July 21, 2010
One of the most memorable meetings
I can recall, is when all the staff from Tyntesfield traipsed deep into Somerset
to join all the other staff around the region, for a pre-season meeting. The
stage was set, the management was in good form with the preaching, and we the
converts were taking it all in exactly in the spirit that we should have. Or
The main topic was introducing a new audience through the doors of National
Trust, especially properties that people wouldn’t even think of visiting. Any
ideals was the question put out to the congregation?
Yes said I, watching our manager from the corner of my eye, as she suddenly
found her seat was not as comfortable as first thought.
Being some one that never minced words, and having an audience of hundreds
suddenly look around in my direction, I launched into my question.
Why don’t we give a reduction in entrance fees to those on income support,
making it possible for all to visit and give all a chance to experience what we
have to offer.
It took a while for this radical idea to sink in. The spokesperson at the
time indicated to one of the team – the heritage manager – to answer the
question. So jumping up in the fashion of a spiritualist that has just connected
with the 240v mains, she launched into a corporate prepared speech of the
National Trust gives excellent value for money while she was obviously thinking
of an answer. The answer finally came in the form of “You are from Tyntesfield
aren’t you, that property is spear heading revolutionary ideals that will be
rolled out across the Trust. Take it up at the property.”
I didn’t have to take it up at the property as on return, I was summoned to
appear for my out burst of participation. That sort of behaviour is not
acceptable I was told. I had brought undue attention to myself.
Why? I asked for presenting a question that was relevant to the subject?
Let me make it plain for you, I was told. You heard Ms Heritage tell you how
wonderful we are and how much we have to offer. But it doesn’t get the poor
through the doors though does it? I responded.
If they want to come they can buy a family membership which will give them
access to Tyntesfield all through year was the retort.
I pushed my case – A lot of money for someone on Income Support. Would cost
them about four weeks of groceries don’t you think? And as for the bus fare,
well if they lived in Hartcliffe for example, that’s a two bus journey to get
here, plus the children. Not cheap at all.
At this her mood changed and said “Look! we are talking about people that
smoke and drink and would rather go to Alton Towers, subject closed.”
could have only come from someone that has never struggled in her life. A middle
class upbringing, looking at the world through rose coloured glasses that
filters out the unfortunate part of society.
Further evidence to the discrimination of visitors followed in an email I
still have regarding the concerns of a volunteer that was on a Sunday duty in
the house in the early days.
The Email was from the house manager that reported on two men acting
suspiciously during their visit. They had followed the route through the house
and then decided to return to a room that they had already seen. Who were these
people thinking they can look twice? Didn’t they know Tyntesfield was a one look
What really got up my nose was the description passed out about the pair:
both scruffy in appearance and spoke with Irish accents. At the time there was
travelling families in the area. Could it be that some of them were interested
in our heritage? As for walking the wrong way around, assuming they are not
displaying independent thought, not all in society has the gift to be able to
read or write and scruffy appearance? This statement says it all regarding the
type of visitor expected.
At a staff meeting Ms Hectare once proclaimed she had met a walker that
looked suspicious. This was simply because of his clothes. After a description
was given, I informed all present that it was a local who has been walking that
route for years. Then why doesn’t he wear the appropriate clothes of a rambler
was the response, another slight on the lower classes.
All this was going on while the upper management was using Tyntesfield house
as an exclusive hotel. One such occasion was even put up on the website in the
form of a blog showing the house manager’s guests lounging around with food and
drink on the collection of furniture, that was strictly off limits to all. in
fact, when moving these items, gloves had to be worn to protect the fabrics.
On day one of the National Trust take over, we even saw on TV Tim Knox, a
very senior manager and collections specialist in the Trust, allowing his dog to
run around the house leaping onto the furniture. This didn’t inspire much
confidence in the so called experts.
After working for the Trust, I found there is defiantly a prejudice against
those in reduced circumstances. The National Trust is only open to those that
can afford it, or as most land lords would politely say – Sorry No Housing
Benefit, smokers or DHSS.
PS. Please bear in mind that to make your visit enjoyable to all, and avoid a
flurry of concerned emails circulating around the region – dress code