You can read the second chapter of my testimony regarding the Cottage appeal in the section with that title in this webpage.
I have started writing my testimony, step by step, of what happened with the Blake Cottage appeal.
For that purpose I have created a special page in this website, where you can find a PDF document with the first chapter:
The Blake Society has published in their Webpage an interesting timeline and excerpts of minutes in an attempt to get away with the false information that they are giving regarding Blake’s Cottage.
I therefore see myself in the position to contest quite a few of the statements found there and include in my response the relevant evidence, so that the public, Blake Society members and donors are fully informed.
That will take time and I am extremely busy these days but my comments will be here soon. Keep an eye on this space.
I am not looking forward to this use of my time, and it is bound to bring trouble for the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust.
So I am making a last call to both of them: for dialogue, and truth. The inclusive dialogue with everyone who has been involved in this project that I have been calling for for over two years, so that among all of us we find the fair and honest solutions for the Cottage to thrive, and so that public and donors stop being betrayed.
After the harassing and bullying I was subject to last 20 January (please see my former post, “A Time of Bullies”) at the Blake Society’s AGM, I doubt that the BS or BCT will listen. However, I’m still calling. People have held constructive dialogues in far worse problems than this. The power for doing that, to do the right thing, is in all of us.
It is possible. Apologizing, explaining, putting right what has gone wrong, is possible. Treating each other with respect and tell the truth, is possible.
If they are willing, I hope to hear from them over the weekend.
Otherwise they will have to face the consequences of their actions and of this prolonged attempt to hide the truth. It has taken too long. Too many things and people have been trampled on already.
[Update 26 January. The Blake Society has published in their Webpage an interesting timeline and excerpts of minutes in an attempt to get away with the false information they are giving regarding Blake’s Cottage. I will be very happy to contest some of the statements found there and include the relevant evidence. That will take time and I am extremely busy these days but my comments will be here soon. Keep an eye on this space.]
On 20 January the Blake Society held its AGM.
It started thus: the Secretary, Antony Vinall, passed me by when he was distributing the agenda, so I asked him to give me a copy. We had recently exchanged correspondence in which I made clear that the sole reason why I was renewing my membership was in order to be able to challenge the falsehoods that the Society has been spreading among its members and the public, including their minutes of last year’s AGM.
So he approached me to give me a copy of the agenda and asked me if I was meaning to speak. I asked him what he thought I was there for if not. He asked again, he asked in fact three times. He then asked me, three times again, what was I going to say. I told him he should wait and hear. He then said, sarcastically, that he asked so that he was prepared.
He was, in short, harassing me.
The Chair’s Report
The Chair, Tim Heath, looked a bit nervous to me, stumbling here and there through the narration of what the Society did last year, interwoven with some vacuous sentences that he has been repeating dozens of times in the past years – a sign, I think, of stagnant waters in the BS leadership.
Among these was his claim that the BS was set on working “to do good to the world”.
I ignore how the Chair’s mind works, how much of his own contradictions he actually believes to be true and how much is sheer cynicism. All I know is that such words, coming from someone who does the things he’s doing, are vile.
The Treasurer’s Report
By the time the Treasurer, Luis Garrido, gave his report, it became evident that the AGM had been carefully scripted in an attempt to assuage the concerns I have been raising in this blog, to the press and to the relevant authorities, and that the Charity Commission is investigating. This is comforting: it means that reporting what these people are doing wrong is no wasted time.
The Treasurer, for instance, repeated several times that their accounts report for 2016 had been made by an independent examiner, whom they had actually taken the trouble to invite to the AGM. Mr Garrido explained in a confusing manner that this person was no expert in finances but was fully independent. Then this person read his statement saying that, though his was an “inexpert eye”, everything was to his mind quite OK, and he was, again, independent.
This obeys the fact that I have reported to the Charity Commission, and have also stated in this blog (please read my entry “Inconsistencies in Blake Cottage Trust’s Financial Report” of 18 September) that the “independent examiner” of the 2015 Blake Society financial report is, in fact, Dr Nick Duncan, who up till yesterday, when he seems to have stepped out, was a Trustee of the Society. You can read that document in the following link:
Up to today (21 January 2017), it has been accessible in the “Find a Charity” section of the Charity Commission’s webpage.
For all I know the BS 2016 financial report may be immaculate, but I still want to see an independent report of 2015, a crucial year because that’s when Blake’s Cottage was acquired and when the reports of both the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust are overlapping, inconsistent and with money missing.
Then Mr Garrido went on to say, for no discernible reason, that for the creation of the Blake Cottage Trust the Blake Society has hired the most expensive firm of lawyers in this country, experts in Charities and who, on top of it all, donated a substantial amount to the Cottage appeal. This firm is Bircham Dyson Bell.
They are, indeed, very expensive and very powerful – they have been known for handling, for example, Tony Blair’s fortune -, and the Chair has made sure to wield them as a weapon to intimidate people, including the managing editor of a major national paper.
If this gratuitous mention of BDB was made in order to intimidate me, it was a futile effort, and I find it strange that the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust have not realized yet that I am not afraid of their lawyers.
Mr Garrido also said that the Blake Cottage Trust had been set up in March 2015, so I had to correct him with the exact date: October 2014.
I sincerely appreciate that Mr Garrido made sure to highlight my major contribution to the Cottage appeal, explaining how Mr Heath and myself were, within the Blake Society Committee, the only two persons raising funds in 2014. It would have been good though if he had also mentioned the significant role and enormous work of the Big Blake Project in Felpham, who were raising money too on behalf of the Blake Society, and running the local leg of the campaign.
The Secretary’s Report
Mr Vinall’s report was brief and strange. He gave a tortuous explanation as to why, though the membership of the Blake Society had diminished in the past year, it was merely a matter of a defective database that he couldn’t use properly or something along those lines and therefore, though “in paper it would seem as if we have less members, we are in fact growing”.
I assume that behind this bewildering statement is the refusal to acknowledge, perhaps even to themselves, that the Blake Society is losing members because people are starting to hear about their lack of ethics.
Then came the turn of the acceptance of the minutes of last year’s AGM. Knowing from my experience of the last AGM that I would not be allowed to speak much, I was reserving my comments and questions for this moment. I didn’t have much hopes that the Committee would respond to them with truth, but I did hope that, in view of the gravity of the situation they are in, they would at least go through the motions of listening – then the members attending and general public would hear too.
But the Blake Society seems to be quickly losing its grip even on forms, so what happened was in fact a shameful spectacle at the hands of Mr Heath and Mr Vinall, determined not to let me speak.
I said I had issues to raise and the Chair asked me to introduce myself, so I said I had been a Trustee of the Blake Society for four years, its Secretary for two and had been co-leader of the Cottage appeal, just as the Treasurer had ratified. The Chair said that that was not the case, that I had been his “assistant”.
Everybody in the Committee knows the extent of my work, and leadership, in this project. In the documents section of this webpage you can find some documents I prepared that were in fact the only consistent articulation in writing of what we were planning to do. There are many more documents and correspondence that show I was not a mere “assistant”.
However, I want to say here that when in the summer of 2014 the Chair incurred into behaviour so unethical that it jeopardized not only the Cottage appeal but the existence of the Blake Society itself, I told the Committee what was going on and resigned. The Committee was outraged at the Chair’s behaviour; many of them told me so, though they never challenged the Chair. What they all did (and this includes the Chair) was ask me to stay and by so doing, save the reputation of the appeal and the BS. Mr Antony Vinall offered himself as mediator between the Chair and me. I trusted him because he was the only person in the Committee who seemed willing to do anything at all about the problems we were facing, and because he had unequivocally expressed his disapproval of the Chair’s behaviour. I was puzzled though that despite his outrage, he was accepting the impossible terms that the Chair was proposing for us to continue on working together.
There is ample correspondence in which I asked Mr Vinall why the conditions were put on me, when I was the one who was giving the Chair, and the BS as a whole, the chance to put things right, because they all had asked me to do so. It was a cruel time; I was on the verge of breakdown for months, beneath impossible pressure from all this people while the Chair continued on bullying me, so in the end we signed a ridiculous agreement that would only have validity while both the Chair and I were Trustees of the BS, and in which he hinted that I would be that: his “assistant”. With hindsight, I can see now that Mr Vinall should have reported to the rest of the Committee immediately the Chair’s unreasonable behaviour, and that what he did instead was collusion with the bullying and something very close to coercion. The correspondence is available to anyone who may want to see it.
What is clear is that I was no “assistant” in this project. In fact, in the middle of the summer 2014, when time was crucial for us to launch the crowdfunding appeal, the Chair suddenly went away for six whole weeks, to the enormous concern of myself, the Big Blake Project and the rest of the Committee, and left me very much in charge of the appeal as far as the Blake Society is concerned.
But let’s go back to the AGM last 20 January: the Chair pretended to deny that the Blake Cottage Trust was set up by him alone, with his lawyers only standing in for him, in October 2014. So again, if you go to the Charity Commission’s webpage, you will see that the BCT’s Governing Document Memorandum and Articles were incorporated on 30 October 2014, precisely, as I reminded the Chair, at the time when his probity was being severely questioned within the Committee. He did this without informing the Committee or those of us running the campaign with him. This is unequivocally the first step to set up the Trust, something that Mr Heath did with his solicitor alone; that the Charity was actually registered until March 2015 doesn’t mean in any way that the beginning of the procedures were not started in October 2014, as anyone can see in the Charity Commission’s documents and other webpages with information about Charities. You can read that governing document created by Mr Heath alone, secretly, and which includes a provision of pensions for the men who have appropriated Blake’s Cottage, in the following link:
This is the BCT’s Certificate of Incorportion, of public domain:
Mr Heath admonished me at the AGM saying that “truth is important”, while he was denying his own actions recorded in the document above. How can someone invoke truth in the same breath of his lies is simply beyond me.
(For a clearer timeline, please visit The Companies House webpage, https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09288779/filing-history. )
Then he asked me if I had a question and I said that at the AGM last year I was not allowed to cast a vote and that because of their haste to silence me, technically there had been, in fact, no election of a Committee as there had been no voting. Mr Vinall said it was not necessary because the nominees did not exceed the number of Trustees that could sit at the Committee. I reminded him that the AGM is the chance members of the Society have to raise concerns about the performance of a Trustee and Mr Vinall changed the subject asking me if I said he lied in the minutes. I said yes, that he was a liar. He asked me to tell him where he was lying and as soon as I started speaking Mr Heath interrupted me saying, rather aggressively, “Do you have a question?”. I started talking again and he tried to distract me by asking what item of the minutes I was referring to. I said that the item about the election of Trustees, and he interrupted me again.
I got up, said that if they wouldn’t let me talk I would not be part of the farce, would leave and report them to the corresponding authorities. Mr Heath continued: “Do you have a question?”. So I tried again, tried to ask why are the minutes and the Blake Society’s webpage lying regarding who were the “elected” Trustees at the last AGM, why do they mention in their webpage Dr Duncan who was not a nominee and was co-opted later (as he told me himself by email) or why don’t they mention Rod Tweedy, who left the Committee after the AGM, unhappy about the handling of the Cottage campaign.
But at this point the Chair was simply shouting on top of me every time I started talking. It must have been at least five times that he asked “Do you have a question?”, that I tried, precisely, to ask my question and told him that he was not letting me speak, and he just repeated the same words again. Plain and rather vicious bullying, of the kind that I was subject to when working in the Cottage appeal.
The only way to be heard was to shout on top of his shouting. So I did: I told him that he was a liar, and a bully, and had stolen a public project. I told the Committee that I would report what has happening to the pertinent authorities and they would regret behaving like bullies, told them that they were cowards, and left. Outside the room there was a queue for the concert that would follow the AGM and I told them too that the people in there were bullies and liars. The Committee must have heard me because they immediately started letting people in, so I guess they finished the AGM with the same haste, if not more, than they did last year when I also spoke out.
The comments and questions regarding the minutes that I was never allowed to ask can be found in the following document:
A screenshot of the Blake Society’s webpage lying about the elected Trustees at the AGM of January 2016, the way their page looked until last 20 January, can be seen below:
Why are they doing this?
I do not know why the BS Committee has been colluding with the Chair like this, or why Mr Vinall and Mr Garrido lent themselves to the AGM’s sad spectacle.
Mr Garrido has been a Trustee of the BS for many years and has often had problems with the Chair, as he repeatedly told me on the phone. When the problems with the Cottage appeal started in 2014 he told me several times that what the Chair was doing was outrageous. There is an email of him addressed to the whole Committee a few years before the Cottage appeal in which he suggests the Chair is something of a dictator. A few days before last year’s AGM (2016) we had a phone conversation. He agreed again with me on all my concerns regarding what was happening with the Cottage and the Chair’s unethical behaviour, that included another Trustee, and told me, literally, that the Chair was a tyrant. I asked him why then did they put up with it. His answer was: “Because that is the way things are in the Blake Society and it’s never going to change. Either you do as he says, or if you don’t like it, you leave”.
As for Mr Vinall, as I have said before, he was very angry, and very worried, about what the Chair was doing. I met up with him and his wife, the also Trustee Christina Vinall, several times, both during the big crisis when I was still the Secretary and afterwards, when the Cottage was purchased and I found out that the Chair had created his own illegitimate Trust and bullied out the Big Blake Project, and how angry people were in Felpham. Mr and Mrs Vinall told me that since I had left the Committee they had had very few meetings and that it had been impossible to elicit information from the Chair about what was going on with the Cottage (which was, let us not forget, a Blake Society project). When it was finally purchased, Mrs Vinall only found out through the members newsletter, and the then Secretary, Mr Tweedy, through Facebook. Mr Vinall told me that the whole Committee was very frustrated by the Chair’s unwillingness to be transparent or communicate, and repeated what he had said before, that the Chair liked “to play games”. Mr Vinall had also told me very clearly several times that what happened in 2014 had set a precedent and that if the Chair acted unethically again, the Committee would take action. When I left the Committee I left with the Vinalls and Mr Tweedy several documents with evidence of what had gone wrong.
When I met with Mr and Mrs Vinall in 2015 they knew that Mr Tweedy wanted to step down as Secretary. Mrs Vinall asked me whether if it was very hard work, wondering whether if she should nominate herself, and Mr Vinall asked her if she hadn’t had enough with seeing what a horror it had been both for me and Mr Tweedy.
Next thing I knew, he was the new Secretary, and he has not stopped lying since.
I don’t know what these Trustees think is in there for them in order to collude like this. I do know, though, that they are afraid. But this is not the way to protect themselves. They are only making things worse for themselves, and for the Charity they are supposed to serve.
I know that I do not deserve this treatment from a Society that I served impeccably, with great commitment, passion, good will and inexhaustible efforts at conciliation of conflicts, as all the Trustees, the Chair included, have repeatedly acknowledged.
Apologizing for the harm done is an option that is always there. That would be the beginning of a solution. It is possible; then dialogue can ensue, and it’s not the end of the world.
I came out of the AGM at Waterstones Piccadilly understandably distressed. Outside I met Rachel Searle, from the Big Blake Project, who was just arriving since her train was delayed. I told her what had happened and, realizing there was not much to be done with people who bully others into silence, we left.
At that moment precisely, the “anti Trump” march was walking down Piccadilly, since 20 January was also the fateful day in which that man was inaugurated as the president of the United States.
It was an odd experience. It felt in a way rather grim, a kind of confirmation that we’re living in a time of bullies. But there was also a hopeful element in it: to be reminded that there are always people willing to stand up to them.
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.
There has been a series of articles and TV news revealing some of the problems surrounding Blake’s Cottage. It is a relief, though no joy. This project was born like a happy one, and one that would honour William Blake. The murk and gloom that has tainted it so was never called for.
It is essential that people know what they know now: that the Cottage is in disrepair and there is no money to fix it. But people must be aware too of why it is in disrepair: because we, the people who started this appeal, promised to create a large consortium of responsible, capable and accountable individuals and organisations to continue the fund-raising and care for the Cottage, yet, instead of that, Tim Heath, Chair of the Blake Society, bullied out his fellow campaigners, kept the Blake Society in the dark and set up in secret an illegitimate trust of only three people with no capacity to run the project, but with a great talent for dishonesty.
Therefore it is important to stress this: that people should NOT give even a single pound more to the Blake Cottage Trust. I have written before in this blog about their baffling financial statements, seriously inconsistent and in which there is money missing.
We started this project receiving with great gratitude all donations, big and small, and honouring every single pound given to the Blake Society out of love for Blake, and trust in us. I counted many of those pounds myself, deposited cash and cheques in the bank… neither donors, the Big Blake Project leading the appeal in West Sussex, nor myself, did what we did with such care, punctiliousness and love to be then betrayed by a handful of unscrupulous people.
The Cottage should be in the hands of people with integrity, who are transparent and accountable, and the Blake Cottage Trust is none of that.
I believe that it is an appropriate moment to remind the public, the press and authorities of the mess the Blake Society, then the Blake Cottage Trust, have made of their plans for Blake’s Cottage. It should leave no doubts that these people are not to be trusted, and that they lack the most essential skills and professionalism to set up a project of any kind. Let’s try to do this, with the following timeline.
- The Blake Society launches a campaign to acquire William Blake’s Cottage and turn it into a centre of creation for artist and writers, and to bestow the Cottage to the nation. It would be open to the public several days a week. Our centre of creation included having in the programme a House of Refuge for persecuted writers. For that part of the project we (me and the Blake Society’s Chair, Tim Heath) invited English PEN, who were delighted with the idea. This was as early as 2013, way before the Cottage appeal was officially launched. We invited several other institutions and individuals to be part of the project. The idea was to engage with people with the appropriate experience, and with the integrity, professionalism and accountability indispensable for such a project. There are more documents and blog entries in this webpage that talk about this in more detail.
- The fruits of the work created in the Cottage would be shared with the public through the web set in place by the proposed Consortium, in galleries, universities and other venues nation-wide and, when possible, internationally. There would also be small (given the dimensions of the Cottage) exhibitions, talks and concerts in the building itself.
- In 2014 the campaign is launched, unequivocally as a Blake Society project and with the aims mentioned above. In the midst of the campaign Mr Heath starts incurring in extremely unethical behaviour and appropriation of the project. He bullied me (the person who, along with him, was leading the appeal within the Blake Society) out of the Society and the project. He did the same with the Big Blake Project, leading the local leg of the campaign. He leaves the Blake Society Committee completely in the dark about what he’s doing and sets up in secret an illegitimate organism, the Blake Cottage Trust, composed of only three people and chaired by himself. The Blake Society Committee is outraged but they panic when they see I’m willing to speak out and contact the Charity Commission. They wash their hands off the problem and ever since, both the BS and the BCT claim the Cottage was never a Blake Society project.
- In early 2015 the campaign has failed, but the Chair goes on to secure a big amount of money on his own and the Cottage is acquired in September 2015.
- From then and up to this day, the Blake Cottage Trust has never made public any record of decision making, nor a consistent, detailed and serious plan for the project.
- As soon as the Cottage is acquired, the original project is disowned: The Blake Society calls for ideas from the public. I contact the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust to remind them that there exists a project already, that took us much work and care to set up – the project people gave their money and support for. The document I sent them can be found in this webpage. It is ignored, all they tell me is that our original project is “not a binding commitment”, which I find worrying, since that was what people gave their money and support for.
- After acquiring the Cottage, the Blake Cottage Trust doesn’t contact anymore people who had been invited to the consortium, and who supported the campaign.
- The Blake Cottage Trust starts to qualify the original project by telling the press that “One idea is to let it out to people who would love to stay in William Blake’s cottage, to sleep in Blake’s bed. . . It could be a place where people come to think about what they could be doing with their lives. It wouldn’t be exclusive. Part of the year it could be let out to people who would pay a premium to inhale Blake, and that would subsidise others like artists and musicians looking for respite and refuge.”
- I and other campaigners worry that the project is taking this shape – that of a literary bed and breakfast, not what the public had supported at all. We raise our concerns and are ignored.
- By January 2016 the original project has been completely blanked out. At the Blake Society’s AGM that month, the Chair didn’t mention anything about it at all, and went on to say that “Paradoxically, the campaign to secure the home of one of England’s greatest visionaries succeeded through its lack of vision – each person could project onto the project their own view of Blake, and could place in the Cottage their own imagination of a literary house.” This is an insult both to those of us who created the project for the Cottage, and to all those who supported that project. It is also a rather serious lie. Some of us try to object to this at the AGM and are ignored. The Chair’s false claims are repeated in their minutes.
- The Blake Cottage Trust keeps quiet for months, their webpage mostly blank, giving no information to the public whatsoever about what their real project is, while the Cottage keeps on deteriorating. Then they make some statements to the press, and add something to their blog, stressing as their main object now to create a visitor centre on the premises after demolishing the 20th Century annexe to the Cottage, and, again, to privilege “paying guests” above the original project: artists will be in the Cottage “while it is not being occupied by paying guests.”
- I object to this and the Blake Cottage Trust finds out that there will be an article appearing in The Sunday Times in August 2016. Only then do they deign to add to their webpage something in the way of an explanation of what they want to do. The article itself quotes them talking about paying guests.
- I object to that in this blog, saying that we didn’t create the campaign in order to end up with a Blakean Bed and Breakfast. The day after the article is published they delete from their webpage all mention about paying guests and for the first time seem to be acknowledging the original plan. Worryingly though, they say it is not going to be a B&B, but: a “dream-catcher”, and go on to add: “William Blake was a visionary – he dreamed dreams and saw visions. So to fully appreciate the visionary secrets of the Cottage, you will indeed be able ask [sic] to wake in Blake’s bedroom.” . . . “So, yes, every home should be a gallery, and every room a place of creation and procreation – Blake’s Cottage especially so.”
- Later on they added an update to the project, riddled with lies that I have highlighted earlier in this blog and say that “Firstly, we want to encourage people to visit the Cottage on open days and experience the working of an exact replica of Blake’s original Eighteenth Century Wooden Rolling Press. Secondly, we want to invite artists & poets to visit, stay, be inspired by, and work in the Cottage. We also want to use the new visitor centre for public events, workshops and exhibitions.” This is the first time in over a year that they deign to mention in their webpage anything similar to the original plan, though now they have different priorities and are also avoiding to mention their scheme of paying guests and are still offering no concrete, professional proposal. It should be stressed again that the information that they have been adding to, and deleting from, their blog, has changed by the day according to the objections to their work, or lack of it, appearing in this blog, in the press and in the blog of another campaigner.
- Finally, in the articles published in the national press earlier this week, Mr Heath makes extraordinary claims, in an extraordinary language. First, that “the property will be turned into a shrine by 2027”, when originally we had thought it would take some three years, five at the most to be opened to the public, and it was purchased in 2015. Then, “People who follow visionary paths need support” … “The cottage gives them a place of refuge where we give back to those rare people. Those very special voices, they need help, they need support. It is a place where people can go for a few days’ respite, where they can pursue their vision. Those people are on the periphery of society, so they need some structure to encourage the next great William Blake, the next great David Bowie, the next great Leonard Cohen. In a thousand years time, when we look back, will this petty dispute about the roof of the cottage be remembered? Or will the magnificent voices that come out of the cottage in the next ten years?”
I hope that donors to the appeal, the general public, the press and all relevant authorities realize that this time-line shows a worrying degree of lack of seriousness and capability to run the project, as well as great contempt for truth. The large, professional and accountable consortium that we promised to create would have the capacity not only to carry out further fund-raising, but also of implementing the project and inviting to the Cottage serious and committed artists, authors and thinkers within the framework of a clearly articulated programme. We wanted to have in the consortium honest people and organisations who are seriously committed to their work, with an impeccable record of integrity and accountability.
We never promised to the public that we would allow an illegitimate Trust of only three men, imposed by Mr Heath, who have been incapable so far to spell out what they are planning to do with any consistency since they acquired the Cottage over a year ago, to pick up what they consider “people who follow visionary paths” “from the periphery of society” so that they can “sleep in Blake’s bed” for “creation and procreation” or any such nonsense.
Talk about what the Blake Cottage Trust’s legacy will be “in a thousand years’ time” is also disturbing. We were aiming at something humbler, and also more true and respectful of donors, the public, members of the Blake Society and all the people who made an effort to contribute to the appeal. I have no idea whether if there will still be human life in this planet in a thousand years’ time. I do know though that the Blake Cottage Trust has had the Cottage in its hands for the much more human time-scale of a year and three months, during which it has allowed it to go into disrepair, has proved to be utterly inefficient and, graver still, has done nothing but lie, manipulate, bully people and make significant amounts of money disappear from their muddled financial statements.
Surely Blake deserves better than this.
In the Blake Cottage Trust’s Journal entry of two days ago, inconceivably titled “Treasures in Heaven”, the Trust claims that its “primary concern during our first year has been to safeguard the structure of the building while we move towards a full and complete restoration.”
First paragraph, first fresh lie. The BCT only managed to put in supports for stopping the thatched roof from collapsing more than a year after the Cottage was purchased. Throughout the BCT’s existence, its primary concern has been to deceive the public, to lie, and to hold on to a historical building and a project that don’t belong to them, manipulating information and abusing power.
The public and donors to the Cottage appeal must be reminded, over and over again, that the Blake Cottage Trust, set up in secret by the Chair of the Blake Society and consisting only of he and other two men, all of them with no previous experience in handling such a complicated project, all of them ambitious and who have repeatedly proved to be arrogant, unprincipled in everything that touches on this project and to have an enormous contempt for truth, is not the organism that we aimed at creating when we started the Cottage appeal – the large consortium of accountable individuals and organisations that we promised donors (actual and potential) and the public that we would create.
The intention of creating such a consortium had solid grounds behind it. Had it been set in place, funds would have continued to be raised effectively throughout the past year, the Cottage wouldn’t have deteriorated further, and all the lying and unscrupulous activity that have thrown so much mud in Blake’s direction would have been avoided. No one would have then been allowed to hijack and appropriate this beautiful project.
So when the BCT claims that it “is doing everything in its power to secure its future”, it is indeed lying, and with no little cynicism. It seems evident that they have some degree of power and so far are managing to be protected, at least locally in West Sussex. They also know how to wield their powerful firm of lawyers in order to intimidate people and try to tone down the press. But they do not care about the Cottage, and all they’ve been doing is engaging in low politics, intrigues and digging themselves deeper and deeper into a pit of unethical behaviour that will be extremely hard for them to climb out of.
Though it’s never too late. They can always own up to their mistakes, apologize to the public and donors, be part of the solution. Never too late, that is, unless the Cottage is completely ruined, in its material fabric and… well, spiritually, in the sense of “spirit” that Blake cared about and the reason why we initiated this project in the first place, in a time that seems now painfully distant, and innocent.
In an article appeared in the local press yesterday the Trust claims that”There has been a lot of speculation about the ultimate use of the cottage”, but there hasn’t been “speculation”. The misinformation has come from them and the Blake Society, and we have to remember that to this day they have never cared to make public their records of decision making or a consistent project for the Cottage.
As soon as it was purchased in September 2015, both organisms in fact disowned the original project, and denied that it had ever been a Blake Society project in the first place. In the Blake Society’s AGM in January this year Tim Heath, who chairs both the BS and the BCT, made the extraordinary, and insulting, claim that the appeal had succeeded because of its “lack of vision”, as if we hadn’t dedicated endless hours, endless days, entire chunks of our lives (as I certainly did) to articulate that vision.
If you go to the Documents section in this webpage you will find “A Vision for Blake’s Cottage”, a document I sent to both the BS and the BCT a year ago to remind them of the original project, and of their obligations, and asking to meet up with them and all parts involved and find a solution to so many conflicts. They arrogantly ignored that document, that plea and all my repeated attempts at communicating with them. During all this time and up to August this year, when they found out that an article about the Cottage was about to appear in The Sunday Times, they didn’t bother to make public any consistent plan for the Cottage, and only a few days before that article appeared the only thing they made clear was that they intended to rent out rooms in the Cottage for private guests. That intention appeared in their own website.
As soon as the Sunday Times article appeared, and a further comment in this blog, challenging that plan, they deleted that information from their webpage and now are making attempts to convince us that they mean to respect the original project, some way or another, though now they talk of that as a secondary purpose, which was never the case. We wanted to make of the Cottage a home for the dissenting imagination, and that meant for it to be a place for creation, for artists, authors and thinkers, including the creation of a House of Refuge for persecuted writers, all of those aims which would have indeed honoured Blake.
To do all that we needed, again, an accountable, trustworthy organism, the consortium we had promised to create. People who are serious about their work and respect the work of others, people who respect donors and their wishes. What kind of artists are these three people, who have done nothing but lie since they acquired the Cottage, going to invite, with what criteria or authority, and what good can come of it all now?
They have also lied to the local press in saying that it took “several years to raise the initial funds to acquire the Cottage”. It took little more than one year, and it is really about time that they stop manipulating information.
If you care to know what I mean by that please read the former entries in this blog, particularly that of 18 September regarding the extremely worrying lack of consistency in the Blake Society’s and Blake Cottage Trust’s financial information.
I am aware that there are other people campaigning for the Cottage to be repaired and accessible to the public. Up to that point, I agree, both things have to happen. But I want to make clear in this space that I am not attending any meetings organised by them and will not engage with them. One cannot clear up the prevailing confusion by adding more confusion, without having facts right, and with the same tactics of manipulating information and contempt for truth that we are supposedly protesting against, particularly when some of these people have their own agenda, including the rejection of the original project. I am playing no games. Nobody’s games.
Finally, I’ll just comment on the last paragraph of the Blake Cottage Trust’s entry in their Journal, that, in the circumstances, is both sanctimonious and cynical to a near pathological degree. Mr Heath quotes one of Blake’s favourite passages in the Bible: Lay up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt … for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
In a disturbing tendency of creating a revolving dialogue, or warning, or mockery that sometimes seems aimed at himself, Mr Heath seems to be pointing at the treasures he’s laying up. So far, regarding William Blake’s Cottage, Mr Heath’s actions, the reasons behind them, and the Blake Society’s and Blake Cottage Trust’s actions, in colluding with him and with a cover up, have been using and abusing other people, their work, their good intentions and their generosity; active and willful harm in fact of some of those people, with no little bullying involved; lying, appropriation of other people’s work and of a beautiful project worthy of Blake and of the donors who supported it; incompetence; abuse of power; meanness of spirit, arrogance, a depressing lack of human dignity and any sense of ethics; cowardice; a mockery of everything that Blake stood for in his life and through his work; the building up of the worst insult that Blake has received after his death… the heart of people who accumulate such frightful “treasures” is, I’m afraid, in the farthest possible place from Heaven.
It’s been over a year now since the Blake Cottage Trust acquired Blake’s Cottage, and only this week have they managed to put in the steel supports to stop it from collapsing, though they still don’t have the means to actually repair it.
There is some information going round that is not quite accurate, at moments wilfully distorted – this sad story has become a case of Chinese whispers and a curious display of human foibles, but one thing is clear to all: the Blake Cottage Trust doesn’t have the means to repair or care for the Cottage, let alone to honour the beautiful project we – those of us who created and ran this campaign – promised to the public that we would create.
This is so because the Blake Cottage Trust is an illegitimate organism set up in secret by Mr Heath alone, for his own rather unclear purposes, rather than the large consortium of accountable organisations and individuals that we promised to create. Had that consortium been created, work on the Cottage would have started immediately after its purchase, the fund-raising would have continued, the public would have been duly informed, with all transparency, about the work being done and the actual whereabouts of the money donated. We would have a clear project now, and something to celebrate. That was precisely the reason why a large and accountable consortium was deemed necessary in the first place.
The Blake Cottage Trust is not being trusted and for good reason. The Cottage must indeed be in the hands of responsible, and honourable, people, and the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust do not fit that description at all. On the contrary, they have proved to be woefully unprincipled and incapable to run a serious public project.
It is about time that they own up to it, acknowledge that they have done much harm, apologize to the public and become part of the solution by letting go of the Cottage and allowing responsible people to take proper care of it. They have had more than enough time to understand that nothing handled with such lack of care, principles, respect for others, with such lack of rigour too and such an alarming disregard for truth, can turn up well. They can still sit down with those of us who do care and do the very least that they can do now: honourably get out of the way so that the Cottage doesn’t simply collapse.
That nothing done with lack of principles or regard to truth ever comes to any good should be borne in mind too by those who think they can jump on the bandwagon now that everything around the Cottage is chaos. Truth always reveals itself.
It is about time too that more of the national press starts taking this seriously, that people stop fearing the powerful firm of lawyers appointed by Mr Heath – the only thing he seems to have managed to do with the money we all raised, in an attempt to consolidate the power that he has used, and abused, against all of us – and ultimately against himself, for this is indeed an incredibly sad way to destroy his own work of decades around the legacy of William Blake.
Please look at my previous posts in this blog: regarding the worrying inconsistencies in the BS and BCT finances, regarding the lack of a coherent, transparent project, the lack of respect for the public and for Blake himself at the hands of these two Trusts that thought they could get away with lying and destroying. Please do spread the word.
UPDATE of 22 September: After writing the post below I have looked into the Blake Society’s financial report to the Charity Commission this year. You may find it interesting to see that their report’s “independent examiner” is Dr Nick Duncan, who is, in fact, a Blake Society Trustee. The report is signed April 2016. In an email to me of May 2016 Dr Duncan told me he had recently been co-opted back in the Committee (where he had served a few years ago). This doesn’t seem too independent to me, particularly given the current irregularities in the handling of the Blake Society.
You may also find it interesting to know that the 2015 financial report of the “Anonymous donor” in the Charity Commission’s website shows a donation of £100,00 to the Blake Society. The BS does not mention this donation to the public. There is only mention of a sum of £400k given to the Blake Cottage Trust. All very confusing, isn’t it? It gets worse. Please read on.
In my blog of 5 September I mention rather obvious false information in the Blake Cottage Trust’s recently published Report and Financial Statements.
Yet I knew there was more in their report that was not right – the figures simply didn’t make sense – so I have now put all the information I have together.
As stated before, though after another Blake Society Trustee’s brief involvement it was Mr Heath (the Blake Society chairman) and myself alone who were running the campaign within the Society, he withheld much information from me, and never allowed me access to the Just Giving and Indiegogo financial statements, that he only showed to the Treasurer days before our AGM on January 2015, so regarding those two platforms and other donations he got I have only his word to go by.
Even so, figures don’t add up. It is incredibly difficult to point at the mess of the Cottage’s financial information in a comprehensible manner, so I have opted for a timeline:
- On 20 January 2015 Mr Heath sent an email to me and the Blake Society Treasurer saying that we had raised £106,308, though £42,500 was in pledges only. The Fundraising Summary was: HeritageLottery Fund £10,000; Sainsbury’s Fund £25,000 (pledge); BDB lawyers £17,500 (pledge); West Sussex CC £10,000; Indiegogo crowdfunding £ 3,788; JustGiving £23,325; Patron £10,000; Cheques & Cash to Blake Society £ 6,695. Please note that all the above were donations made to the Blake Society, and he was referring to them as such to the Blake Society’s Secretary and Treasurer.
- In the same email Mr Heath mentions the donation of cash & cheques directly to the BS compiled by myself with a total of £6,695 that required auditing.
- On 21 January I sent my record of those donations to Mr Heath and the BS Treasurer. They may have got their Excel Auto Sum wrong, the fact is that the total is one of £7,877. It is impossible to know whether if they amended this in view of the chaos that ensued, as you will see below.
- I don’t know if the above figures include or not the over £20,000 (exact sum to be confirmed) raised directly by the Big Blake Project, since Mr Heath did not even mention them in his reports.
- Thus far we had, from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Sainsbury’s Fund, BDB Lawyers and West Sussex CC a total of £62,500, all these clearly donated to the Blake Society before the Blake Cottage Trust actually existed. Please keep this in mind, as the inconsistency will be clear below.
However, before I get there, there are a few other baffling bits of financial information:
- In Mr Heath’s email of 4 March 2015, when he wrote to me after I had already left the Blake Society, to say that the Cottage appeal had failed, he said (I quote): “A sum of £107k was raised in donations and contingent pledges of which £60k was received in cash, out of which legal, surveying and campaign costs will need to be paid. [ . . .] The remaining funds will be transferred to The Blake Cottage Trust.”
- In Mr Heath’s email of 21 September 2015 to let me know that, after all, the Cottage had been purchased, he said that “Over half a million pounds was raised”. The same was stated in the Indiegogo crowdfunding page for the appeal.
- At the AGM in January 2016, the Treasurer’s Report read: “During the course of the year the Society exceptionally continued to handle donations for the purchase of Blake’s cottage in Felpham, pending the formal setting–‐up of the Blake Cottage Trust (BCT).” This is weird. The Chair set up the Blake Cottage Trust in October 2014. It is true that he did that all by himself, with his lawyers standing in for him and hiding from all of us in the Blake Society Committee and in the Cottage appeal. But I found out he had done so in September 2015 and informed other BS Trustees about it, and the Chair himself at last claimed that the BCT had been set up at the beginning of that year, so why was the Blake Society holding more money for them? Who in the Committee knew, when, that the BCT had been set up long ago, and why were they in the extraordinary situation of not having that clear?
- The Treasurer continued in his AGM report: “£146,404 was added to the £18,761 already held in this separate restricted account. After deducting legal and other expenses incurred on its behalf, £139,055 was passed over to the BCT during the accounting period.”
- We of course want to see a summary of those significant expenses, and of how and when which amounts exactly were held by the Blake Society then passed on to the Blake Cottage Trust, because these statements seem to be conflicting or, at the very least, rather blurred.
- The Chair’s report at the same AGM reads: “It is indeed a miracle that the Blake Community raised over half a million pounds to buy Blake’s Cottage. . . . For those who enjoy numbers, the campaign raised £510,000; the Cottage was purchased for £495,000.
- At the AGM Mr Heath said that an anonymous Trust had given £400,000 (the same sum their financial statement claims). It would seem to me then that, in accordance with the Treasurer’s report, we should be talking about £565,165 pounds raised (this includes the £146,404 added to the £18,761 already held by the BS reported by its Treasurer), minus deduction of legal and other expenses bringing a total of £539,055, not £510.000.
Then we move forward to the Blake Cottage Trust’s Report and Financial Statements published in their webpage on the wake of the Sunday Times article published earlier this month. In that document they claim:
“With considerable assistance from the Blake Society the trust succeeded in raising £479,419 which together with a loan of £19,250 was enough to purchase Blake’s Cottage…”.
- To start with, as I said in my former blog-post, this is a false statement. The BCT did not raise money “with considerable assistance from the Blake Society”. Apart from the £400k raised by them, secretly, after the campaign had failed, the rest of the money had been raised by the Blake Society and the Big Blake Project. The Blake Cottage Trust did not even exist then.
- Most worryingly, significant amounts of money are not even being mentioned in their report. A first pertinent question regarding these inconsistencies is, How did £165,165 raised by the Blake Society become £79,419? Over £85k seem to have vanished here.
- Or, if we refer to the Chair’s own report at the AGM earlier this year, that, as we have seen, does not quite match the Treasurer’s, how did £510,000 become the £498,669 that the added above figures in the BCT’s statement make up? (Over £11k vanished).
- Now let’s look at their breakdown of the Blake Cottage Trust’s accounts (I’ve downloaded their document, just in case they decide to change it after I publish this): apart from the main £400k donation, what calls my attention here is: Sainsbury Monument Fund 25,000; Heritage Lottery Fund 10,000; West Sussex County Council 10,000; BDB Lawyers 15,250 (less than previously stated).
- This is a total of £60,250, to which they sum up £19,065 as a mysterious various, giving a total of £79, 315. I am not sure if that “various” means Mr Heath’s loan, in itself problematic, of £19,250. To this they add the £400k of the big donor. That gives their total of donations of £479,315.
- As I also stated in my former blog post, and is now clear for all, having shown you the Blake Society’s accounts reported by its Chair to the Treasurer and me, then Secretary, it is a fraudulent statement to make the above mentioned donations appear as if they were made to a Blake Cottage Trust that was then non-existent, when they were clearly made to the Blake Society. I don’t think that the organisations who gave that money would be happy with this manipulation of information (and in fact the Heritage Lottery Fund recently confirmed to me in writing that they made a donation to the Blake Society alone, never to a Blake Cottage Trust). Due clarification as to what was raised by the Blake Society and the Big Blake Project should be a prominent part of the BCT’s financial statements.
- Equally important is a meticulous clarification, so far lacking, as to where and how have the Blake Society’s and the Blake Cottage Trust’s financial activities regarding the Cottage appeal overlapped.
- Even more serious is the fact that there is money missing in the BCT’s breakdown of accounts. Where are the following amounts? Indiegogo crowdfunding £ 3,788; JustGiving £23,325 (this includes a donation by the BS President); Patron £10,000 and the Cheques & Cash to the Blake Society, reported as £ 6,695 though they were actually £7,877?
- We are talking here of £44,990, raised by the Blake Society, that the Blake Cottage Trust is choosing not to mention in their report.
- This money that they are choosing to disregard, to hide away, to make vanish, is the one that probably most honours Blake, and that would have given him most joy: every single pound, painstakingly gathered, given by over 700 generous people who reached in their pockets to give what they could because they loved his work, and believed us when we said the Cottage would belong to all.
I think the public may be forgiven if they find all these conflicting figures and acts of prestidigitation rather puzzling.
It seems that Accounting Figures Limited, the company that oversaw this report, in fact overlooked quite a few things.
I ask the Blake Cottage Trust and the Blake Society yet again, what is going on here?
Please read my former blog post, where I ask the same question regarding their change of expressed plans for the Cottage according to what concerns I or the press raise publicly. As a reminder: after the Cottage was purchased the BS and BCT disowned the original project, mentioned to the press the plan of renting out rooms and ignored completely all the concerns raised by myself and many others. At the AGM last January, they were still disowning that project and the Chair went on to make this extraordinary, and utterly false, statement, reproduced in their minutes: “Paradoxically, the campaign to secure the home of one of England’s greatest visionaries succeeded through its lack of vision”.
Then the Chair was contacted by the Sunday Times a few days prior to the publication of their article. The Chair realized this was going to get to the national press so deigned, for the first time since the Cottage was acquired, a year ago this month, to tell the public about the BCT’s plans. They at last included the house for creation for artists and authors that we had envisioned, though making it clear that their main financial plan was still to rent out rooms and that artists would be admitted when there were not paying guests. I objected to that plan in this blog, and concerns were raised in the ST article itself, quoting from the BCT’s very webpage, so the day after the article was published the BCT changed its webpage again. Now the paying guests are nowhere to be seen.
I can hardly keep up with the Blake Cottage Trust’s changes of information in their webpage according to the concerns I raise in this blog. I’m keeping screenshots but I will not engage in that game. Their duty is to tell the truth to the public and commit to transparency and honesty, not to play table tennis with their critics.
I have done more than can be humanly expected from anybody to call these matters to the attention of the public. I cannot do the job of the authorities, and I have more important things to do with my life than going on contemplating the sad landscape of mire and infamy that I’ve been forced to see from such close quarters for over two years now.
If you, reading this blog, care about Blake and the Cottage, if you were a donor, if you’re a Blake Society member, then do your bit. Demand accountability, honesty and transparency from the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust, challenge them, write to the Charity Commission, talk to the press. Do what you can so that the Cottage is in the hands of people who care, who respect Blake and the public, people committed to truth.
The Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust, run it seems through an inexhaustible capital of trickery, should not be allowed to hold William Blake hostage to their lack of scruples.
After the publication of Richard Brooks’ article for the Sunday Times regarding Blake’s Cottage (see former post in this blog), the Blake Cottage Trust has updated its webpage.
Their lies are growing – I fear they will end up hopelessly entangled in them.
They have now published their Report of Accounts for 2015. The falsehood goes thus:
- They claim: “With considerable assistance from the Blake Society the trust succeeded in raising £479,419”. This is a rather serious lie. The Blake Society was not “assisting” a Blake Cottage Trust that did not even exist during the Cottage appeal. The Blake Society asked donors for money for a Blake Society project and it raised, along with the Big Blake Project, over £100,000. It was assisting no one. There is plenty of evidence of this. Claiming otherwise is a fraudulent statement.
- Linked to the above, it is wrong to present the Blake Society’s financial activity regarding the campaign in a Blake Cottage Trust financial report without due clarification. When they talk about 742 donors, they are talking about people who gave money to the Blake Society. This has no place in the BCT’s financial report. This is a fraudulent overlap of information.
- Again, they mention donations from the Sainsbury Monument Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund, West Sussex CC and BDB Lawyers as if they were donations to the Blake Cottage Trust. They were not. They were donations made to the Blake Society.
- They also claim: “Our activities in our first year of existence have been focused on the purchase, insurance and immediate maintenance of Blake’s Cottage while honouring its place within the village of Felpham…”. Yet within weeks of a year of the Cottage’s purchase, there has been no maintenance of it whatsoever. As for “honouring its place within the village of Felpham”, I wonder how can you do that while having used then elbowed out of the appeal the Big Blake Project, using publicly the name of another Felpham organisation without their consent, and arrogantly ignoring the views of people in Felpham regarding their plans for the Cottage.
- There is also inaccurate information regarding a loan. I cannot disclose it here as it might affect third parties, but summed to the above, it informs a document that shows a worrying contempt for truthfulness.
On the wake of the Sunday Times article, there is a new FAQ section in the Blake Cottage Trust webpage, riddled with the ambiguous language favoured by Tim Heath in order to keep things vague and manipulate his way through his work with others. There are some points to be made about that section:
- They claim: “In 2015 the Blake Society gave birth to a new charity, the Blake Cottage Trust”. This is what should have happened, but it did not. It is therefore another serious lie. The Blake Society didn’t give birth to a new Charity because Mr Heath, its Chair, kept the Blake Society’s Committee completely in the dark regarding his dealings with the Cottage, bullied out the other person who was responsible for the project within the Committee – myself -, and set up the BCT entirely on his own, in October 2014.
- They claim that the BCT was set up by the law firm of Bircham Dyson Bell, omitting that it was the said firm along with Mr Heath, as can be clearly seen in the BCT’s own documents.
- In the same section, I am being called an “unscrupulous source” for saying this (this is defamation, by the way), and the BCT denies that the Trust was set up in secret, unaware of its own contradictions. They claim “The ten elected trustees of the Blake Society were kept fully informed of the process of forming the charity and its registration with the Charity Commission. The progress is recorded in the official Minutes.” This is interesting:
- There were not ten elected Trustees. We were eleven. Not only was I a Trustee. I was the Secretary, and I have plenty of evidence of the Committee’s deep appreciation and gratefulness for my impeccable work.
- The Blake Society Committee was not informed at all, in any way whatsoever, by the Chair about what he was in fact doing with the Cottage. Several Trustees themselves confirmed that to me when the Cottage was purchased, and they are lying when they deny it. I have evidence of this as well. All that appears in the legitimate original minutes is that in December 2014 the Chair told us he had been to see the lawyers to seek advice about setting up the Trust that was being “started to be formed”, when in fact he had already set it up himself, in secret, in October 2014. Mr Vinall, who has taken minutes for years, has manipulated minutes before and has blatantly lied in the latest AGM minutes, so whatever minutes they provide now, they should be double-checked for accuracy with those in the original emails sent to all of us eleven Trustees, that I will be happy to provide to the relevant authorities.
- They talk about “a small but vocal minority opposing the Cottage” (the same words used by Mr Heath when interviewed by the Sunday Times). In fact he’s referring to myself and the Big Blake Project. We are not a “minority”. We are the people who founded and run the Cottage appeal with him, and who he then bullied out.
- In the answer to the question “The Cottage is tiny…”, Mr Heath goes on to use the words from my own work and even this blog (see my post “Games” below), making a show of continuing on stealing people’s work, and still weaved with in-jokes completely inappropriate in a public project caught in such serious problems.
- The misinformation to the public about the Cottage’s plans is nothing but a mockery. Mr Heath keeps on changing the statements about what the Cottage is supposed to be according to the objections that are being publicly raised, as clearly stated in my post blog “Games”. Only in August 25 did he deign to (mis) inform people about what he wanted to do with the Cottage. I raised concerns about that in this blog, he was quoted in the press and now, one day after the Sunday Times article was published, he has made significant changes to the BCT’s page again. On 25 August he claimed: “…they can elect to become Friends of the Cottage and thereby receive the gifts that will be made by the resident artists (writers, musicians, painters, printmakers, &c) who will find refuge or respite in the Cottage while it is not being occupied by paying guests.” Now that we have raised concerns about this issue of paying guests, quoted also in the Sunday Times, it has disappeared from the Blake Cottage Trust’s webpage. What on 25 August was “paying guests” is now “invited guests”. This constant change of plans is very confusing, to say the least. So what is really going on?
- Finally, and related to the above, Mr Heath has unequivocally talked in the past (and as recently as 25 August) about the BCT’s intentions to rent out rooms in the Cottage. He is now saying that the Cottage will be no hotel or B&B. So if people will pay to spend a weekend or a week there and it won’t be a hotel or B&B, what are they going to call it? He says it will rather be a “dream-catcher”, which I fear is no legitimate answer. Take a look at this Question and Answer in their webpage: “Q: Will I be able to sleep in the Cottage? A: William Blake was a visionary – he dreamed dreams and saw visions. So to fully appreciate the visionary secrets of the Cottage, you will indeed be able ask [sic] to wake in Blake’s bedroom.” This follows on Mr Heath’s recurrent joke about sleeping in Blake’s bed, but doesn’t make the public any wiser about what he’s talking about exactly. He also says: “So, yes, every home should be a gallery, and every room a place of creation and procreation – Blake’s Cottage especially so.”… When the questions about his lack of ethics are as serious as they are now, he, and the Trusts he chairs, should be serious as well and stop talking in riddles.
I don’t believe that Mr Heath, or the Trusts he’s chairing, are aware yet of how serious the public concerns surrounding Blake’s Cottage are. It was indeed over 700 people who made donations to this project, believing in us who created it, and in our good will.
After ceaselessly lying, harming, deceiving the public and stealing people’s work for over two years now, Mr Heath is still mocking the original intentions of the project by saying “it will be a place where all those who struggle to imagine a better world might find refuge, respite and inspiration.”
A better world, as William Blake knew well, is a world of truthfulness, a world of respect for other people, a world in which the meaning of ethics is understood. Beauty mattered to Blake a great deal, and beauty is the first thing that vanishes when lies, ill will and the incapacity to treat other people as human beings show their face. It is about time that this ghastly farce comes to an end.