Freemasons rethink image

The governing body of Freemasonry in the UK has called in external PR help in a drive to shrug off a 'secret society' image.

Since its inception in the 18th century, the practice of Freemasonry has been well known for allegedly using secret handshakes and other obscure rituals.

But the United Grand Lodge of England is keen to shed more light on its shadowy practices as the organisation approaches its 300th birthday in 2017.

The Lodge, which governs Freemasonry in England, Wales and the Channel Islands, has appointed Bondy Consulting as a retained consultancy to build greater awareness of Freemasonry and ensure the practice's long-term future.

Grand secretary of the United Grand Lodge Nigel Brown said: 'Freemasonry is now run as a modern business and it is important our communication reflects this. Freemasonry plays a unique role in society today and it is vital we encourage people to talk openly about it and dispel the many unfounded myths associated with it.'

Freemasonry has 250,000 members, including 30,000 overseas. It is one of the world's largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organisations.

Bondy founder Jessica Bondy said: 'We have been appointed to combat common misconceptions including those of secrecy. There are no secrets in Freemasonry and we need to encourage people to talk openly about it. Information is totally accessible for anyone that wants it and anyone can come into Freemasons' Hall.'

Bondy, a former MD at Ketchum, also said: 'There is no secret handshake - this is one of the myths.'

As part of the PR drive, the agency will also promote Freemasons' Hall, which has featured in a number of Hollywood blockbuster movies.

Bondy was selected after a competitive agency pitch.

Ironically, both Bondy and the United Grand Lodge were tight-lipped about the Freemasons' previous PR support.

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