(Updated below) Just as the Slate Island of Easdale is gearing up for its annual and serendipitous World Stone Skimming Championships and following lively publicity for it in a major piece in The Herald magazine yesterday (Saturday 15th September), there seems to be bad news in an open letter to islanders from the island’s owner, Jonathan Feigenbaum.
An island website, Easdale People, which can be fairly described as characterised by its opposition to what it sees as the undemocratic Eilean Eisdeal Community Trust which runs the imaginative annual contest, has just published this Feigenbaum letter to islanders, at its authors request.
The tenour of the letter suggests that the event may or will not now take place as planned on 23rd September.
The letter makes explicit the owner’s contact with the Chair of the Eilean Eisdeal Community Trust back in April 2012, raising, in good time, issues of concern over the event from the holding company for the property of the island, Easdale Island Company Limited.
It identified the major concern as being whether or not the Public Liability Insurance for the event was adequate to protect the interests of all concerned, including the holding company owning the land used for the championships.
It says that no response was received until, as recently as 6th September, its solicitors got a letter from the Trust’s Chair, simply claiming that the event is ‘fully insured’ and that the “document is not public, and we decline to exhibit it to Mr Feigenbaum’.
The company also apparently asked for a nominal fee in respect of the usage of its land for the event, making it clear that this would be put to the good of the island; and alternatively offered to lease the land in question to the Trust to secure the event into the future.
Mr Feigelbaum alleges that in the letter to the company’s solicitors, the Trust’s Chair ‘refused’ the request for a nominal fee and ignored the offer of leasing the land.
He says that consequently he has informed the Trust that it does not have the owner’s permission for the event and that if it is held regardless of this, court proceedings will be initiated.
Nothing to do with Easdale is straightforward and little is separable from the ongoing and deep division in the island community about which we have published carefully and quite exhaustively.
We are asking the owner to tell us what was the amount of the nominal fee the holding company for the island had requested in respect of the use of its land for the event; and what was the specific deal suggested to the Trust to lease the land in question.
The Herald Magazine’s article yesterday quoted £6,500 as the revenue generated by last years championships – from entrance fees, merchandising, food and drink. What sums were suggested by the owner in the matters noted above would have to be read against this as an indicative annual earning.
The Trust says in the Herald piece that all revenue goes back into the community to fund its art programme and to run the hall. Easdale Island’s arts – and particularly music – programme is unarguably wonderful. Given the tiny population of the island and its neighbours that is reflected in the small audiences accommodated in the lovely Easdale Hall – a Trust project recognised even by the Trust’s opponents as hugely successful – this sort of funding from the stone skimming event would plausibly be needed to subsidise such a programme.
It may well be that the Chair of the Trust saw the letter from the island’s owner as somehow part of the ongoing community confrontation and that this may account for the desultory and dismissive response to the communication.
If this is the case it is foolish because an owner has legal rights that must be recognised and respected in a way it seems, on the surface, that the Trust has not.
We are asking the Trust for its position on these events and we profoundly hope that a glorious and imaginative event bringing a spectrum of positive benefits to the island, does not become a casualty of a community too often ready for self-mutilation.
Immediate update – 01.55 17th September: The email we have just sent to the holding company’s email address quoted in the letter for Easdale People to publish does not work. we had emailed the questions noted in the body of the article above and the email came back as undeliverable because of address errors. We would be grateful for information on alternative means of contacting this company or Mr Feigenbaum.