Upstairs, in the back room of 8a Market Place (also owned by the GE), the Library of Avalon was created. There had been interest for some time in setting up a spritually-based library in Glastonbury, and in 1987 David Taylor began to lay the groundwork, with the support of Geoffrey Ashe who was the library’s first patron. They established it as a library of mythology, though this was defined in very broad terms “as the source of creativity,” with “myth-related themes which gave the library a broad base.” (see email from DT, 2014). The Avalon Library Association was incorporated as a limited company, with David as Secretary until 1989.
A committee was established, which set up a membership system and began raising funds, collecting books and contacting suitable authors “who mostly gave generously.” They established the cataloguing system that is still in use today. In 1989 they prepared a major appeal and designed a brochure that defined the library’s aims as “To collate a unique archive of British mythology,” together with acting as a library of reference and lending, encouraging the academic study of British mythology, republishing rare source material, offering research facilities, and organising symposia, conferences and workshops. (See Avalon Library Association, Foundation Appeal, 1989).
In September 1989 the planned public launch took place, with a high-profile appeal for funds and books:
The Marquess of Bath, who has in his own library at Longleat some of the manuscripts from the original Glastonbury Abbey library, is one of the Vice Presidents of the Appeal. The others are Dr George Carey, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, and David Heathcote-Amory MP. The President is James Carley, author of ‘Glastonbury Abbey.’ (6)
The library project was supported by Helene Koppejan, who provided the back room, initially free of charge. David, however, stood down once the appeal had been launched. His own business, the EarthSpirit retreat centre in Compton Dundon, was taking more and more of his attention. Barry Taylor had joined the committee by then, and together with Kathy Jones and Sue Barnet put energy into carrying the project forward. Barry and Kathy in particular “were both inspired by the vision of recreating the famous library of the old Abbey.” This vision was if anything more ambitious than ever:
A library suitable for the newly reborn Glastonbury as a great centre of international pilgrimage … It would contain at least one copy of all the classics of every religion and faith plus all the modern classics, and there would be CDs, tapes and videos. There would be a publishing department printing selected titles now out of print. We would actively seek out books to complete the library from private collections and, in particular, we would try to find any of the missing books from the old Abbey library that might still be in existence. There would be an excellent research facility used by the students of various colleges and by the media of the world. Lectures and seminars on matters directly related to the library would be offered. (4)
The first symposium at the library consisted of a debate between Geoffrey Ashe, who was a leading authority on King Arthur and related matters, and Kathy Jones, whose experience with Ariadne Productions had shown the transformative power of myth and legend. This set the tone, and a growing group of influential founder members asked for volunteers and for donations of books, both of which turned up in surprising numbers. By the end of the year the library had three hundred titles on its shelves and 43 paid-up members, with an expanding programme of evening events. (5)
The emphasis was shifted from being a library of mythology to being a library ‘of the human spirit,’ and it had soon moved into the larger front room at 8a Market Place. Plans for re-housing the library in more prestigious premises formed by rebuilding the GE’s Market Place properties were seriously entertained, though they could not be justified without the library generating sufficient money to pay the GE a realistic rent. Its modest income was unlikely to be substantially increased, and research was carried out to see how other similar libraries were financed …