€‹May I extend a warm welcome to you all to Oakley House today, especially those who have travelled some distance to be with us. To all our distinguished visitors, it is so good to see you all – we really appreciate the way you look after us when we visit other Provinces and Districts and today is our opportunity to repay that hospitality. I hope you have had a super day and that you will enjoy our Festive Board later.

I believe our greatest challenge in this Order is to stem the decline in member numbers. The Grand Secretary and high rulers have recognised the challenges we face and have established a Recruitment & Retention Working Party under the leadership of RW. Bro. Richard Olliver, Provincial Grand Master for Berkshire – a member of the Mark General Board and a member of the Grand Master’s Royal Ark Council. The Working Party have met monthly since March and have worked hard, gathering good practice ideas from Provinces and Districts. Our findings will be presented at the Provincial & District Grand Masters’ Seminar at Mark Masons Hall on 30th October 2018 when a new Mark Resource Library XtraNet will be launched. It contains lots of ideas about attracting good quality candidates,
how to keep them and how to enliven Lodges that have become rather dormant.

In Kent, I introduced a new Provincial Membership Committee in March. Chaired by VW. Bro. Fred Brown, assisted by W. Bro. Perri Ahmet, and includes our Provincial Registrar, Provincial Secretary, Provincial Communications Manager, our Lead Ambassador and W. Bro. Barry Devereese as Secretary to the committee. It is still early days but I am optimistic that this new body will be of great benefit. However, let me mention individual responsibility. We all need to double our efforts to attract candidates. I have already set a challenge for our newly-Advanced brethren but I would urge you all to think about who might be interested in the Mark Degree and just ask them. Make use of the trifold leaflets incorporating a membership application form. Tell them about our website at www.kentmarkmastermasons.org.uk where there is a new button for expressing an interest in taking their 4th regular step in Masonry; and a section that outlines six reasons for becoming a Mark Master Mason.

We celebrated the 150th Anniversary of the Mark Benevolent Fund this year. Firstly at the Annual Festival hosted by the Mark Province of Lincolnshire; the Kent delegation was more than 30 strong. Secondly, earlier this month W. Bro. Peter Hayler and I, accompanied by our wives, represented Kent at a 150th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service at the Chapel, Lincoln €™s Inn, in presence of the Grand Master, M.W. Bro. HRH Prince Michael of Kent. The Grand Master was particularly interested to hear from Provincial Charity Stewards about their work.

Recent Grants to Worthy Causes from the MBF have included:

National Blood Bikes dedication and handover in August attended by VW. Bro. Fred Brown and W. Bro. Ivor Spencer. This grant was as a result of the MBF Charity Walk in May 2017 which raised over £400k including £34k from Kent.
A major grant to St. John Ambulance ( £3M+) and handover of a Patient Treatment Centre vehicle today. RW. Bro. David Ashbolt, PGM London and a Trustee of the MBF, Revd Howard Pashley and I will meet representatives of the Order of St. John and of Kent St. John Ambulance in the car park outside at 1pm today for a formal handover. You are all very welcome to attend.
You are aware of the grants in recent years to the Hope for Tomorrow charity which rolls out mobile chemotherapy units around England and Wales. We were very sad to hear recently that Mrs Christine Mills MBE, founder of the charity, had lost her own battle with cancer. She made a huge difference to many cancer sufferers and will be sadly missed.

Our 2020 Festival appears to be going well. Thanks so much to everyone who is working so hard. The outstanding effort is reflected in the number of Grand Patron Gold and Diamond Awards achieved, and the large number of Lodges having achieved at least Provincial Bronze Award. I am delighted to say that our much loved brother Brian Meeres (who was our Provincial Tyler for many years) has left a legacy to KMBF in his will and this will be a five figure sum. We are
grateful to Brian, that even in death, he is supporting our Province and KMBF. Today marks the day when we have a full time Festival Chairman in VW. Bro. David Green and I wish him and his Festival Committee every success. I also wish W. Bro. Roger Odd all the best for our Festival Result Evening at Maidstone Exhibition Hall, Kent Showground (Detling) on Saturday 13th June 2020. It is going to be a spectacular evening. The theme is Kent – The Garden of England and there will be top class entertainment. It will be another 35 years before we host another Festival so we intend to enjoy this moment in our history. It will be an event not to be missed! I have approved the content of a Festival Brochure which will be coming out to all members of our Province very soon. Please do show it to your families and friends.

Let me congratulate everyone I had the pleasure of investing with Provincial Grand Rank this year. Our decisions this year have been better informed by our new Provincial Honours Committee and a new Provincial €˜dashboard €™, which gather information about what each of us contributes to the life of the Province. I hope you enjoy your new ranks. Please do support our Provincial delegations to Lodges and do attend the Provincial Officers €™ Mess in April.

I am grateful to Robin Evans for all the work he does on communication. Our online presence is now something we can all be proud of. I am very pleased with our Provincial website but would encourage you all to let Robin have any photographs and stories of interest. Also, we all need to think seriously about having a profile on Facebook and/or Twitter. I am amazed that so many people appear not to know about key things happening in the Province. The information is there; it is your responsibility to check it out if you want to keep abreast of developments.

Well done to our Provincial golfers for the support they give to other Provinces golf days – Berkshire, Essex, Hants & IoW, London and Surrey. Also, for retaining our PGM €™s Inter-Province Cup at Kings Hill GC; the first Province to have won it twice. Delighted to announce that work is going on with a view to Consecrating a new Golf Lodge for the Province. I am pleased to say that I have invited RW. Bro. John Edgcumbe GJW to be the Primus Master and he has accepted.

Congratulations to Sussex on retaining the Inter-Province Cricket trophy. It was an outstanding day and it has now been agreed that Kent will host the event in 2019. Please do come along and support it.

I extend my sincere gratitude to David Stiff and his administrative team; Perri Ahmet, Ivor Spencer and their DC €™s team; and to all the members of the Banner Lodge €“ Westwood Lodge No. 1354. Without all of their assistance this meeting could not have been the success that it is.

Finally, please look after yourselves and your loved ones. Until we meet again in Margate in a year €™s time, may the Great Overseer of the Universe bring you good health and happiness.
RW.Bro. Archie Torrance, Provincial Grand Master