We started the campaign to acquire William Blake’s Cottage in Felpham with an ideal: to contribute our grain of sand to a better world. We wanted to create a haven for artists, thinkers, creators, so that from the Cottage’s doors beauty, truth and human solidarity would go out into the world.
Instead of that, we ended up with deceit, harming of people, theft of people’s work, contempt for Blake and for everyone who supported the campaign, a cover up and fraud. This, because of an abysmal lack of scruples, some broken souls, personal interests, petty ambitions, cowardice – what are we to expect from people like these in times of war?
There is no evil that cannot be done by a lying person, who has transgressed one precept, and who holds in contempt the world beyond.
Blake’s Cottage is in a serious state of disrepair, after 9 months of having been acquired by the Blake Cottage Trust, an illegitimate organism of only three men set up secretly. The large consortium of accountable individuals and organisations that we promised the public that we would create was meant to join skills, efforts and fund-raising potential so that this did not happen. That consortium was also to implement the clearly defined project for the Cottage that the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust have now disowned. The Cottage must be managed by responsible people who honour the original project that people gave their money and support for; by people who care, and who are publicly accountable.
[Document sent to the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust in November 2015. Not a single one of the concerns raised here has been addressed by either Charity so far]
How many Scofields for Blake’s memory?
It’s hard to know where to start in order to explain what has been wrong with Blake’s Cottage appeal and the developments since it was purchased. It makes for some 12 different folders now in the hands of the Charity Commission, and involves a policy of secrecy and division, lying, deceit of the public, bullying, thoroughly dishonest and unethical behaviour, the stealing of people’s work and harm to concrete persons, the elbowing out and exclusion of those who founded and ran the campaign along with the Blake Society’s Chairman, Tim Heath, collusion, the washing their hands off their responsibility and a cover-up from the Blake Society and, ultimately, what I strongly believe amounts to fraud.
William Blake deserves much better than this.
In the printed Blake Society Programme for 2016-2017 recently sent around to the Society’s members a tour around the Cottage is announced for next 11 June, and in a further pretence at openness and transparency, it is also announced that afterwards the new Blake Cottage Trust will host a discussion along with a prominent local organisation in Felpham about the future of the Cottage. They did so without the approval of the mentioned organisation, and knowing fully well that their representatives could not possibly attend the discussion on that day.
As members of the Blake Society will have noticed, they have now had to amend their invitation to that event in their June newsletter.
The Blake Society has also recently included in its newsletter the minutes of their latest AGM, that have little regard to truth (please see my former post below, “The Minute Particulars”).
All this has to change. I believe it can change if the following points are taken seriously:
- The organisation in charge of managing Blake’s Cottage must be run only by people with an impeccable record of honesty and accountability.
- The Cottage must be managed by a large consortium of respected individuals and institutions with the expertise, capability and accountability necessary to run such a project. That is what we promised the public that we would create, and not a Trust of only three individuals imposed by Mr Heath and also chaired by him. We stated that we would create such a consortium in our applications for public funds, in our statements to the Blake Society members, to the public and to the press, and it was to such a consortium that the Howell family wanted to sell the Cottage.
- Such a consortium must have regulations in place to guarantee its accountability, stop any one individual from appropriating the project or behaving unscrupulously, and it must make publicly available the records of their decision-making, since the Cottage was purchased through the donations of hundreds of generous people.
- The consortium must be conformed of people willing to know the full story of the Cottage appeal and the problems it has faced, to look at the available evidence and to ask Mr Heath, the Blake Society and the present Blake Cottage Trust for an explanation of their actions.
- The Blake Society must acknowledge publicly and unequivocally that this was from the beginning a Blake Society project, and not a campaign “set up and run independently yet with the help and blessing of the Society”, as they are claiming now. It was a campaign ran by the Blake Society, in collaboration with the Big Blake Project, and the Blake Society must acknowledge that it clearly asked people to make donations to it for the acquisition of the Cottage. It also must acknowledge that it committed itself to create a new consortium with the characteristics mentioned above,and not to hand over the project to Mr Heath then wash its hands off it.
- The new consortium must acknowledge too that this was a Blake Society project, not Mr Heath’s, and that this entails a public responsibility that they are willing to honour.
- The new consortium must respect the original project for the campaign, stop saying that there was “no vision” at all behind it, and honour the project that people gave money and support to. (Please refer to the document included as well in the “Minute Particulars” post in this blog. The document is called “A Vision for Blake’s Cottage” and it was sent in November to both the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust in order to remind them of the original project and of their responsibilities. They never deigned to address any of the points I make there.)
- The Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust must acknowledge publicly, clearly and unequivocally the contribution of the Big Blake Project and myself to the campaign and publicly apologise for, and explain, our exclusion of the project, Mr Heath’s severe bullying and the attempts of both Trusts at a cover up, while they commit themselves publicly to real transparency in the future. Both Charities must stop lying, now.
- Mr Heath must give a full explanation of his actions, from the very beginning of the appeal and up to now, including the way in which he set up the Blake Cottage Trust in secrecy, concealing what he was doing from both those running the campaign with him and the Blake Society Committee itself. Not even the deliberately vague minutes existing (the new Secretary, Mr Vinall, has been taking the minutes for years, and there is evidence of his manipulating of minutes, refusal to record crucial information, and actually blatant lying) can conceal the fact that the statements made by Mr Heath and the dates of his actions simply don’t add up. Mr Heath must be held responsible by both Charities for the consequences of his actions.
- Both Trusts must acknowledge that they have refused to accept my repeated offers and those of the Big Blake Project to attend a meeting with them in order to address these problems, and that they have refused to look at my evidence, which is now in the hands of the appropriate organisms. They must explain why they have actively refused to engage in any sort of communication with those of us who also made the Cottage appeal possible and why they have chosen to disregard every single one of our clearly and repeatedly voiced concerns.
- The Blake Cottage Trust must make available to the public the records of their decision-making, from the moment the Trust was set up and up to now.
- The Blake Cottage Trust must make available to the public the information of what exactly they have been doing since the moment the Cottage was acquired.
- Then a joint solution must be found, in agreement with the appropriate authorities, so that the Cottage is legally protected from further wrongdoing and becomes at last what we promised the public we would make of it: a centre for creation and for the dissenting imagination that belongs to all.
Update 10 June:
What is happening around Blake’s Cottage now is a lamentable reenactment of the trials that William Blake went through in Felpham more than two hundred years ago.
An example of this is what has happened to the only source of public information we have about the Cottage since it was purchased in September 2015.
Up to at least 5 June, less than a week ago, if you looked up in Google “BlakeCottage.org” or clicked on http://www.blakesociety.org/blakecottage/, what you came across was an update from September 2015 announcing the purchase of the Cottage. Below that you could see the webpage we had created for the Cottage appeal, with its history and an outline of the project to which people gave their money. In fact much of that page had been done by myself, including the update for November 2015, the last moment of hope I had, within days of encountering again the bullying and the secrecy that made me leave the Blake Society and the campaign.
It was sad to look at that page, just as abandoned as the Cottage itself seems to be now.
But it was an important source of information, for it outlined the original project and it included the Just Giving button through which many people made donations to the appeal, still in use up to a few days ago. It clearly asked people to give money to the Blake Society.
Since I started making public this sad affair a few weeks ago I have been asking for the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust to honour the truth: that this was a Blake Society project and that there was a clearly defined vision behind it. Instead of doing that, I realised yesterday, 9 June, on looking up that page again, that it has changed in the past couple of days. Now it talks only about the “success” of the campaign and links to an article about it in The Guardian – the press, that was as misled as all the rest of us.
The Just Giving button – eloquent evidence that the Blake Society was asking for money for a Blake Society project, and that people sent money to it for the appeal – has disappeared too. But truth cannot be deleted so easily. I share with you a 5 June 2016 screenshot of the Cottage appeal’s Just Giving page that could be accessed through the now disfigured Cottage page:
Do I need to say more?
Not much, apart from the fact that I will certainly not attend that mockery of an opening of the Cottage’s doors tomorrow.
On September last year, when I found out that while the Cottage was purchased the Blake Cottage Trust had elbowed out the Big Blake Project, and that the Blake Society Committee had been left completely in the dark about what the Chair had been doing with the appeal, I urged both Charities to get together with the Big Blake Project, sort out whatever differences there might be and organise for Blake’s birthday in November a celebration hosted by all of them, showing a united, inclusive, harmonic front to a united, inclusive and harmonic project for which we worked so hard. I expected too to be part of such a celebration, given my pivotal role in the campaign.
That is what the Blake Society members, donors for the campaign and the public deserved. That is what William Blake deserved: a happy, open, dignified celebration, rather than a surreptitious event organised around deceit and secrecy.
Please read my former posts in this blog so that you get a clearer idea of what is happening here: ‘How many Scofields for Blake’s Memory?’ and ‘The minute particulars’.
I ask the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust, again, for transparency and for accountability. I ask for them to honour the original project for Blake’s Cottage, the frame for a large consortium that we promised we’d create, and the Blake Society’s responsibility for the project. I ask for them to stop acting through dishonesty and fear and honour truth instead, and for the most elementary human decency.
Albion can still awake.