Saturday the 26th February saw over 320 Brethren, partners and friends attend the Launch Banquet, which was held under the wings of the iconic Concorde at the Manchester Airport viewing park. The Province were delighted to be joined by the Deputy President of the MCF, RWBro Sir Paul Williams, OBE and Lady Glenys Williams, accompanied by WBro Howard Wilson, Trustee of the MCF and Chair of the MCF Fundraising Committee and Mrs. Lynn Wilson. 

The guests were treated to an excellent meal with the bonus of a visit to board the historic G-BOAC Concorde (the flagship of the fleet) The live band, Bamboo Fontaine provided the entertainment for the evening and the dance floor remained full right up until carriages at midnight.

In his address, Sir Paul expressed his delight at being back in East Lancashire after his association with our last Festival. He explained how the amalgamation of the Masonic Charities into a single entity, the MCF in 2016 had proved to be successful and more effective in its operation. He continued to say that since then the MCF had awarded 1,000+ grants in our Province (totalling over £2m) supporting Freemasons or their dependants in need, Nationally they have donated a total of £100m in charitable support generally, which equates to £52,000 per day – an enormous amount. Sir Paul thanked the past, present and future Festival leaders, the District Festival Managers and the Almoners, all of whom play a large part in the success of all Festivals. He concluded by agreeing that Festivals can be challenging, but the rewards are tangible, and he encouraged everyone to help as much as they are able.

In his response The Deputy Provincial Grand Master in Charge, VWBro John Farrington, thanked Sir Paul for his kind words and presented Lady Glenys and Mrs. Wilson with bouquets of flowers. He continued to thank him for the grants the MCF had awarded our Province and the issues they had helped to resolve, and he said that raising awareness of those real-life individual stories is what will make our Festival a success. The Province is determined to make that happen. He continued to thank Sir David Trippier, our Past Festival President, who launched the Festival back in November and he looked forward to WBro Robert Frankl’s leadership when he takes over as Festival President in late March. He concluded by thanking Susan O’Neill and Julie Ward who had worked so hard to make the event the success it was, and he wished everyone a wonderful evening. Then a surprise when WBro Chad Northcott, the Festival Committee Chairman, and Julie Ward, the Director of Operations for the East Lancashire Masonic Charity, came to the stage, where they presented a cheque to the Deputy President, on behalf of the ELMC, for the marvellous sum of £50,000 in support of the Festival.

It was wonderful to see that every District within the Province was represented at the dinner and the support from the Royal Arch and Mark Degrees was greatly appreciated.

Whilst the event was a real success and allowed the Festival 2026 to ‘take-off’with a supersonic boom, it ultimately relies on all of us pledging what we are able by visiting the Festival Page on the website and using the various methods of supporting #EL2026. Here is looking forward to the next five years as we travel even closer to the final total.