Celebrating 300 years

300 years young

The Library and Museum of Freemasonry is organising an Open Day at Freemasons’ Hall on Saturday 24 June to mark the 300th birthday of the first masonic Grand Lodge in the world – which met in London 300 YEARS ago TO THE DAY!

Visitors will have the opportunity to view the Grand Temple and exhibitions about the history of Freemasonry. There will be opportunities to learn more about Metropolitan Grand Lodge and the Masonic Charitable Foundation. There will be free, informal musical performances throughout the day beginning with the Occasional Strings quartet in the morning, music on the Grand Temple Organ around lunchtime and the Art Deco Orchestra playing in the afternoon.

As part of the 300th anniversary Jacques Viljoen has been appointed Artist in Residence and has created an exhibition of new artworks to celebrate Freemasonry and its continued role and relevance in society today. This unique exhibition, 'Rough to Smooth', features ten artists in total and opens on 24 June.

Freemasons’ Hall Open Day
Saturday 24 June 2017
Free admission – no booking required
Open 10am to 5pm, last entry 4:30pm

Published in UGLE

Crossing Boundaries

Wicketz is giving young people in deprived areas access to cricket, with the aim of instilling values of teamwork and responsibility. Peter Watts discovers why it was an off-the-bat decision for the Masonic Charitable Foundation to get involved

Enjoyed the world over, cricket may be one of England’s most famous exports but it does require a little organisation. Participants need pads, bats and balls as well as a large playing area – not forgetting the time to spend the best part of a day standing in a field. These are obstacles that children in some communities are unable to overcome without support, which is why the Lord’s Taverners charity created the Wicketz programme.

Since 2012, Wicketz has given more than 2,200 youngsters living in areas of high social, economic and educational deprivation access to a cricket club. But at Wicketz, it isn’t just about teaching young people how to execute the perfect reverse sweep or deliver a googly. Rather, the focus is on improving social cohesion and teaching valuable life skills to children aged eight to 15 who may otherwise be left by the wayside.

It was this emphasis on life skills that prompted the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) to give a £50,000 grant to Wicketz to fund a two-year expansion project. ‘It’s a well thought through programme that will have impact where it is most needed and that’s music to our ears,’ says Les Hutchinson, MCF Chief Operating Officer and a keen cricket fan.

Wicketz targets areas and communities that often don’t have access to playing fields or sporting facilities. ‘As masons we want to enable people to actively participate in society, to become part of something and introduce that idea of a supportive culture,’ says Les, adding that the element of competitiveness in cricket is also important. ‘It’s character building and provides people with a sense of purpose. We’ll be using cricket as the catalyst to improve the lives of disadvantaged people.’

Wicketz began as a pilot scheme in West Ham in East London in 2012. The area was carefully selected due to its high level of social deprivation and lack of existing cricketing provision. ‘The overarching aim of our project is to set up a community club environment that will eventually become self-sustaining,’ explains Henry Hazlewood, cricket programme manager at Lord’s Taverners.

‘We fund everything initially – the coaching and the development – so the programme comes at no cost to the participants. Over time we engage volunteers and parents and embed them into the scheme. The club in West Ham is now integrated into the Essex league, and has a fee-paying structure and parent-volunteers. We have also upskilled volunteers so they can become coaches.’

The scheme has since expanded to Luton and is now branching into Bristol, Leicester and Birmingham. In Bristol, the MCF grant will fund three clubs and a local development officer. It will pay for coaching, playing facilities and equipment to ensure that weekly sessions can take place.

An independent charity that was founded in the Tavern pub at Lord’s cricket ground in London in 1950, Lord’s Taverners works closely with cricket authorities to improve the prospects of disadvantaged and disabled youngsters. The local development officer for Wicketz is therefore able to sit on regional county cricket boards to ensure local needs are met. ‘That allows us to fully embed with what is happening locally and get a real feel for the landscape,’ says Hazlewood.

While participants will benefit from weekly coaching, the project has not been created with the intention of finding the next Ben Stokes or Haseeb Hameed. Instead, the focus is on personal development and social cohesion.

‘Cricket is very cognitive; it’s a thinking game. There’s a lot we can draw out from it that has benefits outside of sport’ Henry Hazlewood

IT'S THE TAKING PART...

‘Cricket as an outcome is absolutely secondary,’ says Mark Bond, cricket programmes executive at Lord’s Taverners. ‘It’s not about making good cricket players, although that will likely happen through regular coaching anyway. It’s an open-door policy for people who have never picked up a bat or ball, as well as those who already have an ability and interest. We are not trying to find the next batch of world-class cricketers, we are more interested in their personal development.’

Wicketz goes to local schools to introduce the sport to the children, and then encourages them to join clubs set up by Wicketz outside the school environment. ‘We’re aware it’s a big commitment as we are asking children from deprived backgrounds, often with very little parental support, to come along off their own back,’ says Hazlewood. ‘But cricket is really just the tool of engagement to get them into the project. We want to enhance the prospects of the participants and improve their self-development. We target wider outcomes and life skills and do things like working with the NHS, fire brigade and police, things that are relevant to the local community.’

In Luton, one of Wicketz’s aims has been to improve social cohesion between different ethnic communities and discuss safety awareness surrounding the railway lines that criss-cross the area. In most regions, the local police force will be invited to take part. An officer will spend the first part of the session playing cricket, and the rest of the time talking to the youngsters about relevant issues. For some of the participants, this may be their first positive engagement with the police force. ‘They will play cricket for 20 minutes and see this officer isn’t that bad,’ says Hazlewood. ‘It’s a way of bringing down barriers.’

‘We are not trying to find the next batch of world-class cricketers, we are more interested in their personal development’ Mark Bond

KEY PLAYERS

While Wicketz may weave different community strands into the sessions, cricket remains central to the story. Hazlewood and Bond both highlight the way cricket is different to other major team sports in that it requires a great deal of individual responsibility, with players part of a team but also having to face a bowler on their own.

‘We think cricket has a lot of physical benefits and also helps communication and leadership,’ says Bond. ‘What really separates it from other team sports is the large element of individual responsibility. In other team sports, people can shy away a little bit, but in cricket you are part of a team and have to communicate, but you also have to take responsibility for your own performance.’

Hazlewood takes Bond’s point further. ‘Cricket is very cognitive; it’s a thinking game. There’s a lot we can draw out from the game that has benefits outside of sport,’ he says. ‘A lot of these outcomes are very soft and informal and worked out in sessions, and then there are more overt sessions such as working directly with the police.’

The overall aim is for the clubs to become self-sustaining and integrated into local leagues. In Bristol, Lord’s Taverners will be running local festivals to engage the various Wicketz programmes in competition, but there is also a shorter-term target for selected participants, who may be invited to join a three-day residential session where they can work on their game with professional cricketers and engage in more detailed workshops.

The Wicketz programme has already directly benefited more than 2,200 children, which shows the scheme’s impressive reach. However, Bond and Hazlewood emphasise it isn’t just about numbers. As Bond explains, ‘We don’t just want to get 100 kids through the door who love cricket, we want the kids who will really benefit.’

Ultimately, the hope is to improve lives in the wider community, not just for participants. ‘We are trying to create environments that benefit everyone and have different people from different backgrounds sitting together on the same committee,’ says Hazlewood. ‘We want to break down barriers that are prevalent and have an impact not just with the kids who come to the programme.’

Leicestershire and Rutland Freemason Paul Simpson is getting ready for the biggest challenge of his life when he cycles 300 miles for charity, as part of the celebrations of 300 years of English Freemasonry.

Paul, aged 51, is one of 20 Freemasons cycling to each of the 11 Masonic meeting places within Leicestershire and Rutland, followed by a hard slog to the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England at Freemasons' Hall. 

When clocking up the 300 miles, they will take a short detour to the site of the former Goose and Gridiron Ale House in St Paul's Churchyard, London, where the first Grand Lodge was formed in June 1717 before they head back to Leicester.

Paul said: 'Little did I realise that when I purchased a bike for my 50th birthday in October 2015, in less than two years I would be attempting a 300 mile charity ride over four days.

'On my first ride I managed just six miles. I returned home out of breath and extremely hot and red faced due no doubt to the excess weight that I was carrying but my appetite for cycling was whetted.'

By July 2016, Paul had completed his first charity cycle ride, 40 miles for Archie’s Army, a charity set up to support a young boy with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. In April 2017, he completed the Rutland Sportive which covered 85 miles over the notorious Rutland hills.

After extensive training, and losing over two and half stone in weight, he is now ready to face the challenge of 300 miles in four consecutive days from Thursday 8th June 2017, which aims to raise £20,000 for the Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People in Loughborough and the Masonic Charitable Foundation.

The Masonic Charitable Foundation supports Freemasons and their families as well as providing more than five million pounds in grants to good causes across England and Wales.

David Innes, Chief Executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, said: 'We’re very grateful to Paul and his friends for making this magnificent effort in support of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. We wish them all the very best of luck on their journey and look forward to welcoming them to Freemasons Hall on 9th June.'

The Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People, based in Loughborough, provides care to those that are affected by life-limiting and life-threatening conditions.

Helen Lee-Smith, Head of Individual Giving at Rainbows, said: 'On behalf of everyone at Rainbows, I would like to thank Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons for supporting Rainbows with their 300 mile cycle ride to celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry.

'Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons are doing a wonderful thing raising funds to help us run the hospice - fundraising efforts make such a huge difference to both the children and young people at Rainbows and their families. We would like to wish them all the best for their challenge.'

You can donate to the team here.

Ambulance service flying high with funding boost from Masonic Charitable Foundation in Bedfordshire

On Sunday 30th April, Bedfordshire Freemasons attended the Icknield Road Club, 2017 Spring Sportive, at Redborne School in Ampthill

During the Family Fun Day, they presented a cheque for £4,000 to the East Anglian Air Ambulance. Anthony Henderson, the head of Bedfordshire Freemasons told us: 'Freemasonry in England is 300 years old this year, and charity is one of the foundations upon which Freemasonry is built. As part of our Tercentenary celebrations, we are giving an additional £3 million to local and national charities during 2017. This is in addition to the £30 million we annually give to charities and good causes. The £4,000 we gave to East Anglian Air Ambulance today is part of the £192,000 Freemasons recently gave to the 22 air ambulance and rescue services in England and Wales. This brings the total Freemasons have donated to air ambulance and rescue services in England and Wales since 2007 to £2.1 million.'

Amongst the Bedfordshire Freemasons was Wally Randal (pictured above holding his walking stick) a 101-year old Freemason from Leighton Buzzard. Wally, a former Desert Rat, a member of the Royal British Legion for over 60 years and the oldest poppy seller in England told us: 'A member of the air ambulance crew told me that the first helicopter flew in 1939 – some 78 years ago – and just one year before I joined the British Army to fight for King and country in the Second World War aged 24.'

Masonic Charitable Foundation donates £100,000 to East Africa food crisis appeal

Across Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Somalia, over 20 million people are on the brink of starvation. The Masonic Charitable Foundation has been among the first to respond, making an emergency grant of £100,000 to Plan International.

Drought, disease, conflict and displacement in the region have led to the first declaration of famine anywhere in the world in over six years and the UN has warned that the world is now facing the largest humanitarian crisis since 1945.

Our £100,000 grant will help Plan International to provide lifesaving support to over 970,000 people in East Africa, focusing on supporting vulnerable children and their families. This donation will help them to distribute food packages, water purification and hygiene kits. They will also provide school meals to ensure children can resume their education, as well as ensuring vulnerable children are protected from violence and abuse.

Tanya Barron, Chief Executive of Plan International UK, said: 'We’re enormously grateful to the Freemasons for their very generous grant. More than 800,000 children under five are severely malnourished. This grant will help us reach affected children and their families with urgent support.'

With predictions of further poor rainfall coupled with pockets of rising conflict, the situation is likely to deteriorate. Due to the scale of this disaster, swift humanitarian assistance is essential and the Masonic Charitable Foundation is committed to supporting communities who have been affected.

David Innes, Chief Executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation said: 'The crisis in East Africa is one of the worst we have seen in many years and funds are needed now to provide lifesaving support to those affected. The Masonic Charitable Foundation is proud to be one of the first organisations to support this urgent appeal by providing a £100,000 grant to Plan International on behalf of Freemasons across England and Wales.'

Plan International UK is a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee, which this week launched an East Africa Crisis appeal. The DEC is made up of 13 leading aid agencies who together are responding to the food crisis in the region.

Moving the yardstick

A city farm in one of the UK’s most disadvantaged areas is giving young people new confidence. Matt Timms looks at how masonic funding is supporting its vision to transform lives

St Werburghs in Bristol was almost totally overrun with crime in the 1980s after floods forced residents to vacate their homes. Locals recall how the fields became a dumping ground and once-prize allotments grew wild and untamed. Determined to regain some semblance of togetherness, they put a request in to the council for the land. But it wasn’t until sheep were introduced that the community started to properly re-energise.

St Werburghs City Farm has now been improving prospects for people living in the area for 30 years. The two-acre smallholding, one-acre community garden, two-and-a-half-acre conservation site and 13 acres of allotments have become the beating heart of the community. A place that once looked beyond help is thriving and a £38,125 grant awarded by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) will allow the surrounding communities to grow still further.

Urban retreat

Situated in the Bristol ward of Ashley, alongside four others that are among the 10 per cent most disadvantaged in the UK, St Werburghs City Farm provides practical, outdoor and therapeutic opportunities for permanently excluded and disengaged young people.

‘Each year, we support hundreds of causes, including those that provide employment opportunities for young people who are not in education, employment or training,’ says Katrina Baker, Head of Charity Grants at the MCF. ‘We decided to support St Werburghs City Farm because it engages, equips and empowers young people with the confidence and capacity to transform their lives.’

According to Alex, a 17-year-old participant in the farm’s Work2Learn placement scheme, ‘If anyone is in Bristol and they’re having a tough time, they should come to St Werburghs.’ Alex is just one of an estimated 704 people aged 14-19 – most of whom are struggling in mainstream education – who will benefit from the support the farm provides over the next three years thanks to the MCF grant. ‘The people here are my second family,’ he says. ‘We feel equal.’

Now into his third year on the farm, Alex had considered becoming a chef, a train driver and even joining the army, but a love of the outdoors, together with his experiences at St Werburghs, opened his eyes to the joys of farming. ‘Sometimes you just get the feeling you’ll be good at a job,’ he says. His time at St Werburghs has not only given him vital experience, it’s also boosted his confidence.

The farm’s youth development manager, Anna Morrow, has seen Alex and countless others change for the better as a result of the youth programme. ‘When things fall apart, that one day out a week can make all the difference – enough for them to be able to cope,’ she says.

‘St Werburghs City Farm engages, equips and empowers young people with the confidence and capacity to transform their lives’ Katrina Baker

People power

Max, also 17, believes his time at St Werburghs has helped him in life: ‘Being here has shown me about teamwork. There will be some people you get on with, some you don’t, but that’s life and you have to accept that.’ For Max, interacting with people on the farm has exposed him to a world outside mainstream education and given him opportunities he otherwise might not have had. His mother has noticed a marked improvement in Max’s moods, and firmly believes he has benefited socially from having other adults to talk to.

Morrow recalls a 14-year-old young carer who used his placement to overcome problems at school, mostly to do with aggression. ‘He was doing everything at home: cooking, cleaning, taking the parent role,’ she says. ‘All that was taking its toll.’ Starting at just one morning a week, his experience at St Werburghs made such a difference that he ended up helping out three days a week and eventually went on to gain an apprenticeship in farming.

For young people living on the perimeters of society, schools are limited in how they can address complex personal issues, so having a place like the city farm can be a lifeline. ‘It’s all about relationships,’ says Beth Silvey, a youth worker at the farm. ‘Participants get to do things they’d never get to do anywhere else. And I think that builds trust. It’s a nurturing environment and they are very much part of the team. It’s a group activity that isn’t intense, so they talk to us. It’s like a family here.’

Growing a community

Personal development, self-esteem and support networks aside, an equally important aspect of the farm’s work is improved community cohesion, particularly in an area where so many young people live below the poverty line. More than half of children are living in income-deprived households in three areas within walking distance of the farm.

The thinking behind the project is clear: if you catch anxieties at an early stage then you’re able to address issues before they balloon out of control. ‘It’s really important,’ says Silvey, ‘it can tip the balance at a crucial time. And we wouldn’t be able to do that without the money from the Masonic Charitable Foundation.’

Thanks to the MCF grant and a new building, the farm has been able to extend all its work placements and start a new enterprise project. With the continued support of the MCF and the proud members of the community, St Werburghs City Farm has become an invaluable asset in bettering the situation facing young people in the area.

‘People come here because they’re accepted,’ says Max, who has himself been witness to some extraordinary stories. ‘The people are just nice; no one is bothered by difference.’ And in an area that continues to suffer from poverty, having a place that is very much loved and embraced by the community is crucial.

Published in Masonic Samaritan Fund

Refresh for Ripon Cathedral

Ripon Cathedral has received two grants totalling £12,500 from the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding, which will help to pay for the renewal of ancient flagstones.

The Dean of Ripon John Dobson received the two grants – one for £7,500 from West Riding Masonic Charities Limited, and a second of £5,000 from the Masonic Charitable Foundation. These were presented by David Pratt, PGM; Jack Pigott, Chairman of West Riding Masonic Charities; and Paul Clarke, APGM.

Tuesday, 07 March 2017 00:00

OBE for James Newman

James Newman, Deputy President and Chairman of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), as well as a member of the Three Counties (No. 9278) and Old Wellingburian (No. 5570) lodges in the Province of Northamptonshire & Huntingdonshire, has been named in the New Year’s Honours list, having been appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE).

The citation reads: ‘For services to Business, the Economy and Charity in Yorkshire.’ James, a chartered accountant by profession, said, ‘Naturally, I am absolutely delighted to be honoured in this way and particularly pleased with the “charity” part as it reflects my work at the RMBI [Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution] and will assist in my work for the MCF going forward.’

Quarterly Communication

14 December 2016 
An address by VW Bro His Honour Judge Richard Hone, President, and David Innes, Chief Executive

Richard Hone: Pro Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master and brethren, I am delighted to address Grand Lodge for the first time, as President of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, and I am very proud to be the first person to hold this position.

The launch of the Foundation marks a new era in the long and proud history of masonic charity that has been built on the increasing collaboration between the four charities over recent years.

Our new charity, which has been formed following the consolidation of the four central masonic charities, opened for business in April this year. The work necessary to establish the Foundation is now largely complete and it has been a significant undertaking to bring together four charities that have operated separately for many years, in some cases since the 18th century.

In recent times, the predecessor charities have supported 5,000 Freemasons and their family members each year, at an annual cost of around £15 million, and we anticipate operating on this scale, or hopefully higher, for the near future.

But behind these statistics, there are thousands of stories about Masonic families across England and Wales, whose lives have been blighted by unexpected distress. Each story is unique – some are affected by financial hardship, others by ill health, disability, or just plain old age! Some stories are brief, whilst others extend for many years.

But every story has three things in common. The first is that everyone involved is a Freemason, or his wife, widow, partner, child or even his grandchild. The second is that all of them have experienced some kind of challenge that has made their lives difficult. And the third is that we at the centre have supported them. It is this third commonality that, I believe, has been the main driver for establishing the Foundation and the area where the greatest benefit will be felt. With a single charity, it is now much easier to understand and access the support we provide.

An additional advantage, and one that is particularly beneficial to the reputation of Freemasonry as a whole, is that bringing the charities together has created a sizeable organisation within the UK charity sector. This will help us to raise our public profile and allow us to have a significant voice of influence within the sector.

Through the work of the previous charities, Freemasons provided support amounting to over £100 million in recent years to charities and medical research projects across England and Wales.

The Foundation is continuing this legacy and since our launch in April, 350 grants totalling over £3 million have been awarded to non-masonic causes, and more are planned before the end of the financial year.

Next year, in addition to our main grant-making programme, we will help celebrate the Tercentenary by awarding 300 additional grants totalling £3 million to local charities operating across England and Wales. Over the past two months Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Lodges have been nominating charities for these Community Awards. In January, we will be asking the selected charities to submit formal bids outlining the purpose and size of the grant they would like. Once the submissions have been reviewed and confirmed, we will be inviting everyone – both the masonic community and the general public – to vote for those charities that have been put forward.

Freemasonry will therefore be helping more charities than ever before during this important year and by involving the public in the voting process, many people will learn about the charitable nature of our fraternity.

Bringing the charities together has also allowed us to improve the way we communicate with those who make our work possible: Almoners, Charity Stewards and many others.

Last month, we hosted our first Provincial Grand Almoners’ Conference in Manchester under the MCF banner. One of the key themes was to provide guidance and training to those who are most closely involved in the application process. Similarly, we held a Festival Forum here at Freemasons’ Hall – a one-day conference, which brings together those running appeals so that they can share ideas, learn from one another and, as a result, raise more funds for our cause.

Whilst part of our yearly income comes from the Annual Contribution, the MCF, like its predecessor charities, will continue to rely on the festival system for the majority of its income. For the next few years, festivals are still in place for the separate charities and this year the Provinces of Norfolk, Cumberland and Westmorland, Cheshire, and Hampshire and Isle of Wight have all successfully concluded appeals, with the latter setting a new record of £7.7m raised. A remarkable achievement!

This year, the first appeals for the MCF have been launched in Essex – who I’m told have Hampshire’s total in their sights, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, with West Lancashire and Worcestershire to follow very soon in the New Year. 

We are extremely grateful to all our donors and fundraisers and I hope that, at the end of this short presentation, you will agree with me that these donations are being well spent and carefully managed.

Whilst it is my privilege to be able to represent the MCF as its President here today, I cannot claim credit for the work that has taken place to get the new charity off the ground. Led by my Deputy President and Chairman, the Trustees and, of course, the staff of the MCF have taken on much of that responsibility.

They have all worked very hard over the last year or more and have achieved an enormous amount, as you will hear from David Innes shortly.

Looking ahead, I believe that we have – to all intents and purposes – realised our vision of creating a single charity that can support the next generation of Freemasons.

To tell you more about Foundation’s work so far this year and our plans for the future, I’m delighted to hand over to its first Chief Executive, David Innes.

David Innes: Pro Grand Master, brethren all – good morning. It is a huge privilege for me, as the MCF’s first Chief Executive, to helping to shape the next chapter in the proud history of masonic charitable support and I’m really enjoying the challenge.

At the time of my previous address to Grand Lodge in March, Leicester City sat at the top of the Premier League, David Cameron had no intention of leaving No. 10 this year and Donald Trump seemed far from securing the Republican nomination, let alone winning the Presidential race! Clearly a lot can happen in 9 months and that has certainly been the case within the MCF.

Back in March, you may recall that I spoke about a three-phase consolidation process to create the Foundation during this year.

The first stage was ensuring that the required legal and governance foundations were in place to underpin a new, integrated organisation with the appropriate structure and systems for the future. I’m pleased to report that this phase, which also involved the transfer of all CMC staff to the MCF and RMBI staff to the new RMBI Care Co, was completed successfully on 1 April.

The second phase, which took place during the summer months, was the actual reorganisation itself and the physical relocation of staff into their new teams, albeit in temporary locations. Again, this has been completed successfully and all staff are now in their new posts with new contracts.

The final phase is still ongoing and involves a period of bedding in, during which the policies and procedures of the MCF are being finalised and the necessary systems needed to run the charity are becoming fully operational, such as our new grant-management software. We have also undertaken a major job evaluation exercise to ensure that every employee, irrespective of their former charity, is paid on a fair and equal basis, and that salaries are set in line with the sector.

I am delighted with the way all our staff have approached this potentially unsettling process. They quickly grasped the concept of what we were trying to achieve, and have willingly embraced new ways of working. Several members of the team have worked for the charities for over 20 years and many more in excess of 10 years, and I’m pleased that we have been able to retain so much experience and expertise as the new organisation takes shape. The bottom line is that they have been fantastic!

From my own perspective, I handed over responsibility for RMBI Care Co to the new Managing Director, Mark Lloyd, in October. Since then, I have been able to focus fully on the MCF. I have formed a Senior Leadership Team comprising directors and heads of department which meets monthly to assist me in running the charity. The majority of the day-to-day management for grant-making and fundraising lies in the very capable hands of Les Hutchinson, our Chief Operating Officer.

We have recently appointed our first Finance Director, Charles Angus, who brings a great deal of experience and is settling in very well. Charles has taken over from our Interim FD Chris Head and, Pro Grand Master, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Chris for all that he has done to help get the MCF up-and-running during the past 10 months.

The finance function was undoubtedly the most complex to integrate and, together with the Finance Committee, chaired by Mike Heenan, the team has put in a huge amount of work to create a unified accounting system that is both fit for purpose and statutorily compliant.

The only major element of phase three outstanding is the reconfiguration of our office accommodation, most of which is two storeys directly below us. During this two month project, which began on Monday, we have set up temporary office accommodation in the Gallery Suite on the Ground Floor of Freemasons’ Hall, but plan to move back downstairs in early February.

The refit will further remove barriers – both physical and psychological – and enable the staff to work together far more efficiently within a shared culture and working environment. It has also served as an excellent spring-cleaning exercise!

At the current time, the Trustees and staff are working hard to ensure that everyone is aware of the changes that have taken place, and to firmly entrench the single charity concept and our new brand into the consciousness of the Craft.

Many visits have been made to Provinces by our Trustees and senior management to spread the word, and we are extremely grateful to all those PGMs who have given us the opportunity to speak in their Provinces.

All of us involved in the consolidation process have stressed that there should be no adverse effect on the charitable services we provide to those in need. As far as we are aware, that has been the case. Indeed, following our launch, enquires for support have increased with over 1,200 received within the last three months alone.

Looking to the future, the Foundation will continue to provide its wide range of grants for Freemasons and their families experiencing a financial, health or family need as we have always done. But having a single charity with broad objects provides us with opportunities that go far beyond just financial grants. We now have the chance to adapt our charity to be more responsive and to offer new services to meet the needs of the masonic community, now and in the future.

Whilst the Craft will spend much of next year celebrating the remarkable milestone of the Tercentenary, our thoughts are already turning to the longer-term – as we look to build a new charity for a new generation.

Now that the Trustee Board and the Committees that serve it are up and running and working well, over the next few months they will be looking to formulate a forward-looking strategy for the Foundation that will dictate the direction of travel during the next five years.

We are keeping a very open mind about what we could do better to support those in need and are willing to explore all manner of proposals, however radical they may appear.

I would like to reassure you that the views of the Craft will be sought and represented in our discussions. Our first members’ meeting and AGM takes place later today, at which two nominated members from each Province and London will be provided with an update about our work, and the opportunity to comment and question our activities. We are looking forward to welcoming the Deputy Grand Master.

We plan to share an overview of our strategy with the Craft towards the middle of next year and this should provide you with a sense of what the Foundation will look like in the future.

For now though, and with only the final few weeks of the year remaining, I am delighted with where we are and am confident that your charity is well placed for the future.

Brethren, on behalf of everyone at the Masonic Charitable Foundation, I wish you a happy Christmas and thank you for all that you are doing to support our work.

Published in Speeches
Monday, 12 December 2016 13:01

Giving a voice

Giving a voice

The Choir with No Name puts on weekly singing groups and meals for the UK’s homeless and socially excluded. Emilee Tombs went along to a rehearsal to find out how the Masonic Charitable Foundation is helping

It’s a muggy Monday evening in London, and a group has started to gather on the steps of the Only Connect Theatre in Kings Cross. Some are old, some young, some large, some small, but all are chatting animatedly, waiting for the heavy metal doors to open. This is the weekly gathering of the Choir with No Name (CWNN), a charity set up in 2008 to offer weekly singing classes and dinner to the homeless and vulnerably housed. They’re anxious to get inside and start singing.

‘I first came to the choir because I needed something positive to concentrate on,’ says Stef, a 41-year-old ex drug addict who spent a lot of his young adult life homeless or in and out of institutions. ‘When I was 19, I was living on the streets of Piccadilly Circus and I became addicted to drugs. To fund my addiction, I shoplifted and worked as a prostitute. It was only when I came to choir and had something to get well for that I was able to successfully go to rehab and get myself clean.’

Now a freelance florist, Stef is just one of the success stories present at the singing session, with many other choir members eager to discuss not only their hardships but also their achievements, which they directly attribute to the weekly CWNN gatherings. At 6pm on the dot the doors swing open and the group filters downstairs to grab cups of tea and biscuits, passed out by sociable volunteers.

On a level

There’s no audition to join CWNN, no fees, and no obligation to attend every week. The initiative has proven popular and there are now four choirs in the UK: two in London, one in Birmingham and one in Liverpool. ‘Everyone here has different experiences,’ says Sascha, a flame-red-haired woman who is attending choir for the first time tonight. ‘There’s fellowship and sharing and community here that I’d been missing in my life. It’s unimaginably important to have groups like this.’

After spending 25 years working as a teacher in international schools in Japan, Uzbekistan, Nigeria, Kenya and Romania, Sascha returned to the UK to find herself homeless, and is currently living on friends’ couches while she tries to establish a life for herself in London again.

Vince, a long-standing member and Sascha’s friend, interrupts. ‘With some groups you don’t fit in,’ he says, ‘but everybody fits in here.’ Sascha agrees: ‘Exactly. Choir is kind of a leveller.’

‘There’s fellowship and sharing and community here that I’d been missing in my life. It’s unimaginably important.’ Sascha

Reducing isolation

For the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), CWNN is more than just a singing group. ‘The choir is about building people’s confidence and their social skills, as well as teaching them to be tolerant of others,’ says Caroline McHale, Senior Grants Officer at the MCF. ‘The beneficiaries are people who have been excluded from society in some way, so teamwork like this, which aims to reduce their isolation, is extremely important. The choir is the conduit, but for the members it’s so much more than that.’

After reviewing the choir’s application, the MCF donated £5,000 to help towards its running costs. ‘The fact that it runs workshops in hostels and day centres as well as the weekly choir, and was able to help 500 vulnerable adults last year, was important for us,’ says McHale.

It’s show time and the choir makes its way upstairs to a towering white room with wooden floors. Wrought-iron balustrades above are festooned with lights and there’s a stage at one end and a piano at the other. After strict instructions to not talk over each other from choir master Liz, the group gets into the warm-up exercises, sticking out tongues and pulling faces at each other, which elicits a belly-shaking laugh from the back of the room. ‘I’ve missed that laugh, Kevin,’ Liz calls to the black cap of a doubled-over figure in the third row. Kevin pulls himself together enough to join in again, grinning widely.

Breaking out

After learning a verse and chorus from Our House by Madness and David Bowie’s Life on Mars, we head back downstairs for vegetable fajitas in the break-out room. One of the choir ambassadors David notes that for some this might be the only meal they’ll get all week.

In 1993 a car accident left David with a severe brain injury, and singing in the choir became an integral part of his recovery. Like a number of the members he’s not currently homeless, but has experienced it to a degree in his life, and CWNN has provided him with help and support to find accommodation. ‘There was a whole lot of things I did to help me to be okay in mind and body again after the accident. When everything else ended or didn’t go well the choir was my constant.’

Having joined in 2010, David is one of the longest-standing members, and his role as ambassador sees him promoting the choir and helping to organise events, such as the upcoming Christmas concert at Shoreditch Town Hall. ‘Choir has done so much for me, and for everyone here,’ he says, looking to Stef, who is also an ambassador, for assurance.

Stef backs him up wholeheartedly. ‘Whether it’s the social interaction you enjoy or just popping in for a decent meal, you’ll instantly feel really comfortable,’ he says. ‘I’ve never felt so supported.’

FIND OUT MORE To read about the Choir with No Name, go to www.choirwithnoname.org 

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