In an unprecedented move, Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons opened the doors to several of their Masonic Halls across the region on Saturday 9th September 2017 for everyone to see inside as part of the National Heritage Open Days and to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England
Over 600 people wanted to see and know more about Freemasonry and took the time to visit one of the Halls.
At Freemasons’ Hall, London Road, Leicester, Dale Neal from BBC Radio Leicester did a live outside broadcast as part of the Monica Winfield show. His reaction when he saw the decorative Holmes Lodge Room live on air was priceless, similar to those of other visitors and was just simply “Wow!” Dale spoke on air to the Provincial Grand Master David Hagger about Freemasonry and organiser of the event David Turner, who described some of the history surrounding the historic building which has been the Provincial Headquarters since 1910.
Other Masonic Halls which opened their doors were Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Hinckley, Lutterworth, Market Harborough and Syston.
At Hinckley Masonic Hall, amongst the many visitors was the Deputy Mayor of the Borough, Councillor Jan Kirby with her consort Mike Kirby, who were delighted to learn about the building and its historical past. After the visit the Deputy Mayor said: 'It was a pleasure to be shown around your lovely Masonic rooms and told the history of the Masons within Hinckley.
'It was explained to us that you are all just people who are like minded from all parts of our community who want to help others. Many people do not realise the charitable works that the Masons do for our community.'
Another visitor was Mrs Shirley Ashmore who was only too pleased to view the large board recording the names of the Past Masters of the Knights of Malta Lodge No. 50 which occupies a prominent position within the Lodge Room. This board was presented to the Lodge in 1967, by her mother, Mrs Hipwell, in memory of her late husband Cecil Hipwell who was the Master of the Lodge in 1948.
Andy Hardy-Smith, organiser at Market Harborough, said: 'The reaction from the public was good and it has been suggested that perhaps we should open our doors again in the future. It was an opportunity for one of our potential new members to come along and is now intent on joining.'
Malcolm Talbot from Ashby-de-la-Zouch said: 'The day proved a great success and started with visitors queuing outside before we even opened our doors. We had a steady stream of visitors appearing throughout the day.'
Victor Petrie from Lutterworth said: 'We had several visitors including a couple who were passing through Lutterworth while on holiday and two members from Rugby, Warwickshire. All the visitors were greatly impressed with the facilities available at the centre and asked many questions when they were shown round the Lodge Room.'
The Provincial Grand Master David Hagger said: 'We are thrilled that so many took the opportunity to come and have a look around our Halls and we hope that it helped them better understand the history of our Halls and Freemasonry in general.'
The museum in St Peter's Place boasts a rare collection of exhibits of national and international importance, including regalia and books, which cover all Masonic orders through the ages.
The museum also had a recent visit from Kate Bliss and the team from the BBC TV show Antiques Road Trip as part of the filming for an episode of the programme to be shown in the autumn.
Worshipful Brother Tony Denne, chair of trustees, commented: ‘We were thrilled to be, once again, acknowledged by TripAdvisor for the amazing independent reviews that our visitors from far and wide have left for us over the past year.
‘The warm and knowledgeable welcome provided by our volunteer guides is mentioned time and again on the site.’
The Certificate of Excellence accounts for the quality, quantity and recency of reviews submitted by travellers on TripAdvisor over a 12-month period. To qualify, a business must maintain an overall TripAdvisor bubble rating of at least four out of five, have a minimum number of reviews and must have been listed on TripAdvisor for at least 12 months.
As of June 2017, the Kent Museum of Freemasonry is listed by the site as one of the Top 20 things to do in Canterbury.
Details of the 150 oil paintings in the collection at Freemasons' Hall in Great Queen Street are now available online as part of a joint project between the Public Catalogue Foundation and the BBC to put on line all the oil paintings in the UK. More than 200,000 paintings at 3,000 venues across the UK are to be included.
Freemasons' Hall is just one of many institutions (including many Oxford and Cambridge colleges) that are not in public ownership which have joined the project for the benefit of wider public awareness and research. For more information see: www.bbc.co.uk/yourpaintings You can search for the Library and Musuem of Freemasonry as a venue to see all the paintings at Great Queen Street.
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry has been working with the Public Catalogue Foundation for the last two years to have all the pictures photographed and to provide details of the artists.
14 March 2012
A speech by the VW The Grand Secretary Nigel Brown and Jessica Bondy
NB: Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master and Brethren,
I am delighted to introduce Jessica Bondy to those of you who do not already know her. She is our public relations adviser and has been working closely with us on our communications strategy. Put it another way: she probably knows more of what we are all about, and what our aims are, than any other non Mason!
The core, the heartbeat, of the strategy is to dispel myths. But why bother? After all, we know that as the oldest fraternal organisation in the world, our principles have never changed and our timeless values are as relevant today as they were three hundred years ago.
We suggest, as modern Freemasons, there are two reasons in particular why we should bother – you will have others. If we take as a given that we want good press, then the first reason is that, by dispelling the myths it will help with both retention and recruitment and secondly, it will reduce – potentially eradicate – discrimination against us, especially in the public sector.
To explain the determined progress of our communications strategy I use the analogy of Mount Everest. The expedition has started. And we have before us the long haul to the top which we must reach before 2017. I say long haul, because on the one side our members are going to have to be brought up to date with our thinking, which we have started to do with the Provincial Information Officers, and on the other side we must overcome the utter rubbish that has been written about us. I'll now handover. Jessica.
JB: For a communication strategy to work, it is essential to have support at the highest level in an organisation. We have that. So working closely with the Strategic Communications Committee and the Board of General Purposes we are at the first stage of our journey with a clear objective to both increase understanding of, and support for, Freemasonry - and to build a positive reputation for the Organisation. Critical to achieving this is by highlighting your openness and relevance in society today. And rather than just talking about it we have taken action to demonstrate change.
In your assets we have for example proper open websites, the newly highly acclaimed Freemasonry Today magazine, which is increasingly read by family members, a mentoring scheme which includes helping you to talk about Freemasonry openly and sensibly, so that as many of you as possible can become ambassadors for the organisation. All of this will be further helped by a new leaflet designed simply to give people a good feel about Freemasonry.
But more importantly, and for the first time ever, we approached a non-masonic body to produce a report for the media on the future of Freemasonry, written by an independent third party, with no connection to Freemasonry. This was a bold move, but it was essential for the media to both see this as a neutral and outsider's perspective for credibility's sake, and also to act as the catalyst for them to want to talk to us. The Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford, otherwise known as SIRC, was selected competitively. They offered not only anthropological expertise, which forms much of the backdrop of the report, but also their research criteria are based on evidence and not ideology. In their words: "We needed to test Freemasonry's claims for openness and transparency".
SIRC set about compiling the views and opinions of a cross-section of Freemasons and non-Masons alike, examining the presence of, or the need for, an element in ritual in all our lives, our need to belong, the ways we express our generosity to others, and the extent to which our everyday lives involve ritual behaviours. The result is a truly insightful and timely commentary, not just on this great Organisation, but also fascinatingly on the complex interactions, perceptions and values of modern society itself.
Just to give you a flavour: among their key findings, is that contrary to much misleading commentary, Freemasonry shows genuine openness and transparency. To quote a piece from the report, "One thing that immediately became apparent was that the notion of Freemasonry as a secret society was clearly inappropriate". More importantly the report ends by saying that it is arguably more relevant today than ever before. It also shows that Freemasonry acts as a 'constant', and by that I mean that it provides members with a unique combination of friendship, belonging and structure, with many Masons saying they have made lifelong friendships. Also, although I absolutely understand that Freemasonry is not a Charity the report also highlights the importance that Freemasonry places on giving – thinking of the needs of others.
For your interest we concurrently ran a survey among non-Masons which showed what a huge opportunity we have. Over half wanted to know more about us and a quarter would consider joining.
So with the report published and in our hands, and the knowledge that people really do want to know more, we took the Grand Secretary on a highly successful media tour, quite literally the length and breadth of the country, which was another first. We felt it important for the Grand Secretary to be on the road and truly show openness by meeting people face-to-face to show we have nothing to hide. So over the past two weeks he has visited twenty locations around the country with forty interviews with local press and radio stations. The response was very positive and he was given the opportunity to communicate a number of the key messages. I will share one headline from the Yorkshire Post written by one of the only women editors: "A Secret Society? No we're Freemasons because we enjoy friendships and fun", and the editor's opener: "For centuries Freemasonry has been known as a 'secret society' but we've got them all wrong".
Nationally, we have also made waves. At best we set off to generate balanced pieces and stimulate debate, with the view that we would be very pleased indeed if they were positive. BBC online was the third most popular story last Friday and generated an unprecedented number of comments running currently at over one thousand. The interview on one of the leading radio stations, LBC, quite literally jammed the switchboard.
You can now all see the report on your Freemasonry Today website. Combining all the media and press interviews, the reach has been to a potential audience of over fifty million!! Grand Secretary.
NB: Here is a brief feedback from the front line for your interest. I was pleasantly surprised by the reception I got from the press and media in the Provinces. Yes, all the questions were based on the typical myths which all of you are aware of, but they were receptive to my answers. National newspapers are very different, being much tougher, more liable to misquote, and going for sensational headlines, but just to get coverage is a further demonstration, very publically, of our openness and acceptance of debate. It is well worth the risk and we need to do this if we are ever to move forward. Let us be very clear: the myths are deeply set in people's minds. But as we move forward we want people to base their judgement on facts – not fantasy. As all of you can imagine, it is a very real challenge to change people's deeply rooted perceptions in a few minutes, but it is a challenge we relish. I leave the last word to Jessica.
JB: These firsts, the report and the media tour, have presented a major opportunity for your organisation. We have to harness and build on the interest now, in order to achieve the impact we deserve in 2017. If we can convert people from negative to neutral at the very least, I believe we will be making huge progress. The SIRC report ends as I do, "If Freemasonry is able successfully to conclude its quiet revolution, while at the same time ensuring that its central features are retained to preserve the true 'spirit' of Freemasonry, then its future may well be assured – for the next century or two at least".
14 September 2011
An address by the RW The Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence
It is very good to see you all here today and I hope you have had a very enjoyable and refreshing summer. The summer is not only a time for the re-charging of batteries, but I find it is also a time for reflection and preparation for the challenges ahead. As our Masonic activities begin again for the Autumn I thought it would be appropriate for me to share with you some thoughts on some essential aspects of Pure Antient Masonry, being the Craft and Holy Royal Arch. I am prompted to do this after listening to an interview given by the Grand Chaplain to the BBC in May in which it became clear there are still substantial misunderstandings about the Craft, when frankly there ought not to be.
We need to be absolutely clear when we discuss our Pure Antient Masonry that we belong to a secular organisation, that is to say a non-religious organisation. This was a point made very eloquently by the Grand Chaplain in his interview. It is, however, a secular organisation that is supportive of religion: it is an absolute requirement for all our members to believe in a Supreme Being. As the late and sadly missed Dean Neil Collings so eloquently put it, this gives "a context and background to the individual's way of life as they seek to live it”. Freemasonry itself, as we all know, is neither a substitute for nor an alternative to religion. It certainly does not deal in spirituality; it does not have any sacraments; or, indeed, offer or claim to offer any type of salvation. Freemasonry, in fact, absolutely fails to meet any of the tests of what it is to be a religion, set by the late Reverend Professor John MacQuarrie, former Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford. The fact that men from different faiths can meet easily in harmony and friendship, without compromising their particular religious beliefs, demonstrates that one of the greatest strengths of the Craft, dating from its earliest beginnings, is that of Tolerance. To ensure this tolerance remains untroubled, of course, discussions of religion like discussions of politics are strictly prohibited!
Organised Freemasonry, from its beginnings in the late 17th and early 18th Centuries, a time of religious intolerance, was always concerned with teaching and encouraging morality. Our forefathers were very aware of human nature and its flaws, particularly those of self-absorption and selfishness. The Craft sought to encourage men to be loyal to their country, to obey the law, to try to be better behaved, to consider their relations with others and to make themselves more extensively serviceable to their fellow men, that is to say their wider communities. In other words, to pursue a moral life. The ceremonies were used as the main means of teaching and illustrating the principles of the Craft: they were, and still very much are, a dramatic and effective set of morality plays.
The Craft, as a secular organisation, remains just as concerned today to encourage these ideals. I suggest that, in today's language, we could articulate the fundamental principles to which our members subscribe as integrity, honesty, fairness, kindness and tolerance. These are principles of which we should be very proud and we should not hesitate to articulate them, when appropriate opportunities present themselves, to our family, friends and, indeed, the wider community in which we live. We should also make it very clear that we very much enjoy ourselves and what we do. I have no doubt our principles will appeal to those who are not masons, if they are aware of them. Once it is clearly understood that the nature of our ritual, often written in an elegant older style of language, is that of a morality play, many of the genuine misunderstandings will fall away.
The future of the Craft is obviously dependent on attracting and retaining good quality candidates. Our principles, I believe, should be attractive to many men of good reputation and integrity. It is very important that we all only recommend to our Lodges men who we know subscribe to our principles, who we believe will enjoy being members of the Craft and who will mix happily with the other members of their individual Lodge.
The other side of this coin is that we should be careful in our choice of candidates. This is something every new Mason is told in the Charge after Initiation and for a very good reason. Unsuitable candidates are likely to damage the Craft in general and their own Lodges in particular.
Every one of us has an important part to play in articulating clearly what the Craft is and encouraging appropriately qualified candidates to be members. To support this, our soon to be announced strategic communications direction, together with the results from the working party on mentoring, will go a long way to help us to speak openly, and in an informed way, about Freemasonry. Our success will help to ensure Freemasonry’s long term future.