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An Open Reply to an Open Letter

Dear trustees,


Your open letter was read with dismay and some team members have responded privately to which I add my thoughts, which have recently been echoed by many.


Everyone is entitled to voice an opinion, good or bad. It’s called free speech. You may not like what you hear but this confers on you no right to demand people’s silence. Those who support BBP have every right to speak as they find. If you don’t like what you read you may look inwards and consider whether the points made have merit or you can ignore it.


You speak e of ‘reputational assassination’. You, as a charity, an accredited museum and a public-facing organisation, care nothing for the reputational damage you have caused to others with your distorted truths and biased narrative, a narrative manipulated by trolls from which, despite repeated requests, you refuse to distance yourselves.

This is your PR disaster displaying your behaviour to all so if you wish to discuss ‘reputational assassination’ there is much to talk about.


Back when the Ruskin Museum became involved in the Bluebird Project, the then trustees could see the benefits and were insistent that BBP would look after the machine going forward and everyone was in agreement. Trustees come and go so for the current crop to assert ‘never going to work with BBP again’ is short-sighted. Future trustees may not be so blind to the obvious and we shall be glad to work with them.


It is obvious to any right-minded person that the best outcome is display in the RM with operation and maintenance carried out by BBP, no one is baiting you – they are merely reiterating what they have said for a long time. You are not listening.


You say that visitors are happy with what they see, and that is doubtless true, but you are deliberately withholding from them what they could be seeing. Bluebird was re-floated 51 years after the crash and successfully operated, does your display, designed to help the public interpret and learn about the history of Bluebird, include detailed information about that momentous milestone? Does it celebrate the individual volunteers, their specialisms and those of the many companies from industry who supported a twenty-year build?

No, it does not. You keep that from your visitors. You have had eighteen years to prepare your display yet it is sadly lacking and you have no excuse for such a failure. You are effectively lying by omission.


You say our skills are available elsewhere and, yes, most can be found somewhere, but all under one roof shared by a group of dedicated friends prepared to make things happen at no cost to the museum with vast experience of K7 plus spares, unrivalled knowledge and technical documents to ensure it can be operated with confidence and safety well into the future for public benefit. That resource doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world yet you continue to turn up your collective noses at our offers of assistance. No one is begging – you are simply having it pointed out by well intentioned people what to most is glaring common sense.


You also imagine that because our work has moved to Cumbria that we are no longer involved. Not the case. Bluebird K7 will outlive all of us custodians past and present and Bluebird Project is the custodian of the longest span of ongoing activity that machine has ever gone through. You may write about how you own the tinware but you do not own the wealth of memories, documents and stories of the Bluebird Project alongside which the Ruskin Museum has contributed virtually nothing.


The aim from day-one was to return Bluebird to near as possible her condition on the morning of the 4th January 1967. We all but achieved that but for no sound reason you have set that back several years if not destroyed it altogether, there being no need to disturb her systems or engine. You chose to undo a lot of the hard work.


You leave the spray baffles lying on the floor, left part of the trailer outside and deliberately bent a panel to cram it into a corner, your disrespect is staggering. Did you spare a thought for the company that gave of its materials, time and expertise to create those spray baffles? Can you even name them? it is your responsibility to maintain the standard set by BBP and if you fail you’ll be quite rightly asked why.


You have to build a canopy. The canopy is difficult – yours had better be as perfect as ours was. You have no right to fail because we did it once and would have done it again so yours had better be to our standards or people will ask you why you fell short.


Likewise, you claim you are going to run the boat in 2026. Eighteen months to test, set up and understand the engine installation from a standing start and that’s without the logistics of planning an event or the myriad other things you’ll realise you need as time goes on. And as close as possible to how she was on the morning of the 4th, so on-board air start system tested, safe, reliable and able to match the figures achieved by Campbell’s team in 1966. Up to our standards, in other words. And even if you do succeed you’ve done no more than walk in our shadow.


As to your allegation that we withheld items – you got more than you deserved. We gave you parts of another engine because it was easier than trying to explain why they weren’t yours. We carefully labelled everything so you didn’t have to sift boxes. You demanded spares that never formed any part of any agreement and things that didn’t exist, like the second pair of engine mount blocks (we only made one pair because the engine mount was different on that side). The list goes on but the point is made and your veiled threats of more action if everyone fails to shut up serves only to make you appear huffy and petulant.


You need to take a long look in the mirror and ask why people are saying negative things about you, and in the meantime, there will be no shortage of people watching and freely voicing their thoughts. You have shown no gratitude, Instead you have insulted the entire Bluebird story and the people who treated it with great reverence these past twenty-years.


You say we underestimated your resolve and you are right. We seriously underestimated your resolve to make everything worse rather than better.

You should be ashamed of what you have done, deeply ashamed. You are not fit for purpose and if you had any dignity whatsoever you would step aside and put the whole enterprise into the hands of people who will carry on the great work done by the BBP. That or be professional over personal and pick up the phone.


You need to get your own house in order before having the temerity to whine when people say bad things about you.

Bluebird Project is here to stay and to share our story to a new generation. It isn’t going to quietly disappear as you desperately wish it would so be prepared for any comments or opinions it may generate, good or bad.


Bill Smith.


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I am disappointed it has come to this. Each party - the BBP & the RM - resorting to points scoring. Neither emerges with much credit here, in my view. The relationship remains broken.

I had hoped that the move of K7 to Coniston might bring a fresh start, but its the same old arguments.

Not sure I can support either party, now.

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I do not support or understand the RM's efforts to minimise or deny what the BBP has achieved. The RM's Open Letter seems to be to be provocative and petty. It does them no credit. How they think it helps, I fail to understand.

I hope that the BBP will not stoop to their level and will avoid the temptation to score points.

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Very well stated. RM can't even get Blue Bird, and Bluebird right. A shower of incompetence.

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All I can say is - Donald Campbell fought to get this across the lake. The British public & most of his backers had clearly lost interest - but it doesn't diminish his achievement attempt in 1967. He would be proud anyone cared so much. He would be sad not enough people cared as much in 1967.

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And this is why Bill and the team always had, and continue to have, so much support. Bravo Bill - top response.

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If I could post applause, I would.

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