Antonio Vasconcellos Fund
Antonio Vasconcellos died on the occasion of his 26th birthday in the Marchioness riverboat tragedy on the River Thames in 1989. He was a remarkable man who balanced a career as a successful fund manager with the roles of entrepreneur, writer, musician and philanthropist. As so many of those who survived the sinking of the Marchioness benefited from post-traumatic stress disorder therapy, a fund has been set up to provide help for those coming to terms with unresolved issues resulting from trauma.
Antonio was one of 51 people who died as a result of the Marchioness disaster. The aim of this fund is to award 51 small grants, each in the name of one of those people, to help those suffering from issues relating to single incident trauma.
Peter Alcorn 23, Christopher Averill 20, David Ayres 29, Sophie Bennett 23, Rupert Blackburn 25, Timothy Blake 30, Jane Bourke 20, Paul Brookman 19, Michael Carew 41, Isla Carroll 22, John Clarke 31, Tamsin Cole 24, Shaun Lockwood Croft 26, Francesca Dallaglio 19, Sheila Daubeney 52, Luis de la Huerta 26, Howard Dennis 29, Lino Di Girolamo 28, Marino Drusetta 30, Paul Ellington 19, Stephen Faldo 29, Christopher Garnham 31, Michael Gatehouse 46, Jeffrey Gibbs 27, Carmella Lennon Gorman 41, Ruth Hadden 32, Guy Hallez 38, Hannah Harris 21, David Highfield 33, Lee Hunt 19, Julie Hunt 26, Julie Ibbotson 23, Karen Jarvis 28, Peter Jaye 27, Dianne Lim 25, Neville Lovelock 29, Elsa Garcia Magaldi 25, Shirleen Manning 28, Tony Lo Manyen 33, Dean Palmer 22, France Langlands-Pearce 29, Stephen Perks 23, Angela Plevey 29, Rachael Rackow 25, Simon Senior 20, Vida Shamash 21, Aziz Shamash 20, Julian Tremain 28, Antonio E Vasconcellos 26, Domingos E Vasconcellos 28, Linda Webster 27
Background to the Fund
Philip Robinson is the man behind the Antonio Vasconcellos Fund. Below he tells us a little bit about himself and how he came up with the idea of the fund.
The Marchioness disaster happened on the River Thames in the early hours of 20 August 1989. The Marchioness was a pleasure boat hosting the 26th birthday party for Antonio Vasconcellos and over 120 of his friends. The Marchioness sank after it was run down by the dredger Bowbelle. Out of all the 131 people on board the Marchioness, 51 people drowned, including Antonio. Philip Robinson was on board that night and was one of the survivors.
What was life like before the night of the party?
Before that night my life had been very fortunate and privileged. At the time I was a Portfolio Manager at Barings, whilst my dear friend Antonio was a successful Fund Manager and entrepreneur. It was Antonio's 26th birthday that night and his life and so many others were tragically cut short.
My world was turned upside down by the tragedy and this most intrusive of events meant that I had to question many things in my life, not least my City career.
What happened after the disaster, how did you cope?
From my earliest childhood in East Africa I had always enjoyed singing. This love of singing had evolved to the extent that I was awarded a choral scholarship to Oxford and commenced professional training in the 1980s. After the Marchioness disaster I became more of a risk taker and I embarked on a career as a professional tenor. Fortunately I was able to secure a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music to train in opera and oratorio. I have little doubt that without the events of that night in August 1989 I would not have been brave enough to follow my heart rather than my head.
What happened once you were in the Royal Academy of Music?
The Royal Academy of Music is an enlightened institution and engages several in-house counsellors for student use. This is mainly because the music profession is a particularly challenging and unstable one! Although I thought that a few counselling sessions would suffice I was quickly informed that more fundamental help was required. I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and needed help. I was fortunate enough to receive extensive rehabilitation treatment and trauma therapy. This helped to an unprecedented degree and allowed me to balance my love of singing with a re-entry into the investment industry.
And now you want to help others and 'put something back'?
I am one of the lucky ones in that I have been able to come to terms with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. Someone else who was able to do this is Alex Fontaine, who also wanted to "put something back" into the community in recognition of the care and support she had received. She achieved this by founding The Yellow Heart Trust to help others who have experienced trauma. Since founding this charity in 2002 she has been able to help many individuals suffering from unresolved trauma by providing access to compassionate and constructive support.
Alex's inspiration and friendship have been instrumental in my decision to establish the Antonio Vasconellos Fund.
Tell us more about The Antonio Vasconcellos Fund
I wanted to set up a fund in memory of this remarkable man. As so many of those who survived the sinking of the Marchioness benefited from post-traumatic stress disorder therapy, the fund's aim is to provide help for those coming to terms with unresolved issues resulting from trauma. I hope that this will provide a fitting legacy for those both dead and alive, survivors and relatives of lost ones who were affected by this tragedy.
How did you raise money for the fund?
We started fundraising by organising several concerts during 2010 and 2011.
Additionally I decided to face my fears and swim the Thames (a 13km stretch on the upper Thames). Many friends thought I was "bonkers"! Still - it's all done now!