North East foundation distributes £1.2m to Sage and other projects

Northumberland-based Stuart Halbert Foundation is handing out £500,000 to the Sage Gateshead

The Sage Gateshead Music Centre with the Baltic
The Sage Gateshead Music Centre with the Baltic

Organisations including Sage Gateshead are to benefit from a £1.2m handout by a North East charitable foundation.

The music centre is to receive £500,000 over three years from the Northumberland-based Stuart Halbert Foundation, enabling it to access an additional £250,000 from Arts Council England.

Another beneficiary is Elderberries, a new initiative aimed at combating loneliness and a sense of isolation among the elderly in Northumberland.

Elderberries, which is to receive £250,000 over three years, has been established by the foundation and the Duchess of Northumberland and is based at The Alnwick Garden.

The Stuart Halbert Foundation was set up in 2010 by members of the Halbert family in recognition of the role Stuart Halbert played in building the family business, Kilfrost, into a global brand.

The firm was set up in 1932 by Joseph Halbert whose first product, Slimego, was sold to butchers to prevent slime building up on meat at a time when refrigeration was a rarity.

But real business success came with the development of a de-icing fluid for aeroplane wings.

Orders soared during the Second World War when the firm, which had relocated to London, returned to the North East because of wartime bombing in the capital.

Today Kilfrost specialises in a range of heat transfer products. It is based in Haltwhistle, has a £64m turnover, employs 92 people and operates in 63 countries.

Gary Lydiate, chairman of the trustees of the Stuart Halbert Foundation and chief executive of Kilfrost, said members of the Halbert family had been involved in charitable giving for many years, but in a quiet and private way.

Stuart’s sisters, Margaret and Joan Halbert, were generous founding patrons of Sage Gateshead but never courted publicity. Joan, who is 95, lives in Northumberland. Margaret died five years ago.

Mr Lydiate said Stuart Halbert, who died 16 years ago, had been very proud of his North East roots and was always keen to give something back to the community.

“Occasionally, if there was a real hard luck story in the newspaper, he’d ring the journalist who wrote the story and send off a cheque for £500 or £1,000, but always very quietly.

“This fund is in his memory to serve the local community and those who may be disadvantaged or who simply merit our support.”

He said the foundation, supported by Kilfrost and members of the Halbert family, had supported several causes since 2010 but the public announcement of this latest round of donations took the foundation to a new level.

He said it looked to support projects falling into four broad categories: the local community, animal welfare, the armed forces and people.

Sage Gateshead had been supported, he said, not only because of its music but because of its outreach programme.

Other major beneficiaries are Haltwhistle Community Campus (£100,000), Opera North (£150,000) and the Northumberland branch of SSAFA, the armed services charity (£25,000).

Mr Lydiate said £160,000 was still in the pot and he accepted the foundation would now see a surge in applications.

But he said: “While we would like to help everybody, we can’t. We will look at every application.”

Anthony Sargent, general director of Sage Gateshead, said he was “very proud and enormously grateful” that the foundation had invested further in the Sage’s work.

“Our cherished relationship with the extraordinary Halbert family and their company has been of defining importance throughout Sage Gateshead’s development,” he added.

Jane, Duchess of Northumberland said of the support for Elderberries: “As a new project based at The Alnwick Garden, the funding will make a huge difference in helping us to deliver valuable services to the community.”

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