding, they say they cannot reopen any more venues.

The Herald: Gavin Mitchell as Still Game's Boaby the BarmanGavin Mitchell as Still Game's Boaby the Barman

It is why The Herald has launched A Fair Deal for Glasgow campaign calling on both Scottish and UK governments to agree a new funding deal for Glasgow’s assets and venues of national and international significance.

We are also seeking commitment from both Scottish and UK governments to work with the city to achieve this and Glasgow’s cultural assets and collections of national and international significance are recognised and funded at national level.

Our funding call comes at a time when around 500 jobs will go at the organisation over a five year period. This week trade unions have taken action over the threat of 500 job losses at the city’s culture and leisure organisation with a formal collective grievance. Unison, GMB and Unite say the arms-length charity has failed to properly consult staff about the plans. Glasgow Life said they were in receipt of the grievance.

Mitchell added: “Libraries are an essential part of life and are not a luxury. They should be open to all. They are buildings which draw people in. They are calm and serene places. If you take Maryhill as just one example, it is an area already facing difficulties and its library is a place where people can go to interact, access the internet, or for people to take part in classes.”

Campaigners meet on a Saturday morning and read their books while receiving cheers and beeps from passersby and motorists. Mr Mitchell also enlisted the help of bands Glasgow-based comedy rock band Colonel Mustard and The Dijon 5 to raise spirits and the profile of a recent read in.

“It has all been about showing solidarity and we are not giving up,” added Mitchell. “I think Glasgow Life and the council might have underestimated the strength of feeling towards local libraries, places that were gifted to the city and are the very foundations of our city."

The Herald: The Herald has been leading A Fair Deal for Glasgow campaignThe Herald has been leading A Fair Deal for Glasgow campaign

Fellow campaigner Julia Boswell said they are now at the stage when they are looking for straight answers.

Ms Boswell said: "We are being told Glasgow Life don't have the money to reopen it, but what concerns us is that a problem caused by covid is now an attempt to offload assets. Would we end up with a section in Maryhill leisure centre, would volunteers run the library as part of community transfer?

A spokesperson for Glasgow Life said: “Re-opening dates for the majority, 28, of Glasgow’s 33 public libraries were indicated in April as part of the £100m budget we have been given by Glasgow City Council this year which is being used in full reopening more than 90 venues across the city. Right now 22 libraries are open, and four more are due to reopen in the coming weeks with Shettleston Library expected to close for refurbishment once Parkhead Library reopens and two more are due to reopen in 2022 after refurbishments are complete. The cost of operating the remaining libraries currently without opening dates would be £1.2 million a year.”