Mid-Year Reflections

As we enter the August City recess I am just past the halfway point in my year. July is the month when more Companies install a new Master than in any other month. No less than 29 of the 110 livery companies change in July, no doubt because of the summer recess that follows. October is the next most common month when 25 change over, no doubt because it’s close to the Lord Mayor’s year. Just four of us change in January but it seems perfectly logical to me as it coincides more with the calendar year.

In other ways I’m a bit more than half way through. We’ve already had four of our five Great Events as well as Common Hall; there is just the Bowden Charter Dinner to go in October when we commemorate our foundation in 1975 and our grant of a Royal Charter in 2010. Of the 20 events of the Master’s programme we’ve already run 12 although there are still two of the most important to come: the Conference in New College, Oxford on Friday 2nd September on the question ‘is Marketing for Good the Future of Marketing?’ followed by a social weekend, and then my trip to the wine regions of Chile in November.

“Are you enjoying it?” That is the question I get asked most often as Master. The answer is a resounding “Yes!”  “What does a Master actually do?” That’s the second most asked question and that takes a bit longer to answer because the Master’s responsibilities are unusually diverse.

First, I am the Chairman of the Company. I chair the quarterly Business Court where the Company is governed and all major strategic decisions are made. I also Chair the Ceremonial Courts where new Court Assistants, Liverymen and Freemen are admitted and Company awards presented. Such meetings are normally held before our Great Events but one of the Master’s privileges is that he/she can call a Ceremonial Court at any time. Indeed I am calling one on 2nd September after the Conference to admit Miles Young the new Warden of New College as a Freeman. He is currently the  Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy and Mather Worldwide. I will also be presenting an Exceptional Service Award to the remarkable Professor Malcolm McDonald, also an Oxford graduate.

Second, I am the Chief Executive of the Company. It is sometimes said that the Clerk’s role is analogous to that of the CEO of a company but that is not the case, important though his role is. The Clerk is more like the Chief Administrative Officer though he does play an important ambassadorial role as well. The CEO is responsible for the running of a company including its financial performance and that is also the responsibility of a Livery Company Master. I also chair the monthly meeting of the Master and Wardens Committee which is effectively where that group has been delegated executive authority between Business Court meetings.

Third, I am the principal ambassador of the Company with the strategic aim of raising the name and fame of the Company. To date I have been entertained by HM the Queen, HRH the Duke of Kent, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the  Lord Mayor, the Bishop of London, Sheriff Charles Bowman and Sheriff Christine Rigden, the Master General of the Royal Logistics Corps, the  Commander of the Portsmouth Flotilla and the Masters or Prime Warden of the Grocers, Drapers, Goldsmiths, Haberdashers, Vintners, Pewterers, Poulters, Tylers and Bricklayers, Woolmen, Plaisterers, Stationers and Newspaper Makers, Needlemakers, Makers of Playing Cards, Master Mariners, Chartered Accountants, Chartered Secretaries,  Arbitrators,  Engineers, Chartered Architects, Information Technologists, World Traders, Tax Advisers, Security Professionals and Entrepreneurs.

Fourth, I am the Chief Entertainment Officer. The Master devises the Programme of Events for the year. Most of the ideas are mine but to turn my possibly crazy ideas into reality I rely heavily on the sterling work of the Clerk and Assistant Clerk for the Great Events and on the Chair of the Events Committee, Annie Brooks and her intrepid and resourceful group of Event Directors. In this role I have booked with help from others some 35 different speakers for the year. Forthcoming attractions include a City Walk with a Twist round Hampstead Heath; a chance to sail through Tower Bridge on the sailing barge, Lady Daphne; the conference on Marketing for Good in New College, Oxford followed by a weekend there; and a visit to the new, greatly expanded Museum of Packaging and Brands.

Fifth, I am Blogger in Chief and publish this weekly blog every weekend on the Company’s website and on my own personal website. Rather than writing a diary I blog on themes that take my interest during the week, sometimes it may be a particular event or a theme relating to the City.

Sixth, I set the theme for the year and try to promote it at every opportunity. My chosen charity this year is Live Music Now. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Yehudi Menuhin’s birth. Whilst his name is synonymous with the highest standards of excellence in musicianship and violin playing in particular, what is less celebrated is his commitment to using music to help the most vulnerable in society. Together with his friend Ian Stouzker, Menuhin founded Live Music Now in 1977, to train and support musicians performing for those in society for whom music could make a real difference. To date it has arranged over 50,000 performances for old people, children with special needs and people trapped in the justice system. I worked with the charity’s chief executive for a few years helping her with strategic development.

A last duty is as effectively Chief Almoner. Our splendid team of almoners is ably and compassionately led by Past Master Venetia Howes but as Master I try to get to funerals and other such occasions when I can. In the past twelve months no less than four Past Masters have passed away and also former Court Assistant Dan Doherty, who at the time of his death was Master of the Guild of Entrepreneurs which he co-founded.

So it’s not all fun but it’s always an honour and a privilege.

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