So, I’m back in the UK for a bit before heading off on my travels to the states. Before I go, I thought I’d let those of you thinking of visiting the Mayflower Project during the school Summer Holidays know just what to expect. These photos were taken within the last week.
No signs, no information, just a weathered piece of paper stuck to the door. Run down, abandoned, neglected, totally uninspiring and of course, no ship build. I’ll ask the question yet again: Where did all those donations go?
Remember Mr Sean Day’s (HMP Executive) proud boast a month or so back? “We’re top of the pops on tripadvisor.” (They were actually languishing at Number 8)
As the old saying goes “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
I received an email this morning from a gentleman and his family from the USA. It turns out that I had given them a guided tour back in the day and they wanted to thank me for keeping them updated on progress (or lack of it) via the blog. This of course put me in a quandary. When I lived in Harwich, I was caught up in the romanticism of building a working replica of the Mayflower and became a volunteer and guide. Anyway, I gave dozens of tours and spouted the Project line, while in the process of garnering lots of donations (as I was told to do).
Basically this guy was under the impression that there was a “goal” for funding and assumed his donation would help the build. Now he is aware that the funding for any build seems to be sourced separately, and he jokingly asked me to refund his 20 bucks because he has no idea where it ended up. After a good natured back and forth of emails, I offered to make a donation to a charity in a kind of reparation (more for myself I suppose) but he was adamant that it was fine and he would “refuse such a thing.”
Now, I have been to the US several times and have had cause to be aware of St Jude hospital for children and the amazing work they do. Long story short, we agreed that I would make a donation to this wonderful charity as an “apology.” 😉 So in the interests of openness and total transparency, and to you Mr W and family, here’s that donation!
As you can see there is a list of comments from readers of the blog over there on the right, and they are well worth a little read if you have time. The latest is as follows from “A resident” and refers to the recent community meeting.
Does anyone have any feedback on what happened at this meeting?
Being a totally transparent and responsible charity, one would assume that there would be something on their website, or social media, even a little “thank you to those who attended”. But as of this post, I can’t find anything at all.
There are thousands of people following this blog both here in the UK, and in the US as well (even in Brazil!). Every now and then, one of these lovely people will pass me on something Mayflower related. I have just been sent a link to a facebook video today and thought as I had a few minutes I’d watch it. After seeing it, I paused in disbelief and had to put a post up here.
Apparently there’s no such thing as bad publicity. But after seeing this promotional video, (link at bottom of page) I’m not so sure.
OK, let’s debunk the “fake news” that Sean Day (HMP Executive) thrives on and address the points he makes.
1: “The Mayflower was built in Harwich”
While the Mayflower is stated “Of Harwich” in port records, (this denotes where she was berthed at the time records were made) there is no verifiable proof that it was actually built in Harwich. But truthfully saying “We’re assuming she was built in Harwich” wont help the cause will it?
2: “We’re going to re-enact the journey in 2020”
The Project have been trying to get funding to build the ship since 2010. They have no funding and have set a cut off date of 8 months from today (March 2018) before they run out of time. There is no ship being built at this moment, and in my opinion they are aware there wont be a ship build. They’re just killing time until they announce they wont be building it, instead I think they’ll be looking to build a model on land as a tourist trap.
3: “We took over an old training school which is also on our estate”
The training school was closed “temporarily” in mid 2016 and remains closed. The building that housed it is now being used for a different purpose and it looks like the training school will remain closed. Hmm, “Our estate”. Nice choice of words, I’ll keep that in mind for the future.
4: “We’re about to open a national railway museum”
No you’re not. A national museum is one owned and operated by the state. Examples of National museums are The British Museum, The Imperial War Museum and The National Gallery in London. The Mayflower Project is about to open a small local “museum” run by themselves in a few rooms in a railway station.
5: “We will finish the ship on time”
The project has admitted it cannot even start the build because it has no (and cannot find) funding. How can you finish something if you haven’t even started it! But again, truthfully saying “If we manage to get funding and can build the ship, we hope to deliver it on time” wont help the cause.
6: “If you think you can help in any way, contact us”
Well dear reader, it’s your money. But ask yourself this. Is there a reason why these guys have been struggling to get funding for the last 7 years and have been turned down for lottery funding?
7: “When I read your email [about a swimming gala] I thought you were pulling my leg”
Sean mate, you’d go to the opening of an envelope.
8: “We have had confirmation that Branson will be on the maiden voyage”
I have contacted Mr Branson’s representatives, asking for confirmation of this and have also given them the link to this video asking them to confirm Sean Day’s statements and to verify Branson’s involvement with the Project.
9: “We’re top of the pops on trip advisor”
You’re actually number 8 of things to do, behind such places as The Electric Palace, The Redoubt Fort, Halfpenny Pier and the beach. The latest TripAdvisor comment on your page from 30th April was “Anything happening here?”
10 “1000 visitors a week”
That’s over 100 a day, really? You do of course have verifiable proof of that?
11. “Reinstating USA charity status”
If the HMP do reinstate their US charity status, I’d like to offer a little advice to all the Americans out there. If you want to help a ship build, please give your hard earned cash to the guys at Mystic Seaport who are doing an amazing job renovating Mayflower II.
Regarding the video, it’s painfully obvious how much the Harwich Mayflower Project misses Tom Daly (Ex Chairman) as a front man. Sean Day’s falseness and pathetic attempts at “humour” just go to emphasise the genuine warmth and charm of Tom Daly.
Mr Day. If you want to promote the Project and come across as a professional, please don’t try so hard to appear like nothing more than a bumbling Sunday market wide boy. And try not to tuck your shirt into your pants on camera. Seriously man, if you want to put across a professional persona, get some media training. Tom Daly oozed charm. You just seem to ooze false and untrustworthy.
[I have been flooded with an email saying I was negative towards Mr Day. On reflection, my comment about his dropping his “H’s” has nothing to do with his ability, or lack of it, to run the Project. As such I have removed the sentence that mentioned this]
If you look closely at the first few minutes of the video you can practically see Sean Day working the DM like a puppet. Mr DM You missed a golden opportunity right at the start of the vid to push Harwich and everything about it. Watch Sean Day as the Deputy Mayor speaks, you can practically see him thinking “Come on, come on, we rehearsed this so many times for God’s sake!”
Isn’t it about time the HMP came up with something new and fresh, apart from the same old rubbish they’ve been trotting out for the last 7 years or so. The same tired old jokes and facts were given to me to push when I was a volunteer guide. “Lady Gaga..hahaha. Swimming with a waterproof letter.” Oh my aching ribs ZZzzzzz. Sean, your routine is getting dated, you need some new material my friend. But at least you got a plug in for that hotel starting with an “M”.
This video is a prime example of all that is wrong with the Project. Unfortunately guys, you’ve shot yourselves in the foot and you come across as rank amateurs. Anyone watching this that has any sense at all would run a mile and take their money with them!
BRING BACK TOM DALY!!!!!
On the subject of Tom Daly. I’ve just heard that he is recovering after a spell in hospital and an operation. On behalf of this blog and its readers, I’d like to send him my best wishes for a speedy recovery.
UPDATE: This meeting has now been re scheduled to 4pm
Just heard from Mr Tony Elliston that the next HMP community meeting for everyone in Harwich and beyond to visit the Project and raise concerns, or just ask questions or queries, has been pencilled in for 11 July at 9.30am. My reply is below.
You’re having a community meeting at 9.30am on a weekday again? Can you please explain the reasoning behind that? Why have a community meeting when most of the community will be at work, and those who don’t work will be looking after families, or be at school, or college. Surely you want to see (and hear) as much of the local community as possible? Surely you want as many opinions and comments from the good people of Harwich as you can get. Come on, work with me on this, prove to me and the people of Harwich that you’re the man I think you are, and have your next (and every future) community meeting at 7.30pm in the evening.
NB. My original reply did say “..who don’t work will probably be in bed”. A very poor and sleepy assumption on my part at nearly 4am, so with apologies, I have corrected myself here. I’ve also added “every future meeting” as well for clarification.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a company with a bigger turnover of directors! The latest to “resign” (after less than 5 months) is Jeffrey Fidgett.
28th JUNE. UPDATE:
It has been pointed out to me that Mr Fidgett did in fact resign due to a serious health issue. I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of myself and the thousands of readers and subscribers of this blog to wish him well and send him best wishes for a speedy recovery.
I usually try to do a half yearly update, but seeing as I wont be around for most of July and August, I’ve decided to do this a little early. Apologies for the hurried nature of the post and any errors, but I’m literally heading out the door!
The year started off as the last one ended, with no work of any sort taking place on a ship build. The HMP is a group of people with no shipbuilding experience based in a railway yard. Their staff consist of no shipwrights, and as such there continues to be no work of any sort on a build since 2014, and the current “build” consisting of a rapidly rotting part hull which has been deemed unusable (see below) still sits forlornly in the Railway Yard.
January: The chairman (Tom Daly*) “stands down” and Vice Chairperson (Lynda Chase-Gardner) “resigns” from the Project. Blanket reasons of “ill health” and “busy” are cited after they have gone but not attributed to either person. There was no further comment on why they left. But apparently they are still “advisers” to the Project.
February: The Harwich Mayflower Project loses it’s USA charity status, stating that they had “let it lapse”.
February: The Harwich Mayflower has its Annual General Meeting. Apparently it was a very ‘lively” debate with the HMP of course standing their corner and apparently evading several probing questions and refusing to actually give direct answers to direct questions. Basically no one was any the wiser after the event than before it. As one attendee at the AGM said to me “A lot of those guys have great futures as politicians when they move on”
March: A Harwich resident sends the following to the Blog:
I’ve spent a lot of time around the project, looking over the walls nearly everyday; and I for one can’t understand these random side steps in progression with this project. If it’s failing, just admit it’s failing. Every article for the last 4 years covering this “community project” has shown it to be some god awful parody of what it perceives itself to be, some nautical historical Disney land. where the truth can only be described as “Carry on across the Atlantic”. Everything that goes slightly off target with it just gets the official response of “tis but a scratch” even though it’s had its arms chopped off and is standing on stumps, (don’t worry it’s official mayflower oak stumps, felled from the most holy of oak trees). The loss of charity status may not detriment it’s laughable income in donations from across the pond, but it does effect it’s status on the global stage as an “official” charity that wants to take place in these global 400 year anniversary celebrations that should be “bigger than all of the olympics and world cup games put together”, according to my last tour. I only want this project to seriously succeed so that when or if The Donald ever steps foot on it; I can at least watch them both sink together knowing that our backwater little town actually did something positive for the world.
But in all seriousness, I know my dreams of seeing this actually work out will never succeed because how can we take this seriously if it can’t get even the big business local to harwich itself on board? Where are those giant cheques from Hutchinsons or Trinity House, Where’s the list of businesses the HMP are on as official registered charities to lend it credence? Any small little idea can become a registered charity here in the UK. As far as i can see this has less substance, less impact on the local area, and less continual support from local business and credibility than a cat sanctuary that gets a few tins of cat food a week from Asda.
March: The local Harwich and Manningtree Standard newspaper runs the following story.
Local council says “Harwich Mayflower Project no longer a major part of Harwich 2020 celebrations”
April: Still no sign of a ship build and the “temporary” closure of the Training school is still in place.
May: The HMP hold an “Open Session” for members of the public. A professional examiner of shipbuilding training was present at the meeting and stated the following:
“The build is not likely, especially as the structure as it stands would not pass scrutiny. Thus the build would have to start from scratch and I can’t see that happening”
The Project stated that they have set a cut off date of May 2018, which will see the Project unable to build a ship. It was said that if this is the case, the Project will revert to “Promotional activities” for the 2020 anniversary.
Questions were asked at the meeting, such as “why is there such limited information” and “why are the opening hours so erratic” but apparently, all questions were met with a bland and well rehearsed “We will address your concerns”
Pretty routine stuff, but apparently things heated up when a member of the public was heard saying “Sean Day (staff) and Robert Day (Trustee) are well known local wide boys who should not be encouraged to continue with their plans”.
June: The Project’s opening hours are cut from 9-5 to 9-1. Maybe a lack of visitors? Their “New” website goes live. They decide to use a framework I provided in 2015 and refuse to give me any credit. (see earlier post)
June: Another Director (Jeffrey Fidgett) resigns.
As of this post, and with the project stating they will “abandon all plans to build a ship if they do not have funding by March 2018″, I have to say that my optimism for a build has been practically extinguished. The Project’s current literature does seem to focus less on a build and more on a future consisting of a Harwich Heritage project. But as usual, I try to remain cautiously optimistic. As it has now been announced that the Project will be building an on shore replica, (which I forecasted in an earlier post) I am of the opinion that within a few months there will be an announcement of non committal to the original idea of a seagoing replica and the HMP will become little more than a Harwich museum.
*Tom Daly was one of the originators of the Harwich Mayflower Project back in 2006 or so (I may be a few years out either way). During my 18 months at the Project as a volunteer, I saw a great deal of Tom and spent a lot of time in his company. He is, in my opinion, one of the most personable and likeable men it has ever been my pleasure to meet. With his Irish lilt and obvious charm, he quickly became the front man for the Project. He made numerous TV and radio appearances and was often quoted in print talking about the Project. It is he who when asked by a TV reporter what would have happened if the ship hadn’t sailed, replied “Turkeys would be safe!” His devotion to the Project and the people of Harwich is unquestioned. Of course, I have no idea why he stepped down, but I’d still like to mention him here.
Several years ago I sat in on a meeting which Tom headed, discussing the future of the project. Without divulging any personal or HMP details, it is fair to say that by the end of the meeting, Tom’s love of the Project was obvious. He was close to tears when talking about the future of the Project and made an offer to pay any future shortfall in wages for Project workers from his own pocket, should the need arise. That is the measure of the man. His only thought was for the people working at the HMP and their immediate futures. In my opinion, Tom Daly was always only interested in what he could give to the HMP and how it would benefit the people of Harwich. He had no thought of making anything out of it for himself. I know from first hand experience the amount of time Mr Daly spent at the Project and I would assume (although I have no knowledge of it) that he also spent a lot of money on the Project as well.
Bearing this in mind, I find it amazing, and to be honest, a little sad, that the Project has so far made no public announcement thanking him for all his hard work after he stepped down. So with that in mind, I would like to publicly offer my own thanks.
Tom, thank you for all the hard work, time, and energy you put into the Project over the last ten or so years. Your presence as an honest and straightforward talking gentleman was a huge benefit to the HMP and I imagine it will be sorely missed. It was a pleasure to have known you and to have spent time in your company and the Mayflower Project is all the worse for your moving on. While I remain cautiously optimistic for a ship build, I think that without someone like you with your obvious love for the Project at the helm, someone who didn’t see what was in it for him, someone who wanted nothing more than to see the Ship floating alongside Harwich pier, and someone who put others before himself, I believe the build will be so much harder to achieve.
Again, from an ex volunteer. Thank you for everything you did for the HMP and for Harwich.