Monday, 21 February 2011


Each year, as all the Drapers reading this blog will know, the Master selects a charity he wishes the Company to support.  The charity acquires four benefits from this: a significant cash grant from the Company of £10,000, charitable donations by members of the Company - members of the Company are notably generous and a very considerable sum is given, a fund-raising event in the Hall at cost and, of course, further publicity for the charity.

This year I have selected a charity that is not yet a charity.  It is called Harold Hill Initiatives.  As it name makes clear it is focused on getting a number of projects started on Harold Hill.  This is where the Drapers' Academy opened in September 2010 (see a considerable number of earlier posts) is located.

Harold Hill is a former London County Council overspill estate built some sixty years ago.  The estate is  attractively laid out and much of it has  matured well. However it is remote - right on the edge of the green belt - and employment prospects are not good.  Many on the estate are now into a second generation of being dependent on welfare.  This is reflected by the fact that the two wards on the 'Hill' are the poorest in London Borough of Havering and well inside the bottom 10% nationally.  With state-spending cutbacks this is about to become a bigger issue.

Interestingly, although there are a large number of charities working in the inner city -see for instance the next post on the Drapers' City Foyer at Bethnal Green - there are virtually none active on the outer rim of London.

However a very active local group on the 'Hill' including Rev Russell Moul, the parish priest of St Paul's, are in the process of setting up a local charitable enterprise provisionally called the Diamond Trust.  Quite by chance Liveryman David Monro is providing legal on advice on this. This charity will be established within the next six months.  Meanwhile Harold Hill Initiatives can get the work started.

The big advantage of a local charity is that its reaction time can be very quick and can best understand local priorities.  Also volunteer support means that cost overheads are negligible.  We have a number of ideas that can get going immediately.  These include the establishment of a 'Listening Post' where people with problems can receive confidential support and advice and a micro-loan operation to provide finance to get young adults started in setting up their own businesses.

The charitable side of Harold Hill Initiatives will be overseen by Andy Mellows, our Head of Charities, and Stephen Beeson, Director of Finance at Drapers' Academy, will also help out.

More reports follow.

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