9 March 2016
An address by VW Bro James Newman, Deputy President-designate, and David Innes, Chief Executive
RW Bro Deputy Grand Master and brethren, firstly thank you very much for unanimously approving the changes to the Book of Constitutions a few minutes ago. These changes, in essence, facilitate the creation of the Masonic Charitable Foundation and its strong links to Grand Lodge by the appointment of a President and Deputy President.
Indeed brethren, to paraphrase that part of our initiation ceremony, which specifically relates to charity, if you had not approved the changes, 'the subject of this presentation would have to have been postponed'.
Happily, it is now only three weeks until the official launch of our new charity. MCF, which I am sure it will be known as, will open for business on 1 April. Despite the date being April Fools' Day, for those of us involved, it will be no joking matter.
Your new charity has been established following a long and very thorough review of how the four central masonic charities currently operate, could work together in the future and how best they can collectively serve the masonic community in particular. The Bagnall Report in 1973 made quite a number of recommendations, some of which were implemented, but many others were not, as they were not felt appropriate at that time.
In those intervening 43 years, some attempts have been made to further integrate masonic charitable support but with little success. More importantly, both the Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund have been successfully established and society and Freemasonry have both changed beyond recognition, so another major review was long overdue.
So why has this review succeeded in getting to such an advanced stage. As with all things, especially in Freemasonry, it's all about people and their willingness to compromise and work for a better solution.
In traditional masonic style, I will start at the top. Deputy Grand Master, we would like to offer our sincere thanks to you, for all your active support and encouragement throughout this whole process as well as your guidance through the black, or perhaps I should say, dark blue hole, that is masonic politics. Although not planned, it is entirely appropriate that you, as the Ruler responsible for charity affairs, should be in the chair at this particular meeting.
With so many Provincial Grand Masters present today, it is also an ideal opportunity to thank you all, and your predecessors, for both your foresight and your patience. Some years ago, you collectively identified the need for change. Your concept of the future has helped us shape what has now been developed and many of you have made, and continue to make, valued contributions to the process.
As you will realise, I am making this presentation on behalf of my fellow Presidents, both present and past. We have worked together now for a good number of years on this review, had some robust discussions along the way but always came back to the overriding objective – how do we create the best, long term and the most efficient solution to provide charitable support and protect our fundraising activities.
Whilst the Presidents have set the policies and persuaded and sometimes had to cajole their Trustees to support the review’s recommendations, I hope you will all agree that we owe a big debt to our four Chief Executives and their respective staff teams for the professional manner in which they have approached this review, and indeed, are now implementing it.
Change can often be difficult, but our staff have been magnificent throughout and no matter what uncertainty they face for their own futures , they have ensured that the standard of service that you all have come to expect, has been maintained at a consistently high level.
By now I hope you are all aware of the main reasons why the review came to the conclusion that consolidating the charities, by creating an overarching parent charity, was the best and most sustainable solution for the future. The rationale for what we have done is to make best use of the money you all so generously donate and to have a structured and flexible system of support carried out in the most efficient way.
To do this, we will create a single charitable fund with as few restrictions as possible on how we spend it, which will allow us to react to the specific demand or need for support at any point in time from the masonic and non-masonic community. Of course, the existing funds of each of the charities will continue to be spent for the purposes for which they have been raised, as David will explain shortly.
Therefore, I am delighted to hand over to David, our new Chief Executive, who has the unenviable task of knitting all this together, so that he can tell you about our vision for the future and how we plan to realise it.
RW Deputy Grand Master and brethren all, as I am sure you appreciate only too well, the creation of the new Masonic Charitable Foundation is a very significant milestone in the evolution of charitable support, both within and by the masonic community. Although James has said I have an unenviable task, I feel deeply honoured to have been given the opportunity to lead this new charity during its all-important formative years – particularly as I am not a Freemason.
The logo of our new charity depicts a charitable heart at the centre of the widely recognised square and compasses symbol. It is our firm intention that MCF will become extremely well known and appreciated as a force for good by all Freemasons and their families, as well as by the wider charity sector and the public at large. At the same time, the MCF logo must become instantly recognisable as the symbol of masonic charity within the widest possible audience. We will all be working hard to ensure this happens.
I have also used our new logo to explain to staff the structure that we shall be implementing when the charities consolidate next month. The heart symbolises the core function of the charity, namely the provision of beneficial support to the masonic community. It also represents the continuation of the practical support provided to the Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodges, in particular to Provincial Grand Almoners and Provincial Grand Charity Stewards who will remain as important as ever to the success of the new charity.
Similarly, the advice and support team will continue to be an integral element of this support network, operating as it does right in the heart of the masonic community. In time, we hope to expand our direct support by introducing new services – such as the Visiting Volunteer initiative – which we are currently piloting in a number of Provinces.
The heart also symbolises the extensive support available to the wider community through a variety of grants to other charitable causes and, when required, in response to natural disasters. The size and scale of the new charity will enable us to enter into major partnerships with other national charities, and to develop long term programmes of support of national significance, that will have a real and high profile impact. We shall also continue providing support to Lifelites and all the fantastic work it does in children’s hospices.
Another element of the operational support we provide to the masonic community and beyond, is our care homes. These will continue to be a very important part of what we do but, after 1 April, will be run by a separate charitable company within MCF known as RMBI Care Company. This company will have its own board of directors but will be fully accountable to the MCF Board.
Having decided to group all our current operations together for what I hope are obvious reasons, I am delighted that Les Hutchinson has been selected to be the Chief Operating Officer of our new charity and he is already hard at work.
The square underpins all these activities and represents the finance, secretariat and Relief Chest functions. The creation of a unified finance team will ensure that the very significant assets of the new charity are properly managed within all the appropriate regulations, and we are indebted to Chris Head for his help in getting this critical element up and running. Whilst we will be delighted to receive donations via any route, we would much prefer that the generous contributions of the Craft are made through the Relief Chest. It will also continue to deliver the valuable service that is already well-established on behalf of lodges, Provinces and festival appeals, and will be at the centre of our technological revolution.
Festival appeals will continue to be the main source of funding for MCF. During the first few years, those festivals that have already launched on behalf of one of the current four charities will continue to raise funds that will only be available for use according to the charitable objects of that particular charity.
However, this year will see the first MCF festivals launching in the Provinces of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. The funds raised will be available for use according to need across the full spectrum of charitable support.
The third element of the MCF logo is the compasses.
I have described these as setting the key parameters for MCF and ensuring that our communication messages encompass everything we do. Specifically those working in this area will help set the strategic direction for the charity, devise ways to evaluate its performance and facilitate communication with all our stakeholders.
As a new charity, it is vitally important to create a vision, determine KPIs and monitor the effectiveness of all that it does, particularly the use of our resources. It is also important that we look to identify new opportunities in which the MCF, on behalf of Freemasonry, can increase its support to the masonic community and beyond. I’m delighted that Laura Chapman is bringing her considerable experience of masonic charitable support to bear in this important area.
One of the reasons for moving away from the current model of four separate charities was to simplify the message about what the central masonic charities actually do and for whom. We are determined to use the move to a single charity, with a single brand, as an opportunity to deliver a single and effective message to the widest possible audience. The MCF Communications Committee, very ably supported by Richard Douglas, is already hard at work refining a strategy that will cover all activities of the charity and will utilise the complete range of communication channels. The good old fashioned paper materials, like the leaflet that you were given as you arrived for this meeting, will still have an important role to play. Increasingly we will also embrace and exploit digital technology and social media. Beyond that there is also a need to support the Grand Lodge strategy for Freemasonry in the 21st century, and to increase awareness of Freemasonry amongst the charity sector and the wider community.
With the deadline of 1 April rapidly approaching, you will be delighted to hear that the first phase of what I see as a three phase consolidation process is nearly complete.
Having been formally appointed to my new position in December last year, I have focused on ensuring that the required foundations are in place. This has been mainly about developing a new, integrated organisation structure and systems suitable for the future. Another key task has been the formal TUPE consultation process in respect of the transfer of staff to the new charity. This is a time-consuming but vital step, and one that needs to be done properly and carefully. This phase is nearly complete and will see all staff from the three grant-making charities, as well as a few staff from the RMBI, transfer to MCF on 1 April. At the same time, the remainder of the RMBI staff will be transferring to the new RMBI Care Company.
Phase 2, between April and July this year, will see the actual reorganisation itself. Again, in full consultation with staff, it will involve changes to team structures and the physical relocation of staff within the office accommodation. It is quite likely that many employees will have a new line manager and will need to get used to different ways of working.
The transition from four charities to one has, as one of its main purposes, the improvement of the support and services provided to our many and varied stakeholders. This period of transition will be very challenging for everyone involved and I would wish to add my own tribute to the way in which all the staff have worked to bring about this major evolution in the way masonic charity is delivered. I have stressed from the outset that retaining their experience and expertise is vital to achieving change. I know that the staff and Trustees share my determination to prevent any disruption to, or degradation of, the services we provide. In particular, the needs of our beneficiaries will remain paramount throughout and I am absolutely determined that we do not drop the ball in the process – although I’m very happy for Wales to drop it a few times on Saturday!!
Following the reorganisation, there will need to be a period of bedding in. I anticipate this third phase beginning as the masonic year resumes and staff return from their summer holidays. It is my aim that, by December, all new working practices, policies and procedures are totally bedded in, the new grant-making software is fully operational and MCF is firmly established.
Looking beyond this year, I see 2017 as being a busy year for all concerned. In addition to delivering ‘business as usual’, MCF will be supporting the many and varied tercentenary celebrations in conjunction with Grand Lodge.
However, some things won’t change, such the wide range of support provided by the Masonic community for financial, health and family related needs. The simple difference will be that help will be available from a single source, via a single application process that uses standardised eligibility criteria. There will no longer be the need to remember what the four different charities do and risk applying to the wrong one in the wrong way. Further details are provided in the leaflet, which also contains all the relevant contact details for MCF and these are valid now.
Another thing that won’t change is our support to the wider, non-masonic community. Through MCF, Freemasons will continue to support registered charities that help those facing issues with education and employability, financial hardship, age related challenges, health, disability, social exclusion and disadvantage. Support will also continue to be available for the advancement of medical and social research, hospices throughout England and Wales, the air ambulance and other rescue services, as well as disaster relief appeals.
All in all, we anticipate no real change to the support available but a simpler, easier to understand, easier to access, more efficient and more responsive organisation delivering that support – which is considerable.
Each year, support is provided to over 5,000 Freemasons and their families which last year amounted to £15.5 million. In addition to the support given to the masonic community, MCF will also look to allocate between three and a half and five million pounds per year to non-masonic causes. There will also be extra money available next year to commemorate the Tercentenary and further details will be made available in due course. We would welcome your support in ensuring that these messages are communicated to all those who need to hear them.
I hope you will deduce from what I have said that this is an exciting and busy time for Masonic charity. The formation of MCF is good news for beneficiaries, good news for donors and good news for the wider community beyond Freemasonry.
Thank you for listening. I will now hand back to James who will tell you how MCF will be governed and remain accessible to its membership.
Thank you David. Before we finish this short presentation, it's important you all know how MCF is to be governed and how you and the Craft generally are all to be represented.
A Trustee Board has been formed, has already met three times and meets again tomorrow. It has representatives from each of the four current charities and an excellent mix of skills. We have set up a number of committees, who are already hard at work advising on new integrated policies, assisting the executive team and making recommendations to the Trustee Board.
So far, I am glad to say that all is going well, everyone is still talking to each other and there is, of course, lots of brotherly love!
So how will all of you and the Craft be represented and be able to get your views across to the new Trustee Board and executive team? The membership of MCF will consist of the Trustees themselves plus two appointees from Metropolitan Grand Lodge and two from each Province. These nominees will be approved at each Metropolitan or Provincial meeting so that you will all know who they are and can, therefore, ask them to represent your views. There will be at least two members' meetings each year, one of which will be outside London.
Brethren, I mentioned earlier the charity address in the NE corner during our initiation ceremony. That address to the candidate, clearly sets out that charity is one of the key principles of being a mason, one of which we should all be proud of.
That is why today is such a red letter day for Freemasonry in general and masonic charity in particular. We are about to create a very large and we hope nationally recognised, charity, which will become a beacon for us all. The funds we shall have at our disposal have been built up by our predecessors over two and a quarter centuries, and we owe it to them and our current donors and beneficiaries, to make it a success.
Deputy Grand Master and brethren, on behalf of everyone associated with MCF, we hope that you have found this presentation useful and that you will now spread the word about MCF across your Provinces and down here in London. Thank you for listening and we look forward to updating you later in the year.
The Craft and beyond
As the Tercentenary and new masonic charity launch approach, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes reflects on the work required to reach these milestones
The past year has been a busy one. The emphasis was on honing the initiatives to keep us in line with the mission to build a positive reputation for Freemasonry and assure its long-term future.
Fundamental to ensuring that future has been the development of a clear strategy. The Membership Focus Group – supported by 18,000 responses to recent surveys – has shaped this plan, which has, in turn, been approved by the Rulers and by the Provincial Grand Masters. It concentrates on our vision and values but can only be achieved with the support of the majority of members.
Concurrently, the Tercentenary Planning Committee has been making great progress while liaising with Provincial Grand Masters, Provincial Grand Secretaries and Provincial 2017 Representatives. The majority of Provinces have advised the Planning Committee of their main events – sometimes with neighbouring Provinces.
I am very encouraged by the level of enthusiasm that is being shown as we approach the United Grand Lodge of England’s 300th milestone celebration.
I am delighted to confirm that the Charity Commission has formally approved the establishment of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. This has taken a long time to achieve and was a complicated operation overseen by the Deputy Grand Master, with most able help from the charity Presidents, Chief Executives and boards of trustees. We should all be most grateful to them for their hard work.
‘I am very encouraged by the level of enthusiasm that is being shown.’
Preparations for the launch in April 2016 are continuing. A shadow board and various committees have been formed and the first senior staff appointments have been made. David Innes of the RMBI will be the Foundation’s first Chief Executive and Les Hutchinson of the RMTGB will be the Chief Operating Officer.
They both have a wealth of experience and knowledge and are well placed to lead the Foundation. I believe it is important to note that they faced strong competition for these jobs from outside the masonic charities. In advance of the launch, publicity about the Foundation will be increased throughout the Craft and beyond.
I am also delighted to announce that the Grand Master in his capacity as First Grand Principal has appointed Gareth Jones, Provincial Grand Master for South Wales, to succeed David Williamson as Third Grand Principal in Supreme Grand Chapter, with effect from the Annual Royal Arch Investiture on 28 April 2016.
The contribution made by David Williamson in his capacity as Third Grand Principal has been colossal, as his contribution has been throughout masonry.
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.
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.
Chief Executive and Chief Operating Officer of Masonic Charitable Foundation announced
In his speech at today's Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes confirmed the appointments of first Chief Executive and Chief Operating Officer for the newly formed MCF.
Peter Lowndes: David Innes of the RMBI has been selected as the Foundation’s first Chief Executive and Les Hutchinson of the RMTGB has been appointed Chief Operating Officer. They have a wealth of experience and knowledge about masonic charity and are well placed to lead the Foundation. I believe it is important to note that they faced strong competition for these jobs from outside the masonic charities.
9 December 2015
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, I am so pleased to see the excellent turnout today and I would like to extend a very special welcome to those of you attending a Quarterly Communication for the first time. It was four years ago that we decided to admit Master masons to our Quarterly Communications meetings and the number who attend indicate that it has been a popular decision. Whilst you cannot vote, I hope it is still a worthwhile visit and that you will continue to come and encourage others to join you.
Since the last Quarterly Communication in September, the Grand Master celebrated his eightieth birthday on 9th October. On behalf of all of the members of the United Grand Lodge of England, a message of congratulations was sent.
2015 has been a very busy year. The particular emphasis has been on honing the initiatives to keep us in line with the overall mission to build a positive reputation for Freemasonry and assure its long term future.
Fundamental to ensuring that long term future has been the development of a clear strategy. The Membership Focus Group, supported by 18,000 responses from members to the recent surveys, has shaped this strategy which, in turn, has been approved by the Rulers and by the Provincial Grand Masters. The strategy concentrates on our vision and our values. Our 2020 strategic objectives are attached to the front cover of the latest edition of Freemasonry Today.
This enables all our members to read the strategy, it also asks members to help in supporting both the strategy and the objectives. To be clear, this strategy can only be achieved with the support of the vast majority of the members.
Concurrently the Tercentenary Planning Committee has been making great progress whilst liaising with Provincial Grand Masters, Provincial Grand Secretaries and Provincial 2017 Representatives. The majority of Provinces have advised the Planning Committee of the main events that are being planned locally – sometimes with neighbouring Provinces. I am very encouraged by the level of enthusiasm which is being shown as we approach the United Grand Lodge of England’s 300th milestone celebration.
I am delighted to confirm that the Charity Commission has formally approved the establishment of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. This has taken a long time to achieve and was a complicated operation overseen by the Deputy Grand Master and with most able help from the Charity Presidents, Chief Executives and Boards of Trustees We should all be most grateful to them for their hard work.
Preparations for the launch of the Masonic Charitable Foundation in April 2016 are continuing. A shadow board and various committees have been formed and during the past few weeks the first senior staff appointments have been made. David Innes of the RMBI has been selected as the Foundation’s first Chief Executive and Les Hutchinson of the RMTGB has been appointed Chief Operating Officer. They have a wealth of experience and knowledge about masonic charity and are well placed to lead the Foundation. I believe it is important to note that they faced strong competition for these jobs from outside the masonic charities.
In advance of April’s launch, publicity about the Masonic Charitable Foundation will be increased throughout the Craft and beyond. As you leave today you will be handed a simple leaflet which introduces you to the identity and approach of the new charity.
Brethren, I am delighted to announce that the Most Worshipful The Grand Master in his capacity as First Grand Principal has appointed Excellent Companion Gareth Jones, Past Deputy Grand Sword Bearer, who is better known in the Craft as Provincial Grand Master for South Wales, to succeed Most Excellent Companion David Williamson as Third Grand Principal in Supreme Grand Chapter, with effect from the Annual Royal Arch Investiture on 28 April 2016. On that day I hope to have the pleasure of installing him. The contribution made by ME Comp Williamson in his capacity as Third Grand Principal for five years has been colossal, as, indeed, his contribution has been throughout masonry, but more about that on another occasion.
Brethren, it only remains for me to wish you and your families a very happy Christmas. In recent times, brethren, we have tended to refer to Christmas as the Festive Season. In Paris last weekend at the GLNF we were wished a Happy Christmas by the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of Israel during his speech in GLNF and afterwards I was wished the same by several brethren from other religious backgrounds. They all consider us to be grossly over sensitive on the subject. So, Happy Christmas, everyone!
Above and beyond
Sharing a core belief in the importance of mutual respect and helping others, Freemasons are supporting The Scout Association as it takes its message to more young people, as Peter Watts discovers
When Carlos Lopez-Plandolit took stock of his work-life balance and decided to volunteer for his local Scout group in East London, he initially planned to drop in for an hour each week. But, he explains, ‘I quickly got sucked in and within two weeks ended up leading the group. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.’
Lopez-Plandolit’s group is located in a struggling inner-city borough, and these are precisely the areas the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB) will target with its substantial new grant to The Scout Association. ‘We are giving a three-year grant of £211,200 to the Better Prepared initiative, which funds and sustains Scout groups in 200 of the most deprived parts of the UK,’ explains Les Hutchinson, CEO of the RMTGB.
The Scout Association plans to start 468 groups in these areas, and the RMTGB grant will get 66 of them started. Funds will pay for premises, uniforms, equipment, membership fees and training volunteers. Each new unit will receive £3,200, reflecting the greater level of support needed in areas identified as being deprived for reasons of poor health, education and crime by the Index of Multiple Deprivation.
With the first RMTGB-funded groups launching by the end of 2015, the grant follows a donation of £500,000 in 2008 to The Scout Association from the Grand Charity in a partnership that lasted six years. The money was used to encourage more young people to join the Scouting movement, providing start-up and activity grants. In total, more than one million young people received new materials and equipment paid for by the Grand Charity’s grant, with over 1,600 new Scout sections formed and 23,500 young people becoming involved across England and Wales.
For Hutchinson, the masonic funding is creating new opportunities: ‘The Scout Association has evidence that the skills Scouting provides can help with education and employment. Scouting really helps develop qualities that can make a difference later in life.’
Preparing for the future
Paul Wilkinson, the Better Prepared project manager, explains the strong educational thread that runs through The Scout Association. ‘Essentially, we’re trying to help young people grow and develop,’ he says. ‘We’re trying to help them take an active place in society, to learn to act with integrity, to be honest, trustworthy and loyal. We encourage them to have respect for other people and for themselves.’
Although Robert Baden-Powell was not a mason, the Scout movement he founded in 1907 has a strong overlap with the principles of Freemasonry. While some parallels are cosmetic, such as the use of signs, ranks, uniforms and regalia, others are intrinsic. Tony Harvey’s 2012 Prestonian Lecture focused on the connections between the two bodies. With both open to all – regardless of faith, race or background – Tony explained in the lecture how these two membership organisations share the same core values.
IN GOOD COMPANY
‘Our mission is to change young people’s lives for the better,’ says Wilkinson, ‘and we are pleased to be working in partnership with Freemasonry across the UK. The masonic community shares our vision to deliver life-changing experiences to all young people, no matter what their background.’
Hutchinson echoes Wilkinson’s sentiments: ‘The key aspects of Scouting are respect for your fellow man, having a strict moral code and doing the right thing. That’s a large part of Freemasonry too.’ Non-mason Lopez-Plandolit, meanwhile, attributes the appeal of Scouting to one key factor: ‘What I love about it is that it seems to focus on the common denominators across all religions; it is about being kind to the environment, to your friends and family. They are very pure, these principles.’
Despite the leisure opportunities available to children today, The Scout Association has found that once it establishes a local group, children flock to it. The next challenge is to establish groups in areas where poverty has been a barrier to joining or volunteering. ‘We appeal to young people,’ says Wilkinson. ‘We know that if we go in with the right messages, young people are relatively easy to recruit and some are desperate to join.’
Lopez-Plandolit sees first-hand how young people respond to joining. The Beaver Scouts, who are the youngest section of the Scouting family at six to eight years old, describe their meetings in East London as the highlight of their week, relishing activities such as kayaking and climbing. Lopez-Plandolit’s young group are multinational and this is something he celebrates through activities such as cooking: ‘The children cook something from their parents’ country and everybody has to taste it and say what they like.’
The masonic grant for the Better Prepared project marks a major commitment for the RMTGB. ‘It is a significant undertaking,’ Hutchinson admits. ‘While the shape of the Trust will change as the four masonic charities come together, this grant will leave a lasting legacy of support for children from deprived backgrounds – our remit is to support children in the wider sense, not just children of masons, and this will enable us to reach out to those who most need our help in a very effective way.’
‘The Scout Association’s mission is to change young people’s lives for the better, and the masonic community shares our vision.’ Paul Wilkinson
The RMTGB will keep a close eye on the project as it develops. ‘Part of the reason we are donating in three instalments is so we can maintain some control,’ says Hutchinson. ‘We will receive regular reports so we can see the impact of the funding, and discover publicity opportunities to raise the profile of the masonic charity and Freemasonry in general. We also want to ensure the grants are evenly spread across England and Wales.’
The final instalment from the RMTGB coincides with the 300th anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England in 2017, and Hutchinson hopes that Freemasonry will take pride in the achievements of the initiative as it celebrates this important milestone. ‘We want to learn from each other,’ he says. ‘The Scout Association has a wealth of experience in working with children and will have practices we can use in our charitable work, now and in the future.’
While masonic contributions are being made at a national level, individuals can donate their time on a local level. An accountant, for example, could audit the books for their local group one night a year. The rewards are extolled by Lopez-Plandolit, who enthuses about his time as a volunteer with the Beaver Scouts. ‘They surprise you so much and are a constant reminder of how we should look at things as if it’s for the first time – to ask lots of questions,’ he says. ‘It’s a great outlook to have around me. I learn so much from them.’
From cooking on open log fires through to building shelters and geocaching, there’s rarely a dull moment at the 2nd East London Scout group (pictured). Based on the Isle of Dogs, the group meets at least three nights a week to play games, set challenges and prepare for their annual scavenger hunt, which this year saw Scouts from across the county raising money for Nepalese aid projects. With 130 members in the 2nd East London group, each night caters to a different age range. ‘We are Scouting every day of the week,’ says Vicky Thompson, Scout leader. ‘Our kids never need to hang out on the streets because, with the Scouts, there’s always something to do.’
Letters to the Editor - No. 32 Winter 2015
I picked up your magazine today and the picture on the front moved me. I have been involved with the Guide association ever since my daughter attended Rainbows, and both my boys attended the movement from Beaver through to Scout. Your picture has captured everything there is to say about Scouting. I am hoping that it has brought a cheer to many more faces while they flick through your magazine. Well done.
Marion Bell, wife of Stephen Bell, Legheart Lodge, No. 6897, Welling, West Kent
Can I thank you for the article on Scouting in the latest issue of Freemasonry Today magazine? I have been involved with Scouts since I joined as a Wolf Cub in 1957, now serving as an assistant commissioner for the Lincoln district, as well as being a Past Master of two Scouting lodges.
Scouting greatly helped me after becoming disabled in 1974 following a horse riding accident. The Scouts did not mind ‘Skip’ having a wonky leg and helped me overcome my disability. Today I think there is much I can give back; after all, I get as much fun as the kids do out of it.
You don’t have to be a uniformed leader to help the organisation. Uniformed leaders run the day-to-day programmes but need the support of executive committees to look after the management side of Scouting. As many Freemasons have good life skills, they could be useful at group, district or county level. My own district meets every other month for a couple of hours to deal with mixed issues, from starting new groups to controlling the budget and various district events.
Scouting is expanding and in Lincoln we have started two new groups within a year, with two more in the planning.
If you feel you might be interested in giving some time to Scouting, then you can look them up on their website.
Hugh Sargent, Rudyard Kipling Lodge, No. 9681, Horncastle, Lincolnshire
It’s show time
An initiative to give disadvantaged young people the chance to fulfil their musical dreams and find employment is being supported through masonic funding, as Imogen Beecroft discovers
Over in one corner of a room two people are huddled together at a piano, perfecting a duet. Across the way, young men and women are memorising rap lyrics, strumming guitars and fiddling with DJ decks. Given the sheer array of musical ability, you would think you had stumbled into a professional West End rehearsal. In fact, these groups of young people are preparing for their final performance after just six weeks of training at the Roundhouse – a former railway engine shed in London’s Chalk Farm that is now a performing arts and concert venue, and a charitable trust.
As soon as the first group goes on stage, the friendly, laid-back atmosphere gives way to a vibrant energy as everyone rises to their feet. One of the people singing along most enthusiastically is Africa Krobo-Edusei. He was working in a restaurant when he heard about the Roundhouse’s OnTrack project, a programme for young people aged 16-25 to learn about the music industry.
‘I hated waking up in the morning and going to work,’ Africa remembers. ‘I quit my job because I knew this would be the thing for me. I have such a passion for music, so I took a risk and have no regrets. Now I’ve found a course that has inspired me, I wake up every day feeling happy.’
The intensive course covers all aspects of music production, from songwriting to event management, culminating in a live performance at the Roundhouse. OnTrack is one of the venue’s many programmes and events for young people not in full-time employment, education or training, some of whom have been homeless or in prison. The programmes are overseen by youth support worker (YSW) Angus Scott-Miller, whose role is part-funded by Stepping Stones, a non-masonic giving scheme operated by the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB). The scheme, which aims to reduce child poverty by helping disadvantaged children and young people to access education, awarded a grant of £20,000 to The Roundhouse Trust in 2011, followed by a further £20,000 in 2014.
Les Hutchinson, CEO of the RMTGB, says: ‘The Roundhouse Trust is one of a very small number of charities to have received a second grant from the scheme. The RMTGB decided to provide support on both these occasions due to the wide range of opportunities that the organisation offers for disadvantaged young people. Freemason’s Hall is also located within the same London Borough as the Roundhouse, so it was the perfect opportunity to support a charity on our doorstep.’
Angus coordinates the youth support team, visits schools and pupil referral units (for children who have been excluded from school), and provides pastoral support for 200 young people each year. Fran Pilcher, trusts and statutory manager at the Roundhouse, says: ‘The grant from the RMTGB has allowed Angus to continue to engage some of the most disadvantaged young people with creative opportunities.
‘Many of those who access our services are vulnerable and experiencing multiple difficulties. The YSW role helps to create a safe environment for any young person, many of whom have no other support networks to turn to. With the backing of the RMTGB, it has become an integral part of the Roundhouse.’
Angus, 30, has been a YSW for six years but has been involved with the Roundhouse since he was 16 years old, when he was a student on one of its programmes. ‘It was the first thing I did outside school,’ he says. ‘It was a big step for me and I fell in love with the arts thanks to the Roundhouse.’
A few years later, Angus was checking the Roundhouse website daily to see if there were any jobs available when he saw an advert for his current role. ‘At the time my mum was kicking me out and all I had were two job interviews,’ he says. ‘I got two offers but took the one at the Roundhouse because I just love it. It did a lot for me as a kid and I want to give something back.’
Playing to strengths
Angus’s background helps him in his role providing pastoral care for the young people in the programme, of which 60 per cent are classified as disadvantaged, and he speaks passionately about the difficulties facing young people in London. ‘It’s so easy to get lost in a big city and get mixed up with the wrong crowd.’
Oliver Carrington, who manages the RMTGB’s Stepping Stones scheme, says Angus ‘does a fantastic job in building trust with the most disadvantaged young people that access the Roundhouse’s services. He helps participants overcome any potential barriers that they may face and is very effective in developing their strengths and nurturing their talents.’
Angus is modest about his work, but has dealt with issues as diverse as someone liking a girl at school through to abuse and suicide. ‘For a young person to trust you, you’ve got to build a relationship, and once you have that they will want to come to you for advice,’ he says, adding that he builds this trust by not putting on a persona. ‘I just listen, try to understand and help.’
Angus recalls one young person going through a particularly tough time. ‘He’d robbed a house and taken a lot of money. Some people found out, came to his house with guns and threatened his mum.’ Angus helped him get on a drama course at the Roundhouse. ‘After that he went to drama school. He now has his own place, a girlfriend and he’s acting professionally. I don’t think there’s anywhere in the world that helps young people like the Roundhouse. I don’t want to blow my own trumpet, but that’s what we do: we change lives.’
Africa believes the Roundhouse has turned his life around too. ‘There are people who show an interest in you and teach you how to apply your skills to the real world. They let you know that music isn’t just a hobby – it can be a career and you can excel if you put in the time.’ Africa has indeed excelled in his course, making strides in his musical ability as well as finding lifelong friends. ‘It feels like we’ve built a little family,’ he says.
Once the course is over, the young emerging artists can return to the Roundhouse for various events, or book out one of the venue’s studio spaces from £1 an hour to start making their own music. As Angus says, ‘It won’t be goodbye. This is just a welcome to the Roundhouse.’
Africa is certain he’ll be back and already has big plans for his musical future: ‘I’m going to start an artist development programme that takes on young artists like myself and works to help give them some direction. I always had a passion but this place is making that dream into more of a reality.’
Pass it on
Drawing upon the teamwork found in a game of football, sports charity Street League is giving unemployed young people new prospects. Sarah Holmes reports on how Freemasons are supporting the charity as it reaches out to even more communities
It’s a blustery winter afternoon at the Moberly Sports and Education Centre in north-west London and, despite the menacing grey sky above, twenty or so lads have gathered to play their weekly game of football. Refereeing is Adam White, a twenty-three-year-old sports coach from Wembley. He used to play in these games all the time, before he was referred on to study for a Football Association (FA) coaching qualification by Street League, the charity that organises the matches.
‘Three years ago, I would have been more inclined to stay in bed on a day like this,’ admits Adam. ‘But Street League gave me the opportunity to change my ways. It made me more motivated and confident.’
Established in 2001, Street League uses football to engage unemployed young people – both girls and boys – from disadvantaged backgrounds across England and Scotland.
The aim is to get as many individuals as possible back into training and employment through its innovative academy network, which teaches essential employability skills and GCSE-equivalent qualifications through a ten-week programme.
Now, thanks to a grant of £20,000 from the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB), Street League will be able to run an additional academy in south-west London – helping a further twenty young people to find employment in 2015.
At school, Adam was better known as the ‘naughty one’ – a reputation that only fuelled his disruptive behaviour. Things reached a head in 2006, when, at the age of fifteen, he was expelled. ‘School wasn’t the best time for me,’ he says. ‘I used to be silly and mess around. Football was the only thing that mattered, so my parents and teachers used it as a carrot to dangle in front of me to make me behave. I remember my mum hiding my trainers whenever I was naughty.’
After completing the Street League course in 2012, Adam went on to achieve his Level 1 FA coaching qualification, later returning to the charity to volunteer at two of its academies.
Now a paid Street League staff member, he is helping others to find focus in life, as he did. ‘As someone who has been through the process, it’s incredibly gratifying to see the lads come out the other side and get jobs,’ he says.
The passion of Street League’s latest cohort is clear at today’s match. Although the pitch isn’t in the best nick – the faded AstroTurf is torn and chewed up and mounds of leaves have piled up against the corners of the metal grate fencing – it doesn’t faze the youngsters. They bound enthusiastically around the pitch, chanting and encouraging their teammates as if they were playing at Wembley. For them, this is more than a simple football match: it’s a chance to turn their lives around.
‘Street League gave me the opportunity to change my ways. It made me more motivated and confident.’ Adam White
Street League attracts its numbers through free weekly football sessions for unemployed sixteen- to twenty-five-year-olds. When a player shows the desire to change their life, they will be invited to attend one of the quarterly ten-week academies, which are structured around two hours of classroom-based learning followed by two hours of football practice. It’s an innovative approach that continues to attract the attention of funders, including the RMTGB.
‘We found out about Street League through our Stepping Stones scheme, which the charity applied to,’ says Les Hutchinson, CEO of the RMTGB. ‘We always receive more requests for funding than we can possibly provide, but Street League stood out for its unique approach to helping young people.’
‘The academies offer both sport and education, giving their participants the opportunity to keep fit and achieve key qualifications,’ he continues. ‘That’s not to mention the careers guidance, mock interviews and CV-writing sessions they include in their curriculums. We award our grants to charities that are shown to have the biggest impact, and Street League proved to be a worthy recipient.’
The grant from the RMTGB acts as a formal seal of approval, which will hopefully encourage other sources to invest in Street League’s cause. With interest in the academies on the rise, expansion is a real priority for the charity. ‘This newest academy will help us branch out into communities facing real challenges in Lambeth and Wandsworth,’ says Nathan Persaud, Street League’s north London operations manager.
Typically, forty-three per cent of the young people Street League works with in south-west London will have previous criminal convictions, and only twenty-three per cent will have left school with any qualifications. They are some of the hardest-to-reach individuals in the city, but Street League’s football-oriented initiative is connecting with some of them.
‘Football is our hook,’ says Nathan. ‘It’s our unique way of engaging young people who might not otherwise be interested in the course. It gives it credibility in their eyes.’
Football is incorporated into every aspect of the academy, including the classroom hours. Participants brush up on their basic maths skills using fantasy football leagues, while the CVs of professional football players provide templates for the participants to learn how to apply for jobs. Many also study for FA-approved coaching qualifications, so they can go on to complete their mandatory work placements in local coaching clubs. ‘All participants have to complete one hundred hours of work experience, so we try to set them up with a meaningful placement in local businesses,’ adds Nathan.
Tackle the future
The support of Street League’s corporate sponsors TM Lewin, Barclays and Premier Inn has also proved integral in placing participants by offering internships, and in some instances long-term employment, to academy graduates. Last year, eight hundred and forty-seven young people went into employment, training or education after graduating from Street League, and this year that figure will exceed 1,000 for the first time.
But it’s not just the work done in the classroom that has an impact.
As Nathan explains, what these young people learn on the pitch is just as important: ‘It’s difficult to discuss softer skills like communication and teamwork with these guys. In a classroom environment, it might seem too intimate and too confrontational, but on the pitch we can teach them how to control their anger and communicate effectively within their team so that hopefully those skills will filter into their everyday lives.’
Wayne Smith is one such youngster whose confidence and career aspirations enjoyed a massive boost after participating in Street League. He joined the Kensal Rise academy in January 2014, then a shadow of the confident young man who captains his team through the match today. ‘At first, I just wanted to play football. I never dreamt I’d be able to establish a career in it,’ he says.
Through the academy, Wayne completed his Level 2 FA coaching qualification and gained experience as a volunteer coach by setting up drills and refereeing training sessions for successive groups. Now, he’s working towards his Level 3 award with hopes of going into coaching full-time.
For Wayne, the encouragement he has received has transformed his life, and it’s a sentiment that also rings true for Moussa Silakwa. Struggling through a media studies course at college when he first came to Street League, Moussa didn’t even have the confidence to talk to his own teammates during a match. Two years later, he runs a football academy in Battersea Park for teenagers pursuing a career in the industry. ‘It’s unbelievable how many opportunities are available through Street League,’ he says. ‘It can really take you places if you are willing to work.’
New life goals
Not all participants at Street League come straight from school. Filip Ricardo (pictured above) was studying politics in Manchester when he decided to pursue a career in football. ‘I only went to university because I didn’t know what else to do,’ he says. ‘If vocational options like Street League had been made more apparent in school, then I would definitely have gone for them.’
Having already achieved his A-levels, Filip used his time at Street League’s open football sessions to access one-to-one careers advice and support. Within two weeks he had been set up with a part-time job coaching school children. It was the first, fundamental break that enabled Filip to get a foot in the door of the football industry.
‘I realised you don’t need a degree to make it in life,’ he says. ‘If people don’t fit the mould at school, it’s easy to brand them the badly behaved kid. Teachers treat them differently, they miss out on opportunities, and that can make them more rebellious. But if these kids were told what they can do, instead of constantly being told what they can’t do, it could make a big difference.’
As the Province of Durham gears up for the launch of their next Festival, starting in 2016 in aid of the Royal Masonic Trust for Boys and Girls, it has been extremely encouraging that their Continuous Giving has been an enormous success
Provincial Grand Master for Durham, Eric Heaviside, has always been a champion of the Continuous Giving scheme and his now famous saying of 'The dripping tap will eventually fill the bath' is known Province-wide!
It was therefore with immense pride that Durham were able to invite President of the RMTGB, Mike Woodcock and Chief Executive Les Hutchinson to their Annual Promotions Meeting at Rainton Meadows Arena in November to present them with a cheque for £500,000.
The cheque was presented during the meeting after the PGM had delivered his Christmas Address and after receiving the donation Mike and Les took to the stage to thank the brethren for their fantastic generosity, explain in more depth about the fabulous work the RMTGB carries out and deliver a small talk on the history of masonic charity. Mike ended with the famous quote 'No man stands as tall as when he is stooped to help a child' and the 500 brethren present showed their appreciation with a rapturous applause.
With over 12 months until Durham officially enters Festival the brethren of the Province have given themselves every chance of making a huge difference to this most worthy cause, may the dripping tap continue till that bath overflows!