A long overdue update on the Benevolent Fund.
In May 2006 we received our first bank statement for our new account. It had the princely sum of £50 in it. We now have over 100 grips, crane techs, specialist remote head techs, uncertified grips and even one precision driver who contribute regularly to the fund. It is particularly pleasing to see the commitment from our newest and youngest members who can see the benefit of the fund stretching far into the future. And as Andy Friswell succinctly put it, "You'd be a mug not to be in it".
In my original letter I said that it would be nice if we could send the odd Christmas hamper out to our retired friends, and send a few quid to friends and associates in the branch and beyond. Since then we have sent nearly 200 Christmas hampers, bottles of port and jars of Stilton, fruit baskets to the infirm, given several thousand pounds to help our friends and their families, supported cancer charities such as Macmillan, children's charities at the request of our departed friends, hospices where both our friends and their fathers have spent their last days, sent flowers to remember grips and chippies and members of the camera dept, put money behind the jump at end of show parties for grips and sparks and cameramen, and we have even donated to Save The Rhino in memory of a much respected DoP. If grips can't empathise with Rhinos...
Last year we held what I hope will be the first annual Veterans Lunch. In the very civilised surroundings - we are grips after all - of the Rucola Restaurant in Uxbridge, we were treated to a fine lunch with excellent food and the odd glass of wine. We were joined by many of our retired friends who made the journey from as far afield as the West Country and Cambridgeshire. Old friendships were rekindled and many a (sometimes tall) tale was told 'From Behind The Dolly'. The success of the day was tempered by the sadness that our dear friend Vic was not there to enjoy it with us. When we were looking for venues, he had driven me round golf clubs and pubs before taking me to the Rucola and saying how about this. For me personally, I will treasure that day for ever, as I basked in the stories and jokes, which he was still able to tell in spite of his illness. He even insisted on giving me a cheque for his annual sub to the fund, and insisted that I paid it in. A matter of weeks later he finally succumbed to cancer.
The fund has been very generously supported (in no particular order) by Panavision Grips, Camera Revolution, Chapman's, Louma UK, Bickers and Arri Media. With their continued help, along with the steady income from all the boys that put into the fund means that to date, January 2014, we have spent on all of the above, £38,392.84.
Not bad for a fiver a month.
Toby Plaskitt, Branch Treasurer.