InterChange has closed the door on town hall discussions
WE are most grateful for the coverage you have given to problems at Hampstead Town Hall. However we are saddened by the editorial comment about the Friends last week, which we feel is misdirected (Need for open debate on town hall s future, H&H January 18
WE are most grateful for the coverage you have given to problems at Hampstead Town Hall. However we are saddened by the editorial comment about the Friends last week, which we feel is misdirected (Need for open debate on town hall's future, H&H January 18).
There is indeed a need for open debate on the future of Hampstead Town Hall and we have tried to provide it. It is the Interchange Trustees who are secretive and use legal threats to silence anyone who has the temerity to ask searching questions.
As someone from Gospel Oak recently said, in the presence of the acting chief executive and the newly appointed Camden Observer on the board: "Interchange has a reputation for being a closed door".
The Friends have no secrets: the matters of "great sensitivity" that you allude to in your editorial are these legal threats to us from Interchange, which we have informed your readers of before.
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We tried our utmost to create an atmosphere of accountability and disclosure. All we got for our pains was a solicitor's letter from the Interchange Trustees threatening legal action unless we apologised, followed by a refusal even to meet us for over a year. That is the sole reason why we were nervous about inviting the Press to this year's AGM.
Solicitor's letters need expert replies which cost a great deal of money that we cannot afford. Will you contribute to these costs if the Interchange Trustees decide, on the basis of something you report, to threaten us again?
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The Friends is a small voluntary organisation, not in receipt of any public funds. It has no resources other than the goodwill of its members. Interchange has even denied us a space on their website on the spurious grounds that we are not a registered charity, even though our role, recognised by the Lottery Boards, is to represent the interests of the local community to the town hall management.
Technically our AGM is for our members; we are not obliged to publicise it other than to our membership, nor can we afford to.
Sadly no amount of 'open' discussion by us has succeeded in penetrating Interchange's 'closed door'. Significantly it was we, not Interchange, who responded to your splendid offer, made to the Interchange CEO last year, to facilitate a public meeting, precisely so that there could be open and frank discussion of these matters by the wider public.
We recorded our immense gratitude to the Ham&High for this at our AGM on Thursday.
Your excellent story last week revealing that Millennium Dance may not be a charity, raises more questions: if they are not a registered charity, why are they on Interchange's website while the Friends, who were partners in the project, are refused a space?
Other questions that need answering are: why has this "closed door" situation been tolerated by all the official regulatory and funding bodies for so many years?
Why is a publicly funded body so secretive about its trustees or its accounts that they are not on its website? We urge you to continue your invaluable scrutiny of these matters, rather than criticise the one organisation which has had the courage, at great personal risk and cost to its members, to bring them to public attention.
Chair, Friends of Hampstead Town Hall