Freemasons appoint MDA to alter 'misconceptions'

Freemasons are to enlist a PR agency help for the first time in a

bid to reverse their negative image.



The United Grand Lodge of England has appointed MDA Communications on an

initial year-long contract, following a three-way pitch.



A three-strong team at MDA will work with the lodge's in-house team and

is led by agency head Mike Dewar, who reports to John Hamill, the

lodge's director of communications.



Hamill said that since the 1930s - when freemasons across Europe were

subject to persecution by fascists - members have kept a low public

profile which has 'allowed a misconception' about freemasonry to be

created.



Dewar says he is determined to reverse the public and media perception

that freemasonry is merely a mysterious organisation with bizarre

customs.



'I'm not a freemason but what I'm learning about it is that it is a good

organisation that has had inflammatory press coverage. They may have one

or two customs which are cause to laugh and that's their privilege.



'They raised pounds 17m for charity last year. They deserve better

coverage,' he said.



MDA will also help devise an event to be staged in June 2002, called

Freemasonry in the Community Week, to show the positive role played by

freemasons.



Dewar has ruled out using celebrity personalities involved in

freemasonry, such as TV personality Jim Davidson, to help promote the

lodge, saying: 'There's no logic in saying that just because Jim

Davidson is a freemason that freemasonry is a good thing.'



The United Grand Lodge of England - which began in 1717 - is a male-only

organisation with a third of a million members, around 90 per cent of

all freemasons in England and Wales. The remaining 10 per cent includes

several women-only lodges.



Leader, p10.



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