Links between Scouting and Freemasonry took another step forward when both the Kindred Lodges Association (KLA) and The Freemasons’ Grand Charity ran a stand at The Scout Association’s Reunion. The annual event at Gilwell Park near Epping Forest brings together more than 2,000 Scouting adults from around the world.
Working in partnership, the KLA and the Grand Charity explained how Freemasonry supports local Scouting and its ambition to change young people’s lives. The stand had a positive reception, with many visitors asking how they could connect with local Freemasonry as well as thanking the Grand Charity for its £500,000 grant to help encourage the growth of Scouting. The KLA intends to return to next year’s Reunion.
Gentlemen on the move
In January 2013, Freemasons’ Hall hosted its first menswear fashion show for heritage label Hackett. Miranda Thompson witnesses the transformation of the masonic headquarters into a grand hotel
‘You’re looking great!’ The shout cuts through the vestibule at Freemasons’ Hall, today lit softly in blue. A man takes hold of a luggage cart and trots through the high iron gates, twirling in his checked trousers as he reaches the end.
Welcome to the Autumn/Winter 2014-15 Hackett menswear fashion show, the first time the clothing brand has ever displayed at Freemasons’ Hall. Today, the vestibule and its surrounding quarters are appearing as ‘Hotel Hackett’. ‘The Hall has one of the finest and most dramatic Art Deco interiors in London, reminiscent of the grand hotels of the period,’ says Jens Kaeumle, creative director at the menswear label.
‘It felt a perfect fit to host the show, and the stunning backdrop is ideal for a collection inspired by the glamour of travel.’
It’s two hours before the first model walks and the vestibule is buzzing. Spotlights illuminate the intricate tiles before the Grand Temple as men with ponytails untangle wires and black-clad assistants carefully lay out branded goody bags on the white-block seats. In keeping with the travel theme, stacks of luggage are artfully arranged around the interior and bellboys in small hats and sharp suits line the stairs.
But the Hall’s Hackett makeover stretches beyond the vestibule. Classic tweed jackets hang in the Robing Room, where the steam hiss of an iron punctuates the calm atmosphere, while the Grand Dressing Room houses hair and make-up – models old and young sporting neat beards and shorn crops wait their turn for the mirror. In the corridor, a model is being put through his paces: ‘Walk, walk and turn,’ he’s instructed, his black shoes gleaming like the polished wooden floor.
‘Doesn’t it look wonderful today? They’ve really used the building as a backdrop,’ says the Hall’s Head of Events, Karen Haigh, as she surveys the scene. ‘The lighting and the way they’ve set it out, it’s masculine but elegant.
And the iron doors look amazing under those lights.’
Freemasons’ Hall is no stranger to high fashion: every February and September during London Fashion Week it hosts Fashion Scout, a platform for new creative design talent featuring a packed schedule of shows.
‘I’m very conscious that this is a peace memorial, a working building, and we have to be sensitive to members. We only take on events that are right for the building.’ Karen Haigh
‘It’s evolved into something quite special,’ Karen says. ‘Everyone knows Freemasons’ Hall houses the new designers. We used to have a few men’s events tagged onto the end of Fashion Week, but I think it’s great that they’re taking off like this.’
A perfect fit
What began as a side venture at Freemasons’ Hall has blossomed. When Karen was initially asked to investigate whether the hosting of external events could bring in extra revenue to benefit the building, nobody guessed the scale to which it would grow. In 2013 the Hall hosted one hundred and twenty-five events, among them daily conferences, the Aston Martin one-hundredth anniversary and even the UK Lingerie Awards.
Why is the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) happy to hold events as eclectic as this? ‘They send out a message that the building is accessible. It gets rid of the myth of closed doors,’ Karen explains. And despite the mix of people filling the building today, it’s clear that the Freemasons are always the priority. ‘We’re very sensitive,’ she says. ‘We don’t want to disturb lodge members, so we work around them. We do soundchecks to make sure the rest of the building isn’t affected. And we’ve even run tours when there’s been filming.’
While it’s clear just how much UGLE enjoys welcoming these events, Karen always carefully curates the line-up. ‘I’m very conscious that this is a peace memorial, a working building, and we have to be sensitive to members,’ she explains. ‘We only take on events that are right for the building.’ So what made Hackett a good fit? ‘I think the brand ties in well with the heritage of the Hall,’ Karen says. ‘You’ve got a very old, traditional building that is something like a gentleman’s club, and then you’ve got the young men coming into it. It’s a nice juxtaposition. It shows we’re not fuddy-duddies – that’s the big thing. A lot of the younger members like that we’re not just seen as old-fashioned.’
Back in the vestibule, where every seat is filled and extra space absorbed by those standing, it’s time for the fashion to take over. Lights dim, conversation fades and faces crane toward the iron gates as a bellboy emerges on the catwalk, pushing the luggage carrier at just the right speed. Forty models follow him in turn, each cast from a roll-call of characters that you might encounter in the lobby of a glamorous hotel, from the nattily dressed CEO to the gentleman explorer, a nod to the age of adventure, and former rugby player Thom Evans, who steps out in a grey overcoat and tailored trousers.
The classic British attire on show spans a classic colour palette – warm blush jumpers, soft grey beanie hats, dark checks – and, of course, a selection of suitcases.
In a matter of minutes, Jeremy Hackett himself takes to the catwalk, tipping his bowler hat to a roar of approval, and then it’s all over. It’s just as Karen says: ‘You’d never put Freemasons and fashion together, but isn’t it lovely?’
Not just men’s fashion
While Freemasons’ Hall provides a fantastic venue to showcase men’s fashion, it’s equally comfortable recognising the top names in the lingerie sector. Held at the Hall in December, the 2013 UK Lingerie Awards was a spectacular night of drama and entertainment in the company of industry stars and celebrities from across the country. Hosted by Sky Sports News presenter Millie Clode, the event crowned Debenhams the UK’s Favourite Lingerie Retailer of the Year.
Looking to the future
The Masonic Samaritan Fund is supporting treatment and research into curing complex medical conditions
The majority of the MSF’s grant-making is to cover the associated costs of a diagnosed health or care need. However, the charity also funds medical research projects that aim to improve the treatment for many of the illnesses and disabilities affecting masonic families and the wider community.
Richard Penelrick was diagnosed with Ataxia-Telangiectasia (A-T), a rare and progressive genetic disorder for which there is no cure, when he was sixteen years old. A-T has weakened Richard’s immune system, leading to frequent chest and lung infections, and placed him at significantly increased risk of developing cancer. He was wheelchair-bound by the end of his teens, and the condition is generally fatal to patients by the time they reach their late twenties.
Richard’s family have looked after him through increasing disability and challenging care needs. His masonic guardian, John Pritchard, said, ‘The impact of A-T on individuals and their families is devastating. We not only have to cope with providing twenty-four-hour care for Richard, but we must be ready at any time to face the prospect of a severe illness or his possible death.’
Support for A-T sufferers
In partnership with the Province of Devonshire, the MSF has given support to Richard and his family. Margaret, his mother, has received respite care grants for several years, allowing her time to rest from the day-and-night care she provides for her son, while Richard has received a bespoke wheelchair, tailored to his needs. Margaret said, ‘It is very pleasing to see Richard in a wheelchair that helps with his medical needs and allows him to still use his own physical capabilities. I would like to thank all involved throughout this application.’
There is currently no cure for A-T, which affects one in forty thousand young people in the UK. The MSF has donated £49,695 to the A-T Society, a charity that seeks funding for medical research to explore routes to potential cures for A-T. Society chief executive William Davis, said, ‘This generous grant from the Masonic Samaritan Fund has enabled the charity to fund exciting research that may not only impact on people living with A-T, but could go on to advance treatments and even promote a cure for other genetic diseases and cancer.’
How to make an application
In support of helping to alleviate delays for treatment or surgery, the MSF provided more than two hundred medical grants to Freemasons and their dependants during 2013 at a cost of just over £1.5 million. The support provided covered a wide range of medical conditions and the Fund’s new online Eligibility Calculator can tell you if you’re likely to qualify for a grant. Visit www.msfund.org.uk/eligibility-calculator and answer ten simple questions to receive an immediate decision as to your eligibility to make a full application to the Fund.
New ProvGM appointed for South Wales
Gareth Jones has been installed as the new Provincial Grand Master for South Wales by Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes at Barry.
A ‘seven-point plan’ is now in motion to address recruitment and retention, and to maintain standards within lodges. Charitable efforts will be further developed, as will greater social interaction for families.
Challenging the south african heat
Two brethren from Mirfield Lodge, No. 1102, in the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding, cycled 400km over five days to raise money for Regain, the charity supporting those who have become tetraplegic as a result of a sports or leisure injury. Sometimes referred to as quadriplegia, tetraplegia is the complete or incomplete paralysis from the neck downwards as a result of severe spinal cord injury, affecting all four limbs and the trunk. Rod Dyer and Chris Oldfield completed the arduous event in the heat of South Africa’s Western Cape and raised around £8,000 from sponsorship and organising a number of social events.
Lift for Norfolk lifeboats
Norfolk Provincial Grand Master John Rushmer has presented match-funded cheques for £2,500 to the RNLI Happisburgh Lifeboat Station. Under the Matched Funding Scheme, the Grand Charity matches grants made by local lodges to national non-masonic charities in 12 selected Provinces, up to £5,000. The scheme aims to raise awareness of the charitable help available from masons at a local level.
Nice footwork in Derbyshire
Derbyshire masons from Morcar Lodge, No. 8458, which meets at Alfreton, and the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys have helped a young woman achieve her ambition in the dancing world.
Joanne Howarth, granddaughter of widow Mavis Howarth, whose late husband Jerry was a lodge member, was able to complete a three-year residential course at the world-famous Brian Rogers Performers College in London.
Now principal of the JL Dance Academy in Ripley, Joanne puts her success down to the eight years she was supported by Freemasonry.
Help for home from home in Somerset
CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people. One of its Homes from Home, where families can stay for free during a child’s cancer treatment, Sam’s House in Bristol is a purpose-built residence with a garden, close to Bristol Royal Hospital for Children (BRHC). The Lodge of Agriculture, No. 1199, of Yatton in Somerset, has donated four iPads to the centre.
The charity is close to the heart of WM David Megilley, whose family stayed at Sam’s House when his nephew underwent a procedure for leukaemia at BRHC.
Surgeon support from Devon Royal Arch
At the Riviera International Centre in Torquay, Second Grand Principal George Francis attended the Holy Royal Arch Masons of Devonshire Annual Provincial Grand Chapter. To a packed auditorium including more than 100 distinguished guests from the Provinces, Grand Superintendent Simon Rowe announced that Provincial Grand Chapter had contributed more than £75,000 to the Supreme Grand Chapter Royal College of Surgeons 2013 Appeal.
Classic visit from sir stirling moss
For the past 10 years the Masonic Classic Vehicle Club (MCVC) has mounted displays at the NEC Birmingham’s Classic Motor Show, the largest indoor classic car exhibition in the UK.
In 2013 the club’s display theme was Historic Competition Cars, with exhibits including a 1958 Maserati 250F F1 car owned by Gerry Hann, Berkshire Deputy PGM; a 1953 C-type Jaguar (replica) constructed and owned by Phil Cottrell of Lodge of Aviation, No. 7210, in London; a 1932 Austin 7 Ulster displayed by Roger Gourd from Merantune Lodge, No. 6149, in Surrey; and a 1922 AC Sports from the Brooklands Museum, loaned by Steve Gray.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of the club year was when Sir Stirling Moss, considered by many to be the greatest British racing driver, visited the MCVC stand at the NEC.