New community library honouring cancer victim opens in Streatham

A Little Library opened in Streatham on Saturday in memory of a community activist and mother-of-two who died of brain cancer.

Community groups and businesses from all around Streatham came together to create ‘Lou’s Little Library’ in honour of Louise Simonsen, who died last year at the age of 41.

Simonsen had been diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain tumour nine months earlier, and she was able to marry her partner Shaff Prabatani 15 minutes before she died.

Prabatani and the couple’s two daughters, Hannah, 8 and Alia, 10, decided to create the lending library as a living memory of Simonsen, who was an avid reader and active member of the community

After an inspirational response in Streatham and over social media, Prabatani thanked everyone who helped bring the project to life.

He said: “I’m so grateful to all the amazing people who gave up time to make Lou’s Little Library possible. It’s truly a community project and I know Lou would be really proud to see how everyone has come together to make it happen.”

Simonsen managed a homeless project and organised collections in the community for refugees, while reading a book a week and continuing to use her Kindle even as she became blind from her condition.

Hannah and Alia, Simonsen’s daughters, came up with the designs for the library, which would be built in a Scandinavian style to honour their mother’s Danish origin.

With funding from Pathfield Nursery, rendered designs from Streatham woodworker Treesaurus and a sign by creative studio Good Empire, the library took shape with contributions from all around the community and opened as part of the Streatham Literature Festival.

LIBRARY: The community is encouraged to donate books

Prabatani added: “I took the girls to the workshop so they could see the library take shape and feel part of its creation. They were thrilled to see their sketches come to life.

“Lou always said that reading transported her to another world and that was still the same, even when she was at her sickest. She wanted everyone to read more and our daughters love it too. Our house is stuffed full of books!

“A little library is the perfect way to celebrate Lou and her life.

“We’re also looking to the amazing community here in Streatham to help fill the library.

“We’d love the books that people treasure, the ones you just can’t wait for someone else to read and enjoy as well. And please leave a message inside to share with whoever is lucky enough to get your book next.”

Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy officially opened the library and donated the first book, Dear World: A Syrian Girl’s Story of War and Plea for Peace by Bana Alabed, which was placed in the library by Simonsen’s daughter Alia.

‘Lou’s Little Library’ can be found at 112 Pathfield Road, Streatham, and as well as offering a space for lending and borrowing books, it features a ‘sharing table’ where people can donate and share produce such as plant cuttings and herbs.

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