Since I put up the blog called ‘The petition has been handed over’ I haven’t written another blog although I’ve had plenty of mail, and the original blog is still being visited – which I find rather surprising.
Among the letters there was a touching and very trusting answer from an ex-trustee of the Blake Society. He writes ‘ I still think the best solution – perhaps the only solution – is for all parties to put down their axes and start working together – start repairing the actual work that needs to be done, which is not material (as you know Blake wasn’t remotely interested in ‘bricks and mortars’ and the material aspect of life) but rather relational and emotional – the sense of Blakean ‘community’.’ It sounds so sensible and mature and possible, so it’s really rather sad for me to have to start this blog by saying, it’s actually an impossible task and that is because the two sides (and there are two sides now) have entirely different aims.
The 500 village people who signed my petition and the others who are still signing it online, have a very simple aim, as I do. We want the repair of the cottage to be the top priority. If it were, I’m sure we would be prepared to campaign for funds just as we did when we were gathering money to buy the cottage in the first place. Our declaration of intent couldn’t have been more clear.
But. And it’s a very big but. Nobody in their right mind would be prepared to hand over their very hard earned cash so that Tim Heath can use it to pay for architectural plans for this new half a million pound building he wants to construct in the grounds nor for the destruction of half the cottage to make room for it. These things are his top priority – he’s already chosen the architect – and he’s been talking about it ever since his handout to the press on June the 16th 2016 when this ‘significant property’ was first openly admitted to.
It’s been very difficult for anyone following these events to discover what that half a million pound building is actually going to be for, it’s changed considerably over the last year. To start with, Peter Johns said it was going to be a study centre and visitor centre. Then it was described as a ‘retreat for those who want space to ask important question about their lives.’ But it wasn’t until a statement put out on the Blake Cottage Trust website – undated as it always is – but quite recently which gives us the key word. ‘The new building will be multifunctional, having a secure space for small but important exhibitions, space for conferences, alternate space for a second residence, as well as office and administrative space.’ A RESIDENCE. When I read that I wondered who was going to live in it.
There have been altogether too many smoke screens and too much mystery in this affair and by no means sufficient straight facts for us to make up our minds about what it would be best to do. So let me give you a few facts. All of them verifiable.
Tim Heath is 61 and has two brothers who are hard working, reputable doctors with homes of their own and families. Tim Heath has lived in the parental home all of his life and is still there. According to his brother he has lived in the current family house for 50 years. Since his mother, who was the surviving parent, died, her affairs have been in probate but, once the legal matters have all been settled, the house will be put on the market. It is in a salubrious part of North London and worth, according to his brothers, a million pounds, but when it is sold, Tim Heath will have to get out and will need to buy another residence in which to live. According to his brothers he is hoping to walk away with the full million from the house. They have other ideas. Either way, he will still need somewhere to live. I think a lot of us will be wondering where that will be. I know I am.
When this magnificent half a million pound building was first mentioned in the local press, I said it was pie in the sky because I knew how little money the BCT actually had. Now I have to say, I think I was wrong. It wasn’t pie in the sky at all, it was a very real and determined plan.
I would very much like to know what others think of the present situation. Should we hand over money regardless of what it is going to be spent on or should we insist that a very clear promise is given that any funds gathered now would ALL be used to repair the cottage and none of it would go to pay architects, demolish part of the cottage or build another residence?
Keep in touch. This is by no means over.