It was brought to my attention earlier this week that The Chairman of The Farnborough Society (TFS) had a communication published in the letters page of last week’s Farnborough News & Mail (25th January 2013).
In the letter, TFS Chairman, Brian Fyfe says:
Time to shape the future of our town
HOW great it is that there is such passion surrounding the Tumbledown Dick at the moment.
It clearly demonstrates how strongly the people of Farnborough care about the arts and the desperate need for a music venue.
The Farnborough Society (TFS) has consistently called on Farnborough to seek to have a town centre with a designated Town Square around which art, culture and performance arts could be accommodated, as well as a lively independent retail offering and vibrant evening economy.
Read our Core Strategy paper on www.thefarnboroughsociety.org.uk. This, we say, is central to the strategic vision we should have for a sustainable future that will make Farnborough a place of community which has everything its people need to live, work and play.
I regret to say that It is unlikely to be the Tumbledown Dick that proves to be the lever for this ambition. It is true the Society expressed surprise that the Tumbledown Dick pub dropped off the Hampshire Listing of Buildings of Interest when it was transposed to a Listing of Buildings of Local Importance, but we never in fact requested its inclusion.
To clarify, in the final analysis, we took the view that it seemed the fabric of the building was now, after the alterations during its chequered career, of little merit or of a nature to commend itself and that better examples exist elsewhere. Therefore, we did not press the point.
What is clear is the name of the site is worth retaining and celebrating. The Tumbledown Dick name should live on.
After all, in the new The Tilly Shilling and The Gloster Pub/restaurant, Wetherspoons and Hungry Horse use names which have a local Farnborough association, much to their branding advantage.
What I would welcome now is the energy and enthusiasm harnessed by the Tumbledown Dick campaign to join with TFS to deliver the bigger picture – a town which finally lives up to its undeniable potential.
We are seeking the setting up of a Town Team to focus all the stakeholders on the common vision of a bright future.
Our mission is Preserving the Past. Shaping the Future, and we believe a Town Team will achieve exactly that.
Together, we can ensure that the arts and culture take their rightful place in the bean of Farnborough.
The Farnborough Society
The Friends of the Tumble Down Dick has already reacted, in brief, to this letter on the official Save the Tumbledown Facebook page, saying:
We are pleased to see our campaign is once again in the news.. however disparaged to see that The Farnborough Society feel the need to communicate with us via the local papers rather than directly. We will be responding in the same manner re-affirming our commitment to work with anybody and everybody to ensure the future of the Tumbledown Dick and that we save it for community use.
We don’t believe that only the name of the building should survive but the building should as a whole, as the site has the potential to be a fantastic community hub and is a heritage building in a town where precious little remain.
My personal response, as a member of the Friends of the Tumble Down Dick, is this:
The Friends of the Tumble Down Dick acknowledge and appreciate The Farnborough Society’s (TFS) pleasure at the passion behind the campaign to save the pub. Yes we do care about the arts and yes we do desperately need the return and restoration of our music venue.
I suppose I support TFS’ calls for a “town square” in Farnborough and would welcome the arts, culture and performance arts in such a town square, but also feel that this would complement the restoration of the Tumble Down Dick which has historically hosted events all year round. There was already a vibrant evening economy at “the Tumbly” until its sudden and unexpected closure in 2008 and its rejuvenation will simply allow the town square to add further diversity rather than force new exclusivity. (Don’t want to see the brass band or the mime artist? Good, then head off down the Tumbly for a pint and a punk band)
It is disappointing that, with mention of the “Core Strategy” and talking of sustainability, that TFS seem to have “washed their hands” of the Tumbledown. By failing to support the aims of campaign to save the Tumble Down Dick they appear to have no objection to the threat of the old building being demolished and seem to be implying that they also have no problem with a two-storey McDonald’s drive-thru restaurant being erected in its place. Demolition and new-build are not sustainable practices, restoration of our heritage is.
It is interesting to read that TFS say they were surprised at the removal of The Tumble Down Dick from the “Hampshire Listing of Buildings of Interest” but it is such a shame that they did nothing to help reinstate it.
What seems to explain this stance, but is also very saddening, is TFS’ claim that “better examples exist elsewhere” – Better examples of what? And where do they mean by elsewhere? I cannot think of an older pub in Farnborough which is still standing. Depending on where you go for your figures, some 20,000 pubs have closed in the UK over the last 30 years and it seems The Farnborough Society are willing to let our own town’s most historic pub just vanish to be replaced by one of 1,200 identical fast food restaurants.*
But, to their credit, TFS do “value” the name and they acknowledge that two wealthy national pub chains, who have been granted permission to set up brand new pubs in Farnborough, have chosen names that are synonymous with our town. However, again, it is very disappointing to see that TFS think that if we have a new “Tumble Down Square” or some other such naming consolation, it will more than make up for the fact that we have lost yet another pub, another music venue, our history, our heritage, our past. A little piece of Farnborough that, if we don’t stand up, will be gone forever.
A name in place of something that is no longer there is a memorial; it signifies loss and to accept this is just not good enough, especially for an established local society that says, as one of its core objectives, it aims to “encourage the conservation, protection, development and improvement of features of historic or public interest in the area of benefit.”
As a member of The Friends of the Tumble Down Dick and as a member of The Farnborough Society I too would really like to see the two parties work together. However, what Brian Fyfe has stated on behalf of TFS does not represent my views as a member of The Farnborough Society. By stating the TFS’ mission values of “Preserving the Past” and yet by not seeing The Tumbly in the future is both hypocritical and lacks backbone.
If TFS and FotTDD are to work together then they must, er… work together.
I challenge Brian Fyfe and the other members of TFS to not be so defeatist, to stand up and support The Friends of Tumble Down Dick and to preserve our past in deeds not just words so that we can together shape our future otherwise McDonald’s will be shaping our waistlines.
* By identical I mean that the menu at the McDonald's, the service, the staff, will be the same homogeneous bland branding that you see at all their other 1,200 restaurants in the UK. It's the same with big pub chains who have the same menu, the same beers, although The Tilly Shilling has had some nice touches. Still not my cup of tea, that pub, and I still need the Tumble Down Dick restored.