REMEMBRANCE DAY 2020
FREEMASONS’ HALL LIT UP FOR REMEMBRANCE DAY 2020 IN HONOUR OF THE MEMBERS WHO’VE SERVED BOTH PAST & PRESENT.
With everything that happened in 2020, it would be all too easy to just focus on the complex challenges we are currently facing. Our plans for the year have all been shattered.
We haven t met our friends for weeks, even months. We look at tomorrow with anxiety at what else we may have to forego. But whatever difficulties we are going through today, we mustn’t let ourselves forget the past. Perhaps we can even draw lessons of resilience from those who lived through times much more arduous and harrowing that we do now?
The Year 2020 carries a particular significance for the armed forces and all veterans. It has been precisely three-quarters of a century since World War II ended – and the world started to breathe again. Victory in Europe came first, on the 8th day of May 1945 and which was shortly followed by Victory over Japan on the 15th August.
Also, a hundred year ago on the 11th of November 1920, the Cenotaph was unveiled in London and an unidentified British soldier killed on the battlefield during the First World War, was buried at Westminster Abbey.
Remembrance Day 2020 marked all three significant anniversaries, the 75th anniversary of both VE and VJ Day and the Centenary of the unveiling of the Cenotaph in London. Although this year has been, and sadly continues to be, a difficult period for many, it is crucial that we remember all those who made the greatest sacrifice in fighting for our peace.
On Wednesday 11 November at 11:00 am a two-minute silence was held in front of the peace memorial at Freemasons Hall, with a bugler playing The Last Post in tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. The event was streamed live on Facebook where it attracted well over 20.000 views and numerous comments of support.
In addition, more than 500 poppies, donated by Staffordshire Freemasons, were put on display in the vestibules next to a bronze poppy presented by Remembrance Penny. The poppy was handcrafted in British solid bronze and is inscribed with the words They shall not grow old. For those Freemasons who died for their country . It will be permanently on display in the vestibules as a symbol of reflection and contemplation for those servicemen and women who have served their country. Funds raised from the sale of the poppies will go to support Combat Stress to help continue delivering life changing specialist services to veterans across the UK.
Elsewhere in London, Freemasons have taken part in a parade past the Cenotaph while others have read poetry for the London Underground.
Freemasons have always had a strong relationship with the armed services. Freemasons Hall itself, a stunning Grade II listed building, was built as a peace memorial after WW1 to honour the thousands of Freemasons who fought during the Great War. The names of these 3,000 Freemasons are immortalised in the Roll of Honour within the Hall.
On the evening of Armistice Day 2020, the walls of the building at Great Queen Street side were lit up by a series of projection images. A cascade of poppies surrounded the side entrance while the sidewall was covered with the names of Freemasons who died in WW1.
The organisation of these events required some creativity and determination, but as Nicola Ladner, events executive tells us, we were determined not to let Covid-19 get in the way! In the middle of a lockdown, the team behind the events had to summon all their power of imagination. As restrictions started to increase again after the summer, it became evident that the building would likely be closed. If people could not come to Freemasons Hall, then it will have to go to them. Social media can help to share emotional moments.
We loved doing the Facebook live video of the Bugler playing, and it was lovely to have the few staff left in the building, to come and join us for the silence in front of the shrine. Says Nicola.
The two-minute silence was filmed, and both videos and photos were shared on Facebook where they have since proven very popular. But there was much more to do. The idea came to use the external walls as a canvas for projection. The technology has progressed enormously in recent years and can bring buildings to life. Sure, not many passers-by would be treated to this extraordinary display as the streets of London, and indeed of the whole country, have turned somewhat desolate. But the video and photos of the event were to make a deep impression on all the brethren and remain in our collective memory for a long time.
The event team worked in close collaboration with Event Projection, a company specialised in outdoors and large scale projections. They contributed enormously, not just with the technical aspects but also at every stage of creating the content to be displayed. Two large projectors had to be used to cover the entrance and sidewall. They were delivered to Great Queen Street and installed a few days prior to the event to allow for the checks, testing and troubleshooting such complicated organisation always require. Perhaps the lockdown offered some solace during installation as the street was not as frantic as would be usual. This relative calm may have come to help as the team tells me they encountered neither hitch nor glitch. As someone who has run technically complex events in the past, I am impressed and almost jealous of how smooth everything went.
The main difficulty resided in placing the projectors. They had to be far enough from the building to be able to project correctly on the designated surface, but not so far as to reduce everything to the size of a window. The configuration of the street itself brings a few physical constraints. The solution came in the form of a generous offer from a neighbour to use their office space. FCB Inferno is perfectly located right opposite Freemason’s Hall. They didn’t hesitate one second to give full access so the projectors could be ideally positioned.
The last task to ensure everything was working was the live feed on Facebook. We knew lots of people would tune in and watch, says Nicola, and we wanted it to be perfect, especially considering how important the day is. Many tests were conducted to be absolutely certain it would all work fine when it went live. It certainly did. The video is a very moving tribute, quite emotional to watch. Against the dark blue of the autumn sky, the cascade of poppies rains down and accumulates on each side of the porchway entrance while the names of the fallen relentlessly scroll down on the wall next to it. A beautiful homage that makes one proud to be a Freemason.
To watch the Remembrance Penny and the Poppy projection, visit www.ugle.org.uk/news events/remembrance-day To find out more about the role Freemasons played during periods of national war members of the public can view the online Brothers In Alms website at brothersinalms.org.uk
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 43 January 2021 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 43.