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Michael Josephson: The multi-million-pound charity man

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The Michael Josephson MBE Charity Ball is the hottest ticket in town, and this time around the Cheshire philanthropist made it a £1million-plus fundraiser with a little help from his friends.

Michael Josephson stands on the stage of his 2023 charity ball and looks out across the room at the 400 guests – friends, sponsors, supporters, celebrities. They have paid between £10,000 and £50,000 for a table, and bid up to £100,000 for the ultimate luxury auction prizes, at what is described as the best fundraiser in the North West, if not the country. In his hand, there’s a piece of paper with a number written on it.

He reads out the figure – the amount raised that evening: £1,063,872. Every penny will go to changing the lives of disadvantaged children across the region.

The date of the event everyone wants a ticket to is November 11, 2023. It is almost 25 years to the day when at the age of 23, Michael – these days Michael Josephson MBE–stood on a 60-foot bridge over the A34 at Handforth Dean and jumped, desperate for release from a life blighted by physical and mental abuse and unbearable sadness.

Great British Life: Michael and his mother Helena who died when he was 10 years old'My mother was my life and I was hers. When she died I was a lost child' he says. (c) Miichael JosephsonMichael and his mother Helena who died when he was 10 years old'My mother was my life and I was hers. When she died I was a lost child' he says. (c) Miichael Josephson

‘That was December 28, 1998, and I was in my saddest place,’ says Michael. ‘1998 was the darkest time of my life.It could have been the end of my life but it turned out to be the beginning. Twenty-five years later – Saturday, November 11, 2023 – I was in my happiest place.

‘After the fall I spent months in Macclesfield Hospital. I landed on my feet and had fractures in my back, shattered both ankles, the tibia and fibula in both my legs snapped, and my hands and wrists were badly damaged as I fell forward and they took the weight.

‘The last thing I remember was turning around on that bridge and looking back at the emergency services and my friends standing behind me, all willing me not to jump. But I couldn’t face carrying on. I thought: “I’m going to be arrested and put in prison; I’m going to be institutionalised again; they will think I am attention-seeking; I’ve dug my own grave.” So I went over.’

Great British Life: Michael and Lindon with Sophie Ellis-Bextor, who headlined the 2023 ball. (c) The Vain Ltd - Carl SukonikMichael and Lindon with Sophie Ellis-Bextor, who headlined the 2023 ball. (c) The Vain Ltd - Carl Sukonik

Surgery was delayed until the alcohol and drugs were out of Michael’s system and he could be anaesthetised safely, meaning a further risk to his survival, let alone the chance of him walking again.

‘The team at Macclesfield Hospital were fantastic and while I lay there, month after month, I renewed my life and, in a way, self-healed. I decided it had to be the end of what had gone before. I had a job to do,’ he says.

Michael’s substance abuse came after his years in the care system following the death of his mother, Helena, from a heart attack when he was 10 years old. ‘I had a happy childhood until then. My mother was my life and I was hers. When she died I was a lost child. There was no one else and I was put into care where I suffered physical, sexual and mental violence until I got out when I was 16. Then I started drinking and partying; I lost my dignity.’

Great British Life: Dame Esther Rantzen with Michael at his Summer Ball 2019 at The Hilton, Deansgate. (c) The Vain Ltd - Carl SukonikDame Esther Rantzen with Michael at his Summer Ball 2019 at The Hilton, Deansgate. (c) The Vain Ltd - Carl Sukonik

In the two years that followed Michael’s accident, three significant events empowered his journey to business success, his mission to help children in need and his dream of personal fulfilment: First, Esther Rantzen, who has since become a close friend and confidante, asked him to join the committee of Childline and help organise fundraising events.

Second, he started buying and selling surplus stock, an enterprise that would lead to the creation of two multi-million pound businesses.

Third, he met his future husband, Lindon Kellett. They married in 2012 and live at Alderley Park, Michael running Stocks 2015 Ltd. and Lindon leading Wisebuy Ltd. Their contrasting personalities unite to make a successful, supportive partnership at home, at work and across Michael’s charitable ventures.

‘Lindon is quiet, patient and sensitive, and I am loud, erratic and impatient. Lindon is the other half of me, he gives me advice and although I don’t always do what he says, he is always supportive and proud of what I do.’

Great British Life: Michael and Lindon with celebrity guests Les Dennis, Christopher Biggins, Su Pollard and Neil Sinclair, Christopher Biggins’s husband (c) The Vain Ltd - Carl SukonikMichael and Lindon with celebrity guests Les Dennis, Christopher Biggins, Su Pollard and Neil Sinclair, Christopher Biggins’s husband (c) The Vain Ltd - Carl Sukonik

Lindon stood by Michael’s side on the stage at the Manchester Hilton on November 11 as he announced the record-breaking amount raised, which will go to four core causes making a difference to the lives of children and young people: Variety, The Children’s Charity; The Anne Frank Trust UK; Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity and Mahdlo Youth Zone in Oldham. Funds from the evening will also help small charities across the North West.

It was with Esther Rantzen’s support, at Michael’s Childline ball in 2013, that he first spoke publicly about his damaged childhood. Dame Esther had encouraged him to talk about the years in care and events leading to the night of December 28, 1998, in her 2011 book about child victims of abuse, entitled Running Out Of Tears: The Moving Personal Stories of ChildLine’s Children Over 25 Years. ‘Esther wanted to tell my story in the book but I wasn’t ready for people to know all that about me, so I wrote my chapter under an alias–Andrew. We agreed that on the night of the 2013 Childline ball, Esther would tell Andrew’s story and say: “Andrew is in the room tonight.”

‘I don’t know what made me do it but when Esther made that announcement I stood up and said: “I am Andrew.” There were members of Lindon’s family on my table, and close friends there too, who did not have any idea about my background. The guests gave me a standing ovation.’

The first Michael Josephson MBE Charity Ball, in 2018, raised £245,000, a figure that has grown exponentially as the night of dining, fundraising and entertainment, organised by global, award-winning luxury event planner Julie Perry has become a golden ticket. It is now a much-anticipated fixture on the celebrity and philanthropy scene, held at the ‘brilliantly supportive’ Hilton on Deansgate.

Great British Life: Michael with guests Ricky Hatton, Bryan Robson and Paul Scholes (c) The Vain Ltd - Carl SukonikMichael with guests Ricky Hatton, Bryan Robson and Paul Scholes (c) The Vain Ltd - Carl Sukonik

The 2023 Michael Josephson MBE Charity Ball

Among the guests at the 2023 ball, headlined by Sophie Ellis-Bextor and hosted by Darren Proctor of Happy Radio, were Ricky Hatton, Les Dennis, Su Pollard, Christopher Biggins, Heidi Range, Ryan Thomas, Lucy Mecklenburgh, Jorgie Porter, Paul Scholes, Bryan Robson and the Malone family from Gogglebox.

The grand auction of 16 lots included a specially crafted artwork by Mr Brainwash, which raised over £80,000; afternoon tea at The Ritz with Dame Joanna Lumley (£40,000); a VIP masterclass with former Manchester United star Paul Scholes with a five-a-side game and breakfast, and an eight-seat private box at Old Trafford at a Premier League fixture (£30,000); and a Burberry VIP shopping experience for two, with a choice of Burberry heritage trench coats for each guest, afternoon tea at the Bond Street store and an overnight stay at Claridge’s (£30,000). The HATT et SÖNER gift of a unique trip to its vineyards, with champagne tasting, lunch and a consultation with winemaker Francois Vallois to create 60 bottles of personalised, vintage champagne sold for £100,000.

‘Since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to help others and I call on a lot of high-worth people and famous faces to help make the ball the success it is. No one is safe and I have wonderful support. I get a lot of goodwill and free stuff, and I cover other costs, so every penny is donated to the causes. To have raised more than a million after a pandemic, in a cost-of-living crisis, and with so many bad things going on in the world is incredible. This is an event like no other; it brings happiness to Manchester,’ says Michael.

This month, Michael, currently chair of patrons for Variety, The Children’s Charity, will become its honorary chief barker, succeeding Jonathan Shalit. Professor Shalit, a guest at the ball, said: ‘I was totally blown away by Michael’s hard work and dedication to bringing such a magical evening to fruition. The room was filled with love and a true spirit of giving, which was a joy to behold. The money raised will change lives and we can’t thank Michael enough for his efforts.’

Great British Life: More than 40 guests partied the night away with Michael. (c) Tom Pitfield PhotographyMore than 40 guests partied the night away with Michael. (c) Tom Pitfield Photography

Once the party – and the after-party – are over for another year, it’s back to the serious business of ensuring every penny ofthe £1,063,872 will go directly to improving the lives of children. Michael runs his charity in the same way he heads his thriving business empire – with energy, passion and attention to detail. He keeps in close contact with the charities, having vetted them to know how much they have in reserve, how much the CEO is paid and what the immediate needs are, so the efforts and generosity of his team, the sponsors and supporters are repaid. The ball – the highest of high-end society events – is always a sell-out, with a waiting list, and the guests are people Michael knows or who come recommended.

‘When I went up on the stage, at 12.30am, after the most incredible night, with the piece of paper in my hand Julie Perry had written the result on, I had a feeling it would say more than a million pounds. It was the best feeling in the world to know how many children’s lives we would be able to make better.’

Great British Life: Aisha Kamani and Hannah Killen. (c) Tom Pitfield PhotographyAisha Kamani and Hannah Killen. (c) Tom Pitfield Photography

As well as organising his annual Manchester ball, Michael is an ambassador for the Seashell Trust, a lifetime honorary patron at Mahdlo Youth Zone and a platinum patron of Wigan Youth Zone. He has also been a trustee of the Silver Line and patron of the NSPCC and Childline. ‘I raised £6.5million for NSPCC Childline during my time working with the charity, and the Michael Josephson MBE Charity Ball has now raised £3,020,917.10 in five years,’ he says.

‘I want to forget about “Andrew” now. My life started again when I was lying in that bed in Macclesfield Hospital. For so many years after my mother died I never had a happy day, I never slept. But miracles do happen.I didn’t die on that night in 1998,I haven’t been left disabled. I decided then I had a job to do and I am doing that job and I am thankful for life. I don’t have a mother to look after in her old age and I want to channel my efforts to growing the ball and, as chief barker, to help Variety, the Children’s Charity, to grow too. I already mentor other charities to help them save money – and I’d like to encourage younger artists to become part of Variety. My mission is to work with anyone in the younger generation who is in the public eye to explain philanthropy and giving back.’

Great British Life: Sam Holden and Lindsay Jane Vines. (c) Tom Pitfield PhotographySam Holden and Lindsay Jane Vines. (c) Tom Pitfield Photography

Michael’s website says this of him: ‘Successful businessman, charity campaigner, and mental health awareness advocate who has dedicated himself to supporting young, underprivileged people.’

It’s a description that Michael, awarded the MBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2016 for his services to charity, would never have thought possible during that terrible period of his young life. ‘Who could have imagined, when I was standing on the edge of that bridge that the wonderful night when I announced we had smashed the £1million fundraising mark could come true?’ he says. ‘I have made so many friends through my charity work and these are the people who are my family now. In the 25 years since I almost died under that bridge in Cheshire, I have got my life back. And I am so thankful for that life.’.

ANNOUNCING: The 2024 Michael Josephson MBE Charity Ball on Saturday, November 16, Hilton Manchester Deansgate. For details, see michaeljosephsonmbe.com

Great British Life: Helen Wilson. (c) Tom Pitfield PhotographyHelen Wilson. (c) Tom Pitfield Photography



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