The R.W. Provincial Grand Master Eric Stuart-Bamford launched the 2019 Surrey Festival at the beginning of the year. In doing so he set an ambitious target of £3.25 million for the Brethren of Surrey to raise for the RMBI.
What is a Festival?
A Festival is a major fund-raising project, spread over several years to help one of the four central Freemason’s Charities. Either the Freemason’s Grand Charity, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution, the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys or the Masonic Samaritan Fund. It is believed that the Festival system was devised in 1942. Due to the Second World War, there were a great number of disadvantaged Freemasons, wives, widows and children. Each major charity has one Masonic Province or groups of smaller Provinces “In Festival” each year and each province is “In Festival” every 11 years. The period of a Festival is usually between 5 and 10 years.
The Festival System is so called because, at the end of a period of fundraising, there is a Festival banquet. This is attended by as many of the Brethren and their ladies as is possible, at which a symbolic cheque for the total sum raised is presented to the President of the particular charity.
The Surrey 2019 Festival will support the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution. RMBI has cared for older Freemasons and their dependants for over 160 years. It operates seventeen care homes across England and Wales, offering residential, nursing, respite and dementia care. Admission to RMBI Homes is on a fee paying basis but with charitable support towards care fees for those in receipt of Local Authority funding.
The Provincial Grand Master is asking all Brethren and Companions from within the Province of Surrey to support the Festival. This can be by making a financial commitment to the RMBI and supporting any events in aid of the Festival. They can also show their support by wearing a 2019 Festival Jewel.
Most Festivals have a figurehead who presides over the event; the President of the Surrey 2019 Festival is the Provincial Grand Master. The Festival is the climax of five years of fundraising by a Province. It is celebrated by hosting a Festival Banquet, attended by those who have qualified as Stewards together with their ladies. The Province will have raised money and donated to the Festival throughout all this period.
The Masonic Charities
Every year there are four Masonic Festivals, one for each of the four Masonic charities. The Festival system spreads the load evenly over the 47 Masonic Provinces in England and Wales ensuring an annual income for the Masonic charities but also allows those Provinces not in a Festival period to alternatively give to other causes of their own choice.
During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the United Grand Lodge of England created what are now four charities to specifically support as the core of our Masonic fundraising, the four Grand Charities:
- The Grand Charity – making donations to both Masonic and Non-Masonic charities
- The Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution – Helping Freemasons and their dependents with housing and care
- The Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys – Helping with the education of the children of both Freemasons and Non-Freemasons
- The Masonic Samaritan Fund – Helping Freemasons and their dependents with medical care
Obviously, these charities each need real income to cover their large expenditure. A very high proportion of their annual funding income comes each year from one of the 47 Provinces; that is, from the results of an extended period of charitable giving by the Province’s brethren, called a Festival, over anything from 5 to 7 years.
The members of Crescamus Lodge will be involved in many events over the next five years to support the 2019 Festival and RMBI; so remember to keep a lookout for what they are up to.