Blake at Petworth, and the National Trust

The exhibition William Blake in Sussex: Visions of Albion, recently inaugurated at Petworth, is certainly a thing to celebrate.

However, it is indeed a concern that the National Trust is now not only promoting in its publicity for the exhibition the Blake Society, but actually actively endorsing the Blake Cottage Trust and their plans for Blake’s Cottage. In the Petworth webpage they are in fact announcing some visits to the latter.

That the National Trust is thus openly supporting two corrupt charities which function on the basis of lying to the public, bullying, intimidation, slandering and presenting inaccurate financial information is of course a very worrying state of affairs. The Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust may seem unstoppable at the moment in their capacity to attract, and manipulate, the support of good-willed, generous individuals and institutions, not to talk about the super rich, super famous and super powerful. The more they do so, however, the more there will be to regret when both charities finally lay fully exposed for what they are, as they may taint those who have supported them unawares.

I have contacted Mr Andrew Loukes, the curator of the Petworth exhibition, and the National Trust, to warn them about the kind of organisations they are dealing with.

The reader of this blog may be interested to know that back in 2014, when the Cottage appeal started and I had no inkling that Mr Tim Heath, the Chairman of the Blake Society and now of the Blake Cottage Trust, would appropriate the project through extremely unethical practice, I was very keen on establishing links with the National Trust, an organisation that I respect and which has a wealth of expertise and records of accountability that might be of much good to the kind of project we had envisioned for Blake’s Cottage.

I contacted the then Chair of the National Trust, Sir Simon Jenkins, who responded enthusiastically to show his support. A representative of the NT attended our launch of the project in Parliament in the summer of 2014. Throughout the rest of the campaign the link established with that representative weakened. However, I always insisted on strengthening our communication with the NT. I believed that we had much to learn from them and that, if we found a way of working with them despite the fact that our project for the Cottage was different from the structure they usually work with, we would all gain much.

Mr Heath wasn’t much interested in any such link. Evidence of my insistence on the benefits of a partnership with the National Trust can be found throughout my testimony of what happened with Blake’s Cottage in this webpage.

When things got truly wrong with the appeal and I, with my health in tatters, couldn’t take the secrecy and bullying from Mr Heath anymore, I left with him a document with my recommendations for the future of the project, in which I insisted on the pertinence of following up the contact with the National Trust, as can be seen in chapter XII of my testimony.

Then the Cottage was purchased. I realized that Mr Heath’s dealings regarding the project had been carried out all by himself, keeping the Blake Society’s Committee and members completely in the dark about what he was up to. He did the same with the Big Blake Project, who had been our co-campaigners in Felpham and, just as he did with me, he had bullied out. Most worryingly, he had created his own illegitimate trust of only three men, the total opposite of the large consortium of accountable individuals and organisations that we had promised to create, which now bears the name of the Blake Cottage Trust. The first step in registering this Trust with the Companies House was taken in complete secrecy, with Mr Simon Patrick Weil, Mr Heath’s lawyer, standing in for him and actively hiding away from all of us, just when Mr Heath’s probity was being severely questioned and both the Cottage project and the Blake Society itself were in risk of dissolution. This is the Blake Cottage Trust’s certificate of incorporation. Mr Heath kept on denying, at least until January last year, that the BCT had been incorporated on October 2014.

Many people were outraged at the appropriation of Blake’s Cottage by the Blake Cottage Trust – particularly people in Felpham, who had either had their work stolen or had witnessed how this had happened. I was very worried, and so were the Trustees of the Blake Society, who had not an inkling of what or how Mr Heath had been doing since I had left the appeal. However, I still wanted to avoid the need to contact the Charity Commission or making the matter public, hoping that the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust would see reason, get together with all those of us who had concerns regarding their behaviour, and that a solution would be found.

To that effect, I sent to both charities a document in which I explained to the two new Trustees of the Blake Cottage Trust what they were colluding with, in case they didn’t know already, and reminded the Blake Society of their responsibility towards a project that they had initiated, and for which they had received money and support from over 700 donors.

In that document, which you can read here, I mentioned again the desirability of a partnership with the National Trust for the future of the Cottage. By now what I was pointing at with more urgency was the NT’s commitment to accountability and transparency, as an example that both the BS and the BCT would do good in following.

I never received a response to that document.

As the dishonesty of the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust reached then inconceivable heights, and the Cottage was falling into further disrepair without the BCT doing anything to stop it, let alone making public what they were planning to do with it for a very long time indeed after its purchase, I contacted the National Trust in June 2016, in the hope that they could intervene somehow so that the Cottage wasn’t ruined and, most importantly, so that it could be protected by an accountable organism.

I received a very kind response from Ms Jane Cecil, National Trust General Manager at the South Downs, explaining that they couldn’t intervene in rescuing the Cottage, though they would be very glad to offer advice should the various parties involved jointly request it. She stated that the National Trust had already been asked to help with acquisition and presentation of Blake’s Cottage, and that they had provided some limited help. She also said that they believed that the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust as I’d described them didn’t seem to be in a position to progress at that moment the necessary work.

A year and a half later, the National Trust, through Petworth’s promotion of its Blake exhibition, is promoting also the Blake Society and actually endorsing the Blake Cottage Trust.

Of course the staff at Petworth and its curator, Mr Loukes, had probably no way to know that the National Trust had been warned about the lack of ethics of these organisations so long ago. That is why I have now contacted both Mr Loukes and the direction of the National Trust, so that they take pains to ensure that the organisations they support have an impeccable record of accountability and are as committed to transparency as the National Trust, without a doubt, is.

All the evidence regarding the numerous breaches of trust and examples of extremely unethical practice that the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust have been incurring in since 2014 is publicly available, and that will surely make it easier to anyone who may be inclined to support them to act responsibly.

 

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New deceptions for a new year

These days have seen a couple of articles in the national press mentioning the Blake Cottage Trust’s plans to finally restore Blake’s Cottage… acquired two years and some four months ago. Apparently they will reveal a new version of those ever inconsistent plans this week – their only constant aim being, apparently, to invite people to sleep in Blake’s bed and bedroom.

On 12 January the Blake Society will be holding their AGM, so perhaps they will choose the occasion to go on spinning their tale.

I won’t attend the AGM. After the farcical display made by the Blake Society Committee at the AGM of 2016 and 2017, I have understood that they have really no qualms about lying to their members and the public, to bully and shout people down, so I will employ my time in a more edifying way. (If you want to know what happened last year, it’s all recounted here).

However, I do wonder at the BS Committee’s seemingly inexhaustible capacity for lying to their own members. Recently, an intrusion into my account in a professional net called my attention to new developments around the Blake Society. Sure enough, their webpage had new elements of concealment and deception.

In the previous years they had been playing a game of hide and seek both with the former Secretary, who stepped down because of his disagreement with the way the Cottage project had been handled, and then with Trustee Nick Duncan, who has been scurried away, then materialized again at their convenience so that he can be both a Blake Society Trustee and, at the same time, an “independent examiner” of their inaccurate financial reports.

Since I have pointed at that curious prestidigitation in this blog, they have now amended the list of Trustees with a charming asterisk. This is now accompanied by yet another feat of disappearance: whereas in their minutes of the 2017 AGM Ms Paige Morgan had been re-elected as a Trustee (AGM-2017-Minutes Blake Society), since November 2017 she’s been deleted from the list of elected Trustees in the Society’s webpage:

BS Trustees 11 2017 _ 01 2018

Why should they choose to lie yet again regarding their elected Trustees and make Ms Morgan leave through the back door is not the only problematic issue here. Ms Morgan was an unscrupulous Trustee of the Blake Society for many years, under the protection of its Chairman, Mr Heath. As it has been demonstrated throughout the chapters of my testimony in this webpage (https://blakecottage.com/what-happened-with-the-blakes-cottage-appeal-my-testimony/), she was involved in one of the most dishonest episodes of the Blake Cottage appeal – one that in fact threatened the very existence of the appeal and the Blake Society itself, when Mr Heath and herself hijacked the project.

She was also the supposed editor, for some eight or nine years, I have lost count now, of the Blake Society’s Journal. Only that it was a journal that never materialized under her editorship.

In the Documents section of this webpage there is an account of the inconsistencies of the information given to the Blake Society members regarding the supposedly yearly publication that was promised to them on subscription:

https://blakecottage.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/inconsistencies-and-lack-of-transparency-regarding-blake-society-journal.pdf

Now that Ms Morgan has vanished from their list of Trustees, an outrageous statement has appeared in the Blake Society’s webpage Blake Journal section (under Publications):

End of Journal found on 23.11.2017

That’s it: no explanation whatsoever of why the journal that was being promised to the Society members for nearly a decade never appeared. The Blake Journal issues that they are mentioning here are very old, those published prior to Ms Morgan’s appointment as a Trustee and editor.

It is just in keeping with the Blake Society’s and the Blake Cottage Trust’s belief that they can do as they wish, blurring their actions through cunning and secrecy, and being accountable to no one.

In these circumstances, whatever news they are supposed to deliver regarding their plans for the Cottage, I’d advise the reader to take them with a pinch of salt.

And if any Blake Society member reading this is planning to attend the AGM this week, they might care to ask the Committee for a clear, straightforward and truthful account of whatever happened to Blake Journal.

Some questions

What does the Blake Society think it’s doing by advertising in their July newsletter the mansion that one of the Trustees of the Blake Cottage Trust, Peter Johns, has just put on sale?

The piece taken from the MailOnline is not an item offering any information that might be of interest to Blake followers: its sole purpose is to advertise the sale of the house, as its heading makes quite clear: “Your chance to own England’s green and pleasant land: House that inspired William Blake to write Jerusalem goes on sale for £900,000“.

It is not only the bad taste of the whole thing (England’s green and pleasant land is not owned, even though the three members of the Blake Cottage Trust seem to believe they somehow do by having stolen Blake’s Cottage. Maybe that is why they, and the Blake Society Trustees, feel happy with the vulgarity of the language). And, Mr John’s house didn’t inspire Blake to write Jerusalem, so they might as well get their facts right.

In any case, and given the mess that both the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust have made around Blake’s Cottage, including their muddled finances, this seems to be, apart from distasteful, a worrying turn of events. I wonder how far they think they can go in mixing the affairs of their private wealth with their duties as Charities, and just how far they think they can appropriate the space, work and fruits of the Charities they are supposed to serve through this bewildering practice.

The Blake Society even points the reader, in their newsletter, to the property agency in charge of selling Mr John’s house! Is that what the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust have become now? Property speculators? They should know better.

Though the Blake Society has removed me from their newsletter list, without even warning me they were planning to do so, they can’t really hide so easily.

A Haunted House

cottage

It bears all the hallmarks of a Faustian pact: the seeming prosperity of what Blake called the state of Error; what accurate language can only define as evil deeds growing unchecked and exponentially with the protection of the super-rich, the super-famous and the super-powerful. In short: everything that William Blake loathed, everything he stood against, and people like those he found despicable and impinged on his life through their arrogance and ignorance.

It is the violation of everything Blake stood for, and the violation of the place that he made in his own way holy through work and inspiration, transforming all that in his life might have been construed as evil into beauty, light, imagination and vision.

Blake is dead now. He can’t defend himself.

In what concerns literary history, literary societies and literary houses, this is as dark as it can get.

Local authorities, organisations and press are willingly embroiling themselves in the unholy alliance by protecting blindly the Blake Cottage Trust, despite the many chances they have had of finding out all that is wrong, and having all the evidence at their disposal.

The Blake Cottage Trust has now published the consultation boards regarding their plans for the Cottage and the building of their visitor centre.

In full Faustian fashion, and in keeping with the parlance of grandeur that the Chair of the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust has been worryingly indulging in of late, the BCT now talks about building a “palace of the imagination”.

It keeps on being amusing how they keep on correcting the information they give to the public according to the denunciations I’ve been making in this blog. For instance, they now understand that their former statement regarding artistic residencies lasting a week or a weekend was not really what we had promised the public to facilitate and are therefore now talking of several weeks. This is what people who have been lying to the public for over three years now, who have failed to show any concrete and sound plans or records of their decision-making from the acquisition of the Cottage, and who change what they say to the public from one day to the next depending on what those of us who’re keeping an eye on them denounce, regardless the contradictions, do. It goes without saying that they cannot be believed or trusted, since the whole business of this corrupted project in the hands of corrupted people has been a mighty breach of trust.

The plan of renting out rooms, however, has not changed. Mr Heath seems to be unable to let go of his particular ideas of a Blakean fancy hotel.

The BCT’s document includes some photos without caption so it’s hard for the reader to know what they’re looking at, and it fails to give the public any concrete information about the actual plans for the new building. Most importantly, it fails to explain how can a new visitor building in the Cottage’s grounds possibly help us ” see and experience the Cottage that William and Catherine knew, to see how they lived and worked there”, which is ostensibly their aim. I have said it before: William and Catherine Blake lived in a quiet place conducive to creation: they certainly didn’t wake up every morning to see a visitor centre in their garden.

The BCT also talk about their hopes that “Blake’s Cottage could one day be endowed and thus safeguarded”, which makes me wonder what they mean by that exactly, and what talks in the corridors of power are taking place now in keeping with this fascinating, though no doubt wretched, soul-selling saga.

For this weekend, the Blake Cottage Trust is announcing an “open day” in the Cottage. This means that they will be opening to the visitor the doors of a haunted house. I hope they at least will open the windows too so that a bit of the darkness flies out and dissolves in these glorious Summer days. I do hope that if anything of our spirit remains somewhere after we leave this earth, Blake will be watching over the place where he lived and created, the profaned place that he loved, and will help to keep it hallowed.

One thing is sure though: that the ghosts that these people have created will come back to haunt them, for they surely know that William Blake would have never opened the doors of his house to the likes of them.

HEll

 

 

Architects at Blake’s Cottage, and more fund raising

Today the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust have announced that tomorrow they will host a meeting with the chosen architects to carry out their plans for Blake’s Cottage. Mr Stuart Cade and James Roach, from Rick Mather Architects, will be talking with the public.

I have informed them about the problems surrounding the Cottage, in case they didn’t know, including the fact that the demolition of the annexe and the building of a visitor centre on the Cottage’s grounds were never part of the project and that there is strong opposition to these plans.

The matter is explained in detail in my testimony in this webpage, particularly chapters IV and XVIII.

We hope that Mr Cade and Mr Roach will have the sensibility to understand what is at stake in this project, and be wary about the unscrupulous organisation they are engaging with.

A couple of days ago we’ve had another reason for concern: the Blake Society is announcing a grand event next 25 September to raise funds to mark Blake’s grave in Bunhill Fields: a Wake for Blake.

It is distressing to see that the BS is still using and abusing the trust and the good name of other people, eliciting their support, and their money, when they still have not become accountable to donors and the public about the fraudulent practice through which they allowed Mr Heath, their Chair, to acquire Blake’s Cottage for himself and create his own little private Trust.

That they are trying to get more money from the public while the Blake Society’s and Blake Cottage Trust’s muddled financial reports, that bear little respect for truth, are still being investigated by the relevant authorities (the Charity Commission, on two occasions with a reminder from Action Fraud) is very worrying indeed.

To add to our concerns, news about this event was sent to the Blake Society’s members and friends by Mr Nick Duncan, signing as Trustee.

Mr Duncan was a Trustee when I was also in the Blake Society Committee, if I remember well before I became its Secretary. He left and I didn’t hear back from him until 2016, in unusual circumstances.

At the Society’s AGM in 2016, he wasn’t nominated as a Trustee. Indeed, the Society’s own minutes to the AGM make it clear that he was not elected: https://blakecottage.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/comments-to-minutes-blake-society-agm-2016.pdf

However, on May 2016 we exchanged correspondence. He said he was “sad” that I was making public the corruption around the Cottage and informed me that he was again a Trustee: that he had just been co-opted.

He offered to raise my concerns with the Blake Society Committee then get back to me, but he simply disappeared instead, as is by now customary in this sad affair. This is mentioned in more detail in Chapter XVI in my testimony: https://blakecottage.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/chapter-xvii-my-testimony-blake-cottage1.pdf

Soon after that I found out that just one month earlier Mr Duncan had been the “independent examiner” of the Blake Society.’s finances As I have previously stated in this webpage, the BS’ financial report is inaccurate, lacks transparency and regard to truth, a situation echoed by the Blake Cottage Trust’s financial report.

I made the matter public in this webpage, saying that a Trustee of a Charity cannot be at the same time the supposedly independent examiner of their finances, and I contacted the Charity Commission.

I also asked why the Blake Society lied in their webpage for over a year stating that Dr Duncan had been elected as a Trustee at the AGM in 2016, when that was certainly not the case, as both their minutes and his own correspondence with me prove.

Because the Charity Commission was investigating and I had raised my concerns, Mr Duncan stepped down as a Trustee on January 2017. He was not nominated or elected in any way, and at that AGM the Blake Society made a farcical show of how they were now working with really independent examiners. When I tried to ask the Trustees why a fellow Trustee had stood in as financial examiner, and why they had been lying in their webpage for a whole year about who had been elected, I was bullied and shouted down, so I could never even finish a sentence. This has been related in my report on the AGM 2017 in this blog: https://blakecottage.com/2017/01/22/a-time-of-bullies/

Soon after the AGM the Blake Society published their minutes. They were, again, riddled with lies. I said so in this blog and they quietly made them disappear, and as of today, 2 June 2017, they haven’t published them again. It would be interesting to see what they say in regards of the elected Trustees.

As of today, Mr Duncan is nowhere to be seen in their own webpage:

SCREENSHOT NICK DUNCAN

In short: the Blake Cottage Trust and Blake Society have been lying in their financial reports regarding Blake’s Cottage; the Blake Society’s lack of transparency involves having one of its own Trustees, Mr. Nick Duncan, as an “Independent examiner”.

Because the Charity Commission was investigating this issue, I had made it public and they knew I would attend the 2017 AGM, they secreted Mr Duncan away at the AGM, then very quietly scurried him back afterwards, by co-opting him again, I suppose.

This means not only that there is nothing independent or transparent about the Blake Society’s handling of finances regarding Blake’s Cottage, but that they are intent on making a mockery of their duty to be publicly accountable and deal seriously with concerns raised about them. As stated earlier in this blog, theirs and the BCT’s messy finances haven’t been put right, and none of either organisations has become accountable to the public with a truthful report regarding the money raised.

And still, the Blake Society, with Mr Duncan himself as spokesperson, are now calling for more money for another project and for famous people to lend them a veneer of respectability.

The Grave Project itself has been far from an edifying matter in the history of the Blake Society and members surely remember how long it has taken to materialize. The first funds were actually raised several years ago by a then fellow Trustee, Simeon Gallu, and myself, after which the project was again abandoned, to the exasperation of the Treasurer Mr Luis Garrido and his wife Carol Garrido, then also a Trustee, who carried out the investigation to locate the exact place where Blake is buried in Bunhill Fields.

Mr Garrido knows fully well that everything that happened with Blake’s Cottage is unethical and frankly disgraceful. He has told me so himself several times. He put up with much indignity though, because after the Cottage appeal he was promised that now the Society would finally raise funds for his project of marking the grave. Several chapters in my testimony show evidence of the degree to which Mr Garrido is aware of the lack of scruples and integrity rife in the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage project, and how he has borne it all for the sake of a grave.

The indignities include joining in the slandering of me that the Blake Society has been incurring in, with a worrying degree of sexism involved.

Beautiful as the project of marking the actual place where Blake is buried once was, it cannot hold any beauty now that funds for it are being raised by the same unscrupulous people who stole a project and the money given by over 700 generous donors in order to give Blake’s Cottage to Mr Tim Heath and his illegitimate Trust. They are using the same cunning methods. In this context, their upcoming gala means nothing but spitting on Blake’s grave.

My testimony on Blake’s Cottage is finished

I have finally posted the last chapter of my testimony about what happened with Blake’s Cottage.

You can find all the chapters in the “My Testimony” section in this webpage. Please do go there if the following link doesn’t work: My Testimony

I am grateful to those who have had the patience to read so far. I am also grateful to the process itself: it has been immensely liberating. Throughout the writing of this testimony I have been able to engage joyfully again with William Blake’s work, without feeling anymore the pain and even sense of threat that the sole mention of his name used to trigger after this ordeal.

One day, after working on a chapter, I went to Bunhill Fields – a place I thought I’d never be able to visit again – and just sat there on a bench close to the familiar inscribed stone and fig tree. I recognized all the trees that I had come to love after many visits, and enjoyed again the quiet, the shade: peace. It was a most happy day.

Telling the truth performs this kind of humble miracles. I do hope that this testimony will do its bit, in time, towards a visible restoration of truth around Blake’s Cottage.

I do hope too that the Cottage will be saved from ruin, that its grounds will be saved from the aggression of the “multi-purpose building” that the Blake Cottage Trust is planning to impose, and that this small and much loved building will have its dignity restored.

I also demand pristine financial reports, backed by the relevant documents, from the Blake Cottage Trust and the Blake Society regarding Blake’s Cottage, and I remind the Trustees of both organisations that slandering is a serious offence. The sexism involved in their slandering of me would also, I think, have been offensive to such a libertarian as William Blake.

Image result for william blake