Serious but not solemn
Written by the late John Mandleberg, The Freemason’s Bedside Book is an invigorating collection of bite-sized material from a respected scholar
John Mandleberg was both a scholar and gentleman who thoroughly enjoyed his Freemasonry, and this shines out in his last masonic work, The Freemason’s Bedside Book. The varied content – from stories and songs to poems and translations – takes us on a journey from serious pieces to light-hearted anecdotes and reflects the author’s wide-ranging research.
This, then, is a very unusual book. Typically, masonic historians have only added to the confusion of our origins by highly speculative ‘research’. As masonic historian John Hamill puts it: ‘There are two main approaches to masonic history: the authentic or scientific approach, in which theory is built upon and developed, out of verifiable facts and documentation; and the non-authentic approach, in which attempts are made to place Freemasonry in the context of the Mystery tradition by correlation of the teachings, allegory and symbolism of the Craft with those of the various esoteric traditions.’ This does not apply to this book, which captures the writings of others to emphasise Freemasonry’s more amusing side.
It cannot be denied that members are taught many descriptions of Freemasonry and these tend to centre on their lodge and the ritual book. The Freemason’s Bedside Book takes its reader beyond this. Covering so many years of masonic history, the book uses language that contrasts with the plain English in which Freemasons now communicate. Although some of the old-fashioned language of the masonic writers had style, it would be unintelligible to many members – let alone the non-mason. It is therefore fair to say that while this book is full of humour, it is very much for the serious Freemason.
Mandleberg’s book effortlessly moves from anecdote to verse and back again. One fascinating piece covers the opening of an East End lodge many years ago. The next minute we are enthralled by two poems from Rudyard Kipling before moving on to another anecdote. This serves to whet the appetite and is a reminder of the author’s varied research.
The book ends with the full sung version of the Tyler’s Toast. We could aptly apply its sentiments in memory of the author: John, we were happy to meet you, sorry to part with you and we will be happy to meet you again.
I am pleased to let you know that your magazine, as part of our wider communications campaign, has been shortlisted for another award – this time within the Best Corporate and Business Communications category at the ‘Oscars’ of the PR industry, the CIPR Excellence Awards 2013. This is encouraging and supports the excellent feedback we receive from members and their families.
This year is proving to be very interesting, especially with the bicentenary of the Royal Arch. It is particularly gratifying that, at the time of writing, the Royal Arch Masons 2013 Bicentenary Appeal for the Royal College of Surgeons stands at more than £1 million. And from first-hand experience and the comments we have received, the presentations by Fellows of the College have been a great success.
Writing in the official journal of the United Grand Lodge of England, I want to remind you that we value the opinions of our members. To that end, we spend a lot of effort surveying members’ views, as well as visiting and talking to members of all ages and all backgrounds throughout the English Constitution, at home and abroad. This gives us a good grasp of the issues for discussion.
Sometimes those holding minority views will be disappointed. A classic example is a tiny minority who think that by removing the need for a belief in a Supreme Being we would increase our potential for recruitment. This is an example where we think change would not be for the best. There are many other areas where we have been proactive and made changes to ensure the long-term survival of the organisation. A typical example being in the area of talking openly about Freemasonry and showing that the organisation is relevant today – and is one that members should be proud to belong to.
We all enjoy reading about masonic history, how our members have achieved great things and what they are doing to help those less fortunate in the community. In this issue of Freemasonry Today, we look at an RMBI cookbook that has helped older citizens connect with the recipes from their past and the people in their present. A profile of the Rough Ashlar Club shows how the use of social media is bringing younger Freemasons together for a friendly pint. Meanwhile, we trace the origins of the Crimestoppers initiative back to a couple of masons in Great Yarmouth. I hope you find something that makes you proud to be a Freemason.
‘We have been proactive to ensure the long-term survival of the organisation’
Swanning around in Somerset
Masonic involvement in last summer’s Swans of Wells Somerset tourism initiative has led to an auction raising £110,000. Benevolent Lodge, No. 446, was involved in the project, which featured the public display of 60 magnificently decorated, 5ft swan sculptures in Wells and the Somerset countryside. Each swan cost £950 and 3 other lodges – Pilgrims Lodge, No. 772, St Dunstan’s Lodge, No. 7973, Lodge of Love and Honour, No. 285 – and Avalon Chapter, No. 446, each contributed around £200. At the final auction, mason Rod Deane purchased Naomi, the ‘masonic’ swan, which is now available to support any masonic charity event in the UK.
The cooking connection
From prawn cocktail to chicken tikka masala, the Recipes and Reminiscences cookbook provides an insight into UK diets over the past five decades. Anneke Hak finds that it is also connecting older citizens with people in their present
For many people living with dementia, short-term memory loss is a distressing challenge that they face on a daily basis. Imagine finding it difficult to remember what you ate for lunch, let alone what you did yesterday.
But what if you asked the same people what they liked to eat twenty or thirty years ago? The reaction might be very different. The Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI) has produced a cookbook called Recipes and Reminiscences, which takes a trip down memory lane to see how the food we eat has changed over the years, using recipe contributions from RMBI care home residents.
Going back in time
There are nearly eight hundred thousand people living with dementia in the UK; by the age of eighty, one in five is affected, and one in three people will have the condition by the time they die. ‘Dementia’ isn’t a definitive term, it’s a word coined to describe a collection of symptoms that affect the victim’s memory and thinking skills severely enough to reduce their ability to perform everyday activities. There isn’t currently a cure for dementia, so an effective way to connect with someone with the condition is to meet them halfway, through reminiscence work. If they are struggling with their short-term memory, many carers find it beneficial to take them back to a time that is easier to recall.
‘It’s a way of valuing what people have done and their own life history and story,’ explains Julie Heathcote, author of Memories Are Made of This. ‘You’re never going to make them better, but you can impact upon their mood and well-being. Talking about their memories boosts their self esteem and makes them feel they can contribute.’
‘It’s about building bridges to find out where there are similarities, to rediscover the importance of relationships and learn more about people,’ agrees Edna Petzen, assistant director in marketing and quality at the RMBI. ‘We find that as people age, we see them when they are frail, whether they have dementia or other complex needs. They’ve obviously lived a life before they move into our homes and we want to understand that in a way that helps us connect with them.’
The RMBI has been caring for older Freemasons and their dependants for more than one hundred and sixty years. It operates seventeen residential care homes across England and Wales and has used reminiscence activities for a number of years.
‘Reminiscence shows what people can do rather than highlighting what they can’t’ – Edna Petzen
From memory quilts to wedding walls, on which residents hang pictures from their wedding day to encourage conversation, activities coordinators organise reminiscence-based projects on a regular basis. ‘There are so many different ways that we use reminiscence to help people connect with positive experiences in their past and promote positive feelings in the present,’ says Edna. ‘It’s a way of connecting with people that shows what they can do rather than highlighting what they can’t.’
When Julie helped train RMBI staff in reminiscence work, one of the suggestions coming out of the sessions was to reminisce about recipes with elderly residents. ‘Most people took to it really well,’ says Edna, ‘and we were inundated with classic recipes, some from war years and others from the modern day.’ It was at this point that the RMBI decided to pull together a cookbook structured around the decades most likely to have had an effect on the people in its homes. ‘We broke it down into decades and focused on the different types of food and dishes available,’ explains Edna. ‘They’re based on the ingredients that were accessible at the time and really explain the history of the way we eat in the UK and the big influences that have come about in our whole dining experience.’
Recipes and Reminiscences features some unusual recipes – by today’s standards at least – such as spam fritters, as well as the shopping habits of the families that cooked them and more modern-day phenomena like processed meals.
‘If you go around to see someone, they will offer you a cup of coffee or tea and probably something to eat. Food aids social interaction and is something that a lot of people can remember,’ explains Julie. ‘It’s also a subject area that isn’t troubling. Talking about husbands and wives might be an upsetting subject, whereas talking about food is an enjoyable subject for everyone.’
With the success of TV programmes such as MasterChef and The Great British Bake Off, home cooking has never been so popular. So, who better to give a foreword to Recipes and Reminiscences than Mary Berry, one of the most iconic ladies in the kitchen. ‘We thought that Mary Berry would be fantastic,’ enthuses Edna. ‘As an older woman she has an understanding for what we do as an organisation, and as a food writer herself, I think the subject area really resonated with her.’
Promoting the cookbook might be a little hard for some of its contributors – the eldest, Phyllis, who supplied a recipe for Jubilee biscuits, became a centenarian in March – but RMBI homes will host events based on each of the book’s decades to celebrate its release. Talk about having your cake, eating it, then writing the recipe down.
Recipes and Reminiscences is available to buy at www.rmbi.org.uk. All proceeds go directly towards funding activities for residents in RMBI homes.
‘Talking about food is an enjoyable subject for everyone’ – Julie Heathcote
A taste of the decades
Help for Welsh flood victims
The small picturesque cathedral city of St Asaph and the market town of Ruthin in North Wales suffered devastating floods when the rivers Elwy and Clwyd burst their banks, following torrential rain, last November. One person was killed and more than 1,100 people were affected. In response to the disaster, the Province of North Wales raised £3,000 to help the St Asaph and Ruthin flood appeals. Provincial Grand Master Ieuan Redvers Jones was delighted when The Freemasons’ Grand Charity was able to support the efforts of local masons to help families in distress through the provision of a £10,000 emergency grant.
The joint venture
Arthritis is often considered an unavoidable aspect of old age. Andrew Gimson finds out how the Masonic Samaritan Fund is helping Arthritis Research UK dispel old ideas and create new cures
Arthritis is typically seen as a gloomy disease of old age about which nothing can be done. Nearly half of the people polled by Arthritis Research UK believe that arthritis means just ‘aches and pains when you get old’, and nearly one-third assume that you cannot do anything about it and must simply live with the pain. The Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF) is determined to help combat these pessimistic misconceptions and has given £177,606 towards the development of a groundbreaking new treatment being pioneered at the Arthritis Research UK Tissue Engineering Centre.
Professor Alan Silman, medical director at Arthritis Research UK, explains the revolutionary work that his team is engaged in. The most common condition affecting joints is osteoarthritis, which occurs when cartilage wears away. If you examine one hundred sixty-year-olds on X-ray, most will show some evidence of a problem, for as we get older we lose our capacity to repair cartilage.
As damage to the hip or knee joint becomes worse, the ability to walk, go upstairs or get into the bath becomes more and more limited, and the pain intensifies.
It is the body’s repair function that Professor Silman and his colleagues now seek to assist. Cartilage consists of cells, and his team has discovered how to take these cells and grow them ‘like mustard and cress’ in a laboratory. But this form of tissue engineering is a laborious process. It would be preferable to plant something in the joint and get the body to regrow its own cartilage.
One way of doing this is by making use of stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are produced at the very start of life and are found in profusion in the umbilical cord. But your body also contains stem cells throughout life, which can be turned into many different kinds of cells: in this case, cartilage cells. So Professor Silman’s team is investigating where to find the best stem cells in adults, what it must do ‘to tweak these cells to turn them into cartilage cells’, and what is the best material, or ‘compost’, to add to them to enable growth.
One possibility is to drill a tiny hole through the cartilage into the bone, get a little bone marrow leaking through into the cartilage, and add a substance to stimulate the bone marrow to turn into cartilage.
The ‘prize’ that the treatment offers is great as it should become possible to intervene early – when people first experience pain – and reverse the disease.
Arthritis occurs when the body loses the ability to repair cartilage between joints
Less pain, more gain
Current practice is to administer painkillers, carry out physiotherapy, and when things get too bad, operate. Hip replacement operations, of which ninety per cent are caused by osteoarthritis, have become commonplace and tend to work very well, but it would be preferable to avoid the need for them.
According to Professor Silman, the demand for operations ‘is just going to grow and grow and grow’ due to our increasingly ageing population. Last year, more stringent criteria were introduced for knee replacements, and a debate is now taking place about how much pain it is acceptable to let people suffer. Stem-cell treatment could remove that pain altogether.
When asked if orthopaedic surgeons had protested against his research, which might deprive them of their burgeoning hip-replacement work, Professor Silman replied that they had not.
A cadre of skilled clinicians will still be needed to look through a telescope at a joint and to apply the materials that would enable new cartilage to grow. Professor Silman explains that the first tests are being carried out on patients who have lost very small amounts of cartilage, rather than on those suffering from the more severe forms of osteoarthritis.
The research team is at present about eighteen months into a five-year programme. According to Professor Silman, ‘It’s early days but things are moving in the right direction.’ So many different skills are needed for this work that Arthritis Research UK has built a consortium of four universities: Newcastle University, the University of Aberdeen, Keele University/the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and the University of York. Each of these institutions will cover a different area of the research.
‘This research could reduce morbidity due to osteoarthritis worldwide’ Dr Simon Fellerman
‘We were really excited to receive the donation,’ says Professor Silman, keen to express his gratitude to the MSF for its support. Dr Simon Fellerman, who is a member of the MSF board, adds: ‘As far as MSF was concerned, we were fairly new to making medical grants, and we felt the most appropriate approach would be to give to charities of interest to Freemasons.’
Fellerman says that as a general practitioner, a large percentage of his patients suffer from joints that are wearing out, and it would be ‘marvellous’ to be able to prevent this: ‘It’s a groundbreaking bit of research. If they can regenerate cartilage from stem cells, they could reduce morbidity due to osteoarthritis worldwide.’
It is hard not to marvel at the ingenuity of this research and feel encouraged by the positive tone in which Professor Silman describes his team’s work. The MSF has certainly discovered a very worthy cause to support.
What is osteoarthritis?
The most common form of joint disease, osteoarthritis causes pain and stiffness in the joints and affects at least eight million people in the UK. When a joint has osteoarthritis, its surfaces become damaged and it does not move as well as it should. The cartilage becomes rough and thin, with the bone at the edge of the joint growing outwards and forming bony spurs called osteophytes.
The joint may also swell, with the capsule and ligaments slowly thickening and contracting. In severe osteoarthritis, the cartilage can become so thin that bones start to rub against each other and wear away.
The loss of cartilage, the wearing of bone and the osteophytes can alter the shape of the joint and force bones out of their normal position.
To find out more about the condition, go to www.arthritisresearchuk.org
Beating the hurdles
Although ninety per cent of arthritis sufferers are over the age of sixty, it would be quite wrong to regard this as a condition that afflicts only the older generation.
Manuel Bello-Cano, who is now forty-three, was a keen athlete from the age of twenty-two, specialising in the one-hundred-and-ten-metre hurdles. Unknown to him, he was putting his trailing leg in a position that damaged his cartilage. It became more difficult for him to do that movement, but he thought this was because he was not training enough. After experiencing an increasing level of pain in his groin, he was referred to the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle, which gave him an MRI scan and then a hip arthroscopy to reshape part of the bone in his hip. It was during this operation, carried out at the age of thirty-six, that his surgeon, Professor Andrew McCaskie, found he was also suffering from cartilage damage.
‘I was shocked that I had the earliest stages of osteoarthritis as I’ve always thought it was a disease that only affected older people,’ recalls Bello-Cano, who is hopeful that stem-cell regeneration is the solution. While there is no indication yet of when he may get stem-cell treatment, as far as Bello-Cano is concerned it cannot come quickly enough. In hospital, he has met a lot of people suffering from similar conditions. In the end, they get to a state where they have to have hip-replacement surgery, which could be avoided if stem-cell treatment works.
Out of the shadows
As the Royal Arch marks two hundred years of recognition, Second Grand Principal George Francis explains its evolution and sometimes complex relationship with the Craft
What is the Royal Arch?
It’s a difficult concept to explain, even to a mason. Part of the problem is that the Royal Arch developed in a way that has been forgotten. The main idea goes back to the sixteenth century, if not before. Around the Tudor period there was Freemasonry which had come from the stonemasons, and the Royal Arch was the first attempt to branch off and do something extra. We have to be careful not to call the Royal Arch the ‘Fourth Degree’; that’s just one way to explain it to an outsider, but it is a completion of the Three Degrees. It gives you new insights and is the culmination of the first lessons and meanings – it completes the journey.
The Royal Arch dates back to the 1700s. Why is the bicentenary in 2013?
The people who started Grand Lodge in 1717 decided they were not going to include the Royal Arch and were going to stick to the main idea, or trunk. That’s really the start of the story, before then it’s all speculative. By 1750, another group who were also part of the main trunk said this isn’t quite how Freemasonry ought to be, that the Royal Arch was absolutely essential, so they were going to split off and do things differently. Suddenly two Grand Lodges were operating side by side and they gave one another inappropriate nicknames. The newer Grand Lodge members called themselves ‘the Antients’ (as they felt they were the real keepers of the flame) and called the other Grand Lodge ‘the Moderns’ – even though the Moderns had actually been established earlier. So you had this slight friction between them and they trundled along rather uneasily side by side.
How did the happen?
Eventually both lodges decided the situation was counter-productive and that they should join up. The Duke of Sussex was the main mover in this, heading up the Moderns, and the leader of the Antients was his brother, the Duke of Kent, who insisted that the combined organisation must have the Royal Arch as part of the journey. It wasn’t until 1813 that the Royal Arch became a formal part of the structure.
What else did the Duke of Sussex do?
One point the Duke of Sussex stipulated at the was that we should all wear the same regalia, and also that we were to use the same rituals and words. The second part never quite happened, so there are still differences in the rituals and wording used by different lodges. However, we’re greatly indebted to the Duke of Sussex; he was an interesting person and very left wing for a royal prince – he was anti-slavery, pro-Catholic (although not one himself) and pro-Jewish. These things were rather unfashionable at the time. He was very much a figurehead for the Whigs and people who wanted change. The Duke of Sussex was the one who said we are not going to be just Christian in the Freemasons, we’ll allow everybody in as long as they believe in God.
What’s the difference between the Craft and the Royal Arch?
We call the three main degrees, which have adopted the colour blue, the ‘Craft’ and we call members ‘brothers’ and ‘brethren’. Even the female masons call one another brother. In the Royal Arch, you become ‘companions’. You’ve made that additional step, you’re taking it a bit more seriously, so there’s a different atmosphere – it’s more intimate, you’re more closely linked. We meet up in chapters and have adopted the colour red as well as blue. It’s very much an eighteenth-century idea of a harmonious society.
Is the Royal Arch more complicated?
I try to get people to realise that you don’t have to understand everything that’s going on, you just have to enjoy it. There are interesting ideas and stories – some of it’s quite deep – but you don’t have to comprehend every single part. It’s quite fun exploring and finding out these things slowly. You’ve got to enjoy time with people, enjoy doing a bit of acting, listening to stories and maybe understanding something you didn’t understand before. That’s what it’s about really, doing things together.
Are more Freemasons coming to the Royal Arch?
Around forty per cent of Craft masons are in the Royal Arch and it’s a shame that it isn’t more.
Clearly there are some who really don’t want to go into the deeper meanings, which is fine because Freemasonry should appeal on different levels. But what I’m trying to express to the Craft is that you should really complete the journey, it’s not that much more time or expense and you’ll really enjoy it.
It completes the circle of understanding and the basic journey. This way of thinking is having some effect and our proportion of Craft masons is gradually rising.
How can you improve recruitment?
The problem is that when you come to Freemasonry, the Royal Arch is not explained because it’s difficult to describe. It sometimes doesn’t get mentioned until quite late on – someone might have been in masonry a couple of years before they come across it. We’re trying to change the perception that it’s just an optional extra and make sure that it’s explained at the outset. We thought at one stage we might go back to a Fourth Degree idea so everyone would be involved. It would be free of charge and there wouldn’t be any reason for not doing it. But the Royal Arch is slightly different so it shouldn’t really be an automatic stage; people ought to think about it, and we’re hoping the bicentenary will help to explain that.
What are you trying to achieve with the bicentenary appeal?
The Bicentenary Appeal is about three things: formal recognition, an appeal and an excuse for a party.
We added the appeal idea so we would have a legacy of our celebration, one that adds to the Fund we created in 1967 for the benefit of the Royal College of Surgeons. We’ve ninety thousand members in England and Wales and ten thousand abroad, and it is important when you’ve got such a big organisation to continue to show members what can be done, to not just sit back and do more of the same.
What do you do as the Second Grand Principal?
My role was traditionally carried out by the Deputy Grand Master but for various reasons the roles got split a number of years ago. It means that I can concentrate on the Royal Arch. I try to visit all forty-six Provinces as well as the Metropolitan Area of London and explain what’s happening at the centre, what the challenges are for the future and encourage our members generally. It’s an opportunity to speak to the Provinces on a different level and not just go through the motions.
Is the Royal Arch changing?
We try to alter the ritual as little as possible because it’s something that people have to learn by heart – you can’t keep changing it all the time. But part of my job is to find the things that we can improve to make it more enjoyable and exciting. My job is to also get the message out there that this is for younger chaps, too, and that we can add a bit more colour and a little less formality.
Find out about the discovery of an old manuscript that could reveal crucial elements about Royal Arch ritual here.
A criminal mast£r plan
Thanks to two Great Yarmouth masons thirty years ago, an anonymous informant scheme travelled from the US to Norfolk before going nationwide. Robert Price charts the rise of Crimestoppers
According to the parliamentary official record, Hansard, a debate took place in the House of Commons on 18 June 2008, when it was acknowledged that Crimestoppers was begun in ‘the sleepy backwater of a Norfolk seaside town’.
It was in the east coast resort of Great Yarmouth that the nationally acclaimed and successful crime-busting Crimestoppers scheme was born thirty years ago thanks to a proactive police officer and community-spirited shop manager. Norfolk masons Jim Carter and Mike Cole were both involved from the outset and as a result of their enthusiasm and commitment, the scheme has gone on to be a national and indeed international weapon to combat crime.
Detective Inspector (as he was in 1983) Michael Cole was part of a delegation of Norfolk policemen who had travelled to Illinois in the US to spend time exchanging ideas with police forces in the Chicago area. As expected, the forces carried out similar work, and learning about mobile patrols, carrying firearms and community policing was a natural progression. However, Mike discovered something interesting that was having a beneficial effect within local communities outside the metropolis of Chicago.
While in a small town called Peoria, Mike was chatting with his US colleagues in the police headquarters and a phone kept ringing, answered by an officer who seemed dedicated to that task.
Mike was told that the local force offered money for information leading to the capture and arrest of local criminals. The scheme was proving successful, giving complete anonymity to the informer.
Returning to Great Yarmouth, Mike submitted a report recommending the idea and was duly given permission to introduce it in Great Yarmouth. The Norfolk Constabulary provided an officer, an office and dedicated hotline from nine to five, with an answer phone for out of hours calls, at the Great Yarmouth Police Station. Publicity was provided by the Great Yarmouth Mercury newspaper, which explained the scheme and assured callers that they would never be asked for their names; they would be identified by a code and given a password known only to them and the officer. If the information led to a charge, but not necessarily a conviction, there would be a cash reward paid discreetly by a third party.
The funding to pay for information could have proved a stumbling block. However, when Jim Carter, at the time the manager of the local Woolworths, found out that funding was required, he acted quickly, contacting his commercial and business colleagues in the town. Soon, a fund of money was raised to pay the rewards; local businesses and individuals donated thousands of pounds to help finance the project.
The scheme took off very quickly and as Mike explains, ‘there is no honour amongst thieves where money is concerned’. Arrangements were made with the informant to meet at a location in the town and the money handed over after the codes and password were given. As a result of the scheme, crime started to drop, especially when a prolific offender was taken off the streets. On one occasion, Jim was the go-between and recalls handing money over to an informant who turned out to be a lady apprehended in the store for shoplifting the week before. She remarked to Jim, ‘Oh, it’s you Mr Carter, thank you so much for being so polite last week.’
‘an informant once turned out to be a lady apprehended for shoplifting. She Remarked to Jim, “Oh, it’s you Mr Carter, thank you for being so polite last week” ’
As the Crimestoppers scheme gained momentum, so the media both at regional and national levels picked up the story. TV coverage on Thames Television and Anglia Television meant the project went national in 1988, with more than five thousand calls made to the hotline in its first year. Both Mike and Jim addressed seminars and gave lectures on the project as it expanded nationally.
The latest figures available for the period April 2011 to the end of March 2012 show that twenty-two people are arrested every day, someone is charged with murder every seven days, £7.72 million worth of stolen goods have been recovered, and £22.34 million worth of illegal drugs have been seized. All of these have come about as a result of ninety-five thousand, two hundred and seventy-six pieces of useful information about crime.
This June, Michael and Jim will be celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the scheme’s introduction to Great Yarmouth, as will other local supporters of the Crimestoppers initiative. Both readily admit the scheme could not have succeeded without help from other police officers, local personalities, local media and the people of Great Yarmouth. A project born in a sleepy backwater in Norfolk by a couple of Freemasons has grown to maturity and is certainly punching its weight across the nation.
In 2009, Crimestoppers released a set of marketing materials to communicate its service as an alternative route for passing on information about crime and its anonymity. Research showed that among the public there was not a clear understanding about what anonymity actually meant, so the materials had to explain it for a potential user of the 0800 555 111 hotline. The resulting campaign featured three masked superheroes – Zorro, Batman and Robin – with the simple tag line, ‘Fight crime without revealing your identity.’
It’s a small world
Dressing up is more than child’s play, as Ellie Fazan discovered when she attended Global Kids Fashion Week at Freemasons’ Hall
Outside Freemasons’ Hall, a photographer snaps a blonde in sunglasses and red-soled shoes easing herself out of a chauffeur-driven car. Clutching an immaculately presented baby in a pink tutu and sparkly headband, she’s here for the first ever Global Kids Fashion Week.
Organised by online retailers AlexandAlexa.com, which specialises in luxury childrenswear and educational toys, the event aims to showcase kids’ fashion as a fun and creative industry, highlighting it as a thriving platform in its own right, not just an ‘add on’ to the adult fashion industry.
With so many of London Fashion Week’s outstanding events taking place at Freemasons’ Hall, it was a natural choice for the inaugural Global Kids Fashion Week to follow suit. ‘We love the heritage of Freemasons’ Hall and its location is great. It’s easily accessible for the media and our guests from across London, as well as for our international visitors. The team have been wonderful to work with,’ says Alex Theophanous, CEO of AlexandAlexa.com
The emphasis is clearly on fun. A giant pink tree is dressed with puffy clouds of candyfloss and the champagne traditionally quaffed by the fashion crowd has been done away with in favour of cartons of juice, while a waitress hands out popcorn from a fairground-style machine. As they settle into their seats, girls in over-the-top party frocks and boys looking slightly less comfortable in slick suits delve into their goodie bags. It’s fair to say they are just as excited by the toys they find inside as what’s going on around them.
‘Just because it’s fun doesn’t mean this isn’t a serious business. It turns out that little people are very big business indeed’
A model performance
Adults make up the majority of the audience, which, as at other fashion shows, comprises celebrities (model Jodie Kidd and make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury are in the front row) as well as industry insiders. Only this time they’ve brought their children, and instead of sitting in moody silence they coo and giggle as the show begins.
The mini models take to the catwalk in new-season looks from brands such as SuperTrash Girls, which creates clothes specifically for children, and designer labels such as Chloé, which has branched out into childrenswear. Looks range from super bright and colourful to retro outfits with more than a hint of seaside nostalgia; from edgy rock star looks to adult mini-me clothes for baby fashionistas.
Some of the kids pout and swagger like pure professionals; others look a bit more stunned by the experience. But they’ve all been specially picked from acting and stage schools and by the end of the show are having such a riot that they forget to leave the stage and carry on dancing as a glitter cannon showers them in gold confetti.
Just because it’s fun, however, doesn’t mean this isn’t a serious business. It turns out that little people are very big business indeed. AlexandAlexa.com has seen a one hundred and fifty per cent growth in the past year and in the UK alone the children’s fashion market is estimated to be worth £650 million a year. But this isn’t just another clever marketing ploy to get people to spend more; all the money raised by this fashion show is being donated to Kids Company, a charity set up to provide support to vulnerable inner-city children.
‘We have worked with Kids Company in the past on fashion shows and have always admired its work. Also, a lot of the counselling that Kids Company undertakes is through the creative arts, which made it a perfect fit with our fashion agenda,’ explains Theophanous.
‘Wearing clothes is an aspect of their self-presentation that they can have control over’ – Camila Batmanghelidjh
The link between Kids Company and fashion isn’t as tenuous as it might first seem. Many of the children who come to the charity for help lack even the most basic clothes, and as Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder and director of Kids Company, explains: ‘For children who have experienced profound humiliation as a consequence of childhood maltreatment, wearing good clothes is the first step towards piecing together their shattered dignity.
It is also an aspect of their self-presentation that they can have control over.’
Kids Company has been working with young people to capture their thoughts on how fashion needs to embrace childhood and adolescence more appropriately. ‘It is in this context that we were really happy to partner with Global Kids Fashion Week,’ says Batmanghelidjh, adding that two of the youngsters from Kids Company worked backstage, gaining valuable work experience in the process.
After the show, chaos rules at an after party with nail painting, a photo booth and more popcorn. But this refreshing burst of colour and energy is contained within an anteroom. In the Hall’s grand hallway, normal activity carries on, oblivious to the confetti, the children and the candyfloss.
Gradually the crowd trickles away, parents taking their children by the hand, ushering them through Freemasons’ Hall. They are silenced by its size and greatness, and majesty reigns once more.
ABOUT KIDS COMPANY
Founded by Camila Batmanghelidjh, in 1996, Kids Company aims to provide practical and emotional support to vulnerable inner-city children. It reaches out to thirty-six thousand young people, of whom eighteen thousand receive intensive support. In extreme cases, the charity clothes, feeds and houses them; for others, it works towards creating a safe family environment and offers opportunities and support they would not otherwise receive.
The charity has developed a unique philosophy using the arts therapeutically and educationally in order to reach and assist traumatised children – and statistics show that this approach works.
Around eighty-one per cent of the young people who come to the charity are involved in crime; eighty-four per cent have experienced homelessness; and eighty-three per cent have sustained trauma. After Kids Company’s intervention, findings indicate a ninety per cent reduction in criminal activity, with ninety-one per cent of children going back into education and sixty-nine per cent finding employment.
New heights for air ambulance
The Freemasons’ Grand Charity has announced its first large grant of the year: £192,000 for air ambulance charities. Freemasons have been regular supporters of air ambulance charities since 2007, donating £1.3 million in total to 22 rescue services. Every air ambulance in England and Wales has received funding.
Air ambulance charities rely on voluntary donations to operate. Support from grant-makers such as the Grand Charity means that doctors and paramedics reach patients in emergency situations as quickly as possible – saving lives in the process.
Speaking about the donation, chief executive of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, Laura Chapman, says: ‘We are delighted to be able to show our support for air ambulance charities once again.’