June started with The Masters’ and Clerks’ Luncheon at the Worshipful Company of Carmen on 3rd. The Carmen have this great line on their website – Carmen didn’t invent the wheel – they put it to work. They still do. As the oldest transport organisation in the world, the Carmen focus on good fellowship to improve all our journeys – it is good to know they are there especially with holiday season coming up.
The next day (4th) as a guest of Nic Birtles, Master of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists (WCIT), I went to the fifth Annual Enterprises Awards Dinner at the Plaisterers’ Hall. Now this is really interesting, it is not just what they do but also the scale of their work and how they do it. With around 1000 Freemen, they give time mentoring new businesses and in return for that the Company are given shares in the various enterprises – as you can imagine this eventually pays dividends to the WCIT Trust. One thing about this new livery company and its sector is the informality. For instance at the dinner itself no chains of office were worn. To me, what was most interesting about these particular awards was how many of the new software programmes are designed for the third sector – in particular awards went to an entrepreneur who designed programmes to help people facing mental health issues and another smart technology that helps elderly and disabled people to live independently.
The weekend (5th to 7th) brought a trip to Ironbridge and for 33 years, the Lord Mayor, Sheriffs and Masters of the Livery Companies have made an annual visit to the birthplace of industry. This event is very important in any Masters’ year in office as it give us a fantastic opportunity to get together and talk about what we do and how we do it. (Image: Ironbridge)
It is fun too – we had a demonstration on how to tell if ale is up to the mark from Dr Christine Rigden who as well as being a recently elected Non-Aldermanic sheriff and a former Master Constructor is also an Ale Conner. This venerable position is one that is elected annually and its role is to ensure the goodness and wholesomeness of ale. This involves pouring ale on a wooden bench, followed by the Ale Conner sitting on the bench in leather breeches, then standing up – the quality of the beer depends on the stickiness of the wood to the leather breeches – too sticky or not sticky at all means the ale isn’t any good, so I have been told. Although fun to watch I prefer the tasting a pint method myself.
As many of you will know, the Marketors with the Management Consultants and the Information Technologists have been working with the Ironbridge Gorge Museum as part of our outreach work. This project has now been successfully completed.
The following Tuesday (9th) I was invited to breakfast by Wanda Hamilton of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). The speaker was Bradley Fried, who sits on the Court Committees of the Bank of England as well as being Managing Partner of Grovepoint Capital, gave an insightful talk on education and youth unemployment and just how difficult it would be for the whole world to have so-called ‘western world’ standard of living. He illustrated this point very well by pointing out that we would actually need three worlds to accommodate this.
Also at this breakfast we heard an inspirational talk from twins who have gone blind in adulthood and are now both working in the City. One twin originally was training to be a medical doctor and realised that he was losing his sight; diagnosis revealed a genetic disease. He then had to tell his twin that he could be affected too. He was. Now both the brothers have ended up working in investment banking. This is a great story of people adapting to their circumstances and still actively contributing to society as a whole.
That evening (9th), the Plumbers’ celebrated their 650th Anniversary with evensong and champagne at the Inner Temple. Did you know that the Plumbers used to be the weights and measures people many years ago? As one of the oldest Livery Companies they had an important role in making sure that goods were fairly measured and weighed. To commemorate their 650th celebrations, they have produced a lead weight representing the Company’s origins.
As I hold an Honorary Doctorate from Anglia Ruskin University, I was delighted to attend the Anglia Ruskin Honourees’ Dinner at the Royal Aeronautical Society. I am very proud of my association with this growing university with its 35,000 students spread over 4 campuses – Cambridge, Peterborough, Chelmsford and London. Their research into medicine, education and in particular nursing education is recognised as having significant impact in all corners of the globe. Lord Ashcroft as Chancellor spoke as well as the retiring Vice Chancellor, Professor Mike Thorne – all in all, a very inspiring evening. My guest was the CEO of Marie Curie who have 5000 wonderful nurses all performing such a fantastic role.
The following evening, I had dinner at the Haberdashers’ Livery Company in their New Hall at West Smithfield. One of the Great Twelve, the Haberdashers are now in their fourth Livery Hall; like many, their first was burnt down in the Great Fire, the second raised to the ground by an air raid in 1940, the third built in 1956 was redeveloped in 1996 and they moved to their New Hall which was opened by the Queen in 2002. Without doubt, the Haberdashers have made a huge contribution to education in this country and continue to do so with their 11 schools. Toby Young who co-founded the first free school to get funding for HM Government gave a talk about free schools and their place in education. Our contribution to their Monmouth project was singled out for special praise.
On 12th June I was delighted to present the Award for the 2015 Market Research Society Advanced Certificate in Market and Social Research to Kate Hulme of GfK at the MRS Excellence Awards. I caught up with their President Dame Diane Thompson who was also there; those who attended will remember her address at the Installation Dinner back in January. The hotel is doing well!
Off to Runnymede on the 15th to join over 4000 others celebrating the anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta and rededication of its monument by HM The Queen. It was a very early start to a long day with unbelievable security to protect the great and the good. It was however, a magnificent occasion and it was a great honour to be there representing the Company. The day was a series of different ceremonies attended by HM The Queen, The Duke of Cambridge, our Prime Minster, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the US Attorney General Loretta Lynch and many others. One of the main events of the day was the installation of 12 very ornate bronze chairs created by Hew Locke to represent the 12 good men and true of a jury – one of the tenets of the Magna Carta what still holds to this day. The London Symphony Orchestra played music for us and the day finished with the Red Arrows leaving their spectacular red, white and blue con-trails over this historic site. (Image: The Red Arrows Flyover)
I recovered the next day over a very convivial Master’s Lunch at the Drapers’ Hall; did you know that the Drapers’ Hall used to be home to Thomas Cromwell? After he was executed, the Drapers’ bought the Hall in Throgmorton Street for the equivalent of £1200 (a snip!).
That evening (18th) headed to Goldsmiths’ Hall to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the London Mathematical Societ This learned society advances, disseminates and promotes mathematical knowledge nationally and internationally ensuring the UK’s status in maths globally. The speaker that evening was Dr Jim Simons, an US philanthropist who made his fortune on stock market modelling. His foundation supports causes that he hopes will interest him into his 80s. That evening too saw the launch of the LMS Artist Associate project. George Legendre and Mark Francis, the artists involved, unveiled three pieces. George’s work, a study in 3D printing and sculpture, explored the delicacy of mathematical forms, as well as their functionality. Mark’s work, conversely, drew on mathematics research into networks and mathematical biology. (Image: Art by George Legendre)
On Friday, 19th June, I felt as if my past had caught up with me as I was jailed and bailed in the Tower of London. This hilarious and at times uproarious event is an annual fundraiser for the Lord Mayor’s charities; this year it was the British Red Cross and I was surprised to discover that the carry out the majority of their work in the UK. Happily we managed to raise £33k to support their efforts.
With a large number of Livery Company Masters, I was arrested and charged with a series of ridiculous crimes such as wearing a red rose on St George’s Day when a Yorkshire man should only wear a white one! The two bewigged and gowned Sheriffs of London read the charges at the Mansion House – we were then transported on a vintage bus to the Tower. What a sight we were – all in our full livery garb with the additional adornment of a ball and chain being marched past the Yeomen of the Guard into the Tower of London. The tourists didn’t know what to make of it but they were very happy to snap away at this motley crew of mad Britishers! (Image: Manacled to Ball and Chain)
This month seems to be one for anniversaries and one of the most famous has to be the bicentenary of Battle of Waterloo. I was invited by the Master of Stationers’ Hall to their Waterloo Ball, in celebration of the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball, famously held the night before the battle. It was a splendid event – notably the dress code included period dress – everyone looked so elegant in the dress of the day. We started the evening the Royal Marines Band Beating the Retreat and finished it a stunning light show, dancing and the opportunity to have cigar and liqueurs in their garden. A great evening altogether and I learnt something new – the language of the fan – truly – all sorts of interesting message were communicated by the ladies of day with a flutter of their fan to their various admirers! (Image: Beating the retreat)
The next week (22nd) started with the Aldgate Ward Club Luncheon as guest of the President, Valerie Boakes. It was held in the Crypt of the Guildhall and the outgoing Sheriff of the City of London, Fiona Adler gave a very amusing account of her year in office and mentioned her plans for the future one of which is to do a tandem bike ride with her fellow Sheriff Andrew Parmley. Well worth supporting for a fiver as they seek to have the highest number of sponsors in the Guinness Book of Records.
On Wednesday, Midsummers Day (24th), it was the Election of Sheriffs at Guildhall. This event brings out the full pomp and ceremony of the City as the Liverymen of London elect the Aldermanic and Non-Aldermanic Sheriffs. All the Livery Masters parade in full kit and exert their right to vote at this Common Hall. For the past 700 years, there has been this great show of democracy and when it comes to the vote the liverymen raise the hand to shout ‘Nay’ (no) ‘All’ (yes) or ‘Later’ (maybe next time). Dr Christine Rigden, Citizen and Constructor and Charles Bowman, Alderman and Grocer will take up their positions on 24th September – Michaelmas Day. We had lunch at Founders’ Hall afterwards – this is one of the newest Halls – it opened in 1987 and belonging to The Founders one of the oldest livery companies dating back to the 14th century.
That evening it was the Billesden (or Billesdon – if you are a Skinner) Award Dinner at Merchant Taylors’ Hall. This event traditionally takes place on the Feast of St John. The story about the rivalry between the Skinners and the Merchant Taylors regarding their order of seniority is well known; it was in 1484 that it spilled over into lethal violence and the Lord Mayor of the day, Lord Billesden set out an instruction that the two livery companies should rotate their order each year – hence the phrase at sixes and sevens. There were very amusing speeches and a good deal of ribbing between the two companies but all done with great fellowship. As Samuel Pepys said in 1665 ‘It is strange to see how a good dinner and feasting reconciles everybody’
The end of the month was spent on Marketors’ matters as well as our wonderful Golf Day at Verulam which attracted some 18 livery companies and on our Battle of Waterloo Walk which was hugely educational and entertaining – there will be more of this in Marketor and on our website.