In the coming weeks the courts will make the final decision on Undershaw, Conan Doyle’s former home. It has been the subject of a long running battle between the developers who seek to destroy it, and the band of Sherlock Holmes fans who are fighting to save it and return it to its former glory.
(Undershaw today, neglected and run down)
The high court ruled in favour of the fans - the developers appealed - that was defeated too - now they have appealed the rejection of the appeal (come on....). Now we just have to wait for that to get looked at and then we're done: you’ve got to love the British judicial system (not).
In the meantime the UPT (Undershaw Preservation Trust) are putting together a fundraising committee of ten to twelve volunteers whose job it will be to raise the money needed to restore Undershaw back to its former glory. Due to the negligence of the developers [the high court case highlighted at least two instances where they broke the law in not keeping the building safe whilst the court case raged on] the job is considerably bigger than it needed to have been. It’s estimated that the team will need £2.5m (around $4m) to restore and prepare the building.
(Undershaw as it used to look)
This is where Sherlock Holmes fans around the world have plenty of ways of getting involved. Most of you will be aware of the book ‘Sherlock’s Home: The Empty House’ which was compiled by BBC Sherlock fan site Sherlockology and whose royalties all go to the trust. Many of you have bought the book and many have joined the trust’s Save Undershaw Facebook Page.
Now I’d like to suggest something else. Corporate sponsorship. We live in an era where Football, Baseball and Soccer stadiums around the world have corporate sponsors – even the theatre bar I was in a few weeks ago in London carried the support logo of their sponsor American Airlines. So why now Undershaw? On a purely brutal front, there is lots of very positive brand exposure to be had to be linked to this quite amazing story how a group of fans (led by John Gibson) have managed to save an incredible building against all the odds.
(campaigner and Holmes actor Derek Wood by a boarded up Undershaw)
My first stop for corporate sponsors are the corporations that have, especially in recent times, made some serious money from the Sherlock Holmes stories. Let’s remember, that if it wasn’t for Undershaw, none of that money would have been made, there would have been no Sherlock Holmes.
I am deadly serious here. Few people realise that Undershaw is where Conan Doyle brought Holmes back to life and where he created the The Hound of The Baskervilles that catapulted Holmes from simply a ‘fairly popular’ detective, to a worldwide phenomenon. Without Undershaw, we wouldn't be enjoying Holmes today.
So yes, Warner Brothers, Undershaw has given you two blockbuster movies that have grossed hundreds of millions of dollars. Yes, BBC (I know you are a public corporation but you still are able to sponsor), you have this building to thank for the prolific success of BBC Sherlock. And how about CBS with Elementary…. I’m sure you guys will make a few bucks out of that too.
Now I am not suggesting any of these corporations hand over the millions that are required (though that would be nice) but it certainly would be fitting for them to be involved. There are plans to include a museum element to the restored house and it would be brilliant to have a Holmes on screen section with costumes and momentos from the films and TV series.
But here is the crux of this article, it’s a call out to the Holmes fans around the world who by day work for big corporations in many fields of expertise. There are plenty of ways for companies to get involved – especially any of those involved in construction. There will be plenty of opportunity for publicity – that’s one thing the Holmes fan base is really good at. There are dozens of rooms in the house and I am sure there is the opportunity for corporations to sponsor perhaps Conan Doyle’s study, the library of Holmes books that will be created - or perhaps the stunning stained glass window which surely every future visitor will stop to admire....
Corporations can write off donations like this against tax and use the association with the house for entertainment of key clients. A private tour of the house where Sherlock Holmes came back to life? Now that’s what I call special corporate entertainment…..
If you have an idea of how your company can get involved in the restoration and running of Undershaw please contact the UPT through the Save Undershaw Facebook page.
And if you haven't got hold of a copy of the book ‘Sherlock’s Home’ its available from all good bookstores and in all formats - Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), Kindle , Kobo , Nook, and iTunes.