On 18th September 2011, completely out of the blue, the OW Lodge received an e-mail from W.Bro Dudley Newiss, Committee Member of the FSL. Paraphrasing, it said
‘The Lodge lined up for the 2014 Festival has let us down. I have recently attended the OW Lodge. You seem to be a lively lot. (Just what gave him that impression I cannot imagine!). Will you step in and save the day?’
This raised three challenges. First to obtain the acceptance of the Lodge. Presenting the item under ‘Any Other Business’ at a Committee meeting when we were running short of time, it was nodded through. Second was to persuade the College to open its doors. Perhaps knowing he would be retired and nowhere near, the immediate past Headmaster gave us the go-ahead. And third we needed someone to run the Festival.
Here we were very lucky, as in the OW Lodge is a master organiser of large scale events. With a dozen huge Rotary Conferences under his belt W.Bro Mike Neville was our man. So, with some 2½ years in hand he, his wife Yvonne and the Lodge took on the 2014 Festival.
Inexcusably with no past experience, and with so with much to learn, OW representatives attended the intervening Festivals : In 2012 at Strode’s College, Egham, Surrey hosted by the Old Strodians’ Lodge No 7803 and in 2013 at St. Anne’s, East Lancashire hosted by the South Shore Lodge No 4672. Detailed notes of these excellent events were taken which proved invaluable. Planning the 2014 event commenced in October 2013, with a policy of building on all that was successful in the past while adding in modest innovation.
An early decision was that effort needed to be put into ‘sales’. With the superb facilities available at Worksop College a tentative attendance ‘target’ of 200 was proposed. With the co-operation of the FSL a computerized e-mail listing of FSL Lodge contacts was established which allowed comprehensive advertising of the event and five ‘newsletters’ were circulated from April – September, emphasizing the many delights of North Nottinghamshire in August, giving other background and generally promoting the idea of attending.
So far as the event itself was concerned in the main we determined to follow the well proven conventional pattern. Registration, a modest lunch, the FSL AGM, an OW Lodge meeting and the Festival Banquet, with an alternative afternoon programme for Ladies and non-Masonic gentlemen. A short service of Evensong in the magnificent College Chapel was also to be included.
Initial thought was given to holding the Lodge meeting in the Worksop Masonic Hall, and arranging an ‘outing’ for Ladies. However as a policy we decided to keep everyone ‘on the campus’ and thus theoretically under control!
This meant that a temporary Masonic ‘Temple’ would need to be set up in the College. Willing co-operation from Worksop Masonic Hall and the Provincial HQ in Nottingham, plus a ‘white van’ and many volunteers established such on the day in The Churchill Hall – the College Art &Craft School – the Director having prudently removed the more erotic paintings from display!
Acting on the always willing and helpful advice of the FSL secretariat invitations were sent out to the various Masonic VIP’s (and their Ladies) who we hoped would attend and to the Headmaster of the College, Mr Gavin Horgan, who inherited the Festival when taking over in September 2012 and whose 100% support and co-operation and that of his bursarial and catering staff we wholeheartedly and sincerely acknowledge.
Intensive detailed work involving name badges, ‘welcome packs’ the banquet table plan, many and various bits of printing, seating arrangements for various meetings, plus rehearsals of the Ceremony itself provided plenty of activity for Lodge members in the 14 day run up to the big day.
Thankfully the weather on 20th September 2014 was kind to us and the 230+ Brethren, Ladies and Guests arrived from 11.0 am to be welcomed at the College entrance by our WM, W.Bro Phil Dales and his wife Nikki while the ‘registration ladies’ issued the envelopes containing the necessary documentation. Coffee and biscuits were kindly provided by the College.
Thanks to the extreme efficiency of the outgoing and incoming Presidents of the FSL, RW Bros David Jenkins and Colin Harris, the routine business of the 1.30 pm Annual General Meeting was concluded in 20 minutes allowing a breathing space before the scheduled 2.30 pm start for the Lodge.
Honoured by the presence of the PGM for Nottinghamshire, RW Bro Robin Keith Wilson, and RW Bro Colin Harris PPGM for Hertfordshire, (President of the Federation) processions under the control of the Notts Provincial Director of Ceremonies W.Bro David Abraham escorted these distinguished brethren into the Lodge which had previously been opened in due form.
After singing an opening ode, the usual Lodge business was curtailed to a minimum and in accordance with long standing FSL custom all the Brethren attending were called by Lodges to greet and be acknowledged by the WM.
A lecture on ‘The Nine Dukes of Portland’* was presented by W.Bro J.A. Taylor, and with the encouraging Notice of Motion that the Lodge had 5 applications for Initiation the Lodge was closed with a suitable ode at 4.0 pm – amazingly as per the timetable!
(* The Dukes of Portland, with their family seat at Welbeck just a mile from the meeting, were great Nottinghamshire landowners for almost 300 years and the 6th Duke was the 7th PGM for Nottinghamshire for 34 years between 1898 and 1932).
At the second rising a surprise and welcome intervention was made by the PGM, who after 64 years of masterly inactivity from his five predecessors in response to many requests, produced from ‘up his sleeve’ (literally!) a Dispensation formally but humorously authorizing the wearing of the College crested ties at our Lodge meetings, retrospective to 1950, thus absolving all previous digressions.
Running in parallel Ladies and non-masonic guests had met in the College music school ‘Mountgarret’ at 1.45 pm and enjoyed Mrs Judy Williams as ‘Bess of Hardwick’ (Another local, Bess was a dominating C16th character instrumental in creating the Devonshire dynasty at Chatsworth) together with the Ashfield Youth Ensemble under Musical Director Mrs. Elaine Guy, singing an eclectic programme of traditional and modern songs, including a selection from ‘Les Miserables’.
At 4.30 pm all moved to St Cuthbert’s Chapel, the great glory of the College, for a short Service of Evensong, conducted by Revd John Burgess, Notts Provincial Chaplain, who while leading us in solemn prayer demonstrated his compassion by avoiding preaching a sermon!
We were delighted to welcome W.Bro Paul Bowen, the Grand Organist, to play the superb chapel organ. His accompaniment to the two popular and well known hymns chosen allowed the large congregation to give full voice and ‘raise the roof’.
The wonderful anthem ‘Surely the Lord is in this place’ was sung beautifully by the Ashfield Ensemble and W.Bro Michael Neville the Festival Director gave a most appropriate reading – ‘Take Time’.
A convivial hour in the Cloisters enhanced with complimentary wine and soft drinks kindly provided by the FSL Committee allowed old friendships to be revived and new ones to be made until at 6.15 pm the distinctive OW Lodge ship’s bell (presented by a seafaring WM many years ago) was rung, being the summons for all to make their way to the Great Hall for the climax of the day, the 67th Annual Federation Banquet.
The College catering staff did well here! A five course meal, including Crab Salad, splendid Nottinghamshire roast beef, an impressive chocolate dessert and a cheeseboard featuring the delicious Welbeck Stitchelton blue cheese was served to 212 people. Hopefully thanks to master table-planner W.Bro Malcolm Beecroft (Lodge Secretary) everyone was seated appropriately and excellent wine flowed (again generously provided by the FSL).
The event concluded with mercifully short speeches and ‘Happy have we met’ was sung at 9.15 pm, only slightly later than planned. Carriages awaited!
Over the next fortnight numerous letters and e-mails were received complimenting the Lodge for a splendid Festival, all of which are greatly appreciated.
In conclusion it must be recorded that 73% of the credit for whatever success was achieved is down to the Festival Director, W.Bro Michael Neville and 25% to his wife Yvonne, a superb combination of many talents who both put an enormous amount of detailed work into the Festival. Other Old Worksopian Lodge members chipped in the other 2%.
So thank you, W.Bro Dudley Newiss, for giving the Old Worksopian Lodge this opportunity to show what they can do when stimulated.
We promise to be more active members of the Federation in the future and will be happy to step in again should a similar situation arise … but not before 2064 please!
1st November 2014
View the photo gallery of the festival.