Freemasons find fame and fortune on their doorstep

Ian Burrell,Media,Culture Correspondent
Saturday 01 March 2003 01:00 GMT

The home of British Freemasonry, round the corner from Covent Garden in London, is becoming an unlikely source of help for the film industry.

The United Grand Lodge of England, a large Art Deco building, has been chosen as the location for three forthcoming films. It will provide the backdrop for a Thunderbirds feature, for The Heart of Me with Helena Bonham Carter, and Johnny English, starring Rowan Atkinson and Natalie Imbruglia.

The Brothers are also considering hiring out their temple for film premiere parties, after recently turning down approaches for Moulin Rouge, Spider-Man and Triple X.

Freemasonry is also helping British directors by becoming a sponsor of the London Film Commission. Insiders have been heard asking what comes next – awards to be called the Golden Handshakes?

The Marquess of Northampton, the pro grand master of the Grand Lodge, said: "We have a marvellous Art Deco building. Allowing film and television companies to use it for their productions means that we can share it with the community in general and help to dispel the myth of secrecy."

Masonry's link with cinema began with a request to film at the Grand Lodge from a location manager for The Hours, the Oscar-nominated story of three women including Virginia Woolf. The Masons at first declined, given that the Thirties edifice was built as a memorial to members who had died in the First World War.

But they thought again after a visit from Sue Hayes of the London Film Commission convinced the grand master that the Masons were sitting on a treasure. She said: "It's magnificent. There are buildings in London which are absolutely iconic and I would include this one."

Karen Haigh, the Grand Lodge's administration co- ordinator, said the decision to allow filming had earned £75,000 for the Masons in the past year.

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