Beer Festival 2016
The Spirit of Rugby Lodge No 9922 was formed with the intention of being more than just another special interest lodge. As well as being a working lodge, its stated aim was to reach out to the rugby community and to engage positively with local clubs and endeavour to project a positive image of Freemasonry. Not only to club members but also visitors, and spectators; as well as their spouses, families and friends.
The lodge was consecrated in February 2016 and after its first regular meeting, thoughts began to turn to what the first social function should be, and more importantly, how it could achieve the stated aim of the lodge.
The idea of a beer festival was discussed at length. It seemed to fit the bill perfectly. The lodge could promote itself and Freemasonry while indulging rugby lovers with the perfect companion to the game. However, there was a significant hurdle to overcome.
Masonic social functions usually revolve around raising money for charity. Everything is planned with a view to keeping costs down and ensuring that there is a healthy profit at the end of the night to donate to a worthy cause. Holding a beer festival at a rugby club (where there was no control over the gate) would struggle to make money. Certainly the members of that club, who turned out to support their team week after week would not be keen on paying an entrance fee.
After some discussion though, the lodge agreed that it was more important to positively engage with the rugby community than to break even, and the beer festival was given the go ahead.
As the Primus Worshipful Master was an old boy of Medway Rugby Club, it seemed the obvious venue for the event. The club was approached and a date was agreed.
On Saturday 24th September, the club and the lodge were blessed with glorious weather. The beer flowed and the fun ensued. There were bungee trampolines and inflatables for the children to enjoy as well as the Hook a Duck stand manned by the TLC.
There was the usual raffle as you’d expect, with the star prize being a signed England shirt. There was also a ball passing competition with the winner collecting two tickets to see England vs. Fiji at Twickenham.
The main event of the day was Medway’s first XV taking on and defeating Hove RFC which put the home crowd in a very good mood. The beer flowed well into the night, accompanied by curry from the award winning Shozna in Rochester and live music from Vegas & Slim.
Throughout all of this, the provincial team were manning the display marquee and talking about Freemasonry to anyone that was interested enough to ask. There were even a few that wanted to know more!
A fun day all round, but did the lodge succeed in achieving its stated aim? Well, the event was attended by about 600 people, roughly double the usual footfall. Takings at the club’s bar were certainly up and most people took home a souvenir beer glass bearing the club’s badge, the lodge name and the tercentenary logo.
As for the concept of positive engagement with the rugby community however, I’ll leave the final words to Mark Marriott of Medway Rugby club. After the event, he wrote to the lodge. These are his words;
“May I take this opportunity to thank the Spirit of Rugby for a first class event on 24th September 2016.
It was a real pleasure working with you selfless & enthusiastic people.
Many commented on how well you combined grace & dignity with fun & a sense of purpose.
We hope one day to work together again.
Yours in Rugby & on behalf of Medway RFC.
And what of the future?
There are murmurings about running a youth/minis festival.
Watch this space!!!
Report and Photos: Mark Lawson