Spitting on William Blake’s Grave

  1. Who will raise a memorial for Blake?

What is a memorial? Is a physical object which aims at honouring an event or an individual, presumably with beauty, something to be celebrated at all costs? Even if it is raised by corrupt people? Even if it therefore lays a sad, undeserved weight of ugliness upon the person or event it purportedly honours?

These matters are complicated. The history of mankind is punctuated by instances where honour, beauty, and nobility are meshed with corruption, violence, deception, often inextricably.

I am musing on this because the Blake Society has recently announced that next August, to commemorate William Blake’s death, they will unveil, at long last, the memorial by letter-cutter Lida Cardozo on the site where he is actually buried, fulfilling a promise long due. The story of how this promise has finally become reality is a sorry one, and far from beautiful. It is interesting too and I will get there in a moment.

First, however, a reminder of who the Blake Society are. This website is dedicated to tell the truth about what happened with the Blake Society’s project to acquire Blake’s Cottage in Felpham and turn it into a centre for creation. If you follow this entry, you will find the links between that ignominious story and the final attainment of the coveted stone mentioned above. In any case, the great event that is being announced, with the participation of very famous people (some who surely know nothing of this sad state of affairs, others who do know and chose to be complicit), is being planned by an organisation which has consistently lied to its members and the general public for some four years now regarding its major project: that of Blake’s Cottage. The lying has gone as far as denying that the Blake Cottage project ever was a Blake Society endeavor, something that donors and supporters have all reasons to find insulting.

This organisation’s lies have been extensive and rather serious, as they imply the betrayal of over 700 donors. This organisation is also the one which allowed its chair, Mr Tim Heath, to steal what was a public project (which actually means stealing the money publicly raised) in order to create an illegitimate organism, consisting of only three men and chaired also by himself, which he created in secret, under the wing of his lawyers, without informing the Blake Society Committee or his co-campaigners. We’re talking here of fraudulent practice, and we should remember that in order to set up his Blake Cottage Trust Mr Heath used funds granted by the Heritage Lottery Fund to the Blake Society, while the latter’s Committee washed its hands off the matter saying that this had never been a project of the Blake Society. This new, illegitimate trust acquired the Cottage, dropped the original project (the one that donors supported) and was left with no consistent plan at all. They didn’t have either the ability to continue the project because they were not the large trust made up of accountable and capable individuals and organisations that we had promised to the public we’d create, and therefore the Cottage was left to decay. No work has been carried out on it apart from the props that they put in over a year after its purchase to stop the thatched roof to go on collapsing, and yet they have promised to create a costly visitor centre, for the use of which they have no specific project. The only concrete use for it, it seems, will be that of a front for the odd kind of hotel that Mr Heath wants to make of the Cottage, so that people “can sleep in Blake’s bed”.

The Blake Society has not only refused to acknowledge its responsibility for a public project that they started, and has not only lied shamelessly. It has also failed to present, both in their public documents and those presented to the Charity Commission, coherent financial reports. In these too they have lied and their figures don’t add up. They have also severely bullied people and harmed concrete human beings. In their effort to silence those of us who are speaking out, they have broken their own constitution and have made use of intimidation. They have tried to intimidate the press and also individuals (a few days before an article on this issue appeared in The Sunday Times a couple of years ago, an incident that seemed very likely to be intimidation against me orchestrated by Mr Heath was grave enough to be taken seriously by the correspondent authorities), and they have also incurred in slandering. Evidence of all this can be found here, in the different sections of this website, and I think a reminder is pertinent now, because understanding who and what The Blake Society is is crucial to our reflection on whether if a beautiful memorial is worth having no matter what.

2. A Grave Story

As you may already know, I was a Trustee of the Blake Society from 2011 to January 2015, and its Secretary from 2013 till the moment I left the Society. I was also, along with Mr Heath and the Big Blake Project in Felpham, co-leader of the Cottage project – the conception and implementation of which, as the evidence in this webpage shows as well, owes a great deal to me and to my work.

When I joined the Blake Society Committee the “grave project” was already old, and not devoid of conflict. Mr Heath wasn’t all that interested in it, and probably for good reasons. He often said to me that he didn’t see the point in wasting time and energy on a project about “dead Blake”, rather than concentrating on what was still living of his work and legacy. He wasn’t also that enthusiastic about the reasons why Mr Luis and Mrs Carol Garrido, also Trustees of the Society and joint Secretaries before I stepped in and Mr Garrido became Treasurer, were so keen on having the memorial finished.

Some readers may know already that Mr and Mrs Garrido, after careful research, found out around 12 years ago the exact place where William Blake is buried (the tombstone that people have been visiting for years in Bunhill Fields, and which has become a place of pilgrimage for Blake’s fans, is placed, as it states, near the actual burial site). Blake’s genius attracts all sorts of people, and unfortunately all sorts of theories and personal fantasies are continually being thrown at him who, dead as he is, cannot defend himself. The no doubt admirable zeal in finding his exact place of burial is complex, for it doesn’t necessarily follow a simple, human devotion for an artist’s and poet’s legacy. The reader, though puzzled, might be closer to the truth if looking on the direction of Sahaja Yoga.

During my time in the Committee of the Blake Society the disagreements between Mr and Mrs Garrido and Mr Heath were not seldom. The former felt that the project for which they had worked so hard, and which had been in fact the reason why they had joined the Committee, was being neglected. Odd as their inspiration for the project may seem in the first place, they were right: no one seemed to care about the memorial. For this reason, they said they would step down on a couple of occasions. But they stayed.

The conflict became severe in 2012, when the Committee visited, as option B, the study of a stone-cutter who would charge much less than Mrs Cardozo and had been contacted by the Garridos, who were not so keen on Mrs Cardozo’s choice, as her higher fees would mean a longer wait for the project to be fulfilled. We then paid a visit to the Cardozo Kindersley Workshop itself, with the apparent aim of choosing between the two. It seems that those who had been in the Committee longer (namely Mr Heath and the Garridos) had forgotten that there was already an agreement established with Mrs Cardozo and, should we drop our commitment, there would be a fee for the work already carried out towards design. There was much acrimony around the subject at that time, and it was dropped again from the agenda.

In 2013 we had a short-lived spell of work on the project: the initial funds for the stone that will be laid in Bunhill Fields next August were raised by myself (a £2,000 Memorial Grant from the Grocers’ Company) and by a fellow Trustee, Simeon Gallu, no longer in the Committee (a grant from the Mercers’ Company). These efforts, however, were not continued and the memorial issue kept on slipping from the Society’s agenda, much to the understandable upset of Mr and Mrs Garrido.

In the following years I repeatedly reminded the Chair, in my capacity as Secretary, that we should continue work on the project. We might not all share Mr and Mrs Garrido’s enthusiasm for it, but the Blake Society had committed itself to it several years back, and it was important that the initial work and funding were not wasted. I also reminded him that we had a commitment with Mrs Cardozo. I was ignored.

Then the Cottage project started in full swing in 2014. To alleviate Mr and Mrs Garrido’s disappointment, they were promised that if the Cottage project were successful, then the Blake Society would have more credibility and the fundraising for the Grave project could be continued.

Despite the Garridos’ repeated objections to the way the Blake Society was handled, and in particular to what they called the Chair’s authoritarian way of working, they held on to the promise. I suppose that now they feel, despite all the ignominy lived through, that it was worth the waiting.

3. At all costs

So who are Mr and Mrs Garrido? What are these people, stirred by purportedly spiritual guidance, willing to put up with in order to see William Blake’s death place thus ‘honoured’?

Mrs Carol Garrido is no longer a Trustee of the Blake Society, as far as I know. She stepped down the same year that I did. I remember her as a very kind woman, always. When the conflicts with Blake’s Cottage arose she let me know she knew I was telling the truth and, in her way, supported me, for which I was grateful, though it would have been much braver to have voiced her support in front of the whole Committee. I remembered her as kind and was much surprised to see that, at the Blake Society’s AGM in 2017, she was no longer saying hello to me. In this blog I have given an account of the awfulness of that AGM (A Time of Bullies), of how Mr Heath, the new Secretary Antony Vinall and the Treasurer Luis Garrido lied blatantly to those present once again, how they didn’t allow me to voice my concerns through the tactics of harassing, bullying me and shouting me down. When I left the venue, asking all of them how could they sleep at night, I passed by Mrs Garrido. She looked away from me and just stared ahead with a fixed, tense half-smile on her face. And it was very sad to watch, for I have known her for far higher human values.

As to Mr Luis Garrido, things are more dire. Elsewhere in this webpage and in the My Testimony section I have mentioned his repeated disagreements with the Blake Society’s Chair, Mr Heath; how shocked and outraged he was at everything that happened with the Cottage appeal; how many times he told me on the phone that what Mr Heath was doing was wrong (he even got to use the word ‘sinful’), and how I, the Big Blake Project in Felpham and all the donors to the project had been wronged. But he didn’t say all this to the rest of the Committee either, and when I finally decided to speak out and alert the public about the corruption surrounding Blake’s Cottage, Mr Garrido joined the rest of the Committee in the continuous lying that has marked the Society’s behaviour these past four years.

Coming from the Treasurer, this is very serious, for Mr Garrido has presented financial statements for the Society in which the information related to Blake’s Cottage has no regard to truth (the evidence can also be found in this webpage: Inconsistencies in financial reports; financial concerns).

The degree of dishonesty that Mr and Mrs Garrido have witnessed during the many years they’ve been Trustees of the Blake Society has been extensive. The degree of dishonesty and lying that Mr Garrido himself has incurred into just so that they could see their memorial project come true has been indeed abject. I do understand their frustration at waiting so long for seeing any progress in a project they worked so hard for, and I am by no means minimizing their efforts or the worth of their research, but to grasp the project at all costs, trampling on the most elementary principles of ethics and human decency, is not the way to honour anyone, and abiding by the corrupt rules of a corrupt organisation has soiled whatever virtue their project might have once had.

A last word about the Blake Society Committee and the Grave project: a while ago there was an invitation to a kind of musical gala organised by the Blake Society to raise funds for the memorial. I was surprised to see that the event was announced by Mr Nick Duncan. I have already explained in detail in this webpage that Mr Duncan signed as the “independent examiner” of the Blake Society’s financial report (meaning the crucial report in which the Society presented false information), only to became a Trustee the following month (Nick Duncan and fundraising for the grave). I raised my concerns with the Charity Commission, questioning that a Trustee could be “an independent examiner” of his charity, particularly when there was contention regarding the misuse of funds. I tried to raise the same concerns at the infamous 2017 AGM, so Mr Duncan was spirited away and not elected again as a Trustee. The masquerade lasted only a few months: soon after Mr Duncan was inviting people to a fundraising event, a rather dubious practice when he has condoned the Blake Society’s lies regarding previous fundraising, and when he has lent himself to the farce of being both its Trustee and an “independent” examiner of its finances.

Now Mr Duncan is the person to contact if the public wishes to acquire “a chipping from Blake’s gravestone” to raise further funds.

Grave Nick Duncan

4. The Big, the Famous, the Mighty

Mrs Lida Cardozo is an eminent stone-cutter, and the head of a deservedly prestigious workshop. When I heard of the musical fundraising gala mentioned above I was distressed about the Blake Society’s intentions of further abusing the good will and support of many people, while still deeply engaged in the corruption that plagues that Committee since 2014.

I wrote to Mrs Cardozo to call her attention to this corruption. I received a terse answer in which she stated, in her own words, that all she cared about was her work on the memorial. Not for the first time was I surprised that people who are duly respected for their work or their authority could be so flippant about their involvement with an organisation that was suspected of corruption. The whole Cottage saga has been a great eye-opener to me: corrupted organisations like the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust can exist because they are inserted in a society that is either corrupt itself, or at least formed by ambitious individuals who aren’t squeamish at all about being involved with the corrupt. To acknowledge the reach of such a reality provides the kind of bitter knowledge that may not make you happier, but does make you infinitely wiser. And braver, because the greater the scope of the collusion with corruption is, the greater the determination to make the truth known becomes.

Recently Mrs Beryl Kingston, who has also been campaigning for the truth regarding Blake’s Cottage to be known and for the building to be protected, wrote in her blog about the seeming recent decision of Historic England of not including Blake’s Cottage in their risk register (Beryl Kingston’s blog). It is depressing news. Historic England has been repeatedly contacted by Mrs Kingston and myself, and know fully well the dire state of disrepair in which the Cottage stands. They have also had at their disposal the evidence of the lack of care that the Blake Cottage Trust has had for the building, from its acquisition to the present day. They have chosen to ignore all this, and theirs tend to be vacuous, bureaucratic communications in which true responsibility is avoided. The reader would be sadly surprised if they saw a list of the individuals and institutions who have decided to turn a blind eye to what they have been warned is wrong supported with evidence, including those who at some moment had expressed their own concerns regarding the Blake Society’s and Blake Cottage Trust’s lack of ethical standards. This is what I mean when I talk about a corrupt society. It’s nauseating, but fascinating too: this is, after all, human nature. There are great novels dwelling on this kind of phenomena, not to talk about Blake’s own Prophetic Poems. The big, the famous, the mighty, will usually want to remain among their peers, and they won’t risk status, prestige, privileges or jobs just for the sake of something as tiny as truth.

Which leads me to Mr Philip Pullman, who apparently gave the Blake Society’s annual lecture earlier this year and who is now announced as one of the luminaries to attend the unveiling of Blake’s memorial in Bunhill Fields.

Mr Pullman is the President of the Blake Society. True, being the President is not much more than an honorary title and, for as long as I was a Trustee at least, he was never involved in our work or decision-making. However, being the President of an organisation entails a responsibility, and Mr Pullman will have a lot to answer for when the truth about the Blake Society’s practice of corruption, lying and bullying is finally acknowledged (and it will, because the truth is never concealed forever).

As members of the public may remember, Mr Pullman made a generous donation to the Blake Cottage appeal and endorsed it publicly, for which we were all very grateful. When the Cottage was acquired and I realized that Mr Heath had created his own illegitimate private Trust and had bullied out the Big Blake Project, just as he had first done with me, and when I realized that the Blake Society Committee was washing their hands off their responsibility, I was very worried about the repercussions this might have on some of the big names who had supported us. Mr Pullman was much mentioned in the press when the Cottage was purchased, and I realized that, because of this, some people in Felpham (and people in Felpham have been treated very badly indeed by both the Blake Society and the Blake Cottage Trust) suspected him of being involved in the corruption.

I knew this was unfair, and serious, so I contacted him. Since I had myself called him during the campaign to ask for his support for our appeal, I felt doubly responsible. He first was worried, as he didn’t know anything of what was going on. He asked me to explain clearly what had happened. I did, and he never got back to me. Since, when he’s been asked by the press about the conflict around Blake’s Cottage, he has responded that he sees nothing wrong with it, and keeps on endorsing the Blake Society. I have said elsewhere in this blog how, when someone as famous as he is, refuses to engage in a conversation with someone denouncing a wrong state of affairs, and publicly dismisses those legitimate concerns, he’s actually incurring, inadvertently or not, in abuse of power. He has had at his disposal all the evidence he needs to know what is so wrong with the Blake Society for years, and he has either refused to see it, or ignored what he’s seen.

Why does he do this? Has he believed the slandering I have been the subject of by the Blake Society? Well, he only needs to look at the evidence provided to be disabused. Mr Pullman often appears in the press defending what we call “just causes”, and as I have said before in my testimony, even his heroines in some of his books are brave creatures who fight for truth. However, when it comes to the real thing – to defending truth in the world outside fiction, he chooses (at least in what regards the Blake Society) to side with the corrupt, the liars, and to therefore contribute to the silencing of truth. I don’t know why, but I do know that, as the President of the Blake Society he has a public responsibility, and sooner or later he will have to respond for his condoning an organisation that has incurred in the utmost unethical practice.

Among the things I have learnt during this sad affair is the fact that the famous, the big and the mighty exchange among themselves the currency of power and prestige. Long ago the prestige of Blake’s Cottage, should the project be successful, was promised to Mr and Mrs Garrido to serve as a stimulus for people to support the Grave project.

All these years later, the Blake Society, who, as we have seen, has had so little interest in the Grave project in the past, is using the prestige of the grandiose memorial in order to add a veneer of respectability to them and to the Blake Cottage Trust, being both organisms under the leadership of Mr Heath.

It is a very sad state of affairs, and it would be so no matter who was the dead poet or artist that we’re supposed to be honouring, but the iniquity is multiplied when they are sinking in the mire in the name of William Blake, for abuse of power, corruption, the cynicism and blindness of the rich and powerful was one of the issues that most pained him, as an artist and as a human being. He dedicated much of his life and art to stand against such a rotten status quo, and the insult that these supposed ‘homages’ to him signify is abject beyond expression. I have said it before: this whole story bears all the marks of a Faustian pact.

We do know though that the pact doesn’t end up well for Faust.

Since I started this webpage, I have been contacted by people who appreciate the fact that there are some of us telling the truth, and also by people who have known Mr Tim Heath for many years and recognize in my statements either his tactics of division and concealment or his inflated sense of self-importance, and who know that some of the stories that he has told us all about his unique and heroic efforts to preserve Blake’s legacy are, in the best of cases, delusional.

Unlike Hataja Yoga, I don’t pretend to speak for the dead William Blake, but through knowing his art, his poetry and the key facts of his life, I think he would probably weep and rage if he only knew the things that are being done in his name, and I very much doubt that he would enjoy to have their awful weight imposed upon his remains, however beautiful the appearance of the memorial may be. Its essence is certainly not beautiful at all.

As for me, I’d rather keep on visiting the old shrine – the humble tombstone which tells us that nearby lie the remains of William and Catherine Blake, and which has become a symbol of the artist’s genius and spirit for many years for people from all over the world who go there and leave some offering. That piece of stone, unlike Mrs Cardozo’s, isn’t tarnished with corruption and deceit.

Bunhill Fields

 

 

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A virtual visitor centre, and some questions regarding the real – Part II

In the first part of this entry I’ve asked the Blake Cottage Trust some questions that they have a public duty to respond to, as they concern their unethical practice and mismanagement in their handling of Blake’s cottage. I also commented on their bizarre display of virtual images of a future cottage that stand in painful contrast with the dire actual conditions in which the building stands now.

I also said that I’d comment on a document they have recently published in their website. I’d advise the reader to take a look at the first part of this entry as well (A virtual visitor centre… Part I).

The mentioned document is 33 pages long, it is illustrated with the same virtual-reality images that we saw in the video recently published by the Bognor Regis Observer, and it purportedly contains the architectural plans for Blake’s cottage. It contains, however, more than that: it contains baffling contradictions and statements that confirm what some of us have known for a long time: that there is no real project or vision for the use of the cottage, and that the Blake Cottage Trust  has never intended to honour the original project that donors and the public supported in such good faith.

The Blake Cottage Trust is still bent on turning it instead into some kind of literary hotel.

But let us start with the minor issues, and the odd. It called my attention, for instance, that Mr Tim Heath, the BCT’s Chair, keeps on stealing some of my words and ideas to try to articulate what the cottage might be. I’ve mentioned this before. It’s not even outrageous anymore – it is just boring, and pathetic.

I am also intrigued by their mention in page 5 of their intention of providing ” space for a small second residence for an eventual resident caretaker”:

Screenshot (36)

We should keep an eye on this. After all the instances of extraordinarily dodgy practice we have seen so far, it would be important to know who they intend to offer accommodation to in the cottage’s grounds.

The Blake Cottage Trust keeps on stating that their “intent is to bring the Cottage back as much as possible to a state that William and Catherine Blake would have recognised
when they lived and worked there between 1800 and 1803”, and that is why they plan to remove the 20th Century extension to the building and build a state-of-the-art visitor centre in its place; I therefore see myself in the need to ask again:

  • Would William and Catherine Blake have recognised a visitor centre in their garden?

This question is important because the original plan for Blake’s Cottage was to make of it a creative residence for authors, artists and thinkers that would give continuity to Blake’s dissenting imagination, and we were adamant about preserving the building’s peace, which would be conducive to creating, without the distractions of a visitor centre. The visitor centre, as anyone who has followed the wretched story of the Blake’s Cottage project knows, would be created in nearby Bognor; it would function in close collaboration with the building in Felpham, and it was an idea and contribution to the project brought by the Big Blake Project – who, as we also know, were elbowed out by Mr Heath as soon as the cottage was purchased -, while he stole this idea from them.

Later on, on page 16, we come across this near incomprehensible passage, that seems to contradict their aims stated above:

contradiction of intent

The BCT tells us then what we already know, and which is a matter of concern for many: that “The condition of the cottage is such that it is in pressing need of preservation and conservation work and general repair.” They add that “The roof has been over thatched (perhaps more than once) which has overloaded the existing roof trusses and stays, causing failure. The roof is now propped to arrest more movement.”

Those props – put in place a long time after its purchase – are, as we know, the only thing that the BCT has done for the actual building in 30 months.

They publish a couple of the many existing pictures of the awful condition of the building, manipulating them along with their text so it would seem as if they promptly set those props in place to avoid further damage. However, that is far from being the truth. In the long history of the cottage and its structural changes that they take us through in these pages – no doubt interesting – they fail to mention one important point: that when the Cottage Appeal started in 2014, though we knew that the thatched roof had damage, it wasn’t all that apparent. I know this, because I visited the building myself that year. The dismal state of disrepair and neglect that has been revealed by photographs taken this year simply wasn’t there. That is to say, that the further disrepair and neglect have all taken place during the years that the Blake Cottage Trust has been in possession of the building.

In fact, the props didn’t come in until 2016, the first time they boasted about being caring for the building, actually publishing in their own webpage a piece of news from the Bognor Observer commenting on this late intervention:

roof-supported

This means that from 2015 to October 2016 they did absolutely nothing to avoid further disrepair, and that from 2016 to this day they have done nothing more.

But things get worse. 

The Cottage Appeal started in 2014. That may be, for some, many years ago. The excess of information we’re all exposed to inevitably means that we forget much. However, I am sure that neither donors nor all those who supported our project then have forgotten that the project was one of a creative haven for artists that would also include as part of its programme a house of refuge for persecuted writers. Of course the doors would be open to the public as well; there would be exhibitions, talks, etc., and this cultural programme would be closely linked to what artists and writers created within the cottage’s walls.

If the reader has forgotten, or is curious to know, the whole story of the project has been told, step by step, in the My Testimony section in this webpage: My Testimony.

I also reminded the Blake Cottage Trust what the project was, as well as of their responsibilities, in a document I sent them shortly after the building’s purchase, in November 2015, to which they never answered: A Vision for Blake’s Cottage

In my testimony you will learn, with the aid of the provided evidence, that from the moment the cottage was acquired I have been very worried by Mr Heath’s repeated allusions to Blake’s Cottage becoming a kind of hotel according to his fancy. The Blake Cottage Trust has changed over and over again the information they give to the public about their actual plans for the building, as I have also summarized in another blog entry (https://blakecottage.com/2016/12/16/the-project-for-blakes-cottage/). They have contradicted themselves endless times; they have amended their statements depending on the concerns publicly raised by myself or other campaigners, and in the midst of this inconsistency, there has been only one constant: the Chair’s goal of opening the doors of the cottage so that people, in his own words, “can sleep in Blake’s bed”.

And this is certainly not what those of us who were involved in the campaign worked so hard for, let alone what the donors and the public supported with such generosity.

In 2016 an article in The Sunday Times mentioned my concerns about the Blake Cottage Trust’s disowning of the original project and the Chair’s intentions of turning the building into a kind of Blakean B&B. Mr Heath denied that he had any such intention (article The Sunday Times).

Now, in their latest published document, they surreptitiously go back to their vacuous, incomprehensible yet overriding wish for the future of William Blake’s Cottage. In their own words (page 5):

p. 5 Letting rooms

When they say that they “they don’t want the Cottage to be a lifeless museum”, they are simply parroting part of the original vision (a part that was essential to gain the public support for the appeal, and which owed much to my contribution to the project. In fact I was the only person who actually articulated those aspects of our vision, as can be seen in the Documents section in this webpage). However, they are perverting the original aim by immediately adding that they “will ensure that part of it can be used for short term accommodation”. So I ask:

  • According to whom the best way to stop a literary house from becoming a lifeless museum is to turn it into a small hotel?

You will see that they no longer make any distinction between the artists, researchers or “simply Blakean enthusiasts” who will have the privilege of staying over “a short weekend or a longer week”. I ask Mr Heath specifically:

  • Why is he changing his discourse again? He had said this before and I challenged him in this blog, reminding him that the project that the public supported was one of a real creative residency, and that no meaningful creative work could be achieved in a week, let alone a weekend. He therefore modified his story and begrudgingly mentioned longer creative residencies. Are we to understand by his latest statements that he’s gone back to his plans of simply having people holidaying in the cottage?
  • With which criteria are those artists or researchers going to be invited to holiday in the cottage, and what for?
  • Where is the concrete, professional project of what they have in mind when they vaguely talk about cultural activities in the visitor centre, and where is the board of trusted and accountable individuals and institutions that will oversee that?

As for how will the “simply Blakean enthusiasts” enjoy the cottage, the Blake Cottage Trust have finally spelled out their real intentions (page 20):

Letting rooms

That’s it: letting out rooms is the main purpose of the Blake Cottage Trust. They have passed the small exhibitions, concerts and talks that we would hold there in the original project (intimate given the dimensions of the building) to their sleek visitor centre, because the cottage itself will be no more than a hotel.

  • How can the Blake Cottage Trust justify spending millions of pounds in creating a flashy state-of-the-art empty visitor centre with the sole aim of having their own private hotel?
  • The idea was to preserve Blake’s Cottage. How did it become the turning of Blake’s Cottage into a hotel as a front for an empty expensive building for which there is no concrete plan or vision, and of the said empty expensive building into a front for their hotel?
  • How can they possibly have taken seriously the whimsical mantra of their Chair of letting people “sleep in Blake’s bed”, or, as he says in their webpage’s FAQ section, “So, yes, every home should be a gallery, and every room a place of creation and procreation – Blake’s Cottage especially so”?

In their document, the BCT add:

contained bedrooms

It can’t be clearer now. All the ideals, the hard work, the principles; all the beauty of the original project; all the support given by individuals and institutions; all the generosity, so many hopes to make of the cottage a place that would honour William Blake by supporting artistic and intellectual creation, have been trampled on by three men representing an illegitimate trust set up by one of them in secret, hiding from his co-campaigners and from the Blake Society, which was responsible for the appeal, in order to let out rooms and fulfill Mr Heath’s fantasies of having people sleep in Blake’s bed.

It is an unwholesome fantasy, bred by betrayal of colleagues and of public trust, misuse of funding and, needless to say, a sorrowful betrayal of everything that William Blake stood for.

I have only two more questions:

  • What right do these three men think they have to do this?

 

  • Are we, who care for Blake’s legacy, going to allow them to do it?

A virtual visitor centre, and some questions regarding the real – Part I

We live in times when it’s easy to lose our grip on reality and start living entirely in a fantasy world. Our overdose on what we call technological advances has made of the disconnection, dissociation and disintegration of our minds a strange commodity.

In this context, I wonder whether if the Blake Cottage Trust’s three Trustees have really lost it altogether now, whether if they are trying to take advantage of the gullibility of contemporary men- and women-folk, ever more willing to believe in what is not actually there, or a combination of both.

Be as it may, we recently had a chance to see an article on the Bognor Regis Observer, boasting 3D images of Blake’s Cottage (new Blake’s Cottage 3D images).  The reader could access this piece of entertainment by watching the accompanying video: a slide show created by MICA, the architecture firm that the BCT has chosen to help them do as they wish. The video has an interesting caption telling us that we’re looking at images “of what a fully restored Blake’s Cottage would look like”. That is, we’re watching images belonging to the realm of make-believe.

Those deadened images of something that has no material existence are, of course, ultra-modern architectural sketches for a project, and nothing more. They don’t show much of the purported restoration of the actual cottage (apart from showing a whitewashed exterior rather than the present brick and flint-stone one). They rather concentrate on the polemic visitor centre on its grounds, which was never part of the original plan, and which has met with no little objection.

My first question is:

  • With what money has the Blake Cottage Trust been paying MICA architects to draw up their plans?

I ask this because the production of such sleek (even if, in the circumstances, meaningless) images cost money, and while the Blake Cottage Trust keeps on trying to fool the public with ever clumsier attempts to draw them into their fantasy world, the reality of Blake Cottage is one of dismal decay. The state of its physical existence is as far from restoration as it can possibly be, as visitors could see by themselves during the recent open days, orchestrated around the Blake Petworth exhibition.

Mrs Beryl Kingston documented the sad reality in her blog. The images make one want to cry, be extremely worried, and angry. You can look at Mrs Kingston’s blog here: If Blake’s cottage had a voice it would cry help .

This calls for the second question:

  • Why hasn’t the money used to pay the architects to plan a fancy, controversial visitor centre been applied instead for the obviously urgent: to actually restore the building and preventing it from collapsing altogether?

Furthermore,

  • Why has the Blake Cottage Trust allowed Blake’s cottage to reach such a dire state of disrepair during the 2 years and a half since it was acquired?

There are further questions regarding those images of disrepair, one of which the Blake Cottage Trust is using to keep on lying to the public in a curious little document they have just published, but the said document is interesting enough to merit its own entry, so I’ll leave the matter for the second part of this comment.

Meanwhile, let’s look at the statements made by the Blake Cottage Trust’s Treasurer, Mr Peter Johns (mistakenly called Richard in the Bognor Regis article). In the article, which doesn’t fail to mention the criticism the BCT has been subject to since the acquisition of the cottage, Mr Johns is quoted saying: ““We are actively looking for additional trustees from the local area. Once this project is done us three trustees will hand over to the community trustees and we will disappear. It’s got to be for the Felpham and Bognor community, that’s the whole point.”

Now these are extraordinary statements to make for one of the three men who have stolen a public project and have so far treated the Felpham community with untoward contempt. Therefore, I ask:

  • Why are they looking for additional trustees only now?
  • Why have the three of them been grasping at the illegitimate trust they formed for two years and a half, ignoring completely those of us who’ve repeateadly reminded them that when we started the Cottage Appeal we aimed at creating a large, proper and inclusive trust that would be transparent and accountable, and that it was completely inappropriate, unethical and verging on fraudulent practice for them to appropriate a public project?
  • And why do they suddenly want local trustees, again, two years and a half after they acquired the Cottage and bullied out the Big Blake Project – the Felpham organism with which we at the Blake Society ran the campaign -, actually calling them “a pressure group”? And why, after having treated the Felpham community with great contempt during all this time?

I will remind these men that it is a bit too late now to be boasting about being looking for more trustees, local or otherwise. What they have been engaged in since Blake’s cottage was acquired on September 2015 is too long a chain of unethical practice, incompetence and blatant, constant lying to the public, and therefore the only way for a Blake Cottage Trust to function is to open it up completely as we had originally conceived it, calling for the accountable and trust-worthy institutions and individuals who can take proper care of the property.

What this means is that none of these three men can possibly remain in a legitimate Blake Cottage Trust, because none of them has been accountable for their actions, nor trust-worthy or ethical for the past two years and a half. Their time to “disappear”, as Mr Johns said, has long been up.

Mr Johns also says in the mentioned article: ““We are progressing satisfactorily. A couple of people have been saying we are taking too long but we have had to go through the architectural stage, which has taken nearly nine months, and now we have to go through the planning stage which could be five to seven months.” Anyone looking at the state the cottage is in would of course be forgiven for asking what do these people consider “satisfactory progress”. In any case, I have another question:

  • If the architectural stage has taken nearly nine months, what exactly has the Blake Cottage Trust been doing for the other 21 months during which the cottage has been in their hands?

I can say what they have not been doing: they have not been building a reliable and accountable trust, despite having been repeatedly asked to do so and to honour what those of us who worked in the Cottage Appeal promised to donors and the public to do, and this means that therefore the cottage hasn’t benefited from the expertise of people and institutions in the various aspects of the project, working as a team, that was crucial for its success. It also means that there was no swift, visible and energetic continuation of the fundraising immediately after the purchase of the cottage, which was also crucial. Instead of that, they remained for nearly a year in complete silence, not deigning to make public a single word about their plans for the building.

When they finally spoke, it was to start weaving a fantastic web of lies, bullying and intimidation. The document I mentioned above that the Blake Cottage Trust has just published in their website is the latest example of those extensive lying, contradictions and manipulation, and these are so outrageous that, as I said, the second part of this blog entry will be dedicated exclusively to it. Please keep an eye on this space.

Meanwhile, I’d just like to remind the reader that Mr Peter Johns, the Treasurer of the Blake Cottage Trust, has presented in the past an inaccurate Blake Cottage Trust’s Report and Financial Statement in which he’s plainly lying, as stated in former entries in this blog (Inconsistencies in Blake Cottage Trust and Blake Society financial reports), and that is very serious indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

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