RW Bro David Hagger, Provincial Grand Masterfor Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, visited the headquarters of Lifelites on Wednesday 15th December 2016 for a demonstration of some of the equipment that is provided by the charity to children’s hospices
Lifelites began as project within the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys and became an independent charity in 2006. It provides specialist entertainment, educational and assistive technology packages to over 9,000 children and young people with life-limiting, life-threatening and disabling conditions in children's hospices including Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People based in Loughborough.
Caroline Powell, Lifelites Training Manager, drives the Lifelites' training strategy to ensure all of the donated equipment is utilised to its full potential by hospice staff was delighted to demonstrate some of the equipment including Eyegaze which makes a computer accessible for disabled young people. Through a sensor, Eyegaze allows them to track their eye movements enabling them to move the cursor around the screen. Children whose carers and families thought they were unable to communicate, can now do so with this magical technology – they can tell their carers what they would like to eat or drink and can even, for the first time, tell their parents that they love them.
Simone Enefer-Doy, Chief Executive of Lifelites said: 'We are hoping to provide Rainbows in Leicestershire with another new package of our latest technologies in 2018 and will be fundraising for that project in the New Year.'
A day of festivities at the Raby Gala
The Gala was officially opened with the X Company Fifth Fusiliers band marching into the main arena followed by a horse and carriage transporting Provincial Grand Master Norman Heaviside, Festival Director John Thompson and MCF Chief Operating Officer Les Hutchinson.
Great North Air Ambulance director of charity services Deborah Lewis-Bynoe received a cheque for £4,000 from the MCF. Norman presented Les with a cheque for £250,000, bringing the total donated, just six months in
to the Festival, to £1 million.
Setting the stage
Britain’s Got Talent finalist Jasmine Elcock is hitting the high notes thanks to strong masonic support for her family, as Peter Watts discovers
‘Jasmine has always been singing,’ says Julian Elcock, adding with a laugh, ‘She even used to sing in her sleep.’ Julian, a mason since 2008, is talking about his 14-year-old daughter Jasmine, who provoked standing ovations, tears and Golden Buzzers as she sang her way to fourth place in the final of this year’s Britain’s Got Talent.
The result of talent and hard work, Jasmine’s success wouldn’t have been possible without the masons, who provided financial and emotional support after her dad’s business collapsed.
Jasmine beams as she recalls her audition on Britain’s Got Talent when her performance of Cher’s Believe wowed presenters Ant and Dec so much that they activated the Golden Buzzer, which automatically put her straight into the semi-final. ‘When Ant and Dec ran on to the stage I thought they were going to give me a hug, but then they pressed the Golden Buzzer and everything changed. To touch people’s emotions like that was amazing.’
After the audition, the family drove all the way from London to Durham so Jasmine could appear at a masonic event. ‘We drove for four hours, but nobody felt tired because we were on such a high after what had happened,’ says Julian.
As she progressed to the final, Jasmine received tremendous support from those around her. ‘My friends were very supportive,’ says Jasmine, who had to keep her involvement in Britain’s Got Talent secret for six months. ‘That was very hard – but when they found out, they leafleted the streets and put posters up asking people to vote for me.’
Jasmine is delighted to have come this far. ‘Just to get to the final and get fourth place out of thousands of people from all over the UK – as a 14-year-old, that’s something I’m proud of,’ she says.
More support came from the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, now part of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF). Les Hutchinson, Chief Operating Officer of the MCF, has known Jasmine for years, as he attends the same lodge as Julian, Fortis Green, No. 5145. ‘We always knew Jasmine was special,’ he says. ‘Julian would come to meetings with YouTube clips of her performing in talent contests. She was competing in Britain’s Got Talent on the same evening as a lodge meeting, so I encouraged all the members to get their phones out to vote.’
A way of life
The Freemasons supported the Elcock family with a grant to ease the financial distress they faced and provided a package of support for Jasmine and her brother Michael, including termly maintenance allowances and dancing and music lessons. In the time that the masons have supported her, Jasmine has also performed on the West End stage.
For the Elcocks, entertainment is a way of life. All three of Julian’s brothers are musicians and Jasmine’s brother Michael is a talented actor, poet and dancer, who has performed at London’s Barbican and studies at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. ‘Whenever Michael is looking for some advice for a song he turns to Jasmine and singing starts all over the house,’ says Julian.
Jasmine admires artists like Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, whom she terms the ‘big belters’. Their diva approach seems a world apart from Jasmine’s unassuming personality, but she explains that their voices and how they presented themselves on stage inspires her. ‘It’s the hand movements, the gestures, how they stand,’ she says. ‘It helps me with my own performances. It’s the whole package.’
Both Michael’s and Jasmine’s talent has been nurtured by a succession of teachers and courses, while Jasmine has been attending talent shows for years. It takes discipline to make the most of such a talent, and Jasmine has to attend regular one-on-one lessons, complete singing homework after school, and watch her diet. ‘With using your lungs and diaphragm, you need to be fit,’ she explains.
Since the support of the masonic charities was fundamental in nurturing Jasmine’s voice, it’s no surprise that Julian describes his decision to join the masons in 2008 as one of the best he ever made. ‘Everything I read said it helped you to become a better person,’ says Julian, an accountant who ran his own transport business. ‘I met interesting people who could give advice and support, and developed rapport and friendships with people I could trust.’
‘They pressed the Golden Buzzer and everything changed. To touch people’s emotions like that was amazing.’ Jasmine Elcock
Making a contribution
When Julian lost his business in 2009, Les suggested he apply for help. ‘But I had a lot of pride and felt the business was always going to survive,’ remembers Julian. ‘Then I was given 28 days before the bank repossessed my house, and that was when I called the charity. It stepped in straight away and I also got back into employment. Through that, Jasmine and Michael could continue to develop. I can’t think what would have happened without that.’
Les is delighted that the support of masons has had such an inspiring, tangible result but emphasises that the MCF should not be seen as a last resort but a source of assistance as and when it is needed. ‘If you are a Freemason or the son, daughter, stepchild or grandchild of a Freemason and are in need of support, we urge you to come forward as soon as possible,’ he says. ‘I know that pride can be a stumbling block, but please come forward. We noticed in the last recession that we did not reach the peak in applications until about two years after it happened. People in need of support were struggling on for far too long.’
Mindful of the support she received from the masonic community, Jasmine has become a patron of the masonic charity Lifelites. Visiting children’s hospices and backing Lifelites’ fundraising campaigns, she is proud to take part and make a contribution: ‘Freemasons supported me and my family, so it’s nice to give something back in return.’
‘We always knew Jasmine was special. Julian would come to meetings with YouTube clips.’ Les Hutchinson
Musical night in Durham for festival launch
The Sage Gateshead, the world-class music venue on the banks of the River Tyne, was the stunning location to launch the Durham 2021 Festival in aid of the RMTGB. More than 1,000 tickets were sold to brethren and their families for the musical extravaganza, which was opened by community theatre group Enter CIC. Under the direction of Andrea Flynn, 30 children aged 13-20 provided songs from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival show ‘The Wind Road Boys’.
Festival Director John Thompson and Durham PGM Eric Heaviside welcomed RMTGB President Mike Woodcock and CEO Les Hutchinson. The PGM then presented a cheque for £250,000 towards the Festival target of £2,712,768, which follows a previous instalment of £500,000 in November 2014.
Making a visible difference
As the four main masonic charities combine to form the Masonic Charitable Foundation, we have published four new infographics to celebrate their work.
They give a quick historical overview of each charity, as well as explaining some of the real differences they have made through their charitable support.
These can be seen on the Charitable Works page of the UGLE site.
Supporting young people
Stepping Stones was launched in 2010 by the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys to help support young people in their communities. Over the past five years, grants totalling more than £1.3 million have been awarded to 63 local and national charities, with the most recent round of grants totalling over £250,000. The Daisy Chain Project Teesside received £30,000 to fund its education and employability programme for young people with autism. The farm-based charity provides services including respite care, animal and sensory therapy, after-school clubs, family outings and support groups.
Festive appeals total tops £8m
The closing months of 2015 saw the conclusion of two successful Festival Appeals from Bedfordshire and East Lancashire Freemasons. Both Provinces held special events to celebrate raising more than £1.5 million for the RMTGB and over £2.5 million for the RMBI, respectively.
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes attended both events along with the Presidents and Chief Executives of the charities, Mike Woodcock and Les Hutchinson for the RMTGB, and James Newman and David Innes for the RMBI.
The funds raised by Bedfordshire and East Lancashire bring the total raised for the central masonic charities through 2015 Festival Appeals to a staggering £8.2 million.
Launching in 2016
In January, the Province of Durham launched its 2021 Festival Appeal for the RMTGB at the Sage Gateshead.
Provincial Grand Master Eric Heaviside said: ‘We come across many distressing cases of children who need our help. This is our opportunity to help give them a better life.’
The Provinces of Buckinghamshire, West Lancashire, Leicestershire and Rutland, and Worcestershire launch their Festivals for the new Masonic Charitable Foundation later this year.
Fly high for charity
The end of 2015 saw some fantastic and exhilarating fundraising efforts by members of the masonic community
The Rev David Bowen, Provincial Grand Master of Herefordshire, and Kevin Lyons, Past Master of Delphis Lodge, Hereford, completed freefall tandem skydives from 12,500ft and raised over £7,000 for the Herefordshire 2020 Festival in support of the Masonic Samaritan Fund.
Meanwhile, Nigel Moran and Andrew Paice from the Province of Hampshire and Isle of Wight completed the Sky Tower 100ft freefall challenge in Tivoli Friheden, Denmark. They completed the feat dressed as Batman and Robin to raise funds for the 2016 Festival for the RMTGB.
At the top, Andy suggested that Nigel (Batman) should go first. Nigel shouted, ‘So mote it be!’ before plunging into the net below. Their sense of achievement was reinforced by raising over £1,000, double their original target.
Sunday 24th January 2016 saw twelve months of preparation and planning finally ended as Andrew and John Thompson’s vision of a Festival launch had finally arrived. The venue was the iconic Sage Gateshead, the impressive world-class music venue on the banks of the River Tyne. A stunning location to launch the Durham 2021 Festival with over 1,000 tickets sold to brethren and their families to witness this musical extravaganza to launch the RMTGB festival.
Although the event didn’t start until 7pm the day started at 12pm for John and his team lead by Andrew Thompson the Project Manager for the launch. It was going to be a long day for musical Director Peter Johnson to pull the show together in 5 hours.
Fortunately Peter was working with performers who were very professional and the hours of planning that preceded the event made the day run smoothly.
The audience were treated as promised to a night of entertainment but with a strong message throughout the night with short 3-minute videos to highlight the work currently being done by the trust.
The show was opened by Enter CIC a community theatre group from Ferryhill under the direction of Andrea Flynn, a group of 30 children from 13-20 who provided songs from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival show ‘The Wind Road Boys’.
The Festival President, John Thompson and Provincial Grand Master Eric Heaviside then welcomed the 1,000 strong crowd and invited them to enjoy the evening ahead.
The first video of the night featured Butterwick House in Stockton who have received funding for a wheel chair swing and computer technology via the Lifelites programme.
Entertainment again soon followed with the singing talents of Miss Jasmine Elcock a 13-year-old soloist, this outstanding young lady who is destined to be a star is certainly one to watch.
Local entertainer Chris tame support by Chasing Mumford followed with an eclectic mix of songs involving the audience and raising the tempo of the evening with an excellent performance.
Emily Douglas and Stephen Raine were featured on the next video explaining how talent aid had supported them. Stephen a concert pianist had received support in the past whilst Emily a 15-year-old French horn player currently receives support. They both then entered the auditorium to huge applause and provided the audience with some music from their repertoire.
The half was closed with Enter CIC “Light Shines On” from their musical. The second act was similar to the first with the performers returning to the stage to entertain once again.
The Provincial Grand Master introduced RMTGB President, Mike Woodcock and CE0, Les Hutchinson to the stage to present them with a festival jewel each inscribed with their name, he then presented a cheque for our second instalment of funding. In November 2014 The PGM had presented the representatives of the RMTGB with a cheque for £500,000 and on this occasion a further cheque of £250,000 was presented on behalf of the brethren of Durham. Mike and Les took to a lectern each and suitably replied and thanked the PGM, The Festival Director and the brethren of Durham for their generosity in starting a Festival with £750,000 already banked. Mike and Les then described the important work done by the charity recounting the early beginnings
Mike finished his speech by introducing a video about a local Teesside charity Daisy Chain who recently received a grant of £30,000 from the Stepping Stones fund to help finance their alternative education and employability programme to assist young adults with autism help to prepare them for the work environment.
The Sage then erupted with the sound of pipes and drums from the Houghton le Spring Pipe Band as they marched onto the stage providing a varied and bright compilation of music.
The final video of the night was personal story of Durham freemason Graham Parkinson and his wife Claire who recounted the story of how the trust stepped in within two weeks of an application to provide a listening programme for their daughter Minah who was on a two-year waiting list. Since completing the programme Minah’s world has been transformed into a “proper little girl” as described by Graham. The couple were thankful for their support and encourage everyone to support the trust.
The important announcement of the Festival target followed with an introduction by the PGM and the totalizer appeared on the video screen, the numbers appeared in reverse order with the figure finishing with £2,712,768. Eric asked the brethren to support the Director and his team to reach our target.
John Thompson finished by making the important thanks to all who had helped make the day and the evening possible but he singled out the Project Manager Andrew Thompson whose initial idea of the Sage had been a daring one but as John said “We did it”. John went on to mention the “Jewel in the crown” Peter Johnson the musical director for the launch event who had liaised with the acts and had pulled the show together with many weeks of planning.
John finished the evening by asking the brethren to get behind the festival and lets work together to raise the final £2,000,000 before 2021.
What an amazing evening! To anyone who missed it, well you missed a night that will live long in the memory of all those who attended. To anyone who played a part, no matter how small in making the evening possible we offer our sincere gratitude and to everyone who attended and left the Sage feeling as fired up for this Festival as we did, then lets make this happen.