We live in times when it’s easy to lose our grip on reality and start living entirely in a fantasy world. Our overdose on what we call technological advances has made of the disconnection, dissociation and disintegration of our minds a strange commodity.
In this context, I wonder whether if the Blake Cottage Trust’s three Trustees have really lost it altogether now, whether if they are trying to take advantage of the gullibility of contemporary men- and women-folk, ever more willing to believe in what is not actually there, or a combination of both.
Be as it may, we recently had a chance to see an article on the Bognor Regis Observer, boasting 3D images of Blake’s Cottage (new Blake’s Cottage 3D images). The reader could access this piece of entertainment by watching the accompanying video: a slide show created by MICA, the architecture firm that the BCT has chosen to help them do as they wish. The video has an interesting caption telling us that we’re looking at images “of what a fully restored Blake’s Cottage would look like”. That is, we’re watching images belonging to the realm of make-believe.
Those deadened images of something that has no material existence are, of course, ultra-modern architectural sketches for a project, and nothing more. They don’t show much of the purported restoration of the actual cottage (apart from showing a whitewashed exterior rather than the present brick and flint-stone one). They rather concentrate on the polemic visitor centre on its grounds, which was never part of the original plan, and which has met with no little objection.
My first question is:
- With what money has the Blake Cottage Trust been paying MICA architects to draw up their plans?
I ask this because the production of such sleek (even if, in the circumstances, meaningless) images cost money, and while the Blake Cottage Trust keeps on trying to fool the public with ever clumsier attempts to draw them into their fantasy world, the reality of Blake Cottage is one of dismal decay. The state of its physical existence is as far from restoration as it can possibly be, as visitors could see by themselves during the recent open days, orchestrated around the Blake Petworth exhibition.
Mrs Beryl Kingston documented the sad reality in her blog. The images make one want to cry, be extremely worried, and angry. You can look at Mrs Kingston’s blog here: If Blake’s cottage had a voice it would cry help .
This calls for the second question:
- Why hasn’t the money used to pay the architects to plan a fancy, controversial visitor centre been applied instead for the obviously urgent: to actually restore the building and preventing it from collapsing altogether?
- Why has the Blake Cottage Trust allowed Blake’s cottage to reach such a dire state of disrepair during the 2 years and a half since it was acquired?
There are further questions regarding those images of disrepair, one of which the Blake Cottage Trust is using to keep on lying to the public in a curious little document they have just published, but the said document is interesting enough to merit its own entry, so I’ll leave the matter for the second part of this comment.
Meanwhile, let’s look at the statements made by the Blake Cottage Trust’s Treasurer, Mr Peter Johns (mistakenly called Richard in the Bognor Regis article). In the article, which doesn’t fail to mention the criticism the BCT has been subject to since the acquisition of the cottage, Mr Johns is quoted saying: ““We are actively looking for additional trustees from the local area. Once this project is done us three trustees will hand over to the community trustees and we will disappear. It’s got to be for the Felpham and Bognor community, that’s the whole point.”
Now these are extraordinary statements to make for one of the three men who have stolen a public project and have so far treated the Felpham community with untoward contempt. Therefore, I ask:
- Why are they looking for additional trustees only now?
- Why have the three of them been grasping at the illegitimate trust they formed for two years and a half, ignoring completely those of us who’ve repeateadly reminded them that when we started the Cottage Appeal we aimed at creating a large, proper and inclusive trust that would be transparent and accountable, and that it was completely inappropriate, unethical and verging on fraudulent practice for them to appropriate a public project?
- And why do they suddenly want local trustees, again, two years and a half after they acquired the Cottage and bullied out the Big Blake Project – the Felpham organism with which we at the Blake Society ran the campaign -, actually calling them “a pressure group”? And why, after having treated the Felpham community with great contempt during all this time?
I will remind these men that it is a bit too late now to be boasting about being looking for more trustees, local or otherwise. What they have been engaged in since Blake’s cottage was acquired on September 2015 is too long a chain of unethical practice, incompetence and blatant, constant lying to the public, and therefore the only way for a Blake Cottage Trust to function is to open it up completely as we had originally conceived it, calling for the accountable and trust-worthy institutions and individuals who can take proper care of the property.
What this means is that none of these three men can possibly remain in a legitimate Blake Cottage Trust, because none of them has been accountable for their actions, nor trust-worthy or ethical for the past two years and a half. Their time to “disappear”, as Mr Johns said, has long been up.
Mr Johns also says in the mentioned article: ““We are progressing satisfactorily. A couple of people have been saying we are taking too long but we have had to go through the architectural stage, which has taken nearly nine months, and now we have to go through the planning stage which could be five to seven months.” Anyone looking at the state the cottage is in would of course be forgiven for asking what do these people consider “satisfactory progress”. In any case, I have another question:
- If the architectural stage has taken nearly nine months, what exactly has the Blake Cottage Trust been doing for the other 21 months during which the cottage has been in their hands?
I can say what they have not been doing: they have not been building a reliable and accountable trust, despite having been repeatedly asked to do so and to honour what those of us who worked in the Cottage Appeal promised to donors and the public to do, and this means that therefore the cottage hasn’t benefited from the expertise of people and institutions in the various aspects of the project, working as a team, that was crucial for its success. It also means that there was no swift, visible and energetic continuation of the fundraising immediately after the purchase of the cottage, which was also crucial. Instead of that, they remained for nearly a year in complete silence, not deigning to make public a single word about their plans for the building.
When they finally spoke, it was to start weaving a fantastic web of lies, bullying and intimidation. The document I mentioned above that the Blake Cottage Trust has just published in their website is the latest example of those extensive lying, contradictions and manipulation, and these are so outrageous that, as I said, the second part of this blog entry will be dedicated exclusively to it. Please keep an eye on this space.
Meanwhile, I’d just like to remind the reader that Mr Peter Johns, the Treasurer of the Blake Cottage Trust, has presented in the past an inaccurate Blake Cottage Trust’s Report and Financial Statement in which he’s plainly lying, as stated in former entries in this blog (Inconsistencies in Blake Cottage Trust and Blake Society financial reports), and that is very serious indeed.