He's not blowin' free: Ex-Wishbone Ash bassist locks himself in attic after mortgage arrears row

Mervyn Spence: "I don’t care how much I stink. I’m prepared to be a rebel with a kind heart"

A former bass player with seminal rock group Wishbone Ash, which is famed for the track “Blowin’ Free”, has locked himself into his attic studio in a battle with a building society that wants to repossess his home.

Mervyn Spence took the drastic action after encountering financial difficulties five years ago when he was unable to keep up with the £1,400 monthly payments to the Nationwide building society on the property in Lichfield, Staffordshire.

He has been in the studio since last Thursday and shows no sign of backing down.

The 55-year-old father of two, who played with the band in the mid-80s, claims the mortgage provider has refused to cut the 5.5 per cent interest rate he has been paying on the property for seven years, despite interest rates falling to record lows.

He said he was forced to sell two of his cherished guitars in 2010 so that he could keep up with payments, before falling further into arrears in 2013.

The Nationwide took him to court in January last year and a judge ruled it had a right to sell the two-bedroom detached house. Last week, the building society ordered the property to be cleared and the front door to be locked.

However, Mr Spence is not giving in without a fight. He is staying in the attic of the house’s barn conversion and is being helped by friends.

 

In an interview with the Express and Star newspaper, he said he sold his Fender Precision, which he’d had since the 1970s for about £1,500.

He said he’s going to stay in the attic “as long as it takes,” adding: “I don’t care how much I stink. I’m prepared to be a rebel with a kind heart.”

Wishbone Ash first rose to fame in 1970 with their eponymous debut album. But it was their third album, Argus, released in 1973 which is considered their best by critics and fans alike. It topped many “end of year” polls in the music press that year. 

The Nationwide said it has gone “above and beyond” what would be expected of a reasonable lender and have made “numerous attempts to accommodate Mr Spence and find a solution which works for him and the society.”

A spokesman said it had shown “significant forbearance over a long period of time” and have tried to do its best for Mr Spence.

He added: “We do, though, owe it to our wider membership to ensure that we do not sustain losses from situations such as this as, over time, this will affect the viability and sustainability of the building society.”

Mr Spence said the property had previously been valued at £225,000 but was now being sold by Nationwide for £160,000, which was £65,000 less than the offer he accepted for it in 2013.

He got into financial  difficulties in 2008 after organising an outdoor event, which had to be cancelled as a result of flooding, having to then pay out £150,000 for refunds.

His losses meant he was unable to get a mortgage with another company so he was effectively locked into the Nationwide deal.

Mr Spence, who was also a former member of the band Trapeze in the 1970s, said he felt the building society had sent in a team of heavies to force him out.

Although friends have been helping him out through his ordeal, he said he had been surviving on sandwiches and fruit and keeping his spirits up by writing songs and playing the guitar. He said he holds the Nationwide “personally responsible” for his predicament and he will become their responsibility if he’s made homeless.

In November, he spent three days protesting outside the building society’s headquarters in Swindon by busking.

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