As the London Symphony Orchestra helps to boost the provision of musical opportunities for young people with special needs across east London, we look at the MCF’s role and why former Lord Mayor Sir Andrew Parmley is lending his support

At LSO St Luke’s, an 18th-century Grade I listed church in London designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, it’s Make Music Day. The restored building is home to the expansive community and music education programme run by the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). Young people with learning difficulties or disabilities have come with their families to the centre in east London to explore different types of music-making. They play the drums, the violin and other instruments alongside musicians from the LSO, clearly enjoying the accessibility of the day and being able to share an activity specifically designed for them to take part in as a family – free of anxiety. 

Make Music Day is part of the LSO’s On Track Special Schools project, which encourages creative music-making, devising models for working and nurturing the talent of the teachers and young people. 

‘It’s great to have something that all of them as a family can come to – it’s not just about the young person who happens to have a learning disability,’ says David Nunn, project manager for LSO On Track. ‘For the family to have activities that they really feel are for them, that they can feel comfortable in, has been really significant.’

Through the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), London Freemasons have awarded £100,000 to LSO On Track to help produce inclusive ensembles, which will enable young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) to develop their musical skills alongside young people without SEND, using a combination of assistive music technology and traditional and electronic instruments. Ensembles will come together in autumn 2019 for a major performance.

‘This particular project will involve LSO musicians and specialist workshop leaders visiting schools within the boroughs, delivering exploratory music-making workshops to the pupils,’ says MCF chief executive David Innes. ‘Pupils who show an interest or an aptitude will be able to have further sessions to develop new skills and explore new instruments, sounds and composition techniques. There will be the chance for them to develop and grow, culminating in a performance for friends and family.’

APPEAL FROM THE LORD MAYOR

The proposal to contribute to the LSO On Track Special Schools project was submitted to the MCF’s grant-making programme via the Lord Mayor’s Appeal charity on behalf of the outgoing Lord Mayor of London Sir Andrew Parmley, who was recognised with a knighthood in this year’s New Year Honours for his lifelong services to music, education and civic engagement.  

‘The LSO is the best orchestra in the world, and its outreach programme sees musicians working with young people, particularly those with learning difficulties. These young people, who wouldn’t ordinarily encounter professional musicians and real instruments, are able to have a go – composing and playing together and experiencing the joy that making music together can bring to a person,’ says Parmley, whose background is in music education. 

‘The MCF has seen the benefit of this work and dug deep to find £100,000. We’re so grateful to them. As I owe most of my life to music, it’s very important to me that a large part of last year’s Lord Mayor’s Appeal was about making music and giving young people that advantage.’ 

The idea for LSO On Track came about in 2005, when London won the bid to stage the 2012 Olympics. ‘The LSO started thinking about the position of culture and what it could do in that area of east London, which was considered to be on our doorstep,’ explains the LSO’s Nunn. 

‘From the beginning, there was an ambition to ensure that there was provision for young people with disabilities, particularly learning disabilities,’ Nunn says. ‘There are various barriers that young people with learning disabilities might have to learning an instrument in a traditional way or being able to do things in a group setting. So, there was a desire to find ways to make sure they were included and to engage with them.’

The top-level musicians who work with LSO On Track have experienced first-hand the effects of Make Music Days. Violinist Naoko Keatley has been playing with the LSO for four years, taking an active role in its outreach work, playing to and with adults and children with learning difficulties and disabilities. She’s found that music provides an alternative means of communication for some individuals. 

‘You really feel the impact it has. Sometimes someone may not be able to speak, but they find a way of showing their appreciation through the music or start singing or dancing. And sometimes someone will pick up a random instrument and show a real talent for it. It also lets participants interact with each other, meet new kids and develop the social side of things.’

The project is not exclusively focused on classical instruments and makes use of digital technology. ‘It means that kids who don’t have the capacity to hold instruments are able to participate,’ says Keatley. ‘It really brings out this talent that would otherwise be hidden.’ 

Nunn adds: ‘The musicians benefit massively. We’ve got a huge pool of players who do this kind of work. Expanding the programme has allowed us to do more training for them, which has been great. They do something very specialist and they spend a lot of time on the concert platform. For them to have that individual connection with someone is hugely rewarding.’

The project’s aim to create new opportunities for young people with SEND dovetails with the MCF’s wider commitment to combatting social exclusion and isolation.‘

The masonic community is passionate about giving individuals who are facing a challenge in life a helping hand to get over that challenge and make the most of their lives,’ says Innes. ‘At the end of the two years I hope that more than 1,000 children will have been supported by this project and been able to participate in one way or another. That was an important point for us – to reach as many people as we can.’

‘The musicians benefit massively. For them to have that individual connection with someone is hugely rewarding’

Why musical inclusion is important

A growing body of research suggests that taking part in musical activities can provide a range of emotional, social and educational benefits to people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND). Listening to and making music stimulates different areas of the brain, supporting verbal and non-verbal communication, as well as encouraging creativity, self-expression and social interaction. 

However, a lack of funding, combined with a lack of local expertise, means that access to musical opportunities can be limited. There are few SEND music resources available outside of the school system, posing barriers for those wishing to take their participation in musical activities further. And young people with SEND attending mainstream schools are at risk of complete musical exclusion due to lack of knowledge and experience among staff. 

‘It’s really important that organisations like the LSO make the resources they have available to people who may not otherwise be able to access them,’ says David Nunn from the LSO. ‘It can open doors for them and give them the opportunity to see what they are capable of. We work with a lot of schools and we want to offer students somewhere to go out of school time where they can pursue their own musical interests, working with the orchestra’s professional musicians.’

Continuing a long-established tradition of Freemasons funding disaster relief efforts, the MCF has awarded a total of £280,000 over Continuing a long-established tradition of Freemasons funding disaster relief efforts, the MCF has awarded a total of £280,000 over the last two years to support people affected by the Sri Lankan floods, the famine in East Africa and hurricanes in Haiti and the Caribbean

Following the eruption of the Fuego volcano in Guatemala in June, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) provided a further £25,000 to help some of the thousands of families evacuated from their homes. The grant is helping to fund three evacuation centres in Guatemala that provide vital services, such as water-purifying filters, hygiene kits and highly nutritious meals for pregnant women and children affected by the eruption.  

With many English and Welsh Freemasons living around the world in the Districts, members of the masonic community have also been affected by these disasters. David, a Cheshire Freemason, and his wife, Christine, lived on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin for 12 years and ran a successful business. Then Hurricane Irma hit, destroying their home and livelihood. 

Having survived the hurricane and its aftermath, David and Christine were evacuated to the UK. But with no home and no access to any of their savings, they were forced to join the homeless register and battle to access state support. Emergency accommodation was provided, but they were moved every few days. With no provision for food or transport, they began to run up debts on their credit card. 

‘It was a very stressful time,’ David says. ‘We were constantly on the move and not getting much sleep. The whole experience felt degrading and demeaning.’ 

David’s friend – also a member of his lodge in Cheshire – suggested that the couple contact the MCF. After an initial enquiry, an emergency grant of £500 was quickly approved to cover their immediate expenses. 

The MCF then approved another grant to cover the costs of a deposit and six months’ rent. Now, with the help of family and neighbours, David and Christine are slowly rebuilding their lives. 

‘I didn’t expect to have to start again at my age, but it’s an adventure! We are so grateful for the help we have received; there are good people behind us, and we hope to be in a position very soon where we can help ourselves.’

If you are a member of the masonic community facing a personal crisis, contact the MCF as soon as possible. Call 0800 035 60 90 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018 00:00

David Innes looks back on a year of progress

With the MCF receiving 10,000 enquiries  in the last year from Freemasons and their families, Chief Executive David Innes wants to reach out to still more people as the new  masonic season begins

In July, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) held another very successful meeting for its members at the Royal Masonic School for Girls in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire. The meeting coincided with a family fun day being held by the Province of Hertfordshire. I’m pleased to report that our MCF members are playing a greater role in helping us assess and monitor the grants we make on your behalf to local charities in your Provinces. 

We are keen to maintain an accurate picture of how our funding is helping vulnerable people in the wider community, and our members are integral in helping us to continue to make and measure the impact of your donations. 

GIVING MORE

This year is proving to be a year of progress. In the first six months of 2018, around 2,700 grants were awarded to Freemasons and their family members facing a financial, health, family or care need, totalling over £5 million. When these figures are compared with 2017’s, we can see that this is a 4 per cent increase in the number of grants awarded and a 23 per cent increase in the value of those grants. In other words, the masonic community is giving more money to more people facing a difficult time in their lives. 

It seems that the message is steadily reaching more Freemasons; their married, life or widowed partners; and their children and grandchildren. Every year that passes, we see an average 3 per cent increase in enquiries for our support. In the last year alone, around 10,000 enquiries have been received – that’s 10,000 Freemasons and their families who are struggling to cope and got in touch to see if the MCF could help. 

MORE QUICKLY

As well as reaching more people, we are constantly striving to show evidence of the impact Freemasons make on people’s lives rather than simply reporting the number of grants awarded and the amount spent. As part of this, a survey was undertaken of all Freemasons and their family members who recently received MCF support. It sought to learn more about the difference the grants and support services have made to their lives and to gather suggestions for improving the experience of accessing support. 

I am very pleased to say that a key finding of our research is that, over the last 15 months, the number of days between processing an enquiry and paying for a grant has decreased significantly, which means the masonic community is getting even better at delivering support to people when they need it.

As the new masonic season begins, you can help us to make a greater impact on even more people by making sure that your brethren and your family members are aware of our services and how we may be able to help. If you or someone in your lodge is facing a financial, health, family or care-related need, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us by either calling our freephone helpline on 0800 035 60 90 or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We are your charity, and we are here when you need us, for as long as you need us.

‘We are your charity, and we are here when you need us,  for as long as you need us’

Many of us are able to handle life admin – those personal tasks Many of us are able to handle life admin – those personal tasks that need to be completed outside work, such as paying the bills or replying to emails. But these responsibilities can become seriously daunting during difficult times

Whether you’re a single parent struggling to work out your benefit entitlement, a student trying to fund university studies or a full-time carer researching respite care options, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF)’s Advice and Support Team is here to help. We have 12 regional advisers to help you access the support you need. The Advice and Support Team can:

  • Assist you with applications for charitable support
  • Talk to you about financial difficulties
  • Recommend the best approach to meet your care needs
  • Support your children or grandchildren with practical advice and guidance on education and well-being
  • Direct you to state and local authority benefits and services available from other organisations

Claire is an Advice and Support Team adviser for the north of England. After a lodge Almoner contacted her about Geoff, a Freemason, Claire arranged a visit with him at his home. 

‘Geoff and his wife, Carol, had such a tragic time with illness and death within the family, and everyone was concerned about their well-being,’ says Claire. ‘My first visit was to work out their support needs, and I realised they were struggling with mobility. So I helped them apply for rise and recline chairs from the MCF.’ 

Geoff, previously unaware that he was eligible for Attendance Allowance from the government, successfully applied. ‘Money seemed irrelevant compared with losing their children or dealing with their health problems, but at least this could help ease their financial pressures a little bit,’ says Claire. 

‘I understand how difficult it is to ask for help, but when you speak to me or another member of the Advice and Support Team, what you say is in confidence. Support can be given in person or over the phone, and we encourage anyone who would like advice, guidance or support to give us a call.’

Last year, the MCF’s Advice and Support Team carried out 964 visits to Freemasons and their families. If you are a member of the masonic community and need advice or support, call 0800 035 60 90 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Tuesday, 11 September 2018 00:00

MCF launch new video series 'Helping Hands'

A new video series called Helping Hands sees local Freemasons spend a day volunteering with the local charities that have benefited from the MCF’s funding

The Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), inspired by stories of Freemasons regularly volunteering to support charitable causes within their local communities, has introduced a new video series called Helping Hands. The series highlights that when it comes to the masonic principle of relief, giving time is just as valuable as giving money. 

In the first episode, Cornwall Freemason Sebastian visited the Conquest Centre to learn about the charity’s equine activities for people with disabilities or disadvantages. He met beneficiaries and helped to collect eggs, groom horses and volunteer in the café on the farm. 

More recently, London Freemason and keen guitarist Tony travelled to Norwich to take part in a music and movement session for young adults with a wide range of disabilities and additional needs. The charity running the session, Musical Keys, recently received an MCF grant of £5,000 and was thrilled to welcome Tony along for the day.

‘It’s so important to us that Freemasons see how their funding can genuinely impact the lives of people within their communities,’ explained Musical Keys manager Alison. ‘It is well known that Freemasons have always been, and continue to be, incredibly generous with their funding for local and national charities, so for Tony to give us his time and join in with his guitar is a brilliant added bonus.’ 

Look out for more Helping Hands episodes over the next few months. Follow the MCF on social media or subscribe to its YouTube channel so you never miss a video: 

YouTube: youtube.com/masoniccharitablefoundation 
Twitter: @Masonic_Charity
Facebook: theMCF
Instagram: @masonic_charity

Young people in Leicester not in employment, education or training (NEETS) are to be helped into work thanks to a £35,000 grant from Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons

Around 250 young NEETs between the ages of 11-24, many of whom are also homeless, involved in substance misuse and crime, will be helped by TwentyTwenty through their Journey to Work programme over three years.

These are young disadvantaged people who have failed at school, through being excluded or not being able to engage with mainstream education. They exist in a demoralised state, feeling neglected and without a meaningful future. Being able to come to TwentyTwenty they will gain not only the maths, English and employability skills they need to find and keep a good job but also the vision and confidence to go out and get one.

Young people who come to TwentyTwenty face a wide range of personal and social needs: poor physical and mental health, learning disabilities (many on the autistic spectrum), caring responsibilities (including teenage motherhood), lack of decent housing, family criminality, gross economic disadvantage, low level drug addiction and a complete lack of societal or family support.

Through intensive one-to-one support from a Journey to Work Coach and Tutor, the young people will undergo an eight-month programme of education, life and work skills, work experience and counselling. These will prepare them for either work or further education, during which they will be supported by volunteer mentors.

Mark Vyner, CEO from TwentyTwenty said: 'We’re very grateful for this generous grant from Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, which will allow us to help hundreds of young people to turn their lives around and see a real reduction in the numbers of local people without jobs.'

The grant from Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation.

David Hagger, Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland, said: 'We’re very pleased to be able to help TwentyTwenty who are doing outstanding work giving hope and practical help to young people who have had a terrible start in life, by breaking the cycle of worklessness.'

Earlier this year West Lancashire Freemasons donated £20,000 to St Mary’s Hospice to support its ‘Make Do and Mend’ initiative and in August 2018 they readily accepted an invitation to visit the workshop and see the progress that has been made

‘A huge success that has more than met our expectations’, were the words of Lynsey Lawson, who is the team leader for family and bereavement support at St Mary’s Hospice in Furness, when she was asked for her views on the ‘Make Do and Mend’ initiative.

The scheme was able to be implemented due to a grant of £20,000 from the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), which enabled an unused corner of the premises to be developed into a suitable work space.

The aim of the scheme is to provide a chance for bereaved men and women to come together to share their experiences and, ultimately, to help each other through their loss. The initial idea for the scheme arose from discussions on how best to connect with those bereaved people who found it uncomfortable to access the already available support and counselling. Experience shows that this relates mainly, but not exclusively, to men.

Head of Clinical Services Jo Blake explained: ‘It was thought that providing an opportunity for them to get together with people in the same position and to work together in upcycling donated furniture may be a possible way forward. A blueprint for the program was drawn up and an application was submitted to the Masonic Charitable Foundation for the funds needed to get the scheme up and running. We are very grateful that our bid was successful.’

West Lancashire Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Grainger, along with Furness and South Lakeland Group Chairman Peter Schofield and local charity steward Richard Wilcock, recently had the pleasure of visiting the workshop and meeting some of the users.

After speaking with members of the hospice team, as well as some of those benefitting from the scheme, David commented: ‘It is superb to see our charitable funds being put to such marvellous use. It is often said, when accepting donations from lodges for the MCF that we thank the lodge on behalf of the recipients who they will never know or see.

'To hear first-hand of the difference the scheme is already making to the lives of others in helping them through the grieving process is really quite touching. It brings home the true ethos of charitable giving which is at the heart of our wonderful fraternity.’

One of those who has engaged with the program is George Last whose wife Linda passed away at the hospice Christmas time 2017. George was happy to talk about the benefits of ‘Make Do and Mend.’ George observed: ‘I come down once a week and have found it really beneficial. The company and the overall community feel of the workshop have helped me to come out of myself. I look forward to getting out of the house to come along and work on the cabinet I am recycling. 

'It is self-supporting as we are all in the same boat. One of the other users has become a firm friend and we go for a coffee and a chat together after each session. I now have the confidence to go along with my daughter to the coffee evening which the hospice host on a Thursday evening. It has made a real difference to my life.’

The workshops are run on informal lines with a bereavement counsellor always on hand, but not obtrusively so. Such is the demand that the present sessions and the next series of sessions are fully booked.

But it is not only men who benefit. Olivia Armistead found it difficult to cope with the loss of all four of her grandparents in a short space of time. Olivia attends the workshop and took pride in showing Peter Schofield the kitchen cabinet she was working on as she told him how much the scheme had helped her.

Disabled young people at Chailey Heritage Foundation in East Sussex have received a significant boost to their planned state-of-the-art DREAM Centre, following a £25,000 grant from Sussex Freemasons

The Charity launched a £3.1 million appeal in 2016 to replace their ageing 1950s hall with a building large enough for children and young people with complex disabilities to participate in a mixture of arts and physical activities. Wheelchair football, power chair driving, trampolining, drama and dance will all be on offer alongside a sensory four dimensional experience, which will allow children to be ‘transported’ to different countries and experience sights and sounds from around the world.

The D.R.E.A.M (dynamic, real, experiential, amazing, magical) Centre is the latest chapter in the story of the Chailey Heritage Foundation, which has been changing the lives of young people with disabilities since 1903. 

The grant from Sussex Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation. Maurice Adams, Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Sussex, said: 'We are delighted to support Chailey Heritage Foundation with their appeal and look forward to seeing the D.R.E.A.M Centre in action when it opens in 2019.'

Ellie, a pupil at Chailey Heritage School, is a competitive child and typical of the young people who will benefit from the new facilities. This new indoor space will also house the powered wheelchair driving school which will benefit many of the young people who are learning to drive.

Carol, a teacher at Chailey Heritage School, who has been helping Ellie to reach her full potential, said: 'Thanks to Sussex Freemasons and all the other generous donors, the D.R.E.A.M. Centre will make it possible for Ellie and her friends to have a space large enough to play competitive sports and perform to friends and family on the purpose-built stage along with lots of other opportunities.'

Sally-Anne Murray, Development Director of Chailey Heritage Foundation said: 'We are enormously grateful for this grant. We rely on organisations like Sussex Freemasons to help us provide the ground-breaking facilities that really enrich the lives of those we care for.'

Milton Keynes Food Bank has received a donation of £3,000 from Buckinghamshire Freemasons

A certificate for the funds, donated via the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), was presented by Andrew Hough, MCF representative, and Mike Clanfield, Provincial Charity Steward for Buckinghamshire.

Milton Keynes Food Bank is an independent charity established to provide local families and individuals with essential food supplies at a time when they need it most, covering the days or sometimes weeks before other parts of the social care infrastructure can come into play.

The grant received has been used towards the transportation costs for the charity's gifted vehicles, which are used for delivering the emergency food parcels to their 12 serving centres across Milton Keynes.

Dorothy Barley Infant School in Dagenham is to receive dedicated, specialist support to help improve outcomes for vulnerable children and give them a better start in life, thanks to national charity Achievement for All and Essex Freemasons

A grant of £5,000 from Essex Freemasons, donated via the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), will allow Achievement for All to work with staff at Dorothy Barley to assist pupils to achieve greater potential in life by helping to lay down firm and positive aspirations to learn and succeed. The programme, which also involves parents and staff, has been proven to give youngsters the support they need, particularly in the early years

The £5,000 grant is part of a much larger grant of £240,000 given by Freemasons to 53 schools in England and Wales through Achievement for All’s award-winning Achieving Schools programme.

Achievement for All is a leading not-for-profit organisation that works in partnership with early years settings, schools and colleges, improving outcomes for all children and young people regardless of their background, challenge or need.

The grant will provide subsidised access to the Achieving Schools programme, which dramatically enhances the goals and outcomes of pupils and addresses the issues faced by children and staff though four key areas: leadership, teaching and learning, wider outcomes and opportunities, and parent and carer engagement. Schools who have benefited from this programme to date have seen a positive impact on the development of teaching, increased pupil attendance as well as improved confidence amongst pupils in their own abilities to achieve.

Christine James, Headteacher at Dorothy Barling, said: 'The grant will make a huge difference to this school. It will enable us to work closely with Achievement for All to identify children and parents in need of support and most importantly provide the time needed to concentrate on those youngsters that need it most.

'This school is very much part of the local community with parents who give us considerable support but we have some who need help and this money will enable us to make a difference.'

Colin Felton, Provincial Communications Officer for Essex Freemasons, said: 'We are very pleased to be able to help Achievement for All with their excellent programme at Dorothy Barling.

'Freemasons are very much part of the community and our 10,000 members are actively raising money for the MCF to ensure that grants to schools and other local charities can be made on a regular basis. We are delighted to be able to help this incredible initiative work in Dagenham.

'Developing children’s core strength and resilience can improve confidence and engage children in learning. By supporting these pupils now we can play an important part in helping them make the most of their education.'

Find out more about the £5,000 donation – watch this short video.

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