Provincial Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of Kent
The 1985 Annual Festival for the Mark Benevolent Fund

Now that we have arrived in 2020 and approach the culmination of our 152nd Annual Festival for the Mark Benevolent Fund, we are taking a look back to the last Kent Festival in 1985, when the Ford Escort was the UK's best-selling car with the Vauxhall Cavalier in second and a litre of unleaded petrol cost 44 pence!

The 1985 and 117th Annual Festival for the MBF was held at Oakley House, Bromley on Wednesday July 3rd 1985 under the Presidency of R.W. Bro. Guy Patrick Rudgard JP, the 9th Provincial Grand Master for Kent. It is believed that this was the first occasion that the Annual Festival was held outside of London and in the President's Province.

The MBF's principal sources of income are the funds raised by the Annual Festival and the return on its investments. The Festivals are held in turn under the auspices of the Provincial Grand Masters, although it was not until 43 years after the fund was established that the first Festival was held, in 1911 by Lincolnshire when the sum of £2,284 was raised. The following year R.W. Bro. the Rt. Hon, the Lord Aldenham, Provincial Grand Master for Kent chaired the Festival and raised £3,146.7s.7d, a figure that was not surpassed until 1916.

Although it had been known for a number of years that 1985 was to be the Kent Festival, the Craft Provinces of East and West Kent requested that the Mark Province of Kent refrain from active fundraising until the completion of the 1980 Festival in support of the RMBI.

Previous to 1985, the Kent Festivals appear to have been run on an informal basis. However, at the 1979 Provincial Meeting at Greenways in West Malling, the Provincial Grand Master, R.W. Bro. Guy Rudgard, asked W. Bro. John Edmondson to take on the duties of Provincial Grand Charity Steward, although the role did not formally exist at the time. In light of the relatively short time available for fundraising, and taking into consideration the sums raised over recent Mark Festivals it became apparent that a more organised campaign would have to be mounted to raise an amount that would reflect credit on the Province. To this end, with assistance from Mark Masons Hall, and a model Trust Deed obtained from one of the Masonic charities, the Kent Provincial Grand Mark Lodge Benevolent Fund (a precursor to the Kent Mark Benevolent Fund) was created to take advantage of the considerable benefits available from reclaiming income tax and tax free interest on invested money.

A target figure of £100,000 was declared and in less than five years the Festival raised an amazing total of £242,840 (equating to around £725,000 in today's purchasing terms), of which £205,168.84 was from the Province of Kent.

To date only three Provincial Festivals have passed the £1m mark in raising funds for our wonderful charity...
  • 2000 West Lancashire - £1,170,999 [132nd Annual Festival]
  • 2016 Devonshire - £1,014,000 [148th Annual Festival]
  • 2019 Sussex - £1,370,000 [151st Annual Festival]
We are confident that we will be only the 4th to do so in 152 years when our 2020 Festival concludes at the Festival Result & Gala Dinner at the Kent Event Centre & Showground on Saturday 13 June 2020. We are looking forward to a spectacular occasion and to celebrating our achievement amongst the members and friends of the Mark Province of Kent.

This article is produced with grateful thanks to R.W. Bro. Roland Wade and his excellent Brief History of the Mark Province of Kent volumes one and two.

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