In 2013 after a series of taster courses with the Wellbeing Trust, in association with the NHS, catering for patients some of whom were suffering with depression and various mental problems. One of the courses was guitar lessons which lasted for eight weeks. At the end of the course the change in attitude of the participants was such that George Skarratts approached several members to set up a workshop and so a committee was formed, with George as president, Mike McPhillips chairman, Linda Johnston secretary, Sheila Skarratts administration and catering, Stanley Parr as treasurer, later replaced by Gillian Wynne-Parle.
The tutor was Ian Collinson who has worked with the NHS for several years and is skilled in working with people with mental illness in particular. Ian is an excellent teacher who has worked in music for most of his life and played in many bands and bearing in mind these were all raw beginners, he has tutored them to a very good standard, playing mostly rock and roll songs and many ballads.
Having no finance whatsoever George approached Freemasonry Cares who readily donated a grant of £600 which enabled the group to purchase all the necessary equipment; amplifiers speakers, stands, microphones, bass guitar with amplifier and all necessary leads. And so the Fairfield Community Guitar Workshop was launched. The main purpose of the group was to form a social outlet for all the members who hire the facility of the St Johns Church Hall in Widnes. Sheila provides tea, coffee and biscuits and everybody enjoys a good natter before the session begins.
The group have done many concerts for charity and do not charge a fee; it is supported by the members who pay £5 per week for the hall rental and tuition fees.
One of their achievements this year was a performance at the Studio Widnes which was a craft fair and also supported by their sister group the ukulele band known as the Dukes of Halton. Their stage name is the Halton Hound Dogs. On this occasion the sum of over £1,000 was raised for Cancer Research.
This year because of decreasing numbers due to age and illness they were reduced to 10 members and could not retain their financial commitment with a short fall of £70 per month and soon they were reduced to single figures in their account. George revised a business plan, part of which was to approach Ian with a view to cutting his tuition sessions to twice a month which being the type of person he is he readily agreed.
George then went on to approach Freemasonry Cares again who decided that they would support this very worthy cause and save the day for the Fairfield Community Guitar Workshop, they awarded a grant of £700 to the group. This now secures their future for many years to come thanks mainly to the generosity of the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity. It is true that Freemasonry really cares.