One of the things I’ve enjoyed most throughout my working life has been the opportunity to enter, however briefly, other people’s worlds. I’ve watched dancers being put through their paces in a rackety Bollywood Film Studio by a harridan with a megaphone and been invited to see already married teenage women in Dubai going back to school to be educated in an all-female environment. As Master I’m enjoying similarly privileged glimpses into the life of the City and its various institutions.
I was invited to the Scriveners’ Company’s annual presentation of quill pens to the Sheriffs – the same quill pens with which they signed their acceptance of office. These were presented in a ceremony at St Lawrence Jewry, the Wren church on the edge of Guildhall Square. The Scriveners also run an annual handwriting competition for schools and the winners, the youngest from Year 6 , were presented with their prizes at the same event. In this digital age it was good to see such beautiful hand writing being produced by the internet generation. However, the highlight of the evening for me was a performance of the Scryveners Play from the York Mystery Cycle. These mediaeval plays were originally performed all in one day, starting as early as 4.15am, in the streets of York, often from the back of carts, starting with the Creation and. The Scryveners came on in the late afternoon with a short play “The Incredulity of St Thomas” about Doubting Thomas. It was this play which was performed at St Lawrence with the character of St John played by our very own Learned Clerk, who is a Court Assistant of the Scriveners’ Company. John displayed hitherto unsuspected thespian talents in what turned out to be a most moving performance of this biblical scene.
Our affiliated ship, HMS ST ALBANS, had a rest from her current operational duties patrolling the waters around Britain, and was in London for International Women’s Day in early March. She was moored in Canary Wharf and hosted an evening reception to which the Marketors were invited. The ship had put a limit on the number of people from each organisation invited which meant that not all the Marketors who wanted to go could be accommodated. We therefore gave priority to people who hadn’t visited the ship before, so apart from AFCC chair Hugh West, Navy vice-chair Andy Robinson and myself all the other Marketors were on their first visit, which included tours of the ship. I am always amazed by the professional ism and friendliness of all the crew – and by the how people manage to live amicably for months at a time in shared accommodation that it, to put it mildly, on the cosy side. It was our first chance to meet the new Commander, Chris Ansell, who was accompanied by his wife and other members of his family, and whom we hope to see at one of our future Great Events. There will be other opportunities to visit ST ALBANS during the year and I do urge you to go if you can and see for yourself just how impressively the crew work to protect us all in these difficult times.
On Wednesday 22nd March the Clerk and I represented the Marketors at a service at St Paul’s to commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the Carmen’s Company, our neighbours in Plaisterers’ Hall. 95 gowned Masters, Prime Wardens and Upper Bailiff processed into the cathedral to join Carmen’s Company members and guests for a festive evensong. This was followed by a reception at Stationers’ Hall where the Master Carman, American-born Marsha Rae Ratcliff, unveiled a painting of the Master, Wardens and Clerk. I then hurried off to Mansfield Street for an evening of music where the Marketors joined with members of the Aldgate and Cheap Ward Clubs. The concert took place in the drawing room of Bob and Elizabeth Boas who run a charitable foundation in the name of their late son to support young musicians at the start of their careers. Sitting in their drawing room listening to music feels a bit like going back to the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries when much music-making took place in the houses of the wealthy rather than in concerts open to the public. We heard a delightful programme of Slavic music performed by eight young singers and pianists from a Slavic repertoire course held last year at Aldeburgh. Another privileged peep into another world!
The next Great Event is the Spring Lunch, to be held this year at the delightful Apothecaries’ Hall, the oldest extant Livery Hall. Our distinguished speaker, Tom Ilube, is a serial tech entrepreneur. He is currently CEO of cyber-security firm Cybersecurity PLC and also a noted philanthropist, having founded the African Gifted Foundation. He was the first winner of the City Livery Club’s prestigious Root and Branch Award for his work in setting up Hammersmith Academy. Last autumn he was voted the most powerful black man in Britain and only last week was appointed to the new BBC Board.
The Lunch will be preceded by the Annual Service of Rededication at St Bride’s Church just off Fleet Street. If you can come, do, even if you don’t consider yourself religious – the music will be wonderful and St Bride’s itself tranquil and beautiful.