Celebrating 300 years
Tuesday, 13 June 2017 00:00

Appetite for life

Whether forming a martial arts school or releasing a cookbook, Kwoklyn Wan has always believed in sharing. Francesca Hool finds out why becoming a Freemason was the natural progression

Speaking with a soft Leicester twang, Kwoklyn Wan describes himself as ‘British-born Chinese’. A devoted father, martial arts expert, self-trained Asian cooking sensation and newly initiated Freemason, Kwoklyn has an infectious enthusiasm and is proud of his heritage.

Kwoklyn’s father moved to the UK from the little village of Sha Tau Kok, on the border between Hong Kong and mainland China, in 1962. ‘With the Chinese, everything revolves around food. It’s our culture. Birthday party, wedding or funeral, we sit together around the table and eat. My grandfather opened the first Chinese restaurant in Leicester and my dad followed suit with a Cantonese restaurant.’

By the age of four, Kwoklyn was clad in a white shirt and black bow tie, working front of house. ‘I was born for it,’ he says. Around the same time, his father enrolled him at a martial arts school, planting the seed for another of his lifelong passions. ‘Being half Chinese and a big guy, I got my fair share of name calling at school. Martial arts helped me through it. I had a laugh rather than take offence.’

In his 20s, Kwoklyn used savings earned working as a chef and founded a martial arts school in the heart of the Leicester community. He describes the early years as ‘hit and miss’, but his determination saw him through as he accumulated awards and accolades for his teaching. 

Whether preparing Hakka-style slow-cooked meats or practising Filipino martial arts, Kwoklyn has an aptitude for sharing his skills. ‘The first time [you teach] you get the nerves, you shake, and often you start teaching one way and end up somewhere else, but that’s the beauty of it.’ For Kwoklyn, martial arts and the art of Chinese cooking demand the same values. ‘Learning to punch or kick takes years of study – you need patience and time to become a master. Cooking is no different.’

MIXING THINGS UP

When asked what motivated him to join the ranks of the Freemasons, Kwoklyn remarks truthfully: ‘I didn’t know a lot [about it], but I had friends who were members and despite not giving much away, they urged me to join. I did my own investigation, gleaning insight from masons, and applied online. There’s a lot of respect involved with Chinese culture and the martial arts that I grew up with. You learn from a young age to respect your elders; you treat people how you want to be treated. And with the Freemasons I felt that immediately.’

Reflecting on his initiation, Kwoklyn enjoyed the fact that all of his peers had already been through exactly the same process. ‘For that one night you are made to feel like the most important person in the world. There’s no hierarchy – everybody you meet wants you to succeed. That positivity is something special. You are surrounded by people who are your brothers. You get together, go through certain customs and traditions, look at charities and how you can help out, and then have a big meal.’

Since joining in April 2016, Kwoklyn says his mindset has already changed. ‘I’ve gained so much and I’ve barely scratched the surface. New aspects of Freemasonry are constantly revealing themselves. It feels like a whole new chapter of learning. Recently, I’ve put forward another initiate, because I am so passionate about how joining the masons has made me feel.’

Fellow Freemason and close friend George Elliot is Director of Ceremonies at Grey Friars Lodge. He offers guidance and support, stressing that masons can ring him at any time. ‘The beauty of the lodge is that we’ve got a wonderful mixture of people – young, old, all walks of life,’ he says.

'There’s a lot of respect involved with Chinese culture and the martial arts that I grew up with. You learn from a young age to respect your elders; you treat people how you want to be treated. And with the Freemasons I felt that immediately’ Kwoklyn Wan

THE RIGHT INGREDIENTS

Along with other senior members of the lodge, George likes to meet potential candidates in person. ‘We tread carefully, making sure each person is the right fit and that, ultimately, they will enjoy it. When I first spoke to Kwoklyn it was surreal, I’d never met anybody so keen at such an early stage of Freemasonry. It’s refreshing, there was no stopping him.’ 

It seems Kwoklyn’s bubbling personality is somewhat infectious. ‘He passes that persona on to people, it makes them see Freemasonry from his point of view,’ says George, adding that while the initiation process can be daunting, ‘Kwoklyn nailed it. He did his homework and everybody raised their game for him.’

With Grey Friars Lodge close to home, it’s a perfect fit for Kwoklyn, who is keen to give back to the community that raised him. He recently ran a cooking class at Leicester’s Dorothy Goodman School, which caters for pupils with a range of learning difficulties and aims to give them the skills to be self-sufficient. ‘I teach the same way I would my own daughters, by trying to give them a skill set. To pass something on. If I’m able to teach them how to cook rice or how to use a gas ring safely, they can take those things away with them forever.’

With his cooking career in full flow and a cookbook due for release, there’s no stopping Kwoklyn. ‘I wanted to share recipes that our ancestors and parents ate, and what we ate as children. I’m a practical learner and I love to participate, so what better way to bring the cookbook to life than by having pop-up-style cooking classes all over Leicestershire?’

Published in Features

Children’s ward gets new nebulisers

Six nebulisers were presented by local Freemasons to the Children’s Ward at the Leicester Royal Infirmary via the Asthma Relief Charity by Leicestershire and Rutland PGM David Hagger.

Nebulisers convert liquid medication into aerosol droplets suitable for inhalation, using compressed air to enable patients to breathe more easily.

Each nebuliser will help 150 children over its six-year life. Members of Grey Friars Lodge, No. 6803, which meets in Leicester, also donated £1,400 to the Leicestershire Royal Infirmary Children and Young People’s Cancer Unit to provide play equipment and materials together with updating medical equipment.

Incredible sum of £36,000 distributed to Leicestershire and Rutland charities

Twenty-three diverse local charities gathered at Freemasons' Hall in Leicester on Saturday 25th April for a presentation event to receive over £36,000 in generous donations from the Leicestershire and Rutland Masonic Charity Association, The Freemasons' Grand Charity and the Leicestershire and Rutland Royal Arch Masons.

Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance, based at East Midlands Airport, was given a total of £11,000. Charlotte Marson Fundraising Co-Ordinator for the charity said: 'A huge thank you to all the Freemasons for this very generous donation which will go a long way to help save more lives.' 

Other charities to benefit included:

Leicester Navy Training Corps is a voluntary youth organisation that trains young people in the ways and customs of the sea, using the methods and practices of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. Commanding Officer, Matthew Taylor, said: 'A massive thank you to the Freemasons for the £1,500 donation which will provide opportunities for our cadets to go flying and off-shore sailing.'

Home Start Melton and Rutland which is a family support charity that helps parents to build better lives for their children. Chair of Trustees, Jane Loake, said: 'Thank you very much for the generosity of the Freemasons which will fund children to attend a Christmas Pantomime which for some children is a once a year enrichment activity in their lives something that they would not have the opportunity to do before.'

The Bradgate Park Trust which provides the maintenance and improvement of the public park received £1,000 towards the purchase of an off-road mobility scooter to enable greater disabled access to the park. Peter Tyldesley of the Trust said: 'The charity was set up in 1928 by Charles Bennion, a prominent Leicestershire Freemason, for the benefit of all the people of Leicestershire, and we are delighted to receive the donation from the modern Freemasons.' To receive the donation on behalf of the Trust was Col Robert Martin, Trustee of Bradgate Park, and also Charles Bennion, grandson of the benefactor, who was keen to learn of his grandfather's masonic connections and was fascinated to learn he was a Past Master of St John's Lodge No. 279 and Lodge Semper Eadem No. 3091, a Founder member of East Goscote Lodge No. 2865 and Provincial Grand Treasurer.

Radio Gwendolen which provides a 24-hour service of music, news and information specifically for patients of the General Hospital, Leicester. The donation of £1,500 will go towards the purchase of a dual CD player and equipment to allow the radio to be streamed on the internet. 

The Provincial Grand Master of the Leicestershire and Rutland, RW Bro David Hagger, concluded the meeting by applauding all the charities and their volunteers who give their time to such good causes: 'I'm proud that the Freemasons have been able to make a major contribution to society by supporting our local charities helping children, young people, those with disabilities and the elderly.'

The full list of charities were:

Long Whatton and Diseworth Scout Group – £2,000
Leicester Navy Training Corp – £1,500
Hinckley and Bosworth Community Transport Scheme – £2,000
Women's Aid Leicestershire – £1,000
The Brain Tumour Charity – £1,514 (from the Lodge of the Holywell No. 7827)
South Leicestershire Scouts – £1,500
Radio Gwendolen – £1,500
Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance – £11,000 (including £4,000 from the Grand Charity)
Dogs for the Disabled – £1,000 (from Grey Friars Lodge No. 6803)
Cottesmore Scout Headquarters – £1,000
The Bradgate Park Trust – £1,000
PROSTaid – £264 (from the Lodge of Gratitude No. 6514)
Friends of Devonshire Court – £150 (from Wiclif Chapter No. 3078)
Bark Foundation – £200 (from the Royal Arch Masons)
Loughborough Cancer Self Help Group – £250 (from the Royal Arch Masons)
Mesothelioma UK – £250 (from the Royal Arch Masons)
Myeloma UK – £2,500
Leicestershire Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus – £1,665
Home Start South Leicestershire – £1,000 (including £500 from St Wilfrid's Lodge No. 8350)
RABI – £1,000 (including £500 from St Wilfrid's Lodge No. 8350)
The Well, Kibworth – £1,000 (including £500 from St Wilfrid's Lodge No. 8350)
Shopmobility Market Harborough – £1,000 (including £500 from St Wilfrid's Lodge No. 8350)
Home Start Melton and Rutland – £2,000

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