Your background lies in fundraising for charities, most recently at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Do you see an opportunity for the ROSL Foundation to increase its fundraising activities?
For me, as a long-time member, one of the things that I really like about ROSL is that it is not just a club, it is cultural organisation and always has been. That’s what I’ve valued and enjoyed about being a member.
What a cultural organisation does is it keeps on refreshing itself, it keeps on investigating something new; new ideas, new performances, new artists, new ways for people to engage with one another and with culture. I think that adds a lot of value to life and that’s one of the things that over the last 18 months, the lack of being able to attend live performances or see live exhibitions, for me, that’s been sad. What you can do through a screen is great, and I think ROSL has done a lot of really good digital work, a lot more than some other bigger and better funded organisations. But equally, the development of new arts and new artists, that ability to engage with ideas and experience beauty is really important. Those kind of cultural values have an acknowledged charitable value.
When a lot of people think of charity, they think about cancer research or overseas development, animal welfare, that sort of thing. But charity is actually very broad.
If you have visited ROSL recently, you may have noticed that there is currently a temporary staircase taking you down from the Brabourne Room to the Garden, while the original wrought-iron staircase has been removed for renovation. Funded by the ROSL Foundation, this unique piece of decorative ironwork requires the skills of specialist craftspeople in its repair and restoration, and is an important constituent in the listing of these heritage buildings. It will hopefully make a return in early 2022.
Saxophonist Jonathan Radford won the Annual Music Competition Gold Medal in 2018 and received £20,000 in prize money, £5,000 of which was specifically reserved for use in furthering his career. He chose to use this money to commission new repertoire for saxophone. The original work by composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Algernon, received its world premiere at the 2019 Brighton Festival, performed by Jonathan and fellow ROSL AMC alumni Ashley Fripp piano. Its performance at the festival introduced a whole new audience to both Jonathan and Ashley, as well as Cheryl, and was supported by a further performance at the Buxton International Festival later that year.
Historically, the Trust has focused more on some of those other charitable areas, such as working in Commonwealth countries, working in schools or working with deprived communities, which is valuable work, but there are lots of other organisations that do those things. We are now hoping through the ROSL Foundation to focus on what ROSL can uniquely do to make the world a better place. Simply put, to add cultural value for members, but not just for members. It goes wider than that.
When you support a young artist, or a musician, the cultural value is then shared more widely through their work and careers. It’s not just about having a musician in to do a performance; they gain something from that performance, which they then take on to their next performance. They gain expertise. The prizes we run give musicians opportunities, the scholarships we fund give artists opportunities. There is an investment in those people who take and share that cultural value to more and more people. In recent years, we have added even further activity by creating and supporting arts education projects, allowing the recipients of our competitions and scholarships the opportunity to give back to the next generation. With recent projects ranging from East London to the Caribbean, we intend to continue to educate and encourage new talent to contribute to our arts programmes.
More directly, a lot of our concerts and exhibitions are open to the public as well, so it’s not just limited to members. This charitable activity is not just for the good of the club, but it is also the club doing something for the wider good.
The Foundation’s support for the arts goes beyond the clubhouse, with arts education projects around the world considered for funding. The Antigua and Barbuda Youth Symphony Orchestra hosted a delegation of ROSL alumni in 2019, receiving expert training, culminating in a concert celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Commonwealth at the national stadium. Plans to travel back to return to the country will happen when Covid allows.
ROSL is not just a club, it is a cultural organisation and always has been. That’s what I’ve valued and enjoyed about being a member