Your questions answered:
Illustration: HIM's signed deed of gift
“In appreciation of the warm welcome extended to Him by the people of Bath has graciously offered to donate said freehold and leasehold properties to the Corporation [of Bath] for use as a home for aged people…”
Can I visit Fairfield House?
Yes of course. Please visit Fairfield House either on one of our Sunday historic guided tours or for an event advertised on our Fairfield House website or social media. During the week we are unable to accommodate visitors because of the daily life of the house where looking after Elders is the priority. To make an unscheduled visit can put excess pressure on the BEMSCA service.
Can I camp in the grounds of Fairfield House?
There is no camping at Fairfield House. There are no facilities. Rough sleeping impedes the work of care for the Elders and causes stress and anxiety for BEMSCA staff and Fairfield volunteers. Itinerant or homeless people can be referred to local charitable agencies for assistance. The nearest camp site is in Bitton, a short direct bus ride away.
How can I help Fairfield House?
There are so many ways. Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
How do I stay close to the real decisions about the future?
Every other Friday CIC directors offer an open surgery 1500-1700. Any community member can ask questions and make suggestions to CIC directors. Results may be recorded and streamed on Imperial Voice Radio. Also the important new independently chaired CIC/ B&NES Council monthly partnership board meetings will be live streamed. Anyone can view the meeting live, and submit questions and comments. Email email@example.com for joining details.
Here are updated answers to in-depth questions previously submitted by the EWF (London local #3) . We are happy to address further questions submitted.
1. What guarantee do we have that the CIC will continue to uphold the wishes of HIM when he entered into a covenant with Bath City Council, to leave Fairfield House as a refuge for the elderly?
The articles of association of Fairfield House Bath CIC bind it to that purpose and are closely based on the words signed by HIM in his deed of gift (see above).
The gift was to the Corporation of Bath. Its successor organisation (after local government reorganisations) is Bath & NE Somerset Council (B&NES). The CIC now has a lease from B&NES, and we have established a joint partnership board. Anyone is welcome to view live partnership board meetings, and to submit questions and comments.
The lease from Bath & NE Somerset Council makes staying true to the core mission of continuing to fulfil HIM's legacy a core conditionIf the CIC falls short of its commitments and community obligations the lease is forfeit.
Note there are other requirements such as compliance to environmental and every aspect of equalities law. If the CIC fails in any of these these requirements it is at risk of forfeiting the lease.
2. Why does the CIC desire the transfer away from the local authority? Is this action remaining in the spirit of the Lion of Judah?
B&NES Council wanted to sell Fairfield House for development into private accommodation. It obtained a senior QC legal opinion which declared that was a lawful course of action. With political support from some B&NES Councillors the Friends of Fairfield House (a Community Association) stepped in with a campaign to save the property. The Community Association has set up the CIC so this can become a reality. The CIC wants to transfer Fairfield House away from B&NES' day to day control as we do not feel it is safe or protected with the Council as the prime custodians, given the focus of the Council's statutory duties. To protect the sacred and cultural nature of the house, it needs to be run by an organisation which fully understand its importance and needs of Fairfield’s diverse communities of interest.
The present owner B&NES has no mandate to deal with sacred sites.
The budget B&NES can allocate for the stated purpose (home for the aged) is inadequate for the investment needed to maintain a building such as Fairfield, let alone one of international significance. This has long been evident in the deteriorating condition of the property.
It is therefore inevitable that Fairfield House will always be underinvested if it remains in the direct day to day control of B&NES Council.
Note that B&NES Council would remain the legal owner under the proposal. What is in place now is a short (two-year) lease and partnership with B&NES Council, with the aim of putting a long lease in place.
Fairfield House Bath CIC bases its approach on HIM’s expressed wish. Given that Fairfield cannot meet contemporary standards for residential care for the elderly we interpret his wish as making the Elders feel at home (for non-residential day care) and putting their interests at the heart of what we propose. However we believe that HIM’s legacy is more significant now than was realised at the time, and it is far more than a building. Whether one is Ethiopian, Rastafari, a local person of Bath (or any combination of these) HIM’s legacy has a unique significance that Fairfield can make tangible. Hence our focus is on HIM’s legacy - the intangible as well as the building.
3. What has the CIC done with the Council in relation to Fairfield House?
The CIC has signed a two-year lease and established a partnership board to determine and secure the long term future. This cold be a long lease, or a formal “community asset transfer” (CAT). The details of CAT are set out here: https://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/neighbourhoods-and-community-safety/community-asset-transfers This is a formal process under which it is possible to take Fairfield House out of B&NES’ control and secure the future of HIM’s legacy. The Fairfield House Community Association decided to create the CIC as an entity with suitable legal form to enter that process. We have faithfully explored that process, but it is onerous and it is not clear to us that it is the right way forward for several reasons.
4. If the CIC should be wound up, what then happens to this asset?
We hope the CIC will succeed, but the evidence is that many companies fail at some point. If that were to happen the lease is forfeit and Fairfield House returns to the owner B&NES.
The legal form CIC includes an “asset lock” which means assets of a CIC cannot be taken out of the CIC except to another similarly “asset locked” body (eg a charity such as BEMSCA would qualify). But under the terms of the lease Fairfield House would go back to B&NES and we would be back where we are today.
5. How can we maintain the Ras Taferi community’s interest?
That must be for the Rastafari community to decide. The CIC's policy is to continue to welcome the monthly sabbath and other celebrations. We request that these are booked well in advance and conform to certain basic house rules so neither the lease not Fairfield House's reputation are compromised.
6. Who has overall responsibility for the running of the house?
The day to day life of the house largely falls to BEMSCA, on top of the responsibility of day care for the elderly. The CIC ha ultimate legal responsibility. The CIC is likely to need to hire an operations manager (part time initially, full time by year three).
7. Is there any plans to make Fairfield House a residence for the aged by providing accommodation
No. This has been done in the past in precise accordance with HIM’s stated wish. But it is problematic: the c19th domestic building does not meet contemporary standards (including accessibility, insulation, room size) for housing old people. So there are practical and legal obstacles. Also there is no economic model where anyone is paid an amount to look after Elders which provides to maintain a building like Fairfield House to do it in. It would also prevent access and use of other sorts, which would represent a great loss. So we do not plan to make it a residential care home. But it is central to our proposals that the Elders - particularly black and BAME Elders - would always feel at home at Fairfield House.
8. How much of the surrounding land belongs to Fairfield House?
Most of the original garden (“Empress Menen garden”) is now owned by Curo Housing Association, with sheltered housing which is maybe not beautiful but is at least in accordance with HIM’s stated wish. This land is not for sale.
Our lease includes Fairfield House and its immediate curtilage, including the caretaker's bungalow (27 Burleigh Gardens) which now includes the sacred garden, site of HIM and Empress Menen’s chapel in the greenhouse, and one of the three garages.
9. How much of the surrounding land is available for building on?
We believe the bungalow site could be redeveloped e.g. for suitable education assembly and reception purposes. This would be a major community-driven project. It would require significant capital investment, and also planning permission. We think that is the only site that could be built on.
10. Is it just the house that’s owned or are the garages and the small house beside the garages part of Fairfield House grounds?
The caretaker's bungalow and its garden are included in our Expression of Interest. One of the three garages is included; the status of the other two needs clarification.
11. Do the Directors of the CIC have any specific areas of expertise and what further roles are required?
The present directors and their skills are:
HIH Princess Esther Sellassie Antohin - Founder of international organisation Heritage Watch Ethiopia, Great Grand Daughter of His Imperial Majesty
Ras Benji - Rastafari historian and company director of online business; legal education.
Blaine Dowdle - Rastafari entrepreneur in Canada and Jamaica
Celia Mead - Heritage projects interim CEO, National Trust and museums experience, expertise in funding applications and income generation
Dr. Shawn Sobers - Rastafari academic, filmmaker, faith and cultural expertise
William Heath - social entrepreneur with track record of startups
Fisseha Combley - Engineering, Green energy and sustainability
Pauline Swaby - manager, BEMSCA
Karen Crawford - qualified accountant with social enterprise and CAT experience
We think for Fairfield House Bath CIC it’s essential to reflect community diversity and desirable to have a majority of directors of African origin (whether Ethiopian, Caribbean, British).
12. Since installation in March 2019 is there anything that the CIC has done that hasn’t been previously raised?
The main achievements date are the lease and the a business plan with four income streams: University partnerships, historic guided tours, shop, room licences. To get there we've had to set up the company and bank account, appoint solicitors, develop and implement a business plan, radically change the nature of the dialogue with B&NES working with officers and local politicians, and findamentall change how the local heritage community views Fairfield House and HIM's legacy.
13. CIC usually have a mix of income including contracts, trading income and grants – what does the CIC envisage its top sources of income to be?
Opening Sundays to the public
Cultural partnerships with Universities
Renting rooms at Fairfield to organisations consistent with HIM’s broader legacy
Possibly: trading, events
Grant and donations
We'd also like to develop educational programming for local and national schools, but it's better not to try to charge for that so it would need to be grant-supported.
The biggest expenditures will be
redevelop the bungalow site
refurbish Fairfield House itself to heritage standards.
This will only be affordable with significant capital investment (e.g. National Lottery Heritage or multi-million pound legacies from highly motivated wealthy individuals or foundations). We plan on the basis that Fairfield House would be successful in attracting that level of capital grant if the communities involved approach the challenge with unity of purpose.