Northumberland Light Blues Club Team members, Bro. Darren Bolton (LBC Secretary) and Bro. Mark Cordell (Assistant Treasurer and Visits Rep) set off on the long drive to St Albans in late October, where the NYMC 2021 Conference was to be held the following day. The conference was hosted at the historic Ashwell House, situated within a ten-minute walk from the town centre. As a dedicated Masonic building, Ashwell House is used by over 100 Lodges and other orders.
The NYMC Conference was hosted this year by the Hertfordshire Province’s Fleet House Light Blues Club (FHLBC) with the aim of bringing together ‘Light Blues’ clubs from around the country, to share ideas and best practice.
The day started in earnest with a welcome from Hertfordshire’s Provincial Grand Master, R.W.Bro. Neil Connolly, and progressed with a mix of guest speakers and ‘breakout’ sessions. One of the main speakers, Tom Rainsford (a founder of Giff Gaff), delivered an interesting talk on ‘Branding your club’ and the need to consider your audience and what makes your ‘brand’ unique and interesting. Although not a Freemason himself, Tom did provide some thought-provoking insight with the question “What does Freemasonry have to offer your potential members of the future and how do you go about getting that message to them?”
Next up W.Bro. Ken Wooten of UGLE’s L&D Team, gave an update on the evolution and development of the Solomon learning platform. Moving forward there will be more audio/visual content, as well as some consolidation and simplification of existing modules. The L&D Team are also proposing to include more ‘Solomon Live’ streamed sessions.
One of the breakout sessions centred around creating engaging events for Light Blue members and was an opportunity for sharing examples of best practice. Of particular note was an event organised by one the Light Blues organisations, who obtained dispensation from UGLE to travel to Great Queen Street and use one of Grand Lodge’s Lodge rooms to perform a live degree ceremony. The Officer roles for the ceremony were filled by Light Blues from across their Light Blue organisation.
Another breakout session considered Freemasonry as an inclusive, diverse and modern fraternity and centred around recognising the contribution that everyone can make to the organization. Key themes included not making assumptions about people from their externalities; that the inner qualifications of a man are what masonry regards; the removal of barriers to performance in order that people can work at their best; that Equality is about equal access to opportunities and Diversity is about valuing everyone’s contribution; that ‘Cognitive diversity’, or different styles of thinking, is being more widely recognized; and that the more the membership is engaged in leadership and committee posts the more they will be engaged with Freemasonry as a whole.
The breakout session entitled “Communication with your members” centred around the need to be mindful, when using social media communication channels and that whilst written words reflect the ‘Light Blue’ organisation’s views, they also reflect on the Province and the Craft in general and that care must be taken to ensure that social media output is well considered before publishing.
This was followed by a further breakout session in connection with communications entitled “UGLE and Communications” which explained that UGLE were increasing engagement with the media, their members via a new podcast, and with the public via the UGLE’s own website. In 2020 there were 270 positive articles concerning Freemasonry in newspapers, as a result of UGLE’s communication strategy, with a reach of 60 million people. The First Rising e-newsletter has been introduced and the forthcoming UGLE podcast hopes to follow a new mason from Initiation all the way through to Exaltation into the Royal Arch. Moving forward the UGLE website will feature a map identifying where masons meet around the country and encouraging contacts. The recent social media campaign, on Facebook, resulted in 520,000 views, which led to 2859 membership enquiries and then 1071 positive membership leads., which translates to £1.46 per enquiry.
One of the founders of the Fleet House Light Blues Club, Dan O’Connell, who works as Creative Lead for the Camelot organisation, then delivered a presentation titled ‘Engaging your membership’, he main themes of which concerned researching a Provinces Light Blues organisation’s membership, using both quantitative and qualitative approaches. It was explained that If the membership is engaged successfully, they will become advocates for the brand and will be loyal to it. Strategic thinking was discussed involving the diagnosis of recruitment problems or opportunities: creating a strategy: and subsequently planning tactics and carrying out the plan.
The final, keynote, speaker for the day was the MWPro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes, who outlined the importance of ‘Light Blue’ organisations and gave an overview of the current state of Freemasonry, as we emerge from the pandemic. He made specific reference to UGLE signing up to the Armed Forces Covenant and the necesity for initiatives to address retention problems, stating that the Craft currently loses 15-20% of new members within 3 years. Delegates were advised that advocacy had been granted for a national new masons’ organisation, where best practice and information could be shared, with particular emphasis placed on the fact that brethren needed to be kept involved. It was also advocated that senior members must give all available support to newer members, whilst remembering that senior brethren also needed to be kept involved and their efforts appreciated. It was supported that lodges should consider involving newer members in the learning and delivery of small bits of ritual and lodges should have an active Lodge Mentor.
Interested in finding out more about the Northumberland Light Blues Club? Head over and contact them on http://www.northumberlandlightblues.org.uk/
Many thanks go to all Bro. Darren Bolton of the Northumberland Light Blues Club, for the submission of this very comprehensive article.
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