Food For Thought
FREEMASONS NEW ZEALAND AT THE FIELDAYS
After 11 years organising and manning the Freemasons New Zealand stand at the National Fieldays, I am retiring this year, to leave it in the hands of fitter younger brethren. I have therefore taken this opportunity to write this history of the first 12 years of the stand, 2003 to 2014.
Many brothers do not know that the stand brought into sharp focus the need to be open about Freemasonry, and let the public see that we are all just ordinary folk. It came at a time where some Districts attended public shows and showed off Freemasonry. However, this was not universally approved by the powers that be, and by having a stand at New Zealand's biggest show with over 120,000 attending over the 4 days we were perhaps being rather daring.
With this in mind the first stand began in 2003 as a private venture by Waikato Freemasons. Owing to the lateness of entry the only site available was a 3m by 3m one inside the marquee housing rural living exhibits. The stand made use of two backdrops from Grand Lodge which had been produced for the Christchurch Communication. Although oversize they were effective and easy to use (See the left hand photograph of first collage). The stand proved a great success.
It was essential that the success or otherwise of the stand was communicated to Grand Lodge, and to do this a system was established to record all those who came on the stand, why they came on the stand, and whether they wanted post show contact with a local lodge. The system is described later. The information was passed to Grand Lodge in a report for the first few shows, and intermittently after that.
In 2004 the Division began its funding for the Fieldays stand. To this effect they produced and assembled a stand suitable for a 6m x 3m site. It made extensive use of the “Pull ups” that every District was provided with. A rail with lighting was used to highlight these (See the right hand photograph of first collage).
This stand was used for a couple of years before a completely new up market stand was produced. This stand followed the rather dark panels of the previous stands. Although it had nowhere to place the pull ups and specialized publicity posters that were being produced by individual regions., its panels contained photo posters, and text. Silver on black, about Freemasonry and its history. This stand was used throughout New Zealand. (See the left hand photograph of second collage).
Around 2009 new background panels were provided which did away with the black panels, and allowed current and local content to be used. These posters and pull ups replaced the small type on the original black panels and were much more legible for passers-by. In the centre of the back wall a large screen could run visual presentations, and this proved much better than the much smaller monitors of previous years. (See the right hand photograph of second collage). The stand was a great improvement.
A data show was developed with short sharp slides of famous people who had been Freemasons, including some local names from New Zealand. Apart from the first year this Famous Freemasons presentation was run continuously on a computer that the stand brethren brought. These snappy eye catching shows have now been added to by including the Grand Lodge cartoon presentation produced in 2014.
PHOTOS ABOVE: Top left: 2003 The first Year, Top right: 2004 stand, Bottom Left The first year with the Peak Display stand, Bottom Right The final Peak Display stand, notice screen behind brethren, This was used up until 2013.
To reduce cost, the Peak Display stand was not used in 2015. The Waikato District Freemasons using the divisions that the Fieldays sites already provide, with various laminated A1 posters located with velcro. This set up did not suffer from the humidity on cold nights, and had several other advantages over the commercial one in addition to the cost. There was a 40” screen for the presentations, which ran continuously. (See 3rd collage below). In addition a masonic casual jacket was produced and worn as a uniform.
In 2003 a very detailed method of recording those people who came onto the stand was introduced to provide the proof that such displays were of use. The system has been used ever since. The first group were people who wanted to be contacted and gave us their name and contact detail, the second were those people who stopped to ask questions and give comment but gave no contact details and the third group were visiting freemasons (attached or unattached). The reports on the 2003 and 2004 Fieldays that were sent to Grand Lodge gave succinct summaries of those years in addition to detailed information on each prospect.
The 2004 report Grand Lodge contained a comparison with 2003. Brethren were even less diligent in filling in notes on people who did not want to leave there names, and any attempt at comparison with the previous year would have been useless, so no figures are recorded in the report.
HOW THE RECORDING WORKED
A form was devised to take the basic details of each person who wished to be seen after the show by a local (to him) mason. It provided the stand members a framework on which they could talk to the contact. They could also write on the back any other information that might prove helpful. This was then placed in a drawer or box. This not only gathered all the information together, but also insured privacy.
These records were entered on a database, and then all the details were dispatched as soon as practicable, in intitial years by mail, but now by email to the District and Divisional Grand Masters. Those contacts living in towns with more than one lodge outside the Waikato District were sent to the Divisonal Grand Masters for allocation to the correct Districts/Lodges. Waikato contacts were sent to District G.M. or the District Membersip officer.
THE OTHER VISITORS
The second type of contacts were noted in an exercise book and their reasons for stopping on the stand and their thoughts on Freemasonry analysed. It however has been difficult to get brethren to make these notes.
The third type of contacts are Freemasons. These numbers cover active, inactive, no longer a Freemason, brothers from other constitutions and overseas masons. Initially we collated their opinion on the stand and its presence. This proved that well over 90% were in approval of Freemasons New Zealand having a stand.
One can note in the two summaries for 2003 an 2004 printed above information on these groups.
Finally from time to time an analysis has been done on the numbers visiting each day with who, why or what was their interest. Additionally the performance of brethren could be followed, and help given if required...
More reports and charts