All this 'he said - she said' is wearisome and usually unhelpful but once in a while we feel we must set the record straight and this one really does need outing for all to see.
As most people are now aware we made a deal with the Ruskin Museum way back in 2013, a legally binding contract accepted by us in both writing and in conduct. A contract that stands to this day because, though various offers and alternatives have been on and off the table, we've never formally ended it. A contract which gives us running and maintenance rights for K7 whilst the museum handles the display side.
One alternate version of this contract was proposed in the summer of 2019 and has since been touted several times as a good offer that we dismissed out of hand. The fact that we rejected it has been used to mislead the public into thinking we were being greedy or awkward so it's about time we told you what really happened. Earlier this year the following email was sent to the trustees following their first open letter. It was penned by Peter Roper-Hall in conjunction with the BBP team
Further to your open letter to some of the members of the Bluebird Project Team (BBP) of 17th September 2021, we feel bound to correct some glaring inaccuracies in some of the statements you have made.
In particular with the following statements:
“Having previously tried to negotiate an agreement in 2019 based around what BBP said they wanted and having that dismissed out of hand followed by a barrage of criticism and refusal to discuss the topic, Trustees concluded the latter course was their best option.”
Firstly you say that BBP dismissed your draft contract out of hand, which is correct. What you fail to make clear is the extremely valid reasons why we did so.
When members of BBP, members of the Campbell family, and representatives of the Ruskin museum met on 6th July 2019, it was agreed that we would put the past completely behind us and just focus on the excellent work [redacted] had done in brokering a way forward.
There was an excellent, fully satisfactory and, we believed, agreed plan at the end of the meeting that the Ruskin museum would have K7 for 270 days of the year and BBP would have K7 for the remaining 90 days. It was also made absolutely clear that any contract would need to be legally watertight such that neither party could interfere with the other's allocated time with K7 and we left that meeting believing that was fully understood and agreed.
In my working career I was involved in many contract negotiations on supply, sales and sponsorship agreements, both in the UK and internationally, as well as franchise agreements. Whilst I am not legally qualified, I worked very closely indeed with our legal counsel going through each of those contracts - line by line - to ensure they were fully robust and delivered exactly what was intended without ambiguity and especially without the opportunity for for the spirit of what was intended to be subverted by any of the parties.
So it was with a great sense of sadness and betrayal that we read your draft contract. It was crystal clear that the draft contract you sent was the polar opposite of what was agreed and discussed in the meeting in July 2019.
As was subsequently made clear in correspondence with the Campbell family and yourselves, clause 22.214.171.124 of that contract, far from guaranteeing that BBP would get K7 for their allocated period, it actually gave the clear opportunity for that to be totally denied. That was an absolute and clearly defined requirement so it was inevitable that the draft contract would be treated with the robust rejection that it received.
We can only draw two plausible conclusions for why you chose to draft such an ill advised clause into that contract. Either you naively assumed that BBP wouldn’t notice or recognise the loophole that you had incorporated and sign the contact, or it was a deliberate ploy to sabotage the process because the museum never intended to allow a contract that guaranteed that BBP would have the agreed 90 day time allocation which was agreed in the July 2019 meeting.
That was more than enough reason to robustly reject your draft contract, but you added insult to injury with clause 4.3 where you had made a provision to allow the Ruskin museum to run K7 in dynamic displays without any involvement from BBP.
After the incredible hard work, dedication, skill and time that BBP has put into recovering and restoring K7 there can’t be anyone else who could possibly understand K7 better so it would be frankly irresponsible to put her into the hands of anyone with less understanding or knowledge about her construction. You must have realised how inflammatory that clause would be so it suggested to us it was another way to sabotage the agreement.
So saying that BBP rejected your draft contract “out of hand” with out the clearly documented reasons why that happened is, at best, not being completely transparent nor does it acknowledge the Ruskins Museum’s role in ensuring that would happen.
You go on to say that BBP went on to refuse to discuss the topic.
Let’s look at the documented facts:
We agreed a follow up meeting on 19th October 2019. BBP were all geared up to attend that event and look at how we could make the agreements reached in the July 2019 meeting a reality. It was the museum who refused to go ahead with that meeting.
We subsequently wrote to the Campbell family and you outlining where our issues were with your draft contract and detailing fully why they were of legitimate concern to us. We also made clear our continuing desire to enact what was agreed in the July meeting. Despite requests, We have never had the courtesy of a written response to that communication.
Gina Campbell emailed me on 27th January 2020 asking if we could have a chat on the phone. In the subsequent conversation she passed on a message from the trustees of the Ruskin Museum saying that the museum were totally unwilling to have any further involvement with BBP and asked me to relay that message to Bill Smith - which I did - as confirmed in my reply to Gina on 30th January 2020 on which you were copied.
That eMail also makes pretty much exactly the same comments I have reiterated above. It also confirms BBP’s willingness to continue a dialogue with the museum with the purpose of enacting a contract that makes good on the agreements reached in the July 2019 meeting.
It was then BBP who suggested a zoom conference on 5th November last year to look at how we could jointly make progress and move towards a mutually satisfactory conclusion.
That meeting was chaired by Jordan Aspin and I was also in attendance. Sadly that opportunity was completely wasted as not one single positive suggestion came from your side.
We tried again, on two occasions during that meeting, to suggest we go back to the agreement reached in the July 2019 meeting and progress from a point where there really was a basis for a mutually satisfactory agreement, but were just met with negativity from your side.
Instead you wasted the best part of two hours taking it in turn to just reiterate all the old gripes and history we have already heard so many times before. Another indication of the unwillingness of the Ruskin museum to demonstrate any desire to honour the proposals agreed in the July 2019 meeting or find a way to move things forward positively.
In addition to the above, there have been other advances made by BBP to the Ruskin Museum to build a continuing dialogue, but each one has been met with rejection by yourselves.
These clearly documented facts fully demonstrate that your assertion that BBP are unwilling to discuss the topic is totally unfounded and incorrect. In fact the opposite is demonstrably the case.
Let us also make abundantly clear that if the Ruskin Museum are prepared to properly honour the agreement that was reached verbally in the July 2019 meeting and give BBP unfettered access to K7 for the 90 days a year (as we would give the museum unfettered access for their 270 days allocation) that was agreed, we are ready, willing and very eager to sign up to a suitably worded contract.
We also note, from your open letter of 17th September 2019 that you don’t appear to want to go to mediation. Given what I’ve pointed out above that doesn’t surprise us in the least as we are certain these facts would not be favourably viewed by any mediator.
We also note with some consternation that in your last missive of 24th September you say that the museum is “unwilling to enter into any further mediation”. This would seem to imply that there has actually been some meditation. If there has then BBP have not been included, which would rather defeat the object.
So we are curious as to why you should have chosen to imply that and potentially mislead the public by posting this letter on your website.
We also note that you are asking BBP to refrain from making any comments in the media. Similarly that doesn’t surprise us since if they were aware of the truth about the museum's actions and behaviour since the July 2019 meeting and the verbally agreed plan from that meeting, it certainly wouldn’t paint the Museum in a good light either.
The saddest part of this for us is that if the museum had honoured what was agreed in the July 2019 meeting and hadn’t instead issued a draft contract, with the completely and blatantly unacceptable clauses the museum deliberately chose to put into your draft contract, K7 could very probably be in your museum now.
Finally you are suggesting that, if it comes to it, it is a choice that BBP have made to dismantle K7.
Nothing could be further from the truth. After all the incredible effort, skill, and time that was put into K7 to bring Donald’s legend back to life, it is the last thing we want to do.
However, if the museum force us into that position by refusing to honour what was agreed in the July 2019 meeting we have no doubt that will happen since why would BBP want to reward you for your complete and almost certainly deliberate failure to enact a satisfactory contract and give us nothing in return?
The reality is that it will be the result of the museum’s actions if it comes to that and we've no doubt the public will see that very clearly when in possession of the facts.
You have a clear opportunity to avoid such a completely unnecessary outcome - just sign up to a contract that honours the verbal agreements reached in July 2019.
Let us reiterate yet again BBP are totally committed to signing up to a satisfactory contract that honours that and will happily enter into whatever form of dialogue that would enable that to happen. The real question is are you?
We sent that off and awaited a response but when that response came it was in the form of a lawyer's letter that made a very ineffectual attempt to mitigate our very valid points. We won't publish that at this time as it's a legal letter but suffice to say it was very weak then ended with the the following paragraph,
'Finally, this letter is written to set the record straight. It is not written as an invitation for you to respond. In any event my client and I consider that this art of the history of this matter is now settled. We see no point in continuing to debate it. Hence, it is not our current intention to engage further with you on it.'
But it very much didn't set the record straight. It tried to leave the record as they wanted it. We emailed again.
Further to our eMail to you of 25th September and the subsequent reply from your lawyer of 7th October, which we are pretty sure you will have seen, but have attached for your convenience, we are compelled to write to you again as it states that it is important that the record is accurate.
We fully agree, but the reply most certainly does not adequately respond to the issues raised at all and also that there would be no further correspondence.
Clearly that is a totally unsatisfactory situation so it is our duty on behalf of BBP to respond appropriately.
We have also copied the trustees, and your lawyer along with the members of the BBP team you addressed in your original communication.
Taking his points one by one.
1.1 It was made perfectly clear both before the July 6th 2019 meeting verbally to [Redacted] and during that meeting by ourselves - on more than one occasion - and by Bill Smith - also on more than one occasion, that any contract would have to be absolutely watertight.