Celebrating 300 years

UGLE invites young artists to explore Freemasonry during Tercentenary year

The United Grand Lodge of England will host an exhibition of emerging artists’ work this June, to mark this year’s Tercentenary celebrations. All artwork will be created on site at Freemasons’ Hall during the residency, with artists observing and capturing contemporary masonic life and being given unprecedented access to the building and organisation.

The initiative will be led by UGLE’s first ever officially appointed Artist in Residence, South African artist Jacques Viljoen, 28, who has a background in both classical painting and contemporary art.

Up to 10 young artists from diverse backgrounds and practices are being invited to join Jacques at Freemasons’ Hall during February–May, culminating in the exhibition in June. Masons with a specific talent or interest in art are also being approached. Details are available from the Library and Museum, please email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The new works will capture some of the key initiatives taking place in 2017 and bring different perspectives of Freemasonry to life through a variety of artistic mediums and techniques.

Hosted in partnership with the Library and Museum, the Director Diane Clements commented: 'The residency is a unique and exciting initiative to mark this milestone year and open up the world of Freemasonry in an educational and creative way to young people and the wider public. We are proud to support young talent and are excited to see what the artists produce.'

Published in UGLE

Not to be frowned upon

Pro First Grand Principal Peter Lowndes points to the enjoyment that can be found in masonic ritual

As you are well aware, Freemasons’ Hall is a peace memorial to all those who gave their lives for us during World War I. It is worth, therefore, drawing your attention to two events taking place next year.

The first is on 18 April 2017 at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, when the new Masonic Memorial Garden, built in memory of all those masons who gave their lives during conflict in the service of our country, will be opened.

The second is the unveiling of the Victoria Cross Memorial by the Grand Master on 25 April 2017. It will be placed on the pavement in front of the Tower Entrance of Freemasons’ Hall and will take the form of a number of paving stones, with the names of the 63 Victoria Cross holders who were awarded the military decoration in World War I and who were members of the United Grand Lodge of England. Of these, 17 were also companions in the Royal Arch.

Past and future

Companions, this seems to be an appropriate time to say a few words about Denis Beckett. He was a very remarkable man and I had the good fortune to know him well. Indeed, Beckett was President of the Committee of General Purposes when I joined it in 1987.

Beckett was a Craft mason for 71 years and a Royal Arch mason for 59 years. He was initiated immediately after World War II, in which he served with such distinction. He was awarded the DSO for his extraordinary courage during the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy – there were those who felt a Victoria Cross would have been more appropriate. We were privileged to have him as a member and particularly in that he presided over the Committee of General Purposes for seven years.

‘In the Royal Arch... our Exaltation Ceremony is one of the finest.’

While it is clearly important to remember the past, we must also look to the future. I am therefore very pleased that the successor to the Membership Focus Group, the Improvement Delivery Group, is composed of both Provincial Grand Masters and Grand Superintendents, with our Third Grand Principal, Gareth Jones, as its Deputy Chairman. It will be designing and delivering the future direction of both the Craft and Royal Arch.

You may have seen that, after my Quarterly Communications address in June, I have been accused in the national media of suggesting that masons are all grumpy and boring – a misrepresentation, companions. I said that if an amusing incident occurs at one of our meetings, it should not be frowned upon as had sometimes been the case in the past.

It is not a capital offence to smile during meetings. While I was not suggesting we should turn our meetings into a pantomime, there is no harm in us being seen to enjoy ourselves. I believe this to be particularly so in the Royal Arch, as our Exaltation Ceremony is one of the finest and, in my experience, candidates derive great enjoyment from it. I think this is particularly so when the new format of the ritual is used, which involves more of the companions and has the benefit of changing the voice that the candidate hears, which I always feel refreshes his interest.

Published in UGLE
Monday, 12 December 2016 13:02

The stories we tell

The stories we tell

Now in its third year, Letters Live returns to Freemasons’ Hall in a sell-out run. Emilee Tombs takes notes

A hush falls over the crowd inside the main chamber of Freemasons’ Hall in Covent Garden, London. The anticipation is palpable as actor Toby Jones takes to the stage and grabs the microphone to speak. ‘Letters cast powerful spells,’ he starts. ‘They take the reader to places familiar and strange.’

It was with this thought that Letters Live, now in its third year, was conceived. Based on the blog and then best-selling book series Letters of Note by Shaun Usher, and Simon Garfield’s book To the Letter, the event is the reading aloud of a collection of the world’s most entertaining, inspiring and unusual letters ever written. What makes it more compelling is that the acts who read the letters during the week-long event are a secret until they appear on stage.

From Virginia Woolf’s heartbreaking suicide letter, to Queen Elizabeth II’s recipe for drop scones sent to President Eisenhower, and Iggy Pop’s beautiful letter of advice to a troubled young fan, Letters Live celebrates the power of written correspondence and its ability to capture the humour, pathos, anger and wisdom of its authors. Supporting charities First Story, Ministry of Stories and Help Refugees, Letters Live this year enjoyed a sell-out run.

‘Someday find my [son] Karl, and tell him about his father. Tell him what times were like when we [were] not separated by war…’ Luz Long, writing to Jesse Owens

Politics and power

‘The great thing about a letter,’ says actor Nick Moran, standing opposite fellow actor Colin Salmon, ‘is that it invites a response.’ What follows is a hilarious exchange from 1676 between the Zaporozhian Cossacks and Turkish sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire, in which the sultan (read by Salmon) bombastically lists his successes and personal affiliation to God, and demands: ‘I command you, the Zaporozhian Cossacks, to submit to me voluntarily and without any resistance, and to desist from troubling me with your attacks.’

To this, the Zaporozhian Cossacks (read by Moran) reply with a barrage of Monty Python-worthy insults: ‘O sultan, Turkish devil and damned devil’s kith and kin, secretary to Lucifer himself. What the devil kind of knight are you, that can’t slay a hedgehog with your naked arse?’

Later in the evening, letters from readers of The Guardian on the subject of ‘The dog’s politics’ also elicit laughter from the audience. ‘There will always be some dogs who are corrupted, misled and – like Stalin – born to the left but end up on the fascistic right. Just as there must be rare examples of cats who have abandoned their life of comfort – Che Guevara comes to mind – and given their lives to the betterment of others (though I am yet to meet one). Which brings us to the one undeniable truth shared by anyone, of any political persuasion, who has ever canvassed door-to-door: dogs vote Labour, cats vote Conservative.’

Throughout the five-day run, audiences are treated to readings by Sanjeev Bhaskar, John Bishop, Edith Bowman, Jarvis Cocker, Julian Clary, Jamie Cullum, Sophie Dahl, Simon Day, Omid Djalili, Mariella Frostrup, Miriam Margolyes, Michael Palin, Nicholas Parsons and Robert Rinder.

On the third night, Gillian Anderson reads a letter from an old Irish lady in a nursing home, describing to her family how she got her own back on the mean women she shares a room with.

There’s also a letter from director Michael Powell to his friend Martin Scorsese, congratulating him on the script of Goodfellas, read – with awe – by Danny Boyle.

Beyond the words

One letter, penned during World War II by German Olympian Luz Long to American Olympian Jesse Owens, is a tear-jerker. The pair met during a tense 1936 Olympics hosted by Adolf Hitler and became firm friends and pen pals even through the war that followed. Writing from North Africa, where he was stationed with the German army and later killed in action, Long implores Owens: ‘Someday find my [son] Karl, and tell him about his father. Tell him, Jesse, what times were like when we [were] not separated by war. I am saying – tell him how things can be between men on this earth.’

What makes this and many other readings at the event so special is that the audience is privy to background information, researched by the Letters Live team. In this instance, we learn that Owens did in fact travel to Germany some years later to meet Long’s son, and that the pair remained friends until Owens’ death in 1980.

Towards the end of the evening, a letter written by a former slave to his old master almost brings Colin Salmon to tears, and not – as we learn later – under the guise of his character. It goes to show that such a strong message, even one sent decades ago, cannot be underestimated. As the audience exits Freemasons’ Hall, it is heartening to think that even in an age of emails, texts and Facebook updates, the art of letter writing still has the power to capture our imaginations.

Published in Features

 The  grand tour

Each year, Library and Museum staff show more than 30,000 people around Freemasons’ Hall on daily tours. Have you been?

A tour of Freemasons’ Hall reveals a building rich in history and architectural detail. Visitors – whether they are members of the public or Freemasons – can explore the Hall’s impressive ceremonial areas, from the Grand Officers’ Robing Room to the Shrine and the Grand Temple on the first floor. The tour also offers an opportunity to see some of the Grand Lodge’s collection of portraits of royalty associated with Freemasonry, including George VI.

A visit to the Roll of Honour at the Shrine is always a highlight. Many visitors also do not realise beforehand that the interior of Freemasons’ Hall is richly decorated; the stained-glass windows and extensive use of marble often draw gasps of admiration. When the tour arrives at the Grand Temple, there is time to sit down and ask the guides questions about Freemasonry, then listen to the music of the Grand Temple organ, following its recent refurbishment.

If you haven’t been to look around, why not organise a trip in 2017? Tours are available Monday to Saturday. Or visit on an Open Day – the next London Open House event will be on Sunday, 18 September 2016 from 10am to 5pm.

The Library and Museum is now open from Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm

Published in More News

Freemasons’ Hall organ concerts

The next in the series of organ concerts on the newly inaugurated Willis organ in the Grand Temple of Freemasons' Hall is being given by international concert organist, Jane Parker-Smith.

She will be playing works by Elgar, Vierne, Langlais, Cochereau, Bowen and César Franck.

14th December 2016, 5pm
Freemasons' Hall
60 Great Queen Street
London
WC2B 5AZ

Book your free tickets now at: http://bit.do/TempleConcert 

Jane Parker-Smith biography

Described as ‘the Martha Argerich of the organ’ (Paul Driver, The Sunday Times), Jane Parker-Smith is internationally recognised by the critics and public alike for her musicianship, virtuosity, entertaining programmes and electrifying performances. An innate interpretative ability, prodigious technique and flair for tonal colour are the hallmarks that make Jane Parker-Smith one of the most sought-after organists in the world.

Her studies at the Royal College of Music in London were crowned with a number of prizes and scholarships, including the Walford Davies Prize for organ performance. After a further period of work with the eminent concert organist Nicolas Kynaston, a French government scholarship enabled her to complete her studies in Paris with the legendary blind organist Jean Langlais, perfecting the knowledge and understanding of twentieth-century French organ music for which she is today internationally renowned.

She made her London debut at Westminster Cathedral at the age of twenty, and two years later made her first solo appearance at the BBC Promenade Concerts in the Royal Albert Hall. She has since performed in concert halls, cathedrals and churches throughout the world.

She has recorded a wide range of solo repertoire for RCA, Classics for Pleasure, L’Oiseau Lyre, EMI, ASV, Collins Classics, Motette and AVIE. In addition, she has collaborated with the renowned Maurice André in a duo recording of music for trumpet and organ. She has performed numerous times on radio and television with special feature programmes on the BBC, German and Swiss television.

Highlights in her concert career have been performances in major venues and international festivals such as Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, Royal Festival Hall; Royal Albert Hall, London (both solo and concerto performances); Three Choirs Festival, City of London Festival, Bath Festival and Blenheim Palace (Winston Churchill Memorial Concert) in the UK; Jyväskylä Festival, Finland; Stockholm Concert Hall, Sweden; Hong Kong Arts Festival; Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto, Canada; Festival Paris Quartier D’Été, France; Festival Cicio El Organo en la Iglesia, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Festival Internationale di Musica Organistica Magadino, Switzerland; Cube Concert Hall, Shiroishi, Japan; Athens Organ Festival, Greece; Severance Hall, Cleveland, Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco and Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, USA; Sejong Cultural Centre, Seoul, Korea; Esplanade Concert Hall, Singapore, Symphony Hall, Birmingham, UK; Mariinsky Concert Hall, St. Petersburg, Russia and ZK Matthews Hall, University of South Africa, Pretoria.

In 1996 she gave four solo concerts at the American Guild of Organists National Centennial Convention in New York City. She was also a featured artist for the AGO National Convention in Philadelphia in 2002, for the AGO Region II Convention in New York City and the AGO Region V Convention in Columbus, Ohio in 2007, for the AGO National Convention in Nashville in 2012 and most recently for the AGO Regional Convention in Fort Worth, Texas in 2015.

Jane Parker-Smith’s extensive concerto repertoire has brought her performances with many leading orchestras, including the BBC Symphony and the BBC Concert Orchestras, the London Symphony, the London Philharmonic and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras, the Philharmonia, the City of Birmingham Symphony, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, the Athens State Orchestra and the Prague Chamber Orchestra. She has worked with conductors of the stature of Sir Simon Rattle, Serge Baudo, Carl Davis, Vernon Handley, Matthias Bamert and Richard Hickox.

Miss Parker-Smith is an Honorary Fellow of the Guild of Musicians and Singers and a member of the Incorporated Society of Musicians. She is listed in the World Who’s Who and the International Who’s Who in Music and in 2014 was chosen as one of ‘The 1000 Most Influential Londoners’ by the London Evening Standard newspaper.

Published in More News

Tickets for Tercentenary Grand Ball to go on sale in September

Dear Sir and Brother,

We are writing to inform you of a most exciting event planned for the celebrations of the Tercentenary of the United Grand Lodge of England in 2017: The Grand Ball. On Saturday 30th September 2017, our home, Freemasons’ Hall in Great Queen Street, London, will be transformed into the venue for The Grand Ball.

This will be the highlight of the social calendar for the Tercentenary celebrations, but will also be an opportunity for brethren of any rank, and from all Provinces and Districts, to be present at one of the official UGLE celebrations with their families and friends.

The evening will commence at 8.30pm with a Champagne reception, and finish with bacon sandwiches for the survivors at 3am! It will be a suitably grand event to befit the 300th anniversary of the institution, and is being generously supported and subsidised by UGLE, enabling our iconic building to be beautifully prepared, and food and drinks to be available throughout the night – all included in the ticket price of £160 per person.

Various entertainments will be placed in several different areas of the building, including the Grand Temple, which will be transformed into one of the largest raised dance floors in London. There will be considerable variety, including a big band, a jazz group, a ceilidh, discos (both ‘silent’ and noisy), and quieter rooms to enjoy a glass of wine and chat to your guests.

Although there will be plentiful and varied food available throughout the night, there is not a formal dinner. However, we will be looking into offering deals at local restaurants for those brethren who wish to dine beforehand with their guests. We are also attempting to arrange deals in nearby hotels, so that you are able to spend what is left of the night (or weekend) in comfortable surroundings.

We can promise all those who attend a fabulous night, and are hoping to welcome brethren and guests from across the country, and from other countries. We would therefore be grateful if you could distribute this as widely as possible across your Provinces and Districts, and encourage all those that can attend to do so.

Tickets will go on sale via the website (www.thegrandball.uk) at 9am on Friday 30th September 2016 (exactly a year before the Ball), and will be sold on a first-come-first-served basis so that everyone has an opportunity to buy tickets. Even though there will be up to 1,500 tickets available, we expect demand to be high – so early booking will be essential.

Please do encourage brethren to sign up to our mailing list via the website to ensure they are kept up to date with all our planning and preparation in the coming months – and so they don’t miss out when ticket sales commence! There is also a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/thegrandball) and a Twitter account (www.twitter.com/grandball2017) which you can like and follow for updates.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We look forward to seeing you at the Ball!

Yours sincerely and fraternally,

The Grand Ball Committee

A copy of the letter can be viewed here.

Published in More News

Building of the year

Influenced by architecture in the Netherlands and the US, the Royal Masonic Hospital won an award for its modern design in 1933

The 1930s saw several significant new masonic buildings in and around London. Freemasons’ Hall on Great Queen Street was under construction from 1928 with its formal opening in 1933. The foundation stone of the Royal Masonic School for Girls at Rickmansworth was laid in 1930 and the building itself opened by Queen Mary four years later. 

Architecturally the most significant of these buildings was the Freemasons’ Hospital and Nursing Home, opened at Ravenscourt Park in July 1933 by King George V and Queen Mary and then renamed the Royal Masonic Hospital. 

The hospital was designed by the leading architectural partnership of Sir John Burnet, Tait & Lorne, with Thomas Smith Tait as the lead architect. His design was modern, influenced by trends in the US and the Netherlands, and it won the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Gold Medal for the best building of the year in 1933. The same firm designed the Nurses’ Home on an adjacent site, which was opened in 1938.  

The current exhibition at the Library and Museum, Healing Through Kindness, marks the centenary of the formation of a masonic hospital, and includes pictures and more details about the award-winning building

Published in Features

Retirement dinner for George Francis

After 10 years as Second Grand Principal, George Francis has retired. To mark his retirement a dinner was held at Freemasons’ Hall in London for those Grand Superintendents that he had installed. Also present was his successor as Second Grand Principal, Russell Race.

Published in SGC

The 50th anniversary meeting of Falcon Lodge No. 8062 took place on Monday, 8th February 2016 at Freemasons' Hall

W Bro Paul Norton, PAGDC, a Founder of the lodge, was installed as Worshipful Master and W Bro Philip Belchak, PGStB, the only other living founder and an honorary member acted as Senior Warden for the meeting. Honorary members, Assistant Metropolitan Grand Master VW Bro David Wilkinson, PGSwdB, and VW Bro David Taylor, PGSuptWks, attended the meeting which was officiated by Metropolitan Grand Inspector VW Bro Stratton Richey.

The lodge presented a donation to the MMC Air Ambulance Appeal for £5,000 which was gratefully accepted by Bro Richey on behalf of Metropolitan Grand Lodge. The lodge, already a Grand Patron of the RMBI, presented a further donation of £500 to VW Bro James Newman, President of the RMBI, who was also in attendance.

A lecture on the history of the lodge, written by the Lodge Mentor, W Bro Neil Mills, PAGPurs, was delivered by a new Master Mason in the lodge. The history highlighted the lodge's origination from the 'Arts and Circles' Class of Instruction held on Sunday mornings at the Albion, Ludgate Circus which provided a school of instruction for members of the theatrical profession whose only free day was a Sunday.

Following the lecture, Bro Richey presented two Grand Lodge certificates to new members after which Assistant Metropolitan Grand Master VW Bro Stephen Fenton, PGSwdB, presented a letter of congratulations, signed by the Metropolitan Grand Master RW Bro Sir Michael Snyder, to the Worshipful Master.

More than 100 members and their guests dined afterwards at the Grand Connaught Rooms. All attending received a pair of white masonic gloves, suitably inscribed, as a gift.

London Fashion Week and Fashion Scout return to Freemasons' Hall

The fashion world descended on Freemasons' Hall in Covent Garden last week for the most important date in every fashionista's diary: London Fashion Week.

Up-and-coming designers rubbed shoulders with young models hoping for a head start in the industry, while photographers and bloggers buzzed through our corridors taking it all in.

Here are a few of our favourite photos taken during the festivities, thanks very much for the photographers for their kind permission in reproducing their images!

Published in More News
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