A Brief History of MASC
It all started off as a simple goal shared by two people. Alex McNeice and Duncan Moris wanted to find a way to get more people involved in sport and the arts. In 2007 they got together and started going into schools and Age UK centres offering music sessions and sport sessions. Alex and Duncan created The Guildhall Sports and Arts Foundation, which soon became Guildhall Sports and Arts Community Interest Company (GSACIC), giving them the platform needed to raise funds and get into the community.
Aside from working in schools and care centres, they decided to set up a community choir for every child of primary school age throughout Shepway (which includes the towns of Folkestone, Hythe, New Romney, Hawkinge, Dymchurch and Lydd, and surrounding villages). Here began the ethos of what would become MASC; to set up community projects that are free to the user, set in places of most need, with access for everybody and as few boundaries to involvement as possible.
They found initial funding through The Victoria Foundation (THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR GETTING US GOING!!) and in 2008 set up Shepway Primary Singers, initially at St Saviours Church on Canterbury Rd, and since 2009 at Wood Avenue Library in the heart of East Folkestone. This venue was chosen as it is in the area of highest need, meaning children from local families who might not have access to transport and finances could be involved, as well as children from across the district.
Once the move to Wood Avenue Library happened, Duncan and Alex set up two further choirs – Shepway Voices (for adults) and Shepway Youth Voices (for children of secondary school age). There was now a community choir for anyone over the age of 4 to join that has no barriers to entry at all.
From this, the four target groups were established. Everything they do will look to help:
• The elderly
• People in social and/or economic deprivation
• People with mental and/or physical disabilities
New projects were created, including Martello Sessions involving weekly music sessions in care settings with adults who have severe physical and mental disabilities and learning difficulties, Generation Links bringing school children together with care home residents through music, Strange Games using unusual activities and sports to engage more children in physical activity, Arts Days in schools bringing whole schools together in music and the arts, and many more. A huge debt of gratitude is owed to our funders up to this point, including Folkestone Rotary Club, Folkestone Town Council, Shepway District Council, Kent County Council, The Nat West Community Force, The Roger De Haan Charitable Trust, and a number of other funders and donators without whom GSACIC may never have been able to carry on!
As GSACIC grew it became clear that it needed to move from the Community Interest Company model into a constituted Charity. Members of projects and choirs and existing trustees, led by Chairperson Linda Harris, agreed to volunteer to become founding members of the Board of Trustees for the new charity, to be called Music and Arts for the Shepway Community (MASC). By this time all of the work being given was in the arts, so it was decided to leave sports and concentrate on the arts. MASC was established as a charity in 2018. Being a charity opened up new funding opportunities and new project opportunities, allowing MASC to continue growing.
So that is where we are now. We are MASC. We have had many successes in our short time as a charity. We have secured funding from The People Projects (an ITV and National Lottery joint funding program), from The Kent Community Foundation, from The Stroke Association, from The Kent Police Fund, and continued support from The Rotary Club of Folkestone, and individual councillors and donators.
Our projects now include art clubs, performing and creative arts days, choirs, singing groups, choir competitions, intergenerational projects, we are working with people with dementia, people who are recovering from strokes and other brain affecting illnesses and incidents, children, retired populations, people with disabilities, and anyone in the community who wants to be involved in the arts.
We are proud to be a charity that has a reputation for creating and running projects that are enjoyable for all, have a positive impact on the people taking part, and benefit the wider community. We are bringing people together, creating new friendships and communities from different areas that may never have been able to come together, breaking barriers into the arts, improving the mental and physical health of those taking part, and having an amazing time whilst doing so!
In addition to the funders, MASC would like to thank some people, without whom we’d not be where we are and doing what we are doing today.
Peter Hobbs, who agreed to be a trustee at the very beginning with Duncan and Alex, to help everything begin. Peter also secured an office space for GSACIC. Thank you.
Louise Smith, Adam Stewart and Stewart Andersson and Amanda Angus, who joined the GSACIC board as trustees, allowing us to grow, helping to plan early projects, create systems by which funding bids could be made, and always encourage the practitioners to carry on providing projects. Stewart Anderson here deserves special mention as he is still a vital cog, eleven years after his first involvement as a financial consultant to the current board and as accountant. Thank you all.
To all past board members of either GSACIC or MASC. Without their time and skills being volunteered we would not be able to function. Jess Jeffery, who acted as the MASC secretary, Jody Wood as MASC Safeguarding Officer and long-term helper with the children in both children’s choirs, and Katherine Langley as MASC Publicity and PR Officer who is also now a practitioner, teaching art for Fools Arts sessions and online art ideas.
Linda Harris, who took the reins and spearheaded our transition from CIC to charity. Without Linda and her tireless efforts, it is certain we would not be where we are today. Linda acted as chair of GSACIC and then as the inaugural Chairperson of MASC. She was pivotal to establishing the base by which we now work and grow. Thank you so much!
Our current board of trustees. Chairperson – Emma Hatcher. Treasurer – Louise Peregrina. Funding Applications Officer – Lyn Maytum. Fundraising Events Officer - Sam Wraight. Publicity Officer – Lozzie Meston. Safeguarding Officer – Theresa Bowman. Many thanks to you all for your past and continued time and expertise in allowing MASC to continue.
Anyone who has joined a committee, team, or group set up to support the practitioners or the board, including fundraising team, choir teams, supervisors, publicity teams, event helpers, and many others, you time is invaluable to MASC. Thank you.
Everyone who has ever joined in, performed with, attended, or in anyway been involved with a project. It is all for you, and without you there would be no point! Staff in care settings, parents bringing children to sessions, singers, dancers, artists, organisations welcoming us in, and everyone who has ever watched a performance or show, thank you.
Lastly, we would like to thank our practitioners, without whom there would be no projects. Thank you to Katherine Langley and Susan McKenna for their projects in art and for engaging the community both online and in group sessions. Thank you to Lisa Tyrrell for her dance workshops and for getting people moving. Thank you to Alex McNeice and Duncan Moris for their years of leading choirs, designing and running projects, and enthusiasm in keeping the momentum going and creating the community in which we all now enjoy.
Long may MASC continue.