Yesterday I saw You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970 at the V&A. The exhibition is extraordinary in many ways (I’ll be writing about it in my next column for a Mexican newspaper), and the name of William Blake is repeatedly mentioned. In fact, the exhibition’s soundtrack ends with two emblematic songs: John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Parry’s setting to “Jerusalem”.
It makes sense, in a space that discusses revolution, freedom, the expansion of consciousness, the dream, and the courage, to change the world. It leaves us with a bitter-sweet feeling, for the world did change, yet not as much as it had been dreamt, and some facets of the dream did go wrong.
A look at the world at this precise moment is a heartbreaking reminder of how much we’ve fallen short. Yet the dream cyclically resurfaces, and more often than not, William Blake is somehow part of it.
The Cottage appeal was one such dream, an attempt at contributing in some humble way to the construction of a better world. There was nobility in it.
And look at what we have now: while the world out there goes on spiraling down into mindless violence and a very scary political panorama, we’re having to defend Blake’s Cottage from a shameful and petty attempt at appropriating a public project through exactly the kind of human behaviour that William Blake abhorred.
It is utterly sad.
Fighting like this is not pleasant. I do not want, did not call for this in my life.
There is plenty of evidence out there that shows how much I tried for all of us involved in the sad story of the Cottage appeal to get together and find together a solution like decent human beings, looking at each other, face to face. All such efforts were ignored, while both the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust went on lying, deceiving, bullying if they felt the need, using, abusing, taking what was not theirs.
Next 20 January the Blake Society will be having its AGM. The one in 2016 was shameful (you can look at my comments to their minutes in the documents section in this webpage).
Let us hope that this time there will be more truth. I am calling yet again to all the Trustees of both Charities to own up to what they have done, apologize, explain why they’ve behaved this way and be part of the solution by fully accepting the consequences of their actions.
If they don’t, they’ll just dig themselves deeper into this awful mess. It doesn’t matter what I, or other campaigners say, or even if we don’t say anything at all. The BS and the BCT may get away with one or two things now and then, but they won’t be able to get away with everything, and not forever. The truth will be known, sooner or later.
Taking what is not yours
In a recent blog author Beryl Kingston asks her readers whether if people think they should go on giving money or not to the Blake Cottage Trust, if the latter happened to promise that they would use the money exclusively to repair the Cottage and not to demolish the annex in order to build their “visitor centre” instead (https://berylkingstonblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/06/two-different-aims-for-blakes-cottage/).
I commented on that, and I’ll say it here as well: I agree entirely, the repair of the Cottage is the most urgent matter. But the BCT should not be given a single pound more. They are the ones who have allowed the Cottage to go into disrepair; they are the ones who stole a public project and lied to the public; they, along with the BS, the ones who are proving incapable of giving a consistent report about what they have done with the money received. Why should we trust them now?
The Cottage must be in the hands of people who care, and if it is to remain a public space, then it has to be in the hands of people who are honest and accountable.
Mrs Kingston’s latest blog entry regarding the Cottage is sad to read, as it makes clear the extent to which the dishonesty of some individuals and their appropriation of what does not belong to them have shattered the Cottage’s dream.
The former Secretary of the Blake Society (who succeeded me, then left the BS because of his disapproval of how the Cottage problem was handled) seems to be still promoting his bizarre idea of how we can all find reconciliation, and does so using very big, noble words. We’ve exchanged some correspondence about this in the past.
He’s very angry because I have spoken out, invokes kindness and good will and seems to have forgotten entirely all my gestures of kindness, forgiving, good will and inexhaustible attempts at bringing together all of those involved in order to find a solution, and how all those attempts were ignored, even by himself. I have an email of his from 2014, by the way, praising me for how graciously I managed to deal with all the aggression I was receiving from the Blake Society’s Chair at the moment.
This peaceful man saw from very close quarters another human being on the verge of breakdown and with her health in tatters due to the unbearable pressure put on her by the bullying and entirely dishonest behaviour of the Chair on one side, and the rest of the BS Committee on the other, asking her to go out of her way in order to save the reputation of the Society and the Cottage campaign while they themselves, though telling her how outraged they were by what was happening, failed to call the Chair to task. He then saw the Big Blake Project in Felpham being pushed out of the appeal, robbed of the fruits of their work, just as I had been before, and treated in the most dishonourable way by the Chair, who simply used them, and he still did nothing.
I have asked him why he hasn’t spoken out, and why he didn’t fulfill his most elementary duties as a Trustee: to challenge the Chair, say everything that he said to me, in private, that was making him so angry, and if that failed, contact the Charity Commission. He told me that he’s “not an accuser”, and has accused me instead, with no little anger, for waging war.
After all I went through trying to avert disaster both for the Blake Society and the Cottage, with more good will than could be possibly expected, under the circumstances, from any human being, what he’s doing in blaming me this way for the disaster brought about by others amounts in fact to more bullying, and the scapegoating that other Trustees have been happy to indulge in as well. I have told this man, and I say it here again: while he was a Trustee, he never showed any discernible interest in the Cottage appeal nor worked in it at all. He failed to fulfill his duties as a Trustee, then Secretary, in the face of seriously unethical practice in the Charity he was supposed to serve, and now he’s not even a Trustee of that Charity. Therefore he has no business interfering and would do well in keeping away from all this.
His ideas about peace are very strange, so I have to remind him that you don’t build peace upon injustice, trampling on others or turning a blind eye to such abuse, and certainly not upon cowardice.
One of my concerns when I realized how Mr Heath had stolen the Cottage project, by creating secretly his own illegitimate Trust, and how the Trustees of the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust were more than happy to collude in a cover up, was how this might affect the reputation of some generous and very vocal famous donors, patrons, supporters of the Society and the appeal, to whom I was very grateful.
It has been one more of the lessons about human nature learnt in this ordeal – that I seemed to be more worried about the harm that might come to them than themselves. I let them know what was happening. And what was happening was, and is, very unpleasant.
They didn’t want to hear unpleasant things, so they simply shielded behind silence. They didn’t even bother to ask me what evidence I had (and I do have it, as I let them all know), didn’t even bother to tell me they deemed my accusations untoward. They simply ignored me, a person they have no reason whatsoever to treat with the disdain involved in the refusal to dialogue. One would expect from such illustrious persons the capacity to show the elementary respect for another human being who’s taking the trouble, and the risk, to express rather serious concerns about a project they have publicly endorsed.
Without knowing anything at all of what has happened here (because they have refused to know), they have told the press, when asked, that they don’t see anything wrong with the state of affairs regarding the Cottage. They may not be aware of this, it may not be their intention, but they must surely know that their names will give weight to their statements to the press, and since their statements reflect their willful ignorance of the wrongdoing, their actions contribute to the abuse of power that has been at the heart of this sad business.
I would therefore like to remind them that supporting a public project is a public responsibility. It is not a matter of how many good causes they can be seen to endorse, let alone of appearing like superheroes in posters in the bus stops. In case they don’t know, refusing to hear what has gone wrong with the causes they support is a way of colluding with the cover up. When things get worse, as they inevitably will if the BCT is allowed to go on doing as it wants, they won’t be able to claim that they were not warned.
The same applies to those local authorities who refuse to acknowledge the problems surrounding the handling of the Cottage.
I am saddened beyond words by this whole ghastly story. I didn’t want any war and, again, there is plenty of evidence to prove that.
But I did want, and do want still, truth.
Fairness, accountability, peace, solutions to conflicts, only come by with truth.
The Trustees of the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust would bring about a much needed transparency if they had the courage to stop lying in Blake’s name, and I am again calling for them to do exactly that.