Each year, the National Trust sponsor the Heritage Open Days (HOD) Festival across the country. This is a coordinated effort to showcase some buildings and other features that are either not routinely open to the public or are often relatively unknown.
It is a national showcase of the country’s heritage. As a national festival, it also benefits from national funding for marketing with a local support group on hand. HOD produce a range of branding and marketing materials as well as local guides.
Preston Masonic Hall was proud to take part in this national event and had a great day showing off the hall as well as promoting Freemasonry. The Preston Group see HOD as an integral part of their community engagement plan. Being part of a significant national event also shows how integrated Freemasonry is with our wider society.
As part of that plan, the hall makes the ballroom freely available to local artists and photographers to create an exhibition of their work. These amateur artists rarely exhibit their work in the real world with most exposure being on social media. At the same time, they rarely meet each other. This year, 10 exhibitors took part in a very colourful exhibition ranging from photography through acrylic artwork to caricatures. Plenty to entertain the visitors, many of whom may not have attended but for the exhibition. It is a win-win arrangement for the artists and the hall.
Teddies for Loving Care also took part in the Open Day. This remarkable charity supported by Freemasons has provided some 40,000 teddy bears to local hospitals in Preston and Chorley for children attending emergency departments. A great example of Masonic giving in the community.
Members of the Preston Group acted as guides showing visitors around the Masonic meeting rooms and they were certainly kept very busy. As one guide ended a tour, he was rapidly handed another party to start again with. Visitors were amazed by what they saw and the openness of the guides delivering the tours. Here are some of the feedback quotes: “Excellent and informative guided tour by a very knowledgeable and personable guide. It gave me a different perspective on the Masonic movement.” “Just a very welcoming visit by the volunteers.” “Masons were very good at providing information about the history and modern history, all questions answered, thank you.” “Absolutely fascinating, wonderful guide, thank you.”
One of the photographers invited a friend to come down and support him. He was persuaded to take a tour. It turned out that this particular visitor was active on local radio and when he was next on air, he spoke of his visit commenting on how welcoming the Masons had been and how much they do for charity.
Many visitors were surprised at the social element of Freemasonry. As friendship is a key part of
Masonry, it was explained how these events grew friendships. The events that non-Masons could attend also surprised many. Indeed, one group booked tickets for the Race Night that was up and coming at the Hall.
Ladies from Freemasonry for Women, including Angela Seed, who is the Provincial Grand Master, took up a station in one of the lodge rooms. This surprised a number of visitors who thought Freemasonry was a male only domain.
Towards the end of the day, the Mayor of Preston Councillor Yakub Patel made point of visiting the hall. He had been on duty in the City Centre for the Battle of Britain Memorial that was on at the Flag Market. He made sure he spoke with all of the artists and expressed his pleasure at the way Preston Masons are part of the community.
Many visitors went away clutching information about membership and some have since been in touch. This is a great way to show off Freemasonry and attract new members