Confession... I am a homeless person sleeping on the streets of London for the past 2 years.
The term "homeless" seems to frighten a lot of people in the UK. Typically, after some initial show of shock and sympathy, most doors are immediately banged firmly shut in one's face. Stigma. Fear.
So that's it... out in the open at the beginning, so you can immediately decide whether or not you want to read further. But I sincerely hope you will, since there are some important issues to address and discuss. And it's a story of hope and inspiration.
Still with me? Let's get started... here are the relevant bits (more details concerning my own background and story are easily found elsewhere online. Just search on "tony wood victoria").
My profile is also on LinkedIn where my former business career is revealed.
It seems I made something of a success in selling The Big Issue magazine in London's Victoria district, helped not in small measure by the quality music I play for commuters as they come and go. I am a former classical musician - composer and violinist. Amongst other things, I used to produce concert programme notes and give pre-concert talks for the Balearic Symphony Orchestra in Spain.
I get no government support, initially because I was living outside of the UK for many years. So I have been totally self-supporting financially, including providing the support for my young family and initiatives.
I am 60 years old and I want to do something for society before it is too late for me. I have had this intention for many years but only now do I find myself in a position to achieve something that I believe to be of importance. I also want to give back to my wonderful customers here in London, many of whom have become good friends. This is the station's origin.
The Outcast Foundation was conceived and created to provide support and training to the poorer strata of society, to give them the tools to improve their fortunes, hopefully significantly. Its website is at http://outcastfdn.org
But it has been difficult to find support and funding. In my time on the streets, I have encountered so much vested interest in keeping the poor and homeless in exactly these states. Not only does it provide a ready supply of inexpensive unskilled labour of what used to be known as the disposable "cannon fodder" variety, but also creates and sustains many jobs in the related support services. What I call the "Poverty Industry" is a very real and huge industry in the UK. This is a totally shocking situation and an ongoing testimony to man's inhumanity to man.
So I am creating various social enterprises to draw attention to the situation and to fund the Outcast Foundation, which proposes and implements various solutions to the widening gap between the "haves" and "have nots". A minimum of 50% of all gross profits (sales less direct cost of sales) will be targeted towards this goal. That means, at least for starters, 50% of my own earnings. Hopefully in the not distant future, I will also be able to offer various opportunities for participation and personal growth within these enterprises.
Cardinal FM is a cultural station, focused around classical music and the arts. As time progresses and funds permit, I intend to add increasing amounts of spiritual and philosophical content, with the aim of helping the lives of all listeners who seek inner peace and fulfilment. It was necessary for me to live on the streets to reach this point.. to truly know what my life's work really is. For most people, this will hopefully not be necessary and a somewhat less dangerous path will be found, although I am sure not without similar challenges, both spiritual and physical!!
The name "Cardinal FM" refers to Cardinal Place (shopping mall) in Victoria, central London, situated between Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament. And with not just a passing reference to Cardinal Basil Hume (1923-1999), Archbishop of Westminster whose seat is at Westminster Cathedral, home of the Catholic Church in the UK, and situated very close-by. Cardinal Hume was a devout humanitarian and supporter of the poor and needy. His legacy lives on in this area. This is where it all began. Where I started selling The Big Issue magazine.
This design depicts the central region of the Sri Yantra mandala, the 9 main interlocking triangles (forming 43 smaller ones) representing the totality of the cosmos and man's relationship and unity with it. It is ancient Hindu sacred geometry in its most powerful form and regularly employed in meditation for personal development. From a Christian perspective it can be interpreted as representing the Holy Trinity. It is a symbol of great harmony and unity.
Anyone interested in my mission can learn more about it from this interview conducted by some wonderful people at Project Recourse: Tony Wood - Outcast Foundation.
In recent years I have endeavoured to be as involved as possible in music and the arts, in particular applying my experience and knowledge to various philanthropic projects.
I was a founding member of a branch of Lions Clubs International (the world's largest service organisation) in North Mallorca, Spain. Here we are in Palma de Mallorca following a meeting for a project I was responsible for involving the Balearic Symphony Orchestra, London's Diva Opera, and soprano Angelique Vanackere, a winner of the "Holland's Got Talent" show.
Here with Japonese violinist and conductor Joji Hattori, Conductor of the Vienna Chamber Orchestra and joint Artistic Director of the Balearic Symphony Orchestra, following a concert in Palma.
And here sharing a joke with Conductor Pablo Mielgo, Musical director of the Balearic Symphony Orchestra in Palma de Mallorca. The Lions organised coach parties taking the elderly and infirm from North Mallorca to evening concerts in the South of the island which they would not otherwise be able to attend. I used to give pre-concert talks discussing the music that was to be heard, so as to bring a greater understanding and enjoyment. I also wrote programme notes for the performances that were then translated into Catalan and handed out at the concerts.
We also fund-raised and sponsored many charities, both in Spain and internationally. I was particularly involved in organising and collecting for a newly inaugurated food bank to help the poor and homeless.
Prior to this I had some involvement in supporting opera productions in the South of France and with the Monte-Carlo Opera, Ballet and Philharmonic Orchestra.
Whilst most people who know me only from Cardinal Place in Victoria will perceive me as being interested only in music of the early periods, particularly Baroque. In reality this is far from the truth, and simply results from the acoustic limitations of the London Underground stations, where anything other than certain musical frequencies are absorbed and a clarity of texture is essential. Plus there is the limited time span of around 1 minute in which to engage people.
In fact I am also a particular enthusiast for music of the 20th century and supportive of new music from younger composers from the UK and around the world as a whole. Having no boundaries is a fundamental feature of music that is particularly relevant and important today.
Therefore it is my desire that Cardinal FM will eventually also provide an outlet for contemporary composers and will actively sponsor new works in a variety of musical genres.
This is my friend Miguel Roig-Francolí, the composer and pedagogue born in Ibiza who is currently Professor of Music at the University of Cincinnati in the USA. I hope that through the planned Outcast Festival, with the aid of Sponsorship by Cardinal FM, we will be able to give the UK priemiere of his "Cantata on Dante's Vita Nuova" for Baritone, Chorus and orchestra. A magnificent work (and very significant in today's changing world), but previously only heard at its world premiere in Madrid, and not as yet in the UK. Similarly, it is my sincere hope that Cardinal FM will be able to provide a voice for many wonderful contemporary composers deserving of a wider audience.
Cardinal FM is a work in progress and I believe has a long way to go. However, the bones are there and the core technology in place, ready to move forward more quickly and robustly.
It is my intention in the near future to launch podcast series to discuss music and its relationship with society together with commentary on social, environmental and geopolitical issues around the world. I believe that having only a narrow view of society and its problems viewed from a nationalistic standpoint to be totally fallacious, misleading and divisive, resulting not only in narrow unrealistic policies and objectives, but also increasing divisions within and between countries. Yet this is the typical way politicians and the mainstream media present it within the UK. In reality, working solutions can only be provided when considering the world and the many varied needs of its many peoples as a whole.
Music is unique in being a totally global language understood by all, and has proven to be a great unifying force for good, encouraging global peace, cooperation and harmony.
I sincerely believe that this station has an important role to play, not only in the musical life of London and the UK in general, bur also in helping raise public awareness of the many issues concerning poverty in this country and around the world. I hope that my past experiences in working in the music and charity spheres, particularly as a concert and festival organiser and promoter will bear fruit in what I believe is now taking this to the next level.
To achieve the above I need to rent office space with internet facilities and purchase professional studio equipment (such as microphones, mixing desk and various interfaces), plus some outdoor recording equipment. I also need to begin renting recording studio time so that I can work on programme introductions and related podcasts, for which there seems to be a significant demand. There is also the ongoing cost of the Public Broadcast licence. Not to mention finding the large amounts of time required necessary for programme creation and scheduling.
I anticipate the need to stop selling The Big Issue magazine in the not distant future so as to dedicate the majority of my time to Cardinal FM and the Foundation's objectives, particularly through teaching.
I would also like to recruit and train the first apprentice(s) from deprived backgrounds. They might not necessarily be young, since anyone from their mid teens to their retirement years can benefit significantly from Outcast training, which will provide the mental and practical skills as a minimum to permit the building of stable, successful careers, often in highly challenging environments incorporating disruption and change, particularly involving leadership roles and influential positions in work and society. On the other hand, training young people who are already highly motivated and enthusiastic to develop further, will most likely produce the most successful long-term results and benefit to society.
Thank you very much for reading this proposal. I do apologise that some of it might appear overbearingly self-centred. However this is the very nature of the project and ultimately how the results will be measured. It is about improving people's lives. Not the lives just of a chosen few, but of many. Only time will tell the level of success!