Rounding off the year

To cover some of the events in December I will revert to diary form.

Friday 2nd December

Just back from Chile I was straight into the City swing with a visit to the City of London Boys’ School. We sponsor an Award there and I met the winner of last year’s award and the two teams competing for this year’s. The teams were very impressive. I have some experience of school children seeking to learn about business through setting up some kind of operation making and selling something but they are usually not much more than playacting. These two teams were seriously setting up businesses. One has made an invention to facilitate access to the cloud. It is in the process of patenting this and is seeking investment of £100,000 from a New York hedge fund valuing the business at £3 million. The other was less commercial but no less creative seeking to set up a social enterprise in resolving conflicts. I felt we should not be making an award so much as investing in these projects.

I was then asked to address a larger group of students on the subjects of the City, the Livery companies marketing in general and my own career in particular. 57 boys had crowded into the Library to hear me and then put a range of challenging questions. It was a most enjoyable experience.

Monday 5th December

I was a guest of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers at a service at St Bart’s to celebrate the 600th anniversary of their first Royal Charter. This was followed by a reception in the Grand Hall of the Old Bailey. I say their first Royal Charter as they have received eight more since. In 1416 Henry V awarded their first, the only one he awarded. This was the year following his great victory at Agincourt and no doubt he was grateful to the Cutlers for the provision of weaponry. They have since received Royal Charters from Henry VI in 1422, Henry VIII in 1509, Philip and Mary in 1554, Elizabeth I in 1558, James I in 1607, William and Mary in 1689, Anne in 1703, and Elizabeth II in 1990.

Monday 12th December

I attended the 53rd annual Communications Industry Carol Service at St Bride’s in Fleet St. 16 organisations collectively representing the Communications Industry meet every year for a sumptuous festival of lessons and carols. The address came from Lindsay Nicholson, Editorial Director of Good Housekeeping who told us that for her Christmas starts much earlier in the year when the retailers put on their shows to exhibit their Christmas plans. By the time Christmas actually arrives she is knee deep in spring and summer offerings.

When in the year 1500 Wynkyn de Worde set up William Caxton’s press alongside its churchyard, St Bride’s had already been a parish church for something like a thousand years. Remains of a Roman pavement and the seven previous churches may be seen in the crypt. Since 1500 St Bride’s has had an intimate and unique relationship with all engaged in printing and communications.

Tuesday 13th December

Another Service of 9 Lessons and Carols, this time at St Augustine’s Church in Honor Oak Park, the church of St Dunstan’s with whose CCF we are affiliated. I was asked to process with the local Mayor and other dignitaries. The service was every bit as good as the one at St Bride’s the evening before. Children of all ages took their turn at singing the familiar carols with wonderful enthusiasm. Some of the teachers joined in with the senior choir including the Head Master Nick Hewlett who has a fine tenor voice.

Wednesday 14th December

I visited Westminster Kingsway College where the Marketors had offered prizes to apprentices for a competition in marketing. These apprentices are just that, proper apprentices in marketing who have gone straight from school into good companies like Nielsen, the research firm and at the same time undertake a course in marketing. Freeman Richard Smart had set five groups the challenge of tackling one of the big complex problems in our society with a practical and sustainable marketing solution. Food wastage and obesity are real problems in London while others go hungry. Food waste is a complex issue not only for retailers but also for households. Around 15 million tons of food are thrown away every year. Over half of this is still edible at the time. Wasting this food costs the average household £470 a year, rising to £700 for a family with children.

The teams all came up with imaginative proposals that sought to join up the dots in this problem. It was a difficult task for me to decide the overall winner but in the end I picked the proposal that had been most fully thought through and used the full tool kit of marketing to solve the problem.  I genuinely believe that if this proposal was presented to the buyer at Sainsbury’s, the retailer singled out in the proposal, it would get a fair hearing.

Thursday 15th December

My last meeting as a Trustee of the Worshipful Company of Marketors’ Charitable Trust. In my three years as a Trustee we have made considerable progress in several ways. The funds under management have grown significantly to over £1,000,000. The Trust has financed awards to Liverymen to take the Advanced Management programmes at both Harvard and Said Business Schools. The number of members donating has grown from a third to over half.

Also my last meeting chairing the Business Court. It has been a pleasure to lead the Court this year and all our meetings have been constructive, progressive and courteous. This was followed by the annual Court dinner, this time held at Dyers’ Hall, not usually open to the public. For entertainment I provided two musicians from Live Music Now, a charity I worked with for a few years. It was set up by Yehudi Menuhin  who believed in the redeeming power of music and wanted to offer it to communities that might otherwise be deprived, old people’ homes, children with special educational needs and those going through the justice system. He also believed in the need for young musicians to have the chance to perform live in front of audiences while some of the conservatories restrict this. The charity has delivered over 50,000 performances.

Gemma Summerfield is a delightful soprano with a fabulous voice. She sang Die kleine sandman bin ich from Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, Quando men vo better known as Musetta’s Waltz from Puccini’s La Bohème, Mozart’s Hallelujah and to emphasise the Christmas spirit Stille nacht and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas immortalised by Judy Garland in Meet Me in St Louis. She was accompanied by Claire Harris who also played an extract from the Nutcracker. It was a fine way to round off the year.

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