The neglect of Blake’s Cottage

On 25th August 2019 an article by Richard Brooks on the bleak future that seems to await William Blake’s cottage in Felpham was published in The Observer.

The future looks bleak for the restoration of William Blake’s cottage

It is not the first time that the neglect in which the cottage lies calls the attention of the press, and sadly, as things stand now, it seems that we will keep on needing to call the attention of the public to the Blake Cottage Trust’s lack of accountability.

Their website has been dormant for a year, after their “open day” in September 2018. Whatever the current plans for the cottage are, or are not, the Blake Cottage Trust doesn’t seem to consider they have the obligation to inform the public, which gave such enormous support to the project five years ago. But they do have that obligation, and so indeed does the Blake Society, which launched the campaign.

I have noticed that this year there were changes in the Blake Society’s Committee. Mr Luis Garrido has stopped being the Treasurer. He’s no longer a Trustee either.

I don’t know how that came about, but there is logic behind it. For many years Mr Garrido endured the Committee of a Society he didn’t trust, for the sake of his project of marking William Blake’s exact burial place. For achieving that purpose, he felt it was admissible to lie about the cottage project, present inaccurate financial reports to the Charity Commission, and engage in an extensive cover-up.

The Blake Society, in turn, neglected Mr Garrido’s project for marking the grave until they felt it became useful to them, to help wash their reputation after the cottage’s project fiasco. They used Mr Garrido’s willingness to lie and be part of the cover-up, duly recompensed him with finally paying attention to his project, and once the new memorial stone was unveiled last year, Mr Garrido and the Blake Society have finally parted ways, having each done their contribution to ignominy in Blake’s name.

(For more detailed information on this matter, you can look at other entries in this blog, including Spitting on William Blake’s grave .)

The new Treasurer of the Blake Society is Mr Nick Duncan, thus rewarded I guess for his own contribution to the cover-up about the cottage. The link to this blog’s entry quoted above talks about how Mr Duncan acted as “independent examiner” of the deceptive, not to say fraudulent, Blake Society’s financial report on the crucial year of the Blake Cottage project, only to be co-opted as a Trustee a month later, though he hadn’t been elected at the AGM. You can also read about that situation here: Architects at Blake Cottage and more fund raising). I’ve expressed before my concerns that someone willing to endorse the Society’s lying and to join its Committee as an active instrument for their cover-up would be raising further funds for the grave project. Now, he’s in fact the new Treasurer, something that Blake Society members should worry about.

Though the Blake Society is unlikely to have in its hands again a project which entails such financial responsibility as the cottage, they have shown repeatedly an incomprehensible disregard for ethics, a willingness to lie to their members, to the press, to the public and to the Charity Commission, and sadly, since I decided to speak out about what was happening with the cottage in 2015, when I stepped down as the Society’s Secretary, the core of its Committee (Chair, Secretary in the person of Antony Vinall, and Treasurer) has been occupied by individuals who understand their duties as an exercise in deceit.

To the multiple chances these individuals have had of responding to the concerns raised about their behaviour and of engaging in a constructive dialogue, they have responded with a combination of bullying and utter silence.

Now we are celebrating the Blake exhibition at the Tate Britain. We would love to have reasons to celebrate the existence of Blake’s Cottage as well, and after 5 years of unscrupulous actions, lies and corruption, it may be a good moment to go on asking both the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust Committees to become accountable, and to think of ways in which the building can be restored and be in the hands of an accountable organisation that really cares.