Dame Julie Kenny launches Master Cutler’s Challenge

Big-hearted South Yorkshire businesses are being urged to back a charity challenge set by the second woman in almost 400 years to lead the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire. 

Dame Julie Kenny DBE DL, who was appointed to the prestigious role in October, has launched her Master Cutler’s Challenge and aims to raise £200,000 by the end of September. 

Dame Julie Kenny at her Master Cutler inauguration

The money will help fund community-enriching projects at her beloved Wentworth Woodhouse, the Rotherham stately home she helped to save for the nation in 2017. 

The Cutlers’ Company was established in 1624 to maintain the standards and quality of Sheffield manufactured cutlery and steel products. Elected as head of the company, the Master Cutler acts as an ambassador of industry in Sheffield.  

Dame Julie founded the award-winning Rotherham electronic security manufacturer Pyronix in the mid-80s. She has previously served as a deputy lieutenant and high sheriff of South Yorkshire, was awarded a damehood in 2019 and made a freewoman of Rotherham in 2020. 

The annual Master Cutler’s Challenge was launched in 2008 and has brought in over £1 million for local causes. Each new Master Cutler of Hallamshire chooses a charity to support and fundraisers are given a £50 fund which they are tasked with growing into as large a sum as possible. 

Dame Julie, who is chair of the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, has chosen to support the house’s educational and community programme, with a focus on increasing diversity and inclusion in South Yorkshire. 

“I got involved in Wentworth Woodhouse not only to rescue such an important and beautiful place, but also because I wanted it to become a catalyst for change – supporting regeneration, providing jobs and workplace opportunities and becoming a place for the people.  

“We have achieved a huge amount in six years. It is now one of the core pillars in South Yorkshire and is transforming lives and communities in what is one of the most deprived regions in Europe. 

“I came from a very poor background. Sometimes we didn’t eat and often we had no electricity or gas because my mother didn’t pay the bills. As a child I was written off as a low achiever, but I have achieved significant things. The trust is giving people just like me educational and entrepreneurial programmes, training opportunities and cultural experiences they might never otherwise have got a chance of,” she said. 

Money raised will go towards the trust’s activities supporting low-income families, ethnic and minority groups and people with disabilities, including the creation of a community growing garden. 

Situated on the Drying Green, where for centuries laundry maids pegged bedlinen out to dry, a fully accessible space will feature raised growing beds, polytunnels and greenhouses. Up to 20 local community groups will be able to grow their own food, develop gardening skills and friendships.  

Businesses taking part have until 30th September to turn £50 into as much money as possible by doing any activity they choose.  

Here at Aroundtown Magazine, we are planning a fashion show at Wentworth Woodhouse in September, working with some of our well-loved fashion boutiques to showcase their autumn collections. More details will be announced in the July edition. 

Other companies already signed up include AESSEAL, Vulcan Steels, Airmaster Air Conditioning, accountants Hartshaw, Grant Thornton and BHP, law firms DLA Piper and Irwin Mitchell, architects Donald Insall Associates, Sheffield Hallam University and OSL Group Holdings. 

To join the Master Cutler’s Challenge, contact mastercutler@wentworthwoodhouse.org.uk