On Saturday 12th December the Grand Secretary, R.W.Bro. Ryan Williams, hosted a Zoom conference on behalf of the Mark Benevolent Fund (MBF) to announce the total raised by the Mark Province of Kent in support of its 152nd Annual Festival, our 2020 Festival.

R.W.Bro. Ryan A. Williams, P.G.J.W., Grand Secretary

Proceedings began with an opening Address from the President of the MBF, V.W.Bro. John Bell, who paid tribute to his predecessor R.W.Bro. Dr. John Lawson Wright, who had “worked for the last 9 years to ensure that our funds have been used to continue the good work started in 1869 by the then Grand Master, M.W.Bro. The Revd. George Raymond Portal”. He continued that “Despite the pandemic, this year has been a busy year for the Fund. In the early part we saw an increase in petitions for relief from our Brethren and their families who found themselves in difficulties for many reasons and required our help.”

He went on to outline many of the MBF’s recent activities including the final payment made to the charity Hope For Tomorrow. The Fund has paid fully for eight (mobile chemotherapy unit) vehicles operating across much of our country, which are in particular demand at the moment, relieving hospitals of having to treat cancer patients to make space for Coronavirus patients.

This is as well as renewing more than 50 St. John Ambulance mobile patient treatment centres, other recent local donations have included £16,900 to Martha Trust for specialist beds for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, £159,000 to Kingfisher Medway Trust for an eco-friendly river boat to cater for disabled and wheelchair bound passengers and £4,000 to enable the purchase of a specially adapted trike for the 14-year-old grandson of a local Mark Master Mason who suffers with Mowat-Wilson Syndrome.

Whilst the MBF President did not know how the Province had performed against its challenging target of £1.25m, he did know that  all 60 Mark Lodges in Kent achieved MBF Grand Patron Diamond status, which allowed the Province to become the very first Grand Patron Province in the whole constitution, a quite remarkable achievement for the second largest Province in our order. In addition, 22 Royal Ark Mariner Lodges also achieved Grand Patron Diamond status with the remaining 25 Lodges achieving Grand Patron Gold status.

He moved on to thank all of the staff at Mark Masons’ Hall who work tirelessly behind the scenes helping to keep affairs in order.

He concluded by addressing his final remarks to Festival President, R.W.Bro. Archie Torrance and all the Brethren of the Province of Kent, by saying: “It has so far been an awful year as a result of the Coronavirus, however Archie you and your Brethren have not allowed it to stop the process of your Festival. Every time something happened and we all thought, ‘that’s it no festival’  your indomitable spirit found a way around the problem and rearranged everything, not once, but four times. You and your team have been determined and resolute to ensure that things continued until today. I understand that being here today like this is not the way you wanted it but it may not be the end. You have all pulled together and supported each other in the face of much adversity and I believe you have all shown what Freemasonry and Freemasons are all about. I admire your persistence and strength to carry it through and keep your Brethren interested in supporting you and your province and our wonderful Mark Benevolent Fund. Well done.”

The meeting was then addressed by R.W.Bro. Ryan Williams, Grand Secretary.
“Festival President, Distinguished Guests, Ladies, Gentlemen and Brethren, when someone speaks of Kent, have you ever wondered what images that conjures up in their minds? As Mark Master Masons our first thought would probably be of our Grand Master, Prince Michael, whose Kent lineage reaches back to the ancient kingdom of Kent, one of seven Anglo-Saxon kingdoms that later merged to form the kingdom of England.

“Many of you will undoubtedly bring to mind that ubiquitous Scotsman, Archie Torrance, the Provincial Grand Master for Kent, while others will find any mention of the county synonymous with the Garden of England.

“Kent is a county that plays host to gentle hills, fertile farmland and cultivated country estates with fruit filled orchards. It is a place that gives birth to crops, nurturing their development through the seasons to the annual yield at harvest-time.

“We may be a few months late to be thinking of harvest but the words of the celebrated author and hymn writer Henry Alford from 1844 have a particular relevance to this morning’s gathering – ‘come ye thankful people come, raise the song of harvest home, all is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin’.

“In 2012, the seeds of your fundraising efforts were planted when R.W. Bro. Roger Croucher launched the Kent Festival and in the intervening years they have been nurtured and developed firstly under the watchful gaze of R.W.Bro. Roger and then under the keen Scottish eye of R.W. Bro. Archie. So today is your harvest festival – all is safely gathered in – the maths have been done and the totals confirmed.

“Fundraising for the Mark Benevolent Fund is not so much about the destination, it’s about the journey along the way and what I mean by this is that fundraising is about the enjoyment, the friendship, and the sense of achievement you feel when the journey is over.

“Of course, every Province wants to raise as much as possible but whatever the end result is, if the members of the host Province can look back with fond memories of their achievements, we and they can ask nothing more.

“This, the 152nd Festival is the fourth hosted by Kent since the Mark Benevolent Fund was established.

The first Kent Festival was under the chairmanship of the Right Honourable the Lord Aldenham in 1912 and raised £3,146 – equivalent to £361,708 today
The second was under the chairmanship of the Right Honourable the Lord Harris in 1944 and raised £27,385 – equivalent to £1,222,384 today
And the third was under the chairmanship of R.W.Bro. Guy Patrick Rudgard and raised £242,840 – equivalent to £740,651 today

So, there’s a strong connection between the Province of Kent and the Mark Benevolent Fund and a proud heritage of fundraising that is to be admired.

“We are gathered here today, in the closing weeks of what has been an unprecedented and frequently a dark and challenging year, to find out what your efforts during the last eight years have realised.

“In true Eurovision style, the juries have voted; the cash has been banked; and the numbers have been totalled. So, hold on to your seats or in your case Archie, hold on to your kilt, for a rollercoaster ride!

But before we hear the result let’s shine a spotlight on this year’s host Province by watching this short video…”

R.W.Bro. Williams had enormous pleasure in revealing that the total raised was an incredible £2,050,879.

We are delighted to announce that the Festival for the Mark Benevolent Fund was even more successful than we thought, with the revised total being £2,057,000, which is a very special number given that Kent will next host an MBF Festival in the year 2057. Now there’s a thing!

The full breakdown can be found in this Festival Results Booklet.
“This is a truly incredible achievement which equates to a little over £19,000 for every Mark and Royal Ark Mariner Lodge in the Province.

“What you the Brethren of Kent, your wives, partners, families, and friends have raised is thankfully received by the Mark Benevolent Fund and will be faithfully applied.

I now invite the Festival President, R.W.Bro. Archie Torrance, to give his reply to the Festival Total.”

It is not often that our Provincial Grand Master is left short for words, but once he had got his breath back from hearing the result, he commented:
“Not only is this a magnificent sum and something we can all be proud of for many years to come, it is also the largest amount of money raised by any Province whilst hosting an MBF Festival. None of this would have been possible were it not for the generosity of Mark Master Masons and the ingenious ways devised to raise money for our Festival. Thank you all. Of course, it would be extremely remiss of me not to acknowledge also the support of the ladies of our Province whilst in Festival. Please do pass on my sincere thanks to your wives and partners.

“When my predecessor, R.W. Bro. Roger Croucher, launched our 2020 Festival some 8 years ago, we could not have imagined what a magnificent total would be raised. The world was still recovering from the financial crisis just a few short years earlier and the impending Craft festivals in East Kent in 2014 and West Kent in 2015 meant our first 3 years of fundraising was rather muted. However, thanks to the wonderful efforts of our Festival Committee, our Mark and Royal Ark Mariner Lodges, our members, their partners and our friends from other Provinces and Orders we have delivered a festival total to be proud of.

“Our target of £1.25 million was intended to be stretching but achievable. In setting this target we took account of the festival results from other Mark Provinces in recent years and considered how the two Craft Provinces in Kent had done. The target provided a focus for our efforts and, as we got closer to the target, encouragement to keep going. I am delighted to see that our approach has been shown to be sound.

“You have already seen in the short video earlier some of the ways that we raised this incredible total. It began with a clear fundraising strategy, an effective festival committee, clear aspirations, energy, commitment, hard work, resilience and excellent leadership.

“There are too many initiatives to mention in this Address, but you can read more about them in the Festival Result booklet, which will be available after this video conference. So what difference did all of this make to local charities in Kent?

Let us have a look at some of the organisations we helped during the festival…

“Please don’t forget that it is not only charities that the MBF supports. Several of our own members and their families have received benevolent grants to assist them in their time of need. I have seen with my own eyes the difference a grant makes to someone in need and it makes me proud to be a Trustee of the Mark Benevolent Fund, a member of the MBF Petitions Committee and a Mark Master Mason.  In my view, the winner today is benevolence and charity. I hope that what we have collectively done has made you feel proud!

“To have become the very first MBF Grand Patron Diamond Province in the whole constitution is a wonderful achievement and could not have happened had it not been for the outstanding support of our lodges, members, and their partners. To now have 82 Grand Patron Diamond Lodges and 25 Grand Patron Gold Lodges is an incredible position to be in. It is a legacy to be proud of.

“We also introduced a 2020 Festival Provincial Award scheme for lodges to participate in. Of our 107 lodges, 59 achieved Platinum Award, 13 Silver Award and 33 Bronze Award. In addition, as a special award, four engraved goblets were available for the Mark and R.A.M. Lodges that donated the most money and the most per capita. I am delighted to be able to announce this morning that the lodges that will receive the President’s special award are…

Mark Lodge donating the highest total: Malling Abbey Lodge No. 1425
Mark Lodge donating the highest per capita: Amherst Lodge No. 266
R.A.M. Lodge donating the highest total: Thanet Lodge No. 1073
R.A.M. Lodge donating the highest per capita: The North Kent Lodge No. 1682

R.W.Bro. Archie, went on to the thank the very many Brothers both locally and at Mark Masons’ Hall, and their families, who had given so much support to the Festival over so many years in particular he thanked his wife, Maggie, for her “support, patience, love and understanding over these last 8 years”.

He concluded by saying “It might be another 38 years before Kent hosts another MBF annual festival. Maggie and I will be 100 years old! Perhaps it is a little too optimistic to think we shall be here, so, for those that are here, please do pass on my sincere best wishes to the next Kent President for another successful Festival. I hope he and his team have as much fun as we have had.

“I now pass the presidential baton to R.W. Bro. Alex McLaren in East Lancashire who will host the 153 rd Annual Festival. We send you sincere best wishes for as successful a festival as is possible in these challenging times and we look forward to joining you at Old Trafford football stadium in Manchester in July.

“Thank you all for helping us mark this important moment in the history of the Mark Province of Kent. I now encourage you to pour yourself a wee glass of champagne, to celebrate what has been achieved. I know the Brethren of the Mark Province of Kent will be doing precisely that. I very much look forward to being with you at the Kent Event Centre & Showground on Saturday 4th September 2020 for our spectacular Festival Gala Dinner & Show. It will be the same format as advertised previously and we are very pleased that Phil Collins, internationally acclaimed singer/songwriter, drummer, actor and writer will be our special Master of Ceremonies. We have over 1,100 guests still booked in and it is going to be a super occasion.”