Little Chapel Foundation has to ‘act in its best interests’

The Little Chapel Foundation issued this statement on Saturday evening, requesting that it be embargoed for publication until today. It also requested that the statement be published in full, which we do so here

The Little Chapel. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 31119364)
The Little Chapel. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 31119364)

THE Little Chapel Foundation is deeply saddened by the content of recent media articles and comments on social media concerning Martyn Guille Silversmiths.

Equally, we understand islanders’ concern about something as important to Guernsey and local tourism as the Little Chapel, especially after such challenging times recently.

The Foundation is a charitable organisation. The land on which the Little Chapel stands was gifted to the Foundation by the Brothers De La Salle in the hope that the Little Chapel could be saved from collapse.

Through generous donations and unwavering public support, the Foundation has achieved this aim. The Foundation now works to maintain and improve the Chapel, ensuring its immediate needs are met and that its future is secured. The Foundation endorses the view that the Little Chapel should continue to be available for everyone to enjoy, both now and for generations to come.

The Little Chapel is one of Guernsey’s most beloved attractions, receiving an estimated 70,000 visitors per year. Our closest neighbour is Martyn Guille Silversmiths, a privately-owned business operating out of rented commercial premises adjacent to the Little Chapel. This valuable footfall naturally flows to Mr Guille’s business, and for some visitors, it may appear that the business is directly connected to the Little Chapel Foundation.

From this adjoining location, various goods bearing the name and image of the Little Chapel are sold. Of course, the image of the Little Chapel is used on many souvenir products throughout the island, and the Foundation has no issue with this. There is no desire to contact these vendors to ask them to refrain from selling their Little Chapel merchandise.

Our advocates, at no cost to the Foundation, sent a letter to Mr Guille highlighting our concerns about the sale of ‘Little Chapel’ branded goods so close to the Little Chapel itself and noting the confusion it causes in relation to a perceived link between the Foundation as a charity and his privately-run business. By way of example, our volunteers have encountered many visitors who believe they have supported the Foundation because they have purchased ‘Little Chapel’ branded goods from Mr Guille’s shop. Obviously, this is not the case.

Mr Guille quite naturally carries on his business for his own commercial benefit. His business has no direct connection to the Foundation and it does not make any contribution to the Foundation’s charitable funds.

However, the Foundation has long recognised the benefit of working collaboratively with Mr Guille in achieving our respective aims. To this end the Foundation has reached out to Mr Guille on numerous occasions over the last five years inviting him to meet with us, but unfortunately, all such invitations have been rebuffed.

The Foundation is not a business. It is a charity. It is not personally attacking Mr Guille or his business. The Foundation’s councillors have a legal obligation to act in the best interests of the Little Chapel at all times and to protect its assets.

We had hoped Mr Guille would agree to engage with the Foundation to address this issue without the need for legal action, but unfortunately this did not prove possible, and he has chosen to address our concerns via the media.

The Foundation continues to leave the door open to discussions with Mr Guille, which will hopefully lead to a more constructive and neighbourly relationship with him, for the mutual benefit of us both. It is clearly important for the public to see that our charity and Mr Guille’s business can work together in a spirit of co-operation befitting of Brother Deodat’s legacy and the Chapel’s spiritual heritage.

The Foundation has no employees. What it does have is a band of loyal volunteers to whom the Foundation is indebted and without whom it could not operate. Our volunteers work tirelessly and give their time freely, ensuring that the Little Chapel is open to the public throughout the year. None of the Foundation councillors is paid, nor indeed are any of our pro bono community partners, such as our advocates, architects and surveyors, all of whom ask for no payment for their professional services.

Every donation received and every penny spent by the Foundation is applied towards the restoration work and the maintenance of the Chapel, the costs of which are ever increasing due to the need to ensure the site complies with modern planning, health and safety, and disabled access requirements.

This statement has been prepared with the unanimous agreement of the Foundation’s councillors. The intention is to clarify the Foundation’s position and to address any misconceptions circulating in the media.

They are unpaid volunteers and they have been subjected to a totally unacceptable level of personal abuse. Enormous pressure has also been applied to long-term, loyal and much-appreciated Chapel benefactors.

The Foundation is proud to serve the island as custodian of the Little Chapel and it remains extremely grateful to all the islanders and visitors who have and continue to support their work.

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