A day of festivities at the Raby Gala
The Gala was officially opened with the X Company Fifth Fusiliers band marching into the main arena followed by a horse and carriage transporting Provincial Grand Master Norman Heaviside, Festival Director John Thompson and MCF Chief Operating Officer Les Hutchinson.
Great North Air Ambulance director of charity services Deborah Lewis-Bynoe received a cheque for £4,000 from the MCF. Norman presented Les with a cheque for £250,000, bringing the total donated, just six months in
to the Festival, to £1 million.
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.