So much for free speech…

In November last year, I got involved with a campaign to save a local pub from demolition and replacement by a two-storey McDonald’s Drive Thru.

November's Demonstration

November’s Demonstration

The campaign’s main pages are on Facebook and their own web page. I’ve taken photographsand produced videos to assist with the campaign.

I offered to host their website without charge (I have the domains http://www.ttdd.co.uk and http://www.tumbly.co.uk), but this was declined.

Over Christmas, I got involved with their ‘business team’ to try and establish a business plan to re-open the building as a pub and music venue and established a potential break-even scenario, with cash flow forecasts and investment plans. I spent time getting business management advice, and fed this back to the group. This is where it started to go wrong.

I needed to ask questions about potential grants, investment schemes, financing models etc., but was continually told “this is in hand” – without any details. Frustrating for both sides. In the end, I was told that some aspects were not “fucking important”. Developing a business plan without information is quite tricky.

Some background on me – in 1992 three of us started a self-financed business which we grew and eventually sold in 2004 after getting turnover up to £8M p.a. Part of that process involved understanding what’s needed to make a successful business, so I felt I had something to contribute here, especially as much of the campaign group consisted of musicians, music enthusiasts, and by their own admission, not a lot of business skills.

After some abuse, I left the ‘business team’ – the group did find someone else who is continuing this work, proving the maxim that no-one is indispensable.

I was still involved in their main Facebook group and would comment on processes – with an upcoming planning application, and little material objection that can be raised, I felt that something else would be needed. An English Heritage listing for the building looks unlikely, so something called a ‘Pub Protection Plan” seems to me (and a local councillor), a main hope to save the building.

Objections on the grounds of not wanting a takeaway are unlikely to carry any favour with the council, after all – there is extensive evidence that McDonald’s have had detailed conversations with the local council about road access, local amenity etc., why would they do that without reasonable expectation of success?

So, the Pub Protection Plan appears to be a good way of stopping McDonald’s in their tracks, but this idea has been rejected due to the potential costs. In addition, I received abusive messages from members of the group accusing me of capitalist intentions, amongst others.

I am happy to speak my opinion, I’m not one to keep quiet. But, I was once told the phrase “no-one gets in trouble for keeping their head down and saying nothing”. Maybe it’s better to say nothing then?

But, I won’t stay somewhere where you are abused for your opinion with un-substantiated accusations that are irrelevant. Maybe I’m too old and intolerant now, but I do believe that life is too short.

What these people don’t seem to understand is that making a profit is essential for any business, be it McDonald’s or a local pub and music venue. A music venue will not operate on grants alone. Holding a few music lessons won’t save the building. It has to make money – in fact, as we all do.

Maybe some of those criticising me have a mentality of living on state benefits, but the money even for them to live comes from someone, somewhere, making money.

So, after the abuse, I’ve left the group. This was a closed group, and even my comments in the public group have now been deleted and I’m blocked from posting there again.

Maybe what killed it was my suggestion that supporters put their hands in their pockets to support the Pub Protection Plan and invest in the Community Interest Company that has been created.

Maybe they don’t like people who talk of the reality? Reality isn’t always nice, the facts have to be faced, otherwise once McDonald’s put in their planning application, it’s far more likely to be an inevitability than a possibility.

While I don’t want a McDonald’s in my town, simply getting a petition and demonstrating, won’t actually sway the planners – they have to work to guidelines. McDonald’s might step away, but profits speak louder to them than upsetting a few musicians.

As an example, here is a rough financial business plan with cash flow. Even starting at £17K/week turnover, the business struggles to remain cash flow positive (and this is based on getting the building for free!).

If the campaigners are serious, investment and putting money where their mouths are will be needed.

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35 Responses to So much for free speech…

  1. Claire says:

    There is a lot of “I did”, “I want”, “I think”, “My opinion” in this blog Simon. Now I am nobody particularly important to the campaign but I am a part of it but I think somewhere along the line you may of forgotten that this whole thing is about “we” or “us”, we wanted to do something for the community.
    Unfortunately this means that sometimes routes are taken that others may not like or the majority makes a decision one may disagree with but I would hope our members would be able to meet such disputes with dignity and respect for each other.
    I am saddened to see that after making the decision to leave the group, the first thing you do is to write a blog about how negative the group is and all these horrid things, instead of channeling whatever negativity you felt for us into something positive and worthwhile, you have chosen to vent your displeasure on the internet.
    You are of course, entitled to your opinion but I for one as a member of the campaign have found my opinions listened to, my ideas answered with honesty and clarity and rather than finding my wings clipped (as you seem to imply), have found the experience liberating and satisfying on an entirely new level.
    I can not speak to the ‘abuse’ you have ‘suffered’ as I have never received one angry message, one abusive comment from anyone on the campaign but have in fact received a lot from people who want a McDonalds there.
    I am sorry we did not have the opportunity to work together on this, after you withdrew your lot for our fundraising auction this year, I thanked you for your continuing support and had hoped to bump into you at some point but alas, I fear we are now on different sides.

    • simontaylor says:

      We are not on different sides, we want the same result.

      But I’m barred from contributing now anyway, all my comments have been deleted (which leaves some threads looking a bit odd) – and I can’t even ‘Like’ posts on the public page any more, let alone comment.

      I put a lot of effort into this, for abuse, derision and disrespect. So, venting displeasure? Yes.

    • simontaylor says:

      “There is a lot of “I did”, “I want”, “I think”, “My opinion” in this blog Simon.” – actually, there isn’t any.

  2. Claire says:

    Unfortunately Simon you have turned this into a personal thing as if we are all trying to attack you in some way, I can understand you are displeased and we have asked you to tell us who your abusers were so we can make it clear to them their actions are not acceptable within our group dynamic.
    I am sorry Simon, but this blog makes it very difficult for me to see how we could possibly be on the same side. I have not abused you, instead I have stood up for you and yet you are tarring all members of the campaign with the same brush.
    If someone has abused you in some way then telling the committee that run this campaign is the best way forward so they can remove that type of negative element but you won’t do that, you would rather write a blog about how it will all fail and portray all of us in a negative light on every public and social outlet you can find.
    I want to save the Tumbledown and the Firgrove, I want my kids to have some sense of community when they are older and were I for some reason to leave the campaign, they would still have my donation, my support and my promise not to bad mouth in anyway that can undermine because I am on the same side as them.

    • simontaylor says:

      So, why were all my posts deleted? All that contribution gone. What a waste of time.

      • Claire says:

        I could not honestly tell you, when I have left a group before it gave the option to delete posts, either you left that box ticked or someone has deleted them but I am truly sorry, I do not know the answer to that question.

      • simontaylor says:

        I have not left the public group, I think it’s just a page anyway, certainly not a closed group. You can only ‘unlike’ it.

      • Claire says:

        Again, I am sorry, I do not have an answer for you I do not moderate that page nor am I admin for any of the Tumbly’s pages.

        Whilst your efforts are indeed commendable and I for one do appreciate them, ultimately I would just say one thing though, surely all of this is about the end result and what is and can be achieved and not the individual contributions.

        If we do save the pub, it will be Friend of the Tumbledown that saved it, not Claire Marshall or Simon Taylor.

    • simontaylor says:

      I don’t want to name individuals – they are probably the sort of people who may consider actual retribution, so I don’t want to invite any of that.

      • Claire says:

        That’s the problem though, if they are doing it to you and potentially to other members then we need to know who they are, such a negative element would only serve to drive away good people like yourself.

      • simontaylor says:

        I’m not putting my safety, family or pets on the line to do that.

      • Claire says:

        I am sorry Simon but I really do think you are over reacting here as to what you think would actually happen, I do not mean to sound harsh but that really says a lot about you if you think we are the type of people to go after pets, family or children.

        Just so you know, I am a mother of a two year old, a 4 month old and have a 5 year old cat and I would not be saying the above comment if I was not confident it was true.

      • simontaylor says:

        Obviously not you Claire, but the people who sent me abusive messages, who are clearly a much lower intellect than the majority in the group.

      • Claire says:

        Unfortunately there are always bad apples somewhere, I can understand your reasons for not wishing to name individuals though and so shall respect your wishes and not ask your any more on that matter.

        All I can say to your messages being deleted was that I think when you left and was blocked from that group, facebook may of automatically deleted your messages but to be honest, I would be guessing.

        I really do wish you all the best though.

      • simontaylor says:

        Yes, it’s odd. I left the main closed group – no idea what has happened there, but all my posts went from the public group, and I have no access there now. I can see posts, but can’t respond, or like them. I can share them though.

      • Claire says:

        You are right, that is odd and whilst I do not know how this occurred, I can only apologize if you feel that this was in some way done to insult you or make you feel like your contributions were not valued.

      • simontaylor says:

        Thanks. 🙂

      • Claire says:

        You’re very welcome.

  3. Claire says:

    “There is a lot of “I did”, “I want”, “I think”, “My opinion” in this blog Simon.” – actually, there isn’t any.

    Lol, not directly quoting you Simon when I use those words, they are being used to describe the general tone I am getting from this blog.

  4. simontaylor says:

    I have asked for a reason why I have been blocked and my posts deleted, but the silence that emanates speaks volumes.

    It’s almost as if the group is censoring against those of us who give the awkward truth. Or they are closing ranks?

    I’m denied the respect of an explanation.

    • Claire says:

      Simon, I awoke this morning to find negative messages about us, you are happy to run around now and totally discredit anything to do with this campaign.
      Yesterday, I did apologize, I am sorry I do not know all the answers but honestly I thought our discussion had ended in a reasonable tone and I had perhaps managed to undo some of the obvious hurt you felt over some of the decisions.

      Clearly I was wrong, if I indeed the Twitter messages I saw elude to my spelling, then I am very disappointed in you and the person you are. I have never done you harm and if those messages are about me and my comments on here well then perhaps it is time to start thinking you leaving is not our loss.

      Now kindly stop looking for conspiracy reasons and closing ranks, you know we are on a deadline and that maybe you are not top of our list priorities.

      I am sorry to sound harsh but with the way you have been acting since you left, as I do not know a single person in the campaign that has left any negative messages about you on any public forum, (though I am ready to be corrected) and really I think you no longer deserve an explanation.

      Respect is a two way thing Simon and you have shown us none.

      I will stress this is my opinion and not that of FTTD.

      • simontaylor says:

        I honestly do not know what you are talking about. Someone else made a joke of someone’s spelling on Twitter last night WRT “there” and “their”, and I firmly put that down, so was not me. – it wasn’t even me who commented on the spelling issue.

        If you can point me to the Tweet you are referring to, I might be able to comment, but I honestly have no idea. The only other thing I’ve commented on is Firgrove parade, but no spelling issues there, the comment was with respect to a newspaper report anyway.

  5. Claire says:

    With all due respect, kindly check your Twitter, the comment was made by one of your followers and I wouldn’t say you put it down, rather I would say your Twitter was full of little posts on how dreadful we are.

    No offense Simon, you are a grown up so buck up, I mean if being part of this campaign was so important to you, then what are you doing creating all this negativity?

    If you are so passionate about this issue, why try and cause damage to the campaign when you left, you weren’t kicked out or asked to leave.

    Why run around condeming a campaign which is a lot bigger than the couple of people you may of argued with?

    I would say you are doing it out of spite and some malice towards a couple of members.

    • simontaylor says:

      Why do I have to take responsibility for what my followers say?

      They are entitled to their opinions. Someone commented, someone else made a mockery of their spelling, and I pointed out to that person that maybe their spelling wasn’t important – that person has made huge contributions to us. That was nothing to do with your spelling.

      I left because of personal abuse from members, I wasn’t asked to leave, and did not argue with anyone. I didn’t even respond to those idiots.

    • simontaylor says:

      ‏Here’s the thread :

      @Phooto
      New blog entry – So much for free speech…: In November last year, I got involved with a campaign to save a loc… http://bit.ly/10bg0ho

      ‏@smead61
      @Phooto there loss mate, passion over profit does not always work!! Forget them and smile when the big corporation brush them aside.

      @ahcstevens
      @smead61 @Phooto looks like another who can’t spell, channel your energy @Phooto into educating when to use ‘there’ & ‘their’
      Expand

      ‏@Phooto
      @ahcstevens @smead61 maybe, Andy, but he’s a better soldier, plasterer, builder & rugby player than you. Different people, different things.

  6. Claire says:

    Then I apologize for my misunderstanding, it was the phrase channel your energy which made me misunderstand, genuinely I am sorry for that and do hope you will accept my apology.

    That still does not answer my questions, yes you have not responded personally to your abusers- I will take that a face value as I have no way to prove or disprove that but you are condemning the campaign.

    If in fact, you left because of a couple of bad apples, then why write the things you do as people take that to mean all of us?

    That is what I do not understand, your abusers chose to email you personally, you choose to abuse all of us publicly.

    You do not have to take responsibility for your followers, the same as we do not have to answer for what a couple of people chose to message you, that was their choice and whilst nothing to do with me, I have chosen to apologize for that.

    I do not wish to argue with you, in fact I find you quite eloquent but at the same time, I have to defend the campaign here as whilst I do not know the ins and outs, I do know that 99.9% are lovely people and do not deserve to have their hard work criticized online.

  7. simontaylor says:

    I quite agree, but I have experienced hostility from the top of the organisation with respect to my business approach, which I appreciate appears tough at times, but that’s just reality.

    The abuse about being right wing was just what broke the camel’s back – especially when whatever my politics are are totally irrelevant – I take huge offence at that as a local councillor recently found out.

    What was written above was taking issue with individuals that do mar the overall campaign. There are some comments about the approach being taken, and the reluctance to pursue the PPP because of cost, if that’s a criticism of the group, so be it, but it’s the approach I think needs taking – especially if McDonald’s don’t independently pull out before getting to the planning stage, which is unlikely.

    When the group (or as I think has happened, one person autonomously makes a decision) eliminates people who will stand up and make a comment, they are just profiling the group to their own ideals and will restrict ideas and other visions. THAT is the problem here.

  8. Claire says:

    Simon, this campaign raises a lot of emotions within all of us, I met my current partner many years ago at the Tumbly and we re-met in 2009 and now have 2 children together.

    It is that emotive quality which has unfortunately lead to this situation, we are a mixed bag of people, mixed politics (I myself am a lefty), mixed jobs (currently housewife), mixed religions (that one’s a little more complicated) and mixed ages (27) but fundamentally everyone is trying to do what they think is right.

    Again, I am sorry you felt you weren’t appreciated and I take into account what you say about those that mar the group, there are of course negative elements there that need to be addressed but I like so many others take it on good faith that those who are at the top do not proceed alone and when they do take action, it is for the benefit of all of us.

    I personally have not felt restricted in my dealing with the committee or anyone in the campaign really, maybe a few differing opinions when commenting but that’s going to happen when everyone is so strong minded.

    Can I say our plans will work?
    I can not, I do not control the fates but I have every faith that people can change their community for the better.

  9. simontaylor says:

    Which is what we all want after all. 🙂

    I have other things on tomorrow, but may well drive past – will toot in support!

  10. Claire says:

    Thank you!
    Support is always welcome.

    may I ask you one thing though?

    If I pm’d you on Facebook, would you pm me back with who the worst of your abusers was?

    I will not publish it, I will not contact them, I will simply monitor their comments on the group and try to limit any potential damage they may do.

    You are of course welcome to say no and no offense will be taken, I can promise you all of the above will happen but I do understand the reasons if you say no.

  11. simontaylor says:

    No. If it does get out, then I’m back to the nightmare scenario. Sorry.

  12. Claire says:

    That is quite alright I understand your reasons for not wanting to.

    I do have my ideas as to who i might be, this is nothing Tumbly related, just my own feelings based upon some of the language you have quoted but could be completely wrong.

  13. simontaylor says:

    This just received from a member of the Save The Tumble Down Group –

    “Now then my dear, in the interest of fairness and as you are no longer are a part of our campaign, I humbly request you take down any pictures you have of any of us, you did not ask permission to post these on the internet Simon and we are not associated with Phooto in anyway.
    I am sure you will see this as some sort of conspiracy, or orders from above but again, just me asking you to be reasonable and as you no longer wish to be associated with us then doing the right thing and removing the photos and indeed your logo from any Tumbly related things.”

    If this isn’t censorship, I don’t know what is. They are trying to control what I post on the web (which they cannot, they have no legal right) and clearly don’t understand copyright law. It reads as if they have some sort of control over anything Tumble Down related.

    EDIT – turns out that this is just an errant member, not part of the committee of the group. Suffice to say that no pictures have been removed.

  14. simontaylor says:

    In the various discussions that have taken place since this post, one common theme is the lack of understanding about WHO the FoTTD group actually is. They speak of a constitution, of being a “Community Interest Company” and having a committee. All we know from press reports is that the chair of the committee is Fran Beauchamp, but not the identities of any of the other members.

    The constitution is not visible, so we cannot see how the organisation is set up, and the group have admitted that the company registration has not taken place, they have the forms and are reviewing them.

    The worry for many is that fund raising and ownership of community matters are taking place without understanding what the organisation is and who is behind the group. Hopefully this will become clear in the near future.

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