31st Jan 2020

With 50 events over three weeks, and an audience of 2,600 people, GeNErosity: A Festival of Philanthropy and Giving in North East England, was a unique celebration. Run with Newcastle University, the Festival was also a fitting way for the Community Foundation to mark its 30th birthday in November 2018.

Professor Charles Harvey, during his lecture to at the opening event, hailed GeNErosity as a world first. ‘No-one else has organised a festival of this kind anywhere in the world to my sure and certain knowledge,’ he said. It was research undertaken by Professor Harvey and his team at the Newcastle University’s Centre for Research on Entrepreneurship, Wealth and Philanthropy, that uncovered a staggering history of regional philanthropy dating back almost 900 years to the early 12th century and which formed the basis for the Festival.

Professor Charles Harvey presents the North East Philanthropy Story

‘We wanted to celebrate and raise awareness of what philanthropy has achieved in the North East and this rich history we have’ says Sandra King, Chief Philanthropy Officer at the Community Foundation who led work on the Festival. ‘But it was also important for us to consider what philanthropy helps to achieve now and what it could achieve in the future. Could we raise questions and stimulate a debate about the future of philanthropy? Could we encourage more philanthropy and the next generation of philanthropists?’

The Festival encompassed 50 events and activities from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Teesside. Highlights included Rhodri Davies of the Charities Aid Foundation discussing the impact of disruptive technology on giving, renowned folk musician Kathryn Tickell hosting an evening of music along with a charity auction, a panel of influential UK philanthropists discussing transformational philanthropy, and local roadshows in Northumberland and County Durham. The Festival rounded off with the ‘Great Philanthropy Debate’ where four expert speakers debated the motion ‘Philanthropy does more for donors than it does for society’.

Twenty-seven local charities put on special events to showcase how they were, using the Festival’s social media hashtag ‘#poweredbyphilanthropy’. From ukulele workshops to walking tours, children’s storytelling to bread-making socials, there was a diverse selection available to all. Another aspect of the Festival were pledge cards which allowed anyone to commit to being philanthropic, whether that meant becoming a trustee for a charity or donating to a food bank. Meanwhile, an ‘Unsung GeNErosity Hero’ competition highlighted the everyday generosity of people from all walks of life whose giving makes a huge difference, but usually goes unnoticed. With five category winners and a public vote - where over a thousand votes were received - the winner was Neil Dickinson.

The scale and ambition of the Festival captured the imagination of the region. Muckle LLP, Brewin Dolphin, Tait Walker, Newcastle Building Society and the University of Kent’s Centre for Philanthropy came on board as partners and sponsors. Further funding followed from a range of local trusts and donors.

Whilst it is difficult to attribute a future philanthropic action as a direct result of the Festival, the Community Foundation’s evaluation findings (available on its website) suggest a high level of engagement. A legacy also exists through www.philanthropynortheast.com which contains the complete research undertaken by Newcastle University, including profiles of over a hundred notable philanthropists.  

While the scale of the three-week festival was a one-off, in November 2019 the Community Foundation is running a mini #poweredbyphilanthropy festival focusing on the themes of diversity and inclusion. It promises to build on the success of the GeNErosity Festival and keep the conversation going.

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