On 22nd January 2015, at Hendre Lodge, I was delighted to launch the Provincial Grand Lodge of South Wales’ 2021 Festival on behalf of the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution. This special occasion marked the opening of another important chapter in the history of our wonderful Province which has held no less than 10 Festivals since they began in their present format in 1921. By the end of this Festival, South Wales brethren will have given 100 years of unstinting commitment to support the Central Masonic Charities (The Grand Charity, Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, Masonic Samaritan Fund and the RMBI).
Our Province has an impressive track record of generosity with our last Festival raising the magnificent sum of over £4.2million. While sums of this magnitude are hard to imagine, so too is the enormous amount donated from the Central Masonic Charities to brethren, their dependents and other needy causes. The days are gone when the Central Masonic Charities could draw on reserves and investments to satisfy the demands placed upon them and the festival system is absolutely essential to replenish their funds and enable them to continue their important and worthwhile work. Of course, the term ‘Central Masonic Charities’ must not be misconstrued to suggest that we do not see the benefit of our contributions. Indeed, as a Province, South Wales receives more annually than we contribute. So it is most certainly not a one way street to London as some might have us believe and it is up to all of us to ensure the Central Masonic Charities have the resources at their disposal to distribute to those amongst us who are in most need.
The RMBI, as one of the four Central Masonic Charities, has been providing care for older freemasons and their dependants for over 160 years. The 2021 Festival will be our third and last in support of this particular charity as the four Central Masonic Charities will be amalgamating into one united charity providing comprehensive ‘cradle to grave’ support from 2016. The RMBI and more importantly the services it provides will, of course, continue under a new united charity. The need for care and support for older freemasons and their dependants will only grow. Consider this brethren, by 2021 on current trends 50% of the Craft will be aged 70 years or over. So the need and indeed the relevance of this Festival have never been greater than they are today.
We are fortunate in this Province in having the Albert Edward Prince of Wales Court RMBI Home within our boundaries. This 75 bed home provides residential, nursing and specialist dementia care to the highest of standards and is a jewel in the crown of the 17 homes the RMBI provides across England and Wales. This alone is a very tangible example of what the RMBI does and why it needs our support. The services the RMBI provide are, in fact, wider than this and include independent living, day care, respite care, advice and support, dementia awareness training and care for adults with learning disabilities.
The Festival Committee has set us all a challenging goal to raise £5 million over the next six years. I believe this is achievable if we all commit to a covenant as soon as possible and support the range of fund raising events which are planned – and involve our friends and families and have some fun along the way. I hope that as I visit lodges throughout the Province I will see more and more brethren wearing the Festival Jewel as recognition that they have pledged their commitment and as an example and encouragement for everyone to follow.
I am grateful and delighted that the ME Grand Superintendent, Excellent Companion David Westall, is lending his full support to the Festival Appeal, thus reaffirming the strong and enduring link between the Craft and Royal Arch. I know that the other Orders in South Wales will also be as supportive and committed as they always have on previous occasions.
Finally, my grateful thanks go to Festival Chairman, Sir Paul Williams, and his excellent Festival Committee for their meticulous planning and tireless work; and for managing this Festival campaign over the next six years.
RW Bro Gareth Jones OBE Provincial Grand Master