Unlike many students, partying was the last thing on John Henry Phillips’ mind when he headed to the University of Leicester in 2013
After spending four years touring Europe as part of a rock band, John was eager to indulge in his archaeological passions.
It was the discovery of a World War I grenade during his first visit to the fields at Flanders in Belgium that inspired John to apply to study archaeology. After being accepted onto a course in Leicester (with the same university department that discovered Richard III’s remains in a local car park in 2012), John became interested in the Universities Scheme, which forges links between lodges and young people who are seeking to become involved in Freemasonry.
‘Student living can be quite intense,’ recalls John. ‘So Freemasonry was a great opportunity to step away from it all, to do something positive and unselfish rather than just going on a pub crawl.’ In December 2013, John was officially initiated into Wyggeston Lodge, No. 3448.
The overlap between the history of Freemasonry and the world wars had a strong appeal for John. ‘As a historical fraternity, it ties in with my interests. I particularly like masonic traditions that originate from those eras – such as raising a glass to absent brethren at lodge dinners, which stems from World War I,’ he says.
It is this sense of tradition, combined with the support of the fraternity, that John believes young people could benefit from most. ‘It’s an uncertain time for young people. Freemasonry could be a welcome constant for many,’ he says. ‘But it’s a two-way street. Young people have more diverse experiences and perspectives than they did 50 years ago. I think we have just as much to offer in the way of new ideas.’
What does the Tercentenary mean to you?
‘It’s a real honour to think back over 300 years of history and know that you’re a part of a long line of people who achieved great things. I try and work the morals of Freemasonry into all of the work I do.’
Freemasons in Leicestershire and Rutland are celebrating a magnificent milestone in their charitable donations to the local community during the last five years
As they approach their 300th anniversary, figures released today show that Freemasons based in Leicestershire and Rutland, despite the recent economic downturn, have donated to over 400 different charities to the sum of £800,000.
Just under a third of the money donated went to healthcare charities, whilst those charities supporting children and youth received a quarter of the funding. Other charities were also supported who focus on social welfare, education, disability, elderly, culture, sport, religion, homeless and animals.
Freemasonry is one of the biggest contributors to UK charities, including both masonic and non-masonic causes. It encourages members to take a moral and ethical approach to life, helping them become the best that they can be. It seeks to reinforce the principles of kindness, honesty, fairness, tolerance and integrity.
Some of their recent donations include £10,000 to Warning Zone, the Leicester based interactive life skills centre, for an e-Safety zone, £15,000 to Leicester Cathedral for the reinterment of Richard III, £25,000 to the Leicester Children’s Holiday Centre Mablethorpe for play equipment and £50,000 to the new Centre for Medicine at the University of Leicester.
Other major beneficiaries include the Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance, LOROS Hospice, Rainbows Children's Hospice, and PROSTaid.
David Hagger, Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland said: 'All of our members are encouraged to give to charity but should always be within their means and it is entirely up to each member how much they wish to contribute. The money donated is raised by the members themselves from such events as ladies' nights and other social occasions where family and friends get together.'
He continued: 'I'm incredibly proud and thank all our members for their philanthropy and generosity by contributing this amazing amount of money to local communities reinforcing the role that Freemasonry has always and continues to play in society.'
Kidney disease exercise in Leicester
A group of scientists from the University of Leicester, funded by Kidney Research UK together with the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, are working towards understanding which exercise methods will best help people with kidney disease to stabilise their conditions.
Dr Alice Smith and a team of doctors, psychologists and physiotherapists, all based at Leicester General Hospital, aim to determine how exercise can help kidney patients maximise their health, quality of life and independence.
scientists from the University of Leicester, funded by Kidney Research UK and with the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons, are working towards understanding which exercise methods will best help those with kidney disease
Dr Alice Smith and a team of doctors, psychologists, and physiotherapists, based at the General Hospital, Leicester, aim to determine how exercise can be used to help kidney patients maximise their health, quality of life and, independence.
A total of 4,000 patients in the Leicester region currently suffer from early stage kidney disease. It is common for these patients to die from heart disease, rather than kidney disease, partly due to inactivity and muscle wasting. The research team have already recorded the attitudes to exercise in 2,000 kidney patients from across the country to understand their exercise habits. Dr Smith said: 'Those with kidney disease don’t know if the general advice around exercise applies to them and whether they should exercise or not as a kidney patient.'
Amy Clarke, a Researcher in Health and Behavior Psychologist in the team, said: 'This large survey has given us a picture of how kidney patients behave. The main questions they asked included: Is exercise safe for me? Will it benefit me? Could it make my condition worse? There are also the emotions of having an illness, such as kidney disease, where patients want to know if they can get back to the activities they used to do before diagnosis.'
Dr Smith continued: 'Having collated the patient perceptions on their exercise, we are now taking the project forward to start to produce a programme to help kidney patients become more active in their daily lives. This is a new kind of concept and consists of talking to patients, members of staff, and an expert panel to get a consensus about the programme, and then testing it in practice. It also aims to understand which type of exercise, such as walking or swimming, can be embedded into patient's lifestyles rather than relying on supervised gym sessions which are not sustainable and often doesn’t fit into patients’ lives easily.'
The project has already developed a self-directed exercise programme to help patients with kidney disease to be more active on an individual basis. The SPARK, Self-management Programme to Increase Health through Physical Activity in Chronic Kidney Disease programme is currently undergoing further revision based on patient feedback already received. A further programme is also being developed which patients will attend in groups to discuss the role of exercise in their lives and help them to formulate a plan and put it into practice. The team are also recruiting patients from Nottingham to broaden and expand the study.
Suzanne Baines, Major Gifts Officer of Kidney Research UK said: 'With over three million people at risk of chronic kidney disease, we are very grateful for the generous donation that the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons have given to support this important and groundbreaking research project which has the potential to benefit patients across the country.'
RW Bro David Hagger, Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland, said: 'The Freemasons are extremely pleased and proud to have been able to support this vital research which affects so many people in the local community.'
The Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland, RW Bro David Hagger, visited the new Centre for Medicine at the University of Leicester on Thursday 26th November 2015, which is currently being completed.
The Leicestershire and Rutland Masonic Charity Association (LRMCA) generously donated £50,000 towards the building which will provide a state of the art academic research and teaching environment for medical students.
A multifunctional room on the lower floor of the new centre will be proudly named the ‘Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons’ Room’. The Provincial Grand Master, along with the Chairman of the LRMCA, W Bro John Peberdy, the Provincial Grand Almoner, W Bro Anthony Molyneux, a Grand Charity Representative, W Bro Anthony Wood and their partners were given a guided tour of the centre by Estates Project Manager, Dave Vernon.
The tour started at the room to be named after the local Freemasons which is located to the left of the main reception of the building. Other parts of the new building were shown during the tour including the lecture theatres, communal spaces and offices particularly highlighting its Passivhaus (very little energy required for heating and cooling) features.
The Centre for Medicine has also recently had a green 'living' wall installed which is the largest green wall in the UK outside of London. This will provide year round colour from the flowering plants and a habitat for birds, bees and butterflies.
The centre is due to be opened during the next couple of months and will be in full use by Easter 2016.
Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons held a grant award ceremony at Freemasons' Hall, Leicester on Saturday 26th September 2015 where 24 local charities were gifted a total of £92,845
Among the charities receiving awards was the University of Leicester. Dr Kevin Harris, Interim Dean of the Medical School, was pleased to receive an award for £50,000 towards the building of the new Centre for Medicine which will provide a state of the art academic research and teaching environment for medical students. Dr Harris said: 'Thank you very much to the Freemasons of Leicestershire and Rutland for this generous gift. This will be the newest and most advanced medical school in the country and not only will it train the next generation of doctors and healthcare professionals it will also promote the health of the local population.'
LOROS Hospice, who care for over 2,500 people across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, were granted £8,363. John Knight, Chief Executive of LOROS, said: 'Thank you to the Freemasons for this donation which will go straight to the work of the organisation for the whole of Leicestershire and Rutland.'
Within the region, other charities received donations included:
Home Start North West Leicestershire, based in Ashby, which supports families with a child under the age of five who have been experiencing difficulties with family life, received a donation of £600 to purchase 40 Christmas Hampers. Scheme Manager Pamela Moretta said: 'It will be so nice at Christmas to be able to take each family that we home visit a Christmas Hamper full of goodies.'
MRC Community Action, which is based in Coalville, received a donation of £1,200 to provide social and therapeutic activities for those over 60 years of age affected by acute loneliness, social isolation, poor physical or mental health. Operations Manager, Lesley Massey said: 'This is going to provide to start to delivering services on a Sunday in the Marlene Reid Centre including transport, entertainment and food.'
The Harley Staples Cancer Trust received a donation of £2,112, raised in part by the Wyggeston Lodge which meet in Leicester, to provide a years rent for ‘Harley’s Caravan’ allowing families with children suffering from cancer to spend quality time together at the seaside and away from hospital. Upon receiving the donation, Jamie Staples said 'A massive thank you to all the Freemasons for this donation. We have had 25 families stay in our Caravan this year and we now don’t have to worry about the rent for next year as it is now sorted.’
Leicester-based the Laura Centre, which offers specialist bereavement counselling to parents whose child has died and to children or young people who have been bereaved of a parent or significant person, received a donation of £2500. Co-founder Gail Moore said: 'On behalf of everyone at The Laura Centre and the children and families we were founded to serve, I would like to thank the Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons for this extremely wonderful gift.'
Loughborough based charity Leslie Edwards Trust received £2,000, including £1,000 from the members of Beacon Lodge who meet in Loughborough, which will provide lip reading classes to help people with hearing difficulties across Leicestershire including Loughborough, Market Harborough, Melton Mowbray, Coalville and Hinckley.
Home Start Charnwood was granted £1,000. Director, Elena Folkes, said: 'A huge thank you on behalf of Home Start Charnwood for such a generous donation which will go towards training a volunteer to support a family in need.'
The Castle Donnington Volunteer Centre (CDVC) received £1,500 towards the cost of a volunteer co-ordinator. Chair of the CDVC, John Williams, said: 'There are a lot of people that become isolated and this donation will go a very long way to assist with our Help@Hand service to help people in their homes.'
Lutterworth Community Transport Community Bus Scheme who was granted £2,000 which will provide enough funds for weekly lunch and social activities for those that are socially isolated in Walcote. Stephen Jeffries said: 'We are enormously dependent on funding and this award will continue to help us to keep the operation going.'
St Mary's Church at Broughton Astley who was granted £2,000 to provide a new heating system. Rev Sharon Constable said: ‘I would like to thank the Freemasons of Leicestershire and Rutland very much for this donation. Having a new heating system is going to make such a difference so that we can offer our space, not just as a place to worship, but also for the whole community to use.'
Somerby based Mount Group Riding for the Disabled was granted a total of £2,000 by St Mary’s Lodge, who meet in Melton Mowbray, towards the cost of upgrading a riding simulator. Peter O’Connor from the charity said: 'Thank you very much to the Freemasons for this generous donation. We provide riding facilities for disable children and adults and this donation will go a long way to help with out with upgrading our riding simulator which allows children and adults who want to ride but do not have the confidence to get on a real animal.'
Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland, David Hagger, said: 'Freemasonry is one of the biggest contributors to UK charities and the generous donations we have given locally were raised by our members themselves through contributions and social events. We continue to raise funds for a large variety of good causes as well as contributing to society and these grants are a wonderful example of the generosity of Freemasons.'
Annual General Meeting of The Freemasons' Grand Charity
9 September 2015
The following individual non-masonic grants were approved:
a. £45,000 to Cure Parkinson’s Trust to fund research into targeting new treatment
b. £50,000 to Diabetes UK to fund the development of a Vaccine for Type 1 diabetes
c. £40,000 to Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity to fund research into inflammatory bowel disease
d. £65,000 to Moorfields Eye Charity to fund research into age-related macular degeneration
e. £20,000 to Restore – Burn and Wound Research to fund research into skin allograft acceptance for burn injuries
f. £60,000 to UCL Cancer Institute Research Trust to fund research into the immunology of lung cancer
g. £32,000 to University of Leicester to fund research into the role of visual crowding in reading difficulty across the lifespan
h. £7,500 to Armonico Consort Ltd to fund workshops in Special Educational Needs Schools
i. £22,000 to Canterbury Cathedral Trust to fund an apprentice stonemason
j. £10,000 to Farms for City Children to fund a week on a farm in Devon for inner city children
k. £10,000 to Groundwork UK to fund three Green Teams across the UK
l. £25,000 to StreetGames to fund the ‘Us Girls’ Empowerment Project
m. £15,000 to AbilityNet to fund IT services for older disabled people
n. £20,000 to The Back-Up Trust to fund the salary of the Schools Inclusion Co-ordinator
o. £40,000 to British Lung Foundation to fund the Singing for Lung Health Programme
p. £47,750 to British Wireless for the Blind Fund to fund the replacement of old wireless internet audio players
q. £50,000 to Canine Partners to fund a residential building at the new training centre in Leicestershire
r. £30,000 to Carers Trust to fund the salary of the Policy and Development Manager
s. £15,000 to Jubilee Sailing Trust to fund the Buddy Bursary scheme
t. £25,000 to Listening Books to fund the expansion of the Books for Hospices mini-library service
u. £7,500 to The National Deaf Children’s Society to fund workshops helping deaf children and young people
v. £37,250 to National Star Foundation to fund specialist residential accommodation for people who have severe and complex disabilities
w. £20,000 to The Royal British Legion Poppy Factory to fund an employability consultant
x. £43,000 to Victim Support to fund a volunteer team for the helpline
y. £40,000 to WellChild to fund a Children’s Nurse
z. £5,000 to Blackburn Cathedral to fund the restoration of the Cloister Garth building
aa. £5,000 to St Davids Cathedral to contribute to the upgrade of the seating facilities at the Cathedral
bb. £10,000 to Winchester Cathedral Trust to contribute to the new Learning Development Centre
The following amounts were approved for disposal by the Council of the Grand Charity over the coming six months:
a. £1,261,000 for major non-masonic grants
b. £150,000 for non-masonic grants of £5,000 or less
c. £600,000 for grants to hospice services in 2015 (£500,000 for allocation to adult hospices and £100,000 to children’s hospices)
d. £192,000 for grants to air ambulance and similar rescue services in England, Wales and the Crown Dependencies in 2016
The following Emergency Grants made in the past nine months were reported by the President:
• £30,000 to the British Red Cross for relief work following flooding in the Balkans
• £20,000 to the British Red Cross for relief work following cyclone Pam which struck Vanuatu
• £50,000 to the British Red Cross for relief work following an earthquake in Nepal
Three Leicestershire lodges were part of a unique joint meeting to celebrate recent UNIVERSITIES' SCHEME successes
Since joining the Universities’ Scheme, over 50 university staff, student and alumni have joined the lodges in just four years.
The Lodge of Science and Art No. 8429 joined in December 2010 and is the scheme lodge for Loughborough University. Wyggeston Lodge No. 3448 is the scheme lodge for the University of Leicester and joined in April 2011, with Castle of Leicester Lodge No. 7767 for De Montfort University joining in October 2012.
Members of the lodges and visitors from across the country gathered in the decorative Holmes Lodge Room at Freemasons' Hall to witness each lodge conducting one of the three ceremonies consisting of candidates from all the lodges.
The acting Master of the Lodge of Science and Art, W Bro Peter Legg, started the day's proceedings with a triple Raising ceremony. Then acting Master of Wyggeston Lodge, W Bro Andy Green, who is also part of the UGLE Universities’ Scheme Committee, conducted a triple Passing ceremony. Castle of Leicester Lodge then conducted a triple Initiation with acting Master, W Bro Paul Wallace taking the Chair.
The lodges were pleased to welcome the Deputy Chairman of the Universities' Scheme, W Bro Daniel Johnson, who said it was 'a marvellous day' and that the Province were seen as huge supporters of the scheme.
The members of the three lodges enjoyed a special celebration Festive Board after the meeting and raised £300 for the Alderman Newton’s Educational Foundation, a local charity that offers financial support to individuals and schools to help people access education or training opportunities in Leicestershire.
The entire meeting went extremely well and clearly demonstrated the very good heart of the three Universities’ Scheme Lodges within the Province of Leicestershire and Rutland.
VW Bro Peter Kinder, Assistant Provincial Grand Master, who has overseen the development of the scheme within the Province said: 'We are delighted with the amazing response we have had to this new scheme. Freemasonry has recently proved to be very popular amongst younger men, particularly students and this resurgence of renewed interest into our historic fraternity, which is 300 years old in 2017, has led to lodges, such as the three University Lodges, having to hold extra meetings to cope with demand. The Masonic code of moral behaviour, charitable giving, especially to non-masonic charities, and honesty, really appeals to many young men, even in this modern day and age.'
W Bro Daniel Hayward, UGLE Regional Co-ordinator for the scheme who also took part in the ceremonies, said of the meeting: 'It has been a wonderful day celebrating the success of the scheme with so many friends. We look forward to welcoming many more young men who are looking to better themselves as people and assist a wide variety of charities by becoming members of our fraternal society.'
The Freemasons’ Grand Charity has just approved its first grants of 2014 totalling £842,500
Ranging from £10,000 to £100,000 each, they support nineteen significant causes across the UK.
Charities to receive funding include:
Blond McIndoe Research Foundation £50,000
Cancer Research UK £50,000
Epilepsy Society £50,000
University of Leicester £16,500
Chetham’s School of Music £75,000
Red Balloon Learner Centres £25,000
The Lord Mayor’s Appeal £50,000
Villiers Park Educational Trust £25,000
Carers UK £100,000
Fledglings Family Services £13,000
Parkinson’s UK £90,000
The Children’s Trust £13,000
The Queen Alexandra Hospital Home £60,000
Speaking about the Major Grants programme Laura Chapman, Chief Executive at The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, said:
'The Freemasons’ Grand Charity seeks to help people in need, and we are dedicated to helping people who are socially disadvantaged, disabled, seriously ill, homeless, or facing economic and social deprivation. It is our hope that the positive impact of these grants will be felt by thousands of people facing difficulties.'
Quotes from the supported charities
'Red Balloon is extremely grateful to The Freemasons’ Grand Charity for donating £25,000 to our Bursary Fund for places at one of our Centres in Cambridge, Norwich, NW London or Reading, our mini Centre in Braintree or on Red Balloon of the Air.
'This money will enable us to help the recovery of severely bullied children who hide under their duvets, depressed, self-harming and with suicidal thoughts unable to attend mainstream school.
'The donation will help us to provide more children with a full-time education and therapeutic support, to get their life back.'
Dr Carrie Herbert MBE, Founder and President, Red Balloon Learner Centre Group
'Raleigh International harnesses the passion and energy of young people to create positive change in very poor communities around the world.
'We are very grateful to The Freemasons’ Grand Charity for its support of our programme for disadvantaged young people – this will contribute to transforming lives abroad as well as in the UK.'
Alderman Fiona Woolf CBE, The Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor of London, Trustee of The Lord Mayor’s Appeal, Trustee of Raleigh International
'We are extremely grateful to The Freemasons’ Grand Charity for their generosity in providing bursaries for high ability students from less advantaged backgrounds to attend our Inspiring Excellence Programme Courses which they would otherwise be unable to afford.
'Far too many able young people substantially underachieve, creating a major block to improving social mobility in the UK. With the support of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity we are working to overcome this through inspiring young people to fulfil their potential.'
Richard Gould, Chief Executive, Villiers Park Educational Trust
'Mind is delighted to receive this significant contribution towards the development of a smartphone app for our Elefriends online support network. At www.elefriends.org.uk, people with experience of mental health problems support each other in a safe and friendly space. This grant will mean that even more people with experience of mental health problems are able to give or receive peer support wherever and whenever they need it.'
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive, Mind
Further grant details
The Blond McIndoe Research Foundation has received £50,000 to fund research into the development of stimuli responsive materials, which are able to detect and respond to changes in a healing burn and diabetic wounds to help the repair process.
Cancer Research UK has received £100,000 to fund Dr Thorsten Hagemann’s pancreatic cancer research at Barts Cancer Institute. The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund have both made grants of £50,000 towards the project.
The National Society for Epilepsy has received £50,000 to fund research into the genetic causes of epilepsy through exome DNA sequencing techniques.
The University of Leicester has received £33,000 to fund a clinical trial into the treatment of heart attack patients with the application of remote ischemic conditioning. The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund have both made grants of £16,500 towards the project.
Chetham’s School of Music has received £75,000 payable over three years to fund the school’s community outreach services in disadvantaged areas.
Envision has received £25,000 to fund a community project in Bristol aiming to develop the confidence and skills of young people.
Red Balloon Learner Centres has received £25,000 to fund bursaries for severely bullied children to attend specialist learner centres, to build their resilience before returning to mainstream education.
SkillForce has received £100,000 payable over two years to fund the Onto Next Steps programme in Norfolk and Kent. The programme will mentor and coach pupils who are at risk of exclusion from education, and face subsequent unemployment.
The Lord Mayor’s Appeal has received £50,000 to engage with disadvantaged young people by funding Raleigh International’s youth agency partnership programme in the UK.
Villiers Park Educational Trust has received £25,000 to fund bursaries to enable disadvantaged young people to attend educational courses for raising academic achievement and developing employability skills, to help them gain places at leading universities.
Carers UK has received £100,000 payable over two years to fund its national advice and information service; providing expert advice and support on financial and practical matters for the estimated 6.5 million carers in the UK.
Designability has received £25,000 to fund the manufacture of powered wheelchairs called Wizzybugs for disabled pre-school children, which help them to get around with their peers and to learn spatial awareness.
Fledglings Family Services has received £13,000 to fund the cost of printing 26,000 copies of a brochure that will help families to find the best specialist products for children with special needs.
Mind has received £40,000 to help train 720 peer-supporters and to fund the development of a smartphone application, aiming to increase peer support hours by 20%.
Parkinson’s UK has received £90,000 payable over two years to fund the salary and costs of a Parkinson’s nurse specialist in Lancashire.
Phab has received £10,000 to fund courses on inclusive living experiences and skills for independence for disabled people.
Shelter has received £25,000 to fund its advice service in Norfolk. In 2012/13 the charity saw a 47% rise in people seeking help, and 2,400 households in Norfolk faced eviction or repossession.
The Children’s Trust has received £13,000 to fund the salary of the online co-ordinator of the Brain Injury Hub; a resource providing accurate information and advice to families on childhood acquired brain injury.
The Queen Alexandra Hospital Home in Sussex has received £60,000 payable over two years to fund the occupational therapy department; providing residential, nursing and rehabilitation services to disabled veterans and their dependants.
The first degrees
Through the Universities Scheme, Freemasonry is reaching a young, community-minded generation. Sophie Radice finds out what attracted five university recruits to Leicester’s Wyggeston Lodge
University is a place that encourages self-expression and personal discovery. Surely not a time when you would consider joining Freemasonry, with all its traditions and structures? Dr Andy Green of Wyggeston Lodge, No. 3448, disagrees: ‘Freemasonry is a sociable and supportive fraternity. This works very well with those just starting out on their adult lives and looking to meet a range of people with a solid moral code – it’s also a lot of fun.’
The first university lodge, Apollo University Lodge, No. 357, was founded at Oxford almost two hundred years ago, with Isaac Newton University Lodge, No. 859, following some years later at Cambridge. Since then, many thousands of young men have been introduced to Freemasonry through these two lodges, and they provided the inspiration for the Universities Scheme. Set up in 2005, the scheme establishes opportunities for undergraduates and other university members to learn about Freemasonry and to bring fresh minds and ideas into the organisation. There are now more than fifty lodges pursuing a similar course. Their membership consists of undergraduates, postgraduates, senior members of the university and alumni, ranging in age from eighteen upwards.
Wyggeston Lodge in Leicester joined the Universities Scheme in 2011 to try to revive membership numbers – in the 1950s the lodge had one hundred and twenty members and in 2010 it had dwindled to thirty-two. In the past few years, however, the lodge has initiated twelve students. Last summer, four students from the University of Leicester were part of a special meeting of the lodge, when it carried out its first ever quadruple initiation ceremony. This saw Valentin-George Tartacuta, Yusif Nelson, Peter Clarke and Peter Shandley joining the Craft.
‘It’s very exciting to see the lodge filling up with the younger generation, all of whom seem to have great ideas about the future of the lodge and what might make Freemasonry more attractive to their age group,’ says Andy, Universities Scheme Subcommitee Chairman at Wyggeston. ‘We have already made good use of social networking sites – we have a strong Facebook and Twitter presence, as well as a website with film clips of our new members talking about why they joined, and a blog. I realised that it was essential to be able to contact and attract young members through these forums. It has made the lodge communications more dynamic, because we have all had to up our game in a way.’
Provincial Assistant Grand Master Peter Kinder, who is also the Provincial Universities Scheme Liaison Officer, says: ‘We are very lucky in this area with potential next-generation Freemasons because we have three very good universities – Loughborough (with the Lodge of Science & Art), De Montfort (with Castle of Leicester Lodge) and Leicester itself. When we first went to the University of Leicester freshers’ fair three years ago, we were really surprised at the interest. So many people wanted to talk to us and asked us to explain what we were doing there. We spoke about the history of Freemasonry and if they seemed interested, we suggested that they came and had a tour of the lodge.’
Peter recalls how, at the end of the freshers’ day, the floor was filled with flyers. ‘But you couldn’t see any of the Freemasonry ones chucked away. I suppose we were a little bit more unusual than the pizza and taxi firms. We gave out seven hundred leaflets that first year and one thousand this year. We seem to be going from strength to strength.’
Learning the ropes
Peter Clarke is in his third year studying history and knew very little about the Freemasons when he came across the stand at the freshers’ fair. ‘It took me a year to think about it and by the time my second freshers’ came up, I had done a bit of research and found out about the history of the Freemasons. I thought it would be something a bit different to join and take me out of my normal social circles. I like the feeling of being part of something bigger and, as a history student, I was fascinated by tracing back the roots of Freemasonry.’
‘It’s very exciting to see the lodge filling up with the younger generation, all of whom seem to have great ideas about the future of the lodge.’ Dr Andy Green Business and finance student Jeff Zhu also came across Freemasonry for the first time at a freshers’ fair. ‘It was my second year at university; I had just split up with my girlfriend and was feeling a bit down, so I went to the freshers’ day. I come from China and I have to say that I liked the historical look of the Freemasons’ stall, but I had never heard of them before.
Many Chinese students just stick together but I really wanted the chance to branch out. I also like the values of integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness. It fits in with the way I want to live my life.’ Peter Shandley, who reads law and has just finished a year studying in Germany, was taken aback when he made his first visit to Wyggeston Lodge, which holds its meeting in Leicester’s Freemasons’ Hall – a Georgian building with stunning interiors. ‘From the outside it doesn’t look like much, but when I came inside and saw the main hall I was really interested in the heritage. e hall was built in 1910, when this area was really booming from the textile trade, and is one of the most impressive in the country. I feel really privileged to have been initiated into this lodge because it is such a distinguished one. I have so enjoyed my experience here that I have brought someone else into the lodge. He was initiated in December.’
‘I like the feeling of being part of something bigger and, as a history student, I was fascinated by tracing back the roots of Freemasonry.’ Peter Clarke
While initially surprised by the decision to join, friends of university lodge members have been receptive to hearing about the general ethos of Freemasonry. Andrew Slater, who is in his third year reading medical biochemistry, says that he was attracted by the international aspect of Freemasonry and the fact that ‘pretty much anywhere you end up in the world you could find a Freemasons’ lodge and be welcomed there’. He also goes to other lodges in the UK and enjoys being part of the events that they hold. ‘It’s a good feeling to know you have people who will welcome you everywhere.’
For Andrew, joining a brotherhood that brings him together with new people is important. ‘Andy Green is so great at promoting the values of decency, charity and brotherhood that it is hard not to be enthused by him. there is also the feeling that as well as having a great deal to teach us, the Freemasons here are very receptive to what we have to say about the way forward to keep membership alive. I have also become friends with students from different departments that I would never have met if I hadn’t become a Freemason.’
Alex Pohl is twenty-two and has enjoyed acting in the ceremonies. ‘I’m often nervous and things never go exactly to plan but it really helps with a sense of belonging and fraternity.
I am really committed to the Freemasons – it is a lifetime thing – and I joined because I knew about the huge amount Freemasons do for charity. I also really like the modesty behind the charitable giving. It’s not something that the Freemasons make a big deal of but so much of what we are about is the desire to help others as much as we can. I really respect that, and I am excited about being a part of a new generation of Freemasons.’
‘As well as having a great deal to teach us, the Freemasons here are very receptive to what we have to say about the way forward to keep membership alive.’ Andrew Slater