- Who will raise a memorial for Blake?
What is a memorial? Is a physical object which aims at honouring an event or an individual, presumably with beauty, something to be celebrated at all costs? Even if it is raised by corrupt people? Even if it therefore lays a sad, undeserved weight of ugliness upon the person or event it purportedly honours?
These matters are complicated. The history of mankind is punctuated by instances where honour, beauty, and nobility are meshed with corruption, violence, deception, often inextricably.
I am musing on this because the Blake Society has recently announced that next August, to commemorate William Blake’s death, they will unveil, at long last, the memorial by letter-cutter Lida Cardozo on the site where he is actually buried, fulfilling a promise long due. The story of how this promise has finally become reality is a sorry one, and far from beautiful. It is interesting too and I will get there in a moment.
First, however, a reminder of who the Blake Society are. This website is dedicated to tell the truth about what happened with the Blake Society’s project to acquire Blake’s Cottage in Felpham and turn it into a centre for creation. If you follow this entry, you will find the links between that ignominious story and the final attainment of the coveted stone mentioned above. In any case, the great event that is being announced, with the participation of very famous people (some who surely know nothing of this sad state of affairs, others who do know and chose to be complicit), is being planned by an organisation which has consistently lied to its members and the general public for some four years now regarding its major project: that of Blake’s Cottage. The lying has gone as far as denying that the Blake Cottage project ever was a Blake Society endeavor, something that donors and supporters have all reasons to find insulting.
This organisation’s lies have been extensive and rather serious, as they imply the betrayal of over 700 donors. This organisation is also the one which allowed its chair, Mr Tim Heath, to steal what was a public project (which actually means stealing the money publicly raised) in order to create an illegitimate organism, consisting of only three men and chaired also by himself, which he created in secret, under the wing of his lawyers, without informing the Blake Society Committee or his co-campaigners. We’re talking here of fraudulent practice, and we should remember that in order to set up his Blake Cottage Trust Mr Heath used funds granted by the Heritage Lottery Fund to the Blake Society, while the latter’s Committee washed its hands off the matter saying that this had never been a project of the Blake Society. This new, illegitimate trust acquired the Cottage, dropped the original project (the one that donors supported) and was left with no consistent plan at all. They didn’t have either the ability to continue the project because they were not the large trust made up of accountable and capable individuals and organisations that we had promised to the public we’d create, and therefore the Cottage was left to decay. No work has been carried out on it apart from the props that they put in over a year after its purchase to stop the thatched roof to go on collapsing, and yet they have promised to create a costly visitor centre, for the use of which they have no specific project. The only concrete use for it, it seems, will be that of a front for the odd kind of hotel that Mr Heath wants to make of the Cottage, so that people “can sleep in Blake’s bed”.
The Blake Society has not only refused to acknowledge its responsibility for a public project that they started, and has not only lied shamelessly. It has also failed to present, both in their public documents and those presented to the Charity Commission, coherent financial reports. In these too they have lied and their figures don’t add up. They have also severely bullied people and harmed concrete human beings. In their effort to silence those of us who are speaking out, they have broken their own constitution and have made use of intimidation. They have tried to intimidate the press and also individuals (a few days before an article on this issue appeared in The Sunday Times a couple of years ago, an incident that seemed very likely to be intimidation against me orchestrated by Mr Heath was grave enough to be taken seriously by the correspondent authorities), and they have also incurred in slandering. Evidence of all this can be found here, in the different sections of this website, and I think a reminder is pertinent now, because understanding who and what The Blake Society is is crucial to our reflection on whether if a beautiful memorial is worth having no matter what.
2. A Grave Story
As you may already know, I was a Trustee of the Blake Society from 2011 to January 2015, and its Secretary from 2013 till the moment I left the Society. I was also, along with Mr Heath and the Big Blake Project in Felpham, co-leader of the Cottage project – the conception and implementation of which, as the evidence in this webpage shows as well, owes a great deal to me and to my work.
When I joined the Blake Society Committee the “grave project” was already old, and not devoid of conflict. Mr Heath wasn’t all that interested in it, and probably for good reasons. He often said to me that he didn’t see the point in wasting time and energy on a project about “dead Blake”, rather than concentrating on what was still living of his work and legacy. He wasn’t also that enthusiastic about the reasons why Mr Luis and Mrs Carol Garrido, also Trustees of the Society and joint Secretaries before I stepped in and Mr Garrido became Treasurer, were so keen on having the memorial finished.
Some readers may know already that Mr and Mrs Garrido, after careful research, found out around 12 years ago the exact place where William Blake is buried (the tombstone that people have been visiting for years in Bunhill Fields, and which has become a place of pilgrimage for Blake’s fans, is placed, as it states, near the actual burial site). Blake’s genius attracts all sorts of people, and unfortunately all sorts of theories and personal fantasies are continually being thrown at him who, dead as he is, cannot defend himself. The no doubt admirable zeal in finding his exact place of burial is complex, for it doesn’t necessarily follow a simple, human devotion for an artist’s and poet’s legacy. The reader, though puzzled, might be closer to the truth if looking on the direction of Sahaja Yoga.
During my time in the Committee of the Blake Society the disagreements between Mr and Mrs Garrido and Mr Heath were not seldom. The former felt that the project for which they had worked so hard, and which had been in fact the reason why they had joined the Committee, was being neglected. Odd as their inspiration for the project may seem in the first place, they were right: no one seemed to care about the memorial. For this reason, they said they would step down on a couple of occasions. But they stayed.
The conflict became severe in 2012, when the Committee visited, as option B, the study of a stone-cutter who would charge much less than Mrs Cardozo and had been contacted by the Garridos, who were not so keen on Mrs Cardozo’s choice, as her higher fees would mean a longer wait for the project to be fulfilled. We then paid a visit to the Cardozo Kindersley Workshop itself, with the apparent aim of choosing between the two. It seems that those who had been in the Committee longer (namely Mr Heath and the Garridos) had forgotten that there was already an agreement established with Mrs Cardozo and, should we drop our commitment, there would be a fee for the work already carried out towards design. There was much acrimony around the subject at that time, and it was dropped again from the agenda.
In 2013 we had a short-lived spell of work on the project: the initial funds for the stone that will be laid in Bunhill Fields next August were raised by myself (a £2,000 Memorial Grant from the Grocers’ Company) and by a fellow Trustee, Simeon Gallu, no longer in the Committee (a grant from the Mercers’ Company). These efforts, however, were not continued and the memorial issue kept on slipping from the Society’s agenda, much to the understandable upset of Mr and Mrs Garrido.
In the following years I repeatedly reminded the Chair, in my capacity as Secretary, that we should continue work on the project. We might not all share Mr and Mrs Garrido’s enthusiasm for it, but the Blake Society had committed itself to it several years back, and it was important that the initial work and funding were not wasted. I also reminded him that we had a commitment with Mrs Cardozo. I was ignored.
Then the Cottage project started in full swing in 2014. To alleviate Mr and Mrs Garrido’s disappointment, they were promised that if the Cottage project were successful, then the Blake Society would have more credibility and the fundraising for the Grave project could be continued.
Despite the Garridos’ repeated objections to the way the Blake Society was handled, and in particular to what they called the Chair’s authoritarian way of working, they held on to the promise. I suppose that now they feel, despite all the ignominy lived through, that it was worth the waiting.
3. At all costs
So who are Mr and Mrs Garrido? What are these people, stirred by purportedly spiritual guidance, willing to put up with in order to see William Blake’s death place thus ‘honoured’?
Mrs Carol Garrido is no longer a Trustee of the Blake Society, as far as I know. She stepped down the same year that I did. I remember her as a very kind woman, always. When the conflicts with Blake’s Cottage arose she let me know she knew I was telling the truth and, in her way, supported me, for which I was grateful, though it would have been much braver to have voiced her support in front of the whole Committee. I remembered her as kind and was much surprised to see that, at the Blake Society’s AGM in 2017, she was no longer saying hello to me. In this blog I have given an account of the awfulness of that AGM (A Time of Bullies), of how Mr Heath, the new Secretary Antony Vinall and the Treasurer Luis Garrido lied blatantly to those present once again, how they didn’t allow me to voice my concerns through the tactics of harassing, bullying me and shouting me down. When I left the venue, asking all of them how could they sleep at night, I passed by Mrs Garrido. She looked away from me and just stared ahead with a fixed, tense half-smile on her face. And it was very sad to watch, for I have known her for far higher human values.
As to Mr Luis Garrido, things are more dire. Elsewhere in this webpage and in the My Testimony section I have mentioned his repeated disagreements with the Blake Society’s Chair, Mr Heath; how shocked and outraged he was at everything that happened with the Cottage appeal; how many times he told me on the phone that what Mr Heath was doing was wrong (he even got to use the word ‘sinful’), and how I, the Big Blake Project in Felpham and all the donors to the project had been wronged. But he didn’t say all this to the rest of the Committee either, and when I finally decided to speak out and alert the public about the corruption surrounding Blake’s Cottage, Mr Garrido joined the rest of the Committee in the continuous lying that has marked the Society’s behaviour these past four years.
Coming from the Treasurer, this is very serious, for Mr Garrido has presented financial statements for the Society in which the information related to Blake’s Cottage has no regard to truth (the evidence can also be found in this webpage: Inconsistencies in financial reports; financial concerns).
The degree of dishonesty that Mr and Mrs Garrido have witnessed during the many years they’ve been Trustees of the Blake Society has been extensive. The degree of dishonesty and lying that Mr Garrido himself has incurred into just so that they could see their memorial project come true has been indeed abject. I do understand their frustration at waiting so long for seeing any progress in a project they worked so hard for, and I am by no means minimizing their efforts or the worth of their research, but to grasp the project at all costs, trampling on the most elementary principles of ethics and human decency, is not the way to honour anyone, and abiding by the corrupt rules of a corrupt organisation has soiled whatever virtue their project might have once had.
A last word about the Blake Society Committee and the Grave project: a while ago there was an invitation to a kind of musical gala organised by the Blake Society to raise funds for the memorial. I was surprised to see that the event was announced by Mr Nick Duncan. I have already explained in detail in this webpage that Mr Duncan signed as the “independent examiner” of the Blake Society’s financial report (meaning the crucial report in which the Society presented false information), only to became a Trustee the following month (Nick Duncan and fundraising for the grave). I raised my concerns with the Charity Commission, questioning that a Trustee could be “an independent examiner” of his charity, particularly when there was contention regarding the misuse of funds. I tried to raise the same concerns at the infamous 2017 AGM, so Mr Duncan was spirited away and not elected again as a Trustee. The masquerade lasted only a few months: soon after Mr Duncan was inviting people to a fundraising event, a rather dubious practice when he has condoned the Blake Society’s lies regarding previous fundraising, and when he has lent himself to the farce of being both its Trustee and an “independent” examiner of its finances.
Now Mr Duncan is the person to contact if the public wishes to acquire “a chipping from Blake’s gravestone” to raise further funds.
4. The Big, the Famous, the Mighty
Mrs Lida Cardozo is an eminent stone-cutter, and the head of a deservedly prestigious workshop. When I heard of the musical fundraising gala mentioned above I was distressed about the Blake Society’s intentions of further abusing the good will and support of many people, while still deeply engaged in the corruption that plagues that Committee since 2014.
I wrote to Mrs Cardozo to call her attention to this corruption. I received a terse answer in which she stated, in her own words, that all she cared about was her work on the memorial. Not for the first time was I surprised that people who are duly respected for their work or their authority could be so flippant about their involvement with an organisation that was suspected of corruption. The whole Cottage saga has been a great eye-opener to me: corrupted organisations like the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust can exist because they are inserted in a society that is either corrupt itself, or at least formed by ambitious individuals who aren’t squeamish at all about being involved with the corrupt. To acknowledge the reach of such a reality provides the kind of bitter knowledge that may not make you happier, but does make you infinitely wiser. And braver, because the greater the scope of the collusion with corruption is, the greater the determination to make the truth known becomes.
Recently Mrs Beryl Kingston, who has also been campaigning for the truth regarding Blake’s Cottage to be known and for the building to be protected, wrote in her blog about the seeming recent decision of Historic England of not including Blake’s Cottage in their risk register (Beryl Kingston’s blog). It is depressing news. Historic England has been repeatedly contacted by Mrs Kingston and myself, and know fully well the dire state of disrepair in which the Cottage stands. They have also had at their disposal the evidence of the lack of care that the Blake Cottage Trust has had for the building, from its acquisition to the present day. They have chosen to ignore all this, and theirs tend to be vacuous, bureaucratic communications in which true responsibility is avoided. The reader would be sadly surprised if they saw a list of the individuals and institutions who have decided to turn a blind eye to what they have been warned is wrong supported with evidence, including those who at some moment had expressed their own concerns regarding the Blake Society’s and Blake Cottage Trust’s lack of ethical standards. This is what I mean when I talk about a corrupt society. It’s nauseating, but fascinating too: this is, after all, human nature. There are great novels dwelling on this kind of phenomena, not to talk about Blake’s own Prophetic Poems. The big, the famous, the mighty, will usually want to remain among their peers, and they won’t risk status, prestige, privileges or jobs just for the sake of something as tiny as truth.
Which leads me to Mr Philip Pullman, who apparently gave the Blake Society’s annual lecture earlier this year and who is now announced as one of the luminaries to attend the unveiling of Blake’s memorial in Bunhill Fields.
Mr Pullman is the President of the Blake Society. True, being the President is not much more than an honorary title and, for as long as I was a Trustee at least, he was never involved in our work or decision-making. However, being the President of an organisation entails a responsibility, and Mr Pullman will have a lot to answer for when the truth about the Blake Society’s practice of corruption, lying and bullying is finally acknowledged (and it will, because the truth is never concealed forever).
As members of the public may remember, Mr Pullman made a generous donation to the Blake Cottage appeal and endorsed it publicly, for which we were all very grateful. When the Cottage was acquired and I realized that Mr Heath had created his own illegitimate private Trust and had bullied out the Big Blake Project, just as he had first done with me, and when I realized that the Blake Society Committee was washing their hands off their responsibility, I was very worried about the repercussions this might have on some of the big names who had supported us. Mr Pullman was much mentioned in the press when the Cottage was purchased, and I realized that, because of this, some people in Felpham (and people in Felpham have been treated very badly indeed by both the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust) suspected him of being involved in the corruption.
I knew this was unfair, and serious, so I contacted him. Since I had myself called him during the campaign to ask for his support for our appeal, I felt doubly responsible. He first was worried, as he didn’t know anything of what was going on. He asked me to explain clearly what had happened. I did, and he never got back to me. Since, when he’s been asked by the press about the conflict around Blake’s Cottage, he has responded that he sees nothing wrong with it, and keeps on endorsing the Blake Society. I have said elsewhere in this blog how, when someone as famous as he is, refuses to engage in a conversation with someone denouncing a wrong state of affairs, and publicly dismisses those legitimate concerns, he’s actually incurring, inadvertently or not, in abuse of power. He has had at his disposal all the evidence he needs to know what is so wrong with the Blake Society for years, and he has either refused to see it, or ignored what he’s seen.
Why does he do this? Has he believed the slandering I have been the subject of by the Blake Society? Well, he only needs to look at the evidence provided to be disabused. Mr Pullman often appears in the press defending what we call “just causes”, and as I have said before in my testimony, even his heroines in some of his books are brave creatures who fight for truth. However, when it comes to the real thing – to defending truth in the world outside fiction, he chooses (at least in what regards the Blake Society) to side with the corrupt, the liars, and to therefore contribute to the silencing of truth. I don’t know why, but I do know that, as the President of the Blake Society he has a public responsibility, and sooner or later he will have to respond for his condoning an organisation that has incurred in the utmost unethical practice.
Among the things I have learnt during this sad affair is the fact that the famous, the big and the mighty exchange among themselves the currency of power and prestige. Long ago the prestige of Blake’s Cottage, should the project be successful, was promised to Mr and Mrs Garrido to serve as a stimulus for people to support the Grave project.
All these years later, the Blake Society, who, as we have seen, has had so little interest in the Grave project in the past, is using the prestige of the grandiose memorial in order to add a veneer of respectability to them and to the Blake Cottage Trust, being both organisms under the leadership of Mr Heath.
It is a very sad state of affairs, and it would be so no matter who was the dead poet or artist that we’re supposed to be honouring, but the iniquity is multiplied when they are sinking in the mire in the name of William Blake, for abuse of power, corruption, the cynicism and blindness of the rich and powerful was one of the issues that most pained him, as an artist and as a human being. He dedicated much of his life and art to stand against such a rotten status quo, and the insult that these supposed ‘homages’ to him signify is abject beyond expression. I have said it before: this whole story bears all the marks of a Faustian pact.
We do know though that the pact doesn’t end up well for Faust.
Since I started this webpage, I have been contacted by people who appreciate the fact that there are some of us telling the truth, and also by people who have known Mr Tim Heath for many years and recognize in my statements either his tactics of division and concealment or his inflated sense of self-importance, and who know that some of the stories that he has told us all about his unique and heroic efforts to preserve Blake’s legacy are, in the best of cases, delusional.
Unlike Hataja Yoga, I don’t pretend to speak for the dead William Blake, but through knowing his art, his poetry and the key facts of his life, I think he would probably weep and rage if he only knew the things that are being done in his name, and I very much doubt that he would enjoy to have their awful weight imposed upon his remains, however beautiful the appearance of the memorial may be. Its essence is certainly not beautiful at all.
As for me, I’d rather keep on visiting the old shrine – the humble tombstone which tells us that nearby lie the remains of William and Catherine Blake, and which has become a symbol of the artist’s genius and spirit for many years for people from all over the world who go there and leave some offering. That piece of stone, unlike Mrs Cardozo’s, isn’t tarnished with corruption and deceit.