Thursday, 4 December 2014

The Missing Masterpiece revealed

After my previous blog about the Missing Masterpiece the demand to view the item by the residents of our dear town has been overwhelming. By chance a certain local man who has a flair for re-creating and crafting, managed to make a similarity, albeit not to scale as the original was much larger. However, he has preserved the work for prosperity and possible future exhibitions. The recreation can viewed for free, in a window of a high class emporium of carpet and window furnishings on West Street. How long this exhibition will be on view is not known, but an early viewing is recommended so as not to be disappointed. The whereabouts of the original work is not known, which is a shame as the original artist clearly has certain fuelled moments when her talent comes to the fore and must be expressed. One wonders if there are other masterpieces out there yet to be discovered and whether new works will be created over the festive period?

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Missing Masterpiece – Latest News!

A remarkable recovery
When, on the 21st October, we reported on the Missing Masterpiece, we thought that was the end of the matter as we had heard that this unique work had been destroyed without trace, something we regarded as a tragic loss.  However, it now transpires that it was in fact seen by quite a few people, who have been able to provide corroborative descriptions of the piece and from these it has been possible to create a partial replica which, although it cannot match the size of the original, that being a complete dining room carpet, does perfectly capture the spirit of the original, thereby preserving for posterity an important part of Somerton’s cultural heritage.  Shortly, and for a limited period only, this remarkable piece will be on display in the window of Somerton Furnishings in West Street.  Do keep an eye open for it as this opportunity may never arise again.

But who was the original artist?
We have heard that although the identity of the lady who created the original is becoming quite widely known around the town, we have elected to respect her anonymity, which we are sure, would be her fervent wish.

We also understand that the lady who created the original work did in fact recover from her hangover, although it must be said that we are not sure which one.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Bah humbug....

How mean can you get?

This is a Christmas tale that defies belief and one that Dickens’s Scrooge would be proud of.  I am reliably told that a certain Barrie Davies, Somerton Town Councillor and Treasurer of the Old Town Hall Charity, SHBPT is opposed to paying for the electricity that powers the Christmas lights that decorate the OTH and told the town council that if they would not pay the electricity costs, then the lights around the OTH would not be switched on.  Almost held to ransom by one of their own councillors, the council agreed to pay the costs to ensure that the centre of Somerton looks festive, especially after councillors and other members of the public, notably minus Councillor Davies, had spent a lot of their own time and a great deal of effort in cold and inclement weather to ensure the season’s decorations went up in good time. 

But it gets even worse

However, the penny-pinching story does not end there.  In a twist that might have embarrassed even Scrooge, the same Councillor Davies blustered into a well-known Somerton whole-food shop and declared that SHBPT would not pay a single penny towards the electricity costs for the lighting.  The lady who owns the business had spent a great deal of her time as a volunteer helping to put up the lights and running her successful business as well, tasks not easily juggled.  In a public-spirited rebuttal to this heartlessness, the good lady took £20 of her own money and offered it to Councillor Davies, who quite unbelievably took and stuffed it in his pocket and without much of a “by your leave”, turned on his heels and walked off. 

Now, I understand that the OTH is a charity and that money is tight, but this meanness defies belief.  Most, if not all Somerton traders on West Street, The Market Place and Broad Street, not to mention pensioners in the Hext Alms Houses gladly contribute towards the costs of the Christmas lights to make our beautiful town festive at this time of year and bring some joy and festive cheer to shoppers and children alike.

Bringing a charity into disrepute

It is well known that SHBPT guard their charitable status with jihadist fervour, but seem to not understand the true meaning of the very word ‘charity’.  They seem to think that it means standing there with their hands outstretched waiting for others to shower ever more munificence upon them.  You can’t help wondering what the Charity Commission would make of one of their registered charities acting in such a disreputable way.

I say shame on you SHBPT - no wonder the people of Somerton express ever lessening support for your designs on the OTH, whatever you may claim to the contrary. 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The missing parts of the jigsaw

A fact that should have been reported
As reported in the Western Gazette, a ‘Transformation’ exhibition organised by Somerset Contemporary Artists Network was held in Somerton Old Town Hall from 25th September 2014, affording the general public the first opportunity to see the Hall in its intended new role as a community arts centre once finance from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) had been obtained so that the Somerton Historic Buildings Preservation Trust could buy and restore the building for community use with arts and crafts facilities and with a commercial art gallery’, the building is currently owned by the Stepping Stones Group of which Mr John Bailey is a director. 
An important element was missing from the Gazette report – we must assume that at the time they were unaware – was that the Trust’s application for HLF funding had already been turned down by the HLF’s South-West Committee a couple of weeks previously.  The grounds for rejection were that the application did not meet the HLF’s criteria for funding and that the Trust should not re-submit their application unless they could seriously address the issues that let them down, citing amongst other things lack of clear detail about activity planning, lack of a specific budget and unrealistic timetables.  This rather flies in the teeth of the Trust’s claim in its Position Paper of 13th Jan 2014 that ‘the plans met all the criteria that the HLF required’.  Clearly they did not.
A further and very important criticism by the HLF was that much of the activities would ‘be delivered by partners’, meaning the purely commercial functions of the art gallery.  And that brings us to……..
Those mysterious partners
We have been told by the Trust that the rent paid by an anchor tenant occupying part of the Hall would cover running costs and that extraordinary expenses would be met ‘by further appeals’, which rather negates the whole aspiration of turning the Hall into a Somerton asset ‘at no cost to the community’.  This also strongly suggests that no analysis of likely ongoing costs have been carried out, perhaps by studying data deriving from similar projects.
However, to return to the partner issue, the Trust’s Position Paper states that a couple of potential anchor tenants had been identified and later says that John Bailey introduced the Trust to an additional potential anchor tenant who was keen to use the Hall as a prestigious art gallery. The Gazette reported on 23rd September 2014 that the planned art gallery, workshops and ‘artist in residence programme’ would be run by a body calling itself SomArton.  And this is where it gets really interesting!
SomArton is a limited company that was incorporated on 29th April 2013, long before the Position Paper was written.  The company has a registered office in Bridgwater and a head office at No5 West Street in Somerton, the old Longmire’s off licence.  One of the directors is Mr Hugh Martin, a ceramic artist, while the other is none other than Mr John Bailey.  This could lead one to suspect that the Trust is passing the hat round in order that they can buy the Hall from Mr Bailey so that Mr Bailey can run a business in it, which all sounds highly incestuous and a far cry from the earlier, noble aspirations of providing a facility for the community.  This may not be and hopefully is not the case but given the yawning gap between the hype and the current reportage, a certain cynicism is understandable.
The missing masterpiece
It had been widely anticipated that a really avant garde piece would be on display at the Transformation Exhibition.  Unfortunately it did not appear but we are reliably informed by those who did see it privately that the work consisted of a dining room carpet covered in swirling patterns created by having hot globs of sizzling candle wax splattered all over it completely at random.  It is a great shame that the public were denied the opportunity to see this masterpiece created, we are told, by a lady not previously known for her artistic leanings.  We still do not know for certain why she did not attend but have heard that she was either suffering from a monumental hangover or working hard on her next one.

Monday, 15 September 2014

The Viaduct issue

I have been approached to bring to light the backlash against the post of councilor Barrie Davies in the recent Viaduct publication. The letter to the Viaduct from the well respected Pat Mountain reads as follows:

Dear Editor(s),

It has taken me some time to decide how to respond to the front page article in the September Viaduct, written by Barrie Davis. He did so under the aegis of the Town Council Vice Chairman, but apparently without the consent or knowledge of the Chairman or of his fellow councilors.  I and many others are disturbed at the inferences that may be drawn from his words.

 All of us agree with his comments about the loss of the estimable Eirian Williams, who was the most excellent Chairman of the Town Council and a wonderfully active member of our community. He is greatly missed.

It is felt, however, that the way in which Mr Davis has chosen to plead with us all to cease using the Council ' as a feuding ground' is, we strongly suspect, because he would like to have a quiet life during his remaining term on the Council.  He demands that those who were horribly and wrongly accused of misdemeanours and even of criminal activity, lie down and keep silent, even though no action was ever taken against them and they have been shown to be entirely innocent.

Naturally Mr. Davis, as one who sided overtly with the original accusers ( most of whom are now, thank goodness, no longer councilors) would wish his side of the matter to remain in the public mind while denying any access to a public voice for those who were so horribly maligned a few years ago. This is manifestly unjust and he would be better advised to head up an apology from the false accusers, which is the only way in which the matter can be laid to rest.

Is he man enough to do this?

Whilst I agree whole heartedly with Pat's views I do feel that it is about time we had a resolution to the matter that has blighted or community for many years. A resolution can only be achieved with compromise on all sides and understanding each other point of view. If both sides stay entrenched in a vendetta against each other this will never end. It takes backbone to stand up and be a man and to say sorry. Only when that is done by the people who started the whole affair will we be able to move on to closure. Is anyone from the original "gang of four" prepared to be upstanding to help reach a compromise?

I welcome your views on the matter, however any use of the vernacular or personal attacks on individuals or groups will not be published.

**The views expressed by myself are not necessarily the views of Councilor Fiona Richardson (my wife) I have not discussed Mr Mountains letter with her or this blog entry.**

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Armed Forces Day

As many of you will know I spent 38 years in the Armed Forces; both in the Army and the Royal Air Force and latterly as exchange officer with the Royal Navy at RNAS Yeovilton. I support all those who have served and are still serving in our armed forces, in my view they deserve our utmost respect and support at a time when our Government is intent on reducing their numbers and cutting financial support. I am pleased to see so many of our community taking the time to show their support of our brave men and women on this day. I realise that one does not need to have been a member of the armed forces to realise the strength and security they bring to our nation. To all of our armed forces I send a big Bravo Zulu to you all.

On a sad note however, three years ago I used to work with the local Army Cadet Force as an instructor and ran the Platoon that used to report twice a week at Langport. However, just over a year ago after a hateful, untrue and malicious anonymous letter from a member of this community to the Somerset ACF, it became untenable for me to continue. Yes, a loss for me, but a much greater loss to the local community, ACF and the now defunct Langport Platoon. I know who the letter writer is and that he reads this blog. So Sir, you are a coward and we will no doubt discuss this at a later date.


When I get it wrong, I always hold my hand up and say so. I believe that integrity and honesty are two of the main pillars of life. In my report about the last town council meeting I stated that,

"During this time Hopeless collared the reporter from the Western Gazette to complain and make his point, and as per usual they will no doubt side with him as they always have done in the past".

After the reading the true and complete story in the Western Gazette I am pleased to see that the reporter got the story 100% accurate and without bias. So Western Gazette, I apologise and it's good to see some good old fashioned and honest reporting, well done.


A quick update to all those who are concerned about the welfare of our ex Chairman, Eirian Williams. Eirian is still in intensive care, but he has not suffered a stroke or heart attack and he has no paralysis. He remains in a coma for the time being to aid his recovery and the doctors expect to bring him around in 12 - 14 days. Hopefully, he will make a full and speedy recovery and on behalf of you all, I wish him and Tracy our best wished.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Best wishes and a quick and full recovery

It is with sadness that I report that Eirian Williams was taken seriously ill in Yeovil yesterday and was airlifted to Bristol and is currently being treated in hospital for a stroke. On your behalf and my own, I wish him a full and swift recovery and that we will soon see him back in and around Somerton.

How to make a prat of oneself

Tonights full council meeting started with a some what embarrassing episode. Our well respected new chairman, Councillor Dean Ruddle laid down the rules from the national guidelines that during public question time, that questions may only be asked about items laid down in the published agenda. Any question outside the publish agenda should be presented to the clerk and a written reply would be given in due course. This, I recall has been the way public question time had been conducted by previous chairmen of the town council.

The first member of the public to jump up to ask a question was our very own Fraser-Hopewell, who attempted to raise a question not on the published agenda. The-ex chairman resplendent in his normal over the top pink shirt, pink trousers and beige jacket, an outfit that Ronald MacDonald would be proud of, was told very politely by the Chairman that his question was not on the agenda and therefore could not be answered. Mr Hopeless became very angry and agitated at this point, and it seemed that all the toys were about to thrown from his pram, we were not disappointed. Hopeless started waxing noisily about how when he was Chairman things were different and that the town council were suppressing certain information he wanted. Councillor Ruddle with a great deal of decorum and patience asked Fraser-Hopewell to please be quiet and sit down. This request was ignored and the chairman had no choice but to suspend the meeting for 30 minutes. During this time Hopeless collared the reporter from the Western Gazette to complain and make his point, and as per usual they will no doubt side with him as they always have done in the past. During the adjournment, Fraser-Hopewell approached the chairman twice, ranting and raving and eventually a councillor made a call to the police to come and remove the incandescent ex-chairman who it seemed intent on disrupting the meeting.

The full council meeting eventually restarted and again the ex-chairman (who should have known better), immediately stood up and insisted that his question be heard, and answered. Again Councillor Ruddle calmly asked Mr Fraser-Hopewell to sit down. Hopeless started ranting again and that the situation was outrageous and against democracy and that they (the council) did not want to hear the question because they had prior knowledge of it. The funny thing is however, when Fraser-Hopewell was chairman of the council I can remember him telling me, on two separate occasions that as my question was not on the agenda and it would not be answered and I should write to the clerk. Eventually, another member of the public demanded that Fraser-Hopewell sit down as other members of the public had questions and planning business on the agenda and he was holding up proceedings. At this point Hopeless backed down and muttering to himself left the building with his stoney faced wife. Some 10 minutes later, two police officers arrived. It was a shame they could not have arrived earlier, the sight of the ex-chairman being ejected would have been a sight for sore eyes for many in this community.

I doubt that this is the last we will hear of the ex-chairman and his never ending quest for information from his ex council. Here is someone who has always stated that the council was constantly under attack during his tenure and that he only wanted to draw a line under the issues and get back to normality. Now it seems the boot is now on the other foot and it is he who is scratching at the old wounds and attacking the current council members for his own agenda. All very sad really, how someone who is quite obviously well educated can sink to such low standards of public display and show how to make a prat of oneself.

Until the next time....