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Fred Freeman Annual Lecture on Philanthropy

21 April 2010

Fred Freeman was a man of extraordinary vision and generosity - very much in the tradition of the Rathbones, Levers and Moores who have left such a mark for good on Merseyside.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, can I add my welcome to the magnificent Sherrington lecture theatre at the University of Liverpool.

I am honoured to have been invited by Sir Howard, the university’s vice-chancellor, to give the inaugural Fred Freeman Annual Lecture on Philanthropy.

It is, of course, absolutely fitting that such a lecture takes place at this university which is one of Merseyside’s brightest jewels, has helped shape this area - and, of course, owes so much to the generosity of benefactors past and present - including the Freeman family.

I am particularly thrilled that we are joined by Fred’s daughter tonight and want to thank the Trustees of the Mr and Mrs F C Freeman Trust for their invaluable help in making sure this event and lecture is what he envisaged.

Fred Freeman was a man of extraordinary vision and generosity - very much in the tradition of the Rathbones, Levers and Moores who have left such a mark for good on Merseyside.

It was typical that he wanted to create this lecture series to support and encourage a new generation to follow the great names of the past.

Indeed through his development and support of United Way, he helped make it easier for us all to give to organisations which help so many people through challenges and difficulties.

His influence spread far wider than this city. But as well as being a charitable innovator, he was immensely proud of his roots here on Merseyside.

It is a pride which I share. I may now have lived more of my life in London than on Merseyside but I never hesitate when asked where I come from.

This is where I was brought up and the place that shaped me, for good and bad.

When my husband calls me - as I admit he sometimes does -a Bolshie Scouser, I am not sure he means it entirely as a compliment.

But I take it as something as a badge of pride - and I am sure many of you would do as well.

But along with our outspokenness, it is the warmth of Liverpool and its people which helps define this place.

Wherever I am in the world and whoever I meet, saying I come from Liverpool is always an ice-breaker.

It might be that they want to talk about football or the Beatles.

But on a surprising number of occasions, the conversation centres on a visit to Liverpool by themselves, family member or friend - and the welcome they received.

It is this same generosity of spirit which lies behind Liverpool’s remarkable record of philanthropy.

It is this history which will be the focus of this lecture tonight.

For it seemed right that an inaugural lecture should begin at the beginning.

So I want tonight to acknowledge the contribution of well-known and not so well-know philanthropists to Merseyside and its people.

But I also want as well to touch on the emerging new generation of philanthropists - which Fred Freeman did so much to encourage.

For those of you interested in reading more, there is a report prepared by Cathy Elliott and Cat Kirkcaldy from the Community Foundation which is available on your way out tonight - and whose help I want to acknowledge.

The word and concept of philanthropy is well over two millenniums old. Philos, I am told by those with a far better classical education means loving in Greek and anthrõpos man.

So to be philanthropic means to show concern for humanity and quickly came to mean performing charitable actions.

It is a belief - one that Fred Freeman shared and acted on - that we have to use wealth and good fortune for the greater good.

Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-born American industrialist, expressed it strongly when he said: “The man who dies rich dies in disgrace”.

He strongly believed that the rich had a moral duty to re-distribute their wealth during their lifetime - a view shared by many of Merseyside’s great philanthropists.
No one can accuse him of not practicing what he preached.

Carnegie died in 1919, having donated $350m throughout his lifetime. That’s the equivalent in today’s money of some £40 billion.

His extraordinary generosity has had a major impact on many lives. We should not, however, fall into the trap of looking at the past with rose-tinted spectacles.

We are seeing equally remarkable acts of philanthropy today.

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, is using his own wealth to help tackle some of the world’s most intractable problems such as malaria and poor agricultural productivity in Africa.

It is estimated that he has already given away well over $30 billion dollars. And the Gates Foundation is also supported by a matching $30 billion donation from his friend, the investor Warren Buffet.

Here on Merseyside, not least in some of the exciting developments taking place at this university, we are also seeing great acts of generosity.

We should perhaps not be surprised by this explosion of philanthropy in recent years.
Experts in this area - like Bishop and Green - have found that eras of strong philanthropy are linked with periods of wealth creation, growing inequality of income and the inevitable social upheaval and problems this caused.

Unsurprisingly, given these factors, they believe we are now entering a new golden age of philanthropy.

It seems to me that the rich history of philanthropy on Merseyside illustrates these points with the peaks of individual philanthropy mirroring the prosperity of the past - and, I am pleased to say, the modern day transformation of the local economy.

Liverpool as a city, of course, proudly traces its history back over 800 years.

But it was the growth of the British Empire, particularly its expansion across the Atlantic, which was to transform Liverpool’s prospects.

By the end of the seventeenth century, Liverpool was booming. It was becoming a fashionable and wealthy town.

But with this wealth came dreadful poverty, poor health and social problems.

The response was a flowering of charitable institutions including the alms houses for sailor’s widows established in 1692 by Silvester Richmond.

Around the same time, the Bluecoat School was established to educate poor children, thanks to the generosity of master mariner Bryan Blundell.

The school had strong religious roots. At that time a great deal of philanthropy was based on religious tradition.

As a result, the church became the vehicle for public and private social work as, of course, is still the case today in Merseyside.

My own experience as a school girl was raising money for the Merseyide-based charity Jospice, one of the pioneers of the Hospice movement and which is going strong.

We used to go round singing carols. I think people paid us to move away.

Religion and faith-based values have remained strong drivers of philanthropy throughout the city’s modern history.

But the late eighteen and nineteenth century also began to see a new breed of philanthropist, often self-made businessmen made wealthy by Liverpool’s trade. who although often heavily influenced by their faith, acted outside their churches.

By the nineteenth century, Liverpool could rightly claim to be the second city of the Empire.

Some 40% of the world’s trade was passing through the port.

But along with great wealth, there was also tremendous deprivation.

The docks offered only insecure and casual employment.

The welfare systems that were in place were inadequate and could not cope with the sudden growth of population that Liverpool was experiencing.

The Irish Famine, for example, resulted in huge numbers of destitute people arriving in Liverpool.

In the first half of 1847 alone, some 300,000 Irish refugees sailed into Liverpool with less than half crossing the Atlantic.

We also have to recognise that the city’s prosperity was built on the shame of the transatlantic slave trade.

So it is right that we celebrate the efforts of William Roscoe - one of the city’s greatest sons - and many fellow abolitionists from Liverpool in campaigning to end this abomination.

They included, too, Edward Rushton who also helped set up the School for the Blind - only the second of its kind in the world and which remains a world-leader.

This was one of an increasing number of similar acts of generosity from the newly wealthy to improve the city and the plight of the many thousands of their fellow Liverpool citizens.

There was, for example, a concerted drive to develop the cultural life of the city and surrounding area.

Philanthropy for some in the Victorian era was heavily focused on the civilising impact of art which when you are struggling to feed your family, might seem a touch paternalistic.

But we can be truly grateful for their generosity. The legacy lives with us through the city’s magnificent galleries and libraries.

The William Brown Library and museum were named after local merchant and MP, Sir William Brown who donated the land on which the buildings stand as well as a large portion of the funding.

The Walker Art Gallery was named, too, after its benefactor Sir Andrew Walker, a former Mayor of the City - whose generosity also enabled this university’s first engineering building to be housed and equipped.

For as well as the galleries and museums, this was the period which also saw foundation of this wonderful university which has added so much to Merseyside and our global reputation.

University College Liverpool was established in 1882 in a disused lunatic asylum at the heart of one of the city’s many slum districts.

I see from the university’s history that one of the complaints was that students had to pass 22 public houses on the way to the city - something which nowadays might be considered a draw rather than a disadvantage.

The inadequacies of the building quickly became clear - and in response the sugar refiner Henry Tate, supported by the college’s founding fathers and the city’s business community, funded a new building.

The Victoria Building, which is now the Victoria Gallery and Museum, remains at the heart of the university while its distinctive façade has given its name to red-brick universities.

Department by department, building by building, we have seen the generosity and vision of philanthropists help expand the university and build its world-class reputation.

Providing educational opportunities and chances for self-advancement has always been an important priority for philanthropists on Merseyside - and remains so today.

Education is, of course, one of the main causes supported by the Leverhulme Trust.

We can’t talk about Merseyside philanthropists without mentioning the Leverhulme family who again have such strong links with this university - not least in the new Large Animal Hospital over on the Wirral.

We owe the beauty of Port Sunlight to the vision of the first Lord Leverhulme who feared his workers knew nothing of “God's earth, of green fields, of sparkling brooks, of breezy hill and springy heather".

But he also contributed to a wide range of other civic, medical and community causes which the family trust continues to support.

Less well-known was the tobacco magnate Joseph Williamson who put unemployed men to work building a labyrinthine of tunnels under Liverpool so they could have a regular wage.

If only he had thought of the Mersey tunnel he would have been regarded as visionary rather than eccentric.

Rather more mainstream was Henry Tate, who we have already mentioned as a supporter of this university and whose painting collection became he basis of the Tate Gallery - and Samuel Smith whose contribution to the city is marked by the obelisk in Sefton Park.

But the Victorian age also saw philanthropy increasingly driven by a mixture of compassion and anger which saw practical efforts to provide relief mixed with demands for social reform.
The Rathbones - one of the city’s greatest families - in particular, came to signify this approach.

The older Rathbones were among the most ardent campaigners in the city against the slave trade.

But their wealth and influence was also used to address the problems they saw on their doorstep.

William Rathbone V was a prime mover in providing schooling for the city’s children - and in supplying relief to the victims of the Irish famine.

His son William Rathbone VI used his own money to help transform health care in the city.

He was so impressed by the care his dying wife received at the hands of a local nurse - and so horrified at the conditions of a local hospital - that he paid nurses to attend to visit the poor in their homes.

This led him into contact with Florence Nightingale after which he funded the creation of the Liverpool Training School for Nurses.

On his death in 1902, Florence Nightingale described him as “one of God’s best and greatest sons” - a view shared by many in this city.

It is easy to see why. For William came independently to the view of the purpose of wealth made famous by Andrew Carnegie.

Writing in his Sketch of Family History, he said a man’s surplus wealth was “not an absolute freehold which he may use solely for personal enjoyment and indulgence”.

It was, he said, “a trust for which he owes to account to himself, to his fellow-men and to God”.

It was very much in the family tradition that William’s daughter, Eleanor, was a campaigner on poverty and women’s issues.

She later became Liverpool’s first female councillor and Member of Parliament, credited with helping pave the way for the Family Allowance Act.

She also, by the way, established social work as an academic discipline at this university which her own father had helped found.

The Rathbone family continues its philanthropic support of the University today through the Eleanor Rathbone Charitable Trust while Jenny Rathbone is an tireless Ambassador for the University’s Better Births Appeal.

She is following in a great tradition. For women, of course, also played a major role in addressing the social problems of the city even earlier than Eleanor Rathbone.

Indeed her mother Emily was a partner in her husband’s work in establishing District Nursing in Liverpool - and a prime mover in extending it to school nursing.

As the middle class increased here in the city, so did the number of well educated women.

With opportunities for them in business or the professions still limited, many turned to charitable work and campaigning.

Josephine Butler was a 19th century British social reformer, who played a major role in improving conditions for women in education and public health.

If you want to find out more about her, you are at the right place.

The university holds, I am told, a very impressive collection of her archives. And it was not just the wealthy wives of Liverpool merchants.

One of the most remarkable examples of philanthropy and social reform is the example of Kitty Wilkinson, who opened Britain’s first public washhouse in Upper Frederick Street.

Kitty herself was far from rich although her and her husband were better off than their neighbours.

Having the area’s only hot water boiler, she allowed neighbours to use it.

With support from William Rathbone V and again his wife Elizabeth, she extended the washhouse and was able to provide clean clothes at a time when cholera was threatening the lives of many in the city.

Her initiative became the basis for a series of washrooms throughout the city.

Through her efforts, too, she also helped local children receive education, setting up local rudimentary schools and helping provide scholarships to the Bluecoat.

Kitty started a great tradition, thankfully still very strong across Merseyside, of ordinary families leading change, setting up their own initiatives to address local problems.

Initiatives which increasingly receive support from the new breed of philanthropists with which we are blessed.

The Victorian age was without doubt a golden age of philanthropy on Merseyside.

The early years of the 20th century saw the state - in education, in heath and in the provision of help for the elderly - take on much of the work which up until then had relied on the generosity of individuals.

Perhaps, unsurprisingly, this had led to an overall reduction in charitable giving and philanthropy from which Merseyside suffered as well.

There were, however, some remarkable individuals and acts of sustained generosity which bucked this trend.

Among this number stands Sir John Moores, Littlewoods founder and city benefactor, whose name is carried in another university in the city.

There was also Sir Sydney Jones who supported this University in his lifetime and in his will.

This group of great Merseysiders also includes Fred Freeman.

By founding the United Way in the UK in 1953 with a group of local charities in Liverpool, he transformed funding methods and helped provide a steady stream of income to support their work.

United Trusts was formed in 1989 to continue to support and promote giving to local charities which fund social welfare agencies and programs as well as individual cases of great need.

His work lives on via the “Fred Freeman” People for People in Merseyside Fund to provide some relief for individuals and families who suffer the day-to-day constraints and pressures of living in poverty.

The last century also saw the origins of Age Concern in Liverpool - just as philanthropic efforts here led to the formation of the NSPCC sixty years before.

So this brief overview shows both the impact of philanthropy on Merseyside and how it has changed.

This continues to be the case in the new age of philanthropy we are now entering

Eddie George, the former Governor of the Bank of England wrote in 2008 that “we need a modern British philanthropy that takes the strengths of the past and supports our present day communities of mobile and diverse populations with modern techniques and technologies”.

I think the evidence shows that, once again, this community is giving a lead.

The author Charles Handy coined the term ‘new philanthropists’ a few years ago to distinguishing philanthropists of today from those of the past.

This change is perhaps best seen locally, nationally and internationally ain the way techniques of business are applied to philanthropy.

Strategic philanthropy calls for an issue to be analysed, to map the field to find the most effective organisations able to deliver the goals, make a grant to leverage in greater funds and to monitor the impact of the intervention.

It is an approach we are using with my own Foundation for Women which is building partnerships to help women entrepreneurs in those societies across the world where they still face many unfair obstacles.

Some might call it more hard-edged. And it certainly expects results for investment.

It is not pity which is the real motivator but about how they can use their experience and wealth to give people the chance to improve their lives.

There is nothing woolly about modern philanthropy. Nor is it about paternalism but partnerships - often with the locally based initiatives we see all around us.

We live today, of course, in a true global age. We are linked as never before by technology, by opportunities and also threats.

This means, of course, today’s philanthropists are global citizens and so are increasingly global givers.

But they also remain motivated, as in the past, by a strong desire to give back to their own communities.

In return, however, they want to be closely involved. It is not just about giving money but ensuring it makes a difference.

To support this new age of hands-on philanthropists, we have seen the establishment of the Institute for Philanthropy and New Philanthropy Capital to providing international and national philanthropy advisory services.

At local level, we have seen the creation of community foundations as we have here in Merseyside - offering expert knowledge and insights.

Since July 2008 the Community Foundation for Merseyside has gathered together a new generation of philanthropists who have invested £1.6 million collectively to date in long-term, sustainable giving for current and future communities in Merseyside.

They are a group of people who are socially motivated, often younger than their predecessors.

Sadly, I can’t pretend I belong to this younger generation. But I to am well aware of the good fortune I have had in my life, from my background here on Merseyside, the doors opened for me by education - and the role other women played in breaking down barriers for me.

I want to help other women in the way I was helped - and through my involvement with local and global charities - to help raise funds.

In many ways, Phil Redmond represents this new generation of philanthropists with his energy, dynamism and youthful outlook making a mockery of age,

One of Merseyside’s greatest mavericks and entrepreneurs, he successfully led the European Liverpool Capital of Culture 2008 with inimitable style.

Now Chairman of Museums Liverpool, Phil is leading on the establishment of the Museum of Liverpool which aims to set the global benchmark for city history museums.

With his track record , hands-on approach and wide experience of business - together with the support of many like-minded people working with him - I have no doubt this ambition will be met when it opens next year.

We see a similar entrepreneurial approach in the Mark McQueen Foundation set up in 2008 by the McQueen family in memory of their son.

The family’s determination effectively to tackle challenges around men’s mental health has led them to insist that the charities they work with develop a strategic approach to sustainability.

The result is already contributing to reducing waiting lists for local counselling services and helping best practice to be shared across mental health practitioners.

In Merseyside, we have seen local entrepreneurs, Ian Finch and Matt Johnson set up The Mando Foundation.

The Foundation has a clear corporate philanthropic strategy, focusing first on extending opportunities for young people, and in which they are determined to involve their staff.

I should also mention Jamie Carragher among this new breed of younger philanthropists.

Jamie, a rarity among Premier footballers nowadays in that he has played for his local club throughout his career, wants to give back to the community that has supported him.

So he has set up the 23 Foundation to expand opportunities for young people and, through sport, to realise their dreams and play a bigger role in society.

New ‘entrepreneurial’ philanthropists are also supporting this University alongside more traditional donors.

Last year over £6.5m was given by philanthropists to support vital capital projects, ground-breaking research and to help students facing financial hardship.

Philanthropy is playing, for example, a significant role in the Centre for Better Births at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital and the Philip Leverhulme Equine Hospital over on the Wirral.

Today, the University’s Development Foundation, senior alumni volunteers and philanthropists in their own right - many of whom I know are here tonight - follow in the footsteps of those Victorian philanthropists in guiding and driving forward this great institution.

This determination to help the community - as well as the generosity to help those hit by international tragedies such as Haiti- is reflected right across Merseyside.

It is to the great credit of the city and its people that the Charity Commission found last year that, despite the recession, charitable donations in Liverpool held up.

Indeed, what is remarkable is that across the UK, philanthropists more than doubled their donations to the Community Foundation Network in 2008/2009 compared to the previous year.

There is no doubt, either, that these donations whether to local, national or international charities are needed as much as ever.

We are in the middle of a city tonight which has, through its own efforts, transformed itself in recent years.

Liverpool has enjoyed a dazzling renaissance. But we also know that there are many challenges still to be overcome.

As Fred Freeman understood, there remains a real need to encourage philanthropy and charitable giving but also to ensure every penny of this money is well spent.

Where we are fortunate, as I hope I have shown, is that we have a fantastic tradition to build on and a level of generosity which many would envy.

I believe, too, the younger generation are a secret weapon in our hopes of boosting philanthropy.

As the mother of four, I know I am biased. But I simply don’t go along with this view that the young are more selfish and narrow-minded than past generations.

The more I see of their passion and commitment to others, the more I feel our world is in safe hands.

It is a view only reinforced by the actions of the students at this University who raise e thousands of pounds each year for good causes.

Students also take part in thousands of hours of volunteering for hundreds of good causes each year.

What is clear from the brief overview is how while philanthropy on Merseyside has changed in many ways, the desire to improve the lives of others and our community stays as strong as ever.

Fred Freeman personified this desire during his lifetime.

Through this lecture series, he is encouraging and helping others to carry on his work.

In each age, the aims and methods of philanthropy have been suited to their times. As this community has evolved, as new challenges have arisen, so the methods have evolved.

We are perhaps more people focussed than in the Victorian age. Today’s philanthropists may want to be more hands-on and to use their business skills and expertise.

But in the end, they remain motivated by the same desire to improve lives of their fellow citizens, to create new opportunities for families and to strengthen this great community.

Those who give today - whether it is their experience, money or time or all three - are following in a wonderful tradition.

We must do all we can to encourage their efforts just as Fred Freeman did in his lifetime.

Thank you for the honour of delivering this first Fred Freeman Annual Lecture on Philanthropy and I hope you enjoy the rest of the evening.