Monday 26 March 2012

Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker: 850 Years of Livery Company Treasures

You wait ages for a blog then two come along at once.

On March 16 I attended a briefing for the exhibition mentioned above. I went to the Tallow Chandlers Hall with our Clerk and Honorary Archivist and Assistant to hear more about the details.

This exhibition will be at the Guildhall Library from June 22 until September 23. It will be a once in a lifetime (several lifetimes in fact) chance to see some of the artefacts on display. They are held by a wide range of Livery Companies and are usually not on view to the public. Some are kept in vaults and some are never seen outside their own halls so it is not to be missed.

This is going to be a wonderful exhibition and there will be something for everyone. As it includes the school holidays I will certainly be taking the grandchildren along.

The Needlemakers Company will be well represented but I will keep the “what” a secret until closer to the time see Butcher, Baker Candlestick Maker for more details.

I was then treated to an excellent lunch at the George and Vulture. Appropriately, in this bicentennial year of Charles Dickens’ birth, this pub was a favourite haunt of Dickens and is mentioned in The Pickwick Papers. It is the headquarters of the City Pickwick Club and I can confirm provides an excellent lunch with substantial portions!

News – what news

I am failing miserably in keeping this up to date. I was somewhat stymied by one of the recent events I attended – this was the Annual Security Lecture arranged by The Worshipful Company of Security Professionals on March 14. This is one of the younger Livery Companies and given the times we live in, both home and abroad, one whose importance cannot be overstated.

However, the excellent lecture was held under Chatham House Rules, which means, “participants are free to use the information received but neither the identity not the affiliation of the speaker nor that of any other participant may be revealed”.

This poses a dilemma as I can either tell you what was discussed but not where or tell you that it took place but not what was discussed. I decided to do the latter.

Suffice to say that the lecture was excellent and it was very interesting talking to members of the Livery both before and after.

Monday 12 March 2012

Needlemakers Banquet at the Mansion House, 6 March 2012

If it has all been a bit quiet on the blogging front it is because there was much preparation for our most important event of the year, the Banquet at the Mansion House. We were delighted that we not only received permission from the Lord Mayor to hold our annual banquet there but that he and the Civic Party were our guests.

From a personal point of view I was thrilled to have my family there - my sister and brother-in-law flew in from Los Angeles and my daughter and son-in-law from Switzerland, to join my son and daughter-in-law and John's brother. I think that the last time we were all together was at a wedding!

I have been to every banquet at the Mansion House since joining the Livery in 1987 and each time I am reminded of how very special it is and how fortunate we are to be taking part. All the guests look incredibly glamourous - men in white or black tie with an occasional kilt and a splash of colour from those in military uniform. The women all looking wonderful of course. Just for once I did not wear black - I will put up some photographs in due course.

The evening follows a strict formula with set toasts, a sung grace after the meal and of course the ceremony of the Loving Cup which causes much hilarity as guests who are unfamiliar with it (and some who should be familiar with it) work out who drinks, who guards the back of the drinker and so forth.

I was delighted that my guest of honour who proposed the toast to the Master and the Worshipful Company of Needlemakers was Professor Stephen Johnston. I have known Stephen for over ten years when he joined the Scientific Advisory Board of Breast Cancer Campaign which he then chaired and subsequently served on the Trustee Board. He is Professor of Breast Cancer Medicine, Consultant Medical Oncologist and Director of R&D at the Royal Marsden and the Institute of Cancer Research.

He spoke very powerfully and eloquently about advances in treatment and how intrinsic the use of needles is from diagnosis through treatment of breast cancer. As the charity was so much part of my life over the past twenty years this was very special to me and judging from the comments I have had from others, had meaning and relevance to all.

Junior Warden, Sue Kent, remarked on how she had been someone's guest at this event twenty-five years ago before joining the Company and that it had been the start of a very happy relationship and she hoped that guests at the Banquet would be similarly inspired to enquire about joining.

The Lord Mayor spoke about the work he is undertaking on behalf of the City of London and his charities during the year and of course promoting the use of wool as he is a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Woolmen.

The evening flew past at great speed and I have my lovely posy to remind me. I also received a very handsome fountain pen from the Lord Mayor and I was happy to present him with a cheque for his appeal from our charitable funds.

I am not sure that writing out a speech is ever the same as hearing it but here it is anyway.

"Wardens, My Lord Mayor, Sheriffs, Ladies & Gentlemen

'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' – - - Charles Dickens goes on to say – 'it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way.'

Perhaps it is foolhardy to quote Dickens to the Chairman of Trustees of the Charles Dickens Museum but as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Dickens birth it seems extraordinary that these words written so long ago, so well describe our situation.

I cannot think of a more challenging time in which to be Lord Mayor than now when the City is being buffeted not only in the maelstrom of the economic situation for which it takes some but not all the responsibility but also with a daily diet of negative publicity, again some justified and some not.

The City remains a vital part of the UK economy and a world leading financial centre, and you, Lord Mayor, play a major role representing all that is excellent about the City and the financial services industry not only within the United Kingdom but also abroad. We wish you every success during your year.

It is over 25 years since I worked in the City – before and through Big Bang - and it did seem simpler then. Financial institutions worked with businesses to provide capital so that they could make things and provide services, before the era of securitization, derivatives, collateralized debt obligations and structured investment vehicles ----- and when loans that were subprime were unintentional ------ not intentional.

It is over forty years since the January day when I stepped off the boat in Southampton as a new immigrant to this country. I had never left South Africa before and London was just a place on the map. I soon learned that there is no circus in Piccadilly, the City of London is different from London, the city and there were rather too many sundresses in my luggage.

I was overwhelmed with the richness of the cultural life but it was only when I ended up working in the City in the 1980s I found out that this financial centre had a heart and a history as well. I became a Freeman and then a Liveryman in 1987. Learning about this heart and history has been a fascinating and rewarding journey and of course, during my year as Master, I am learning more and more.

Lord Mayor, at the beginning of your year you charged the Livery Companies to speak out about the excellent charitable and educational work that they support, not only in London but further afield. This work and your own charitable activities rarely receive the same profile as bankers’ bonuses or camping protestors.

You are providing leadership with your Lord Mayor’s Appeal helping five charities –Barts and The London Charity on behalf of the Trauma Unit at The Royal London Hospital, The Rowing Foundation, London Youth Rowing, Fields in Trust and Futures for Kids, creating a healthier future for all. We wish you and your charities every success.

In support of your Appeal, I would like to present you with a contribution from the Worshipful Company of Needlemakers Charitable Fund.

In January I attended a meeting hosted by the Master Dyer for the textile related companies, which you attended in your capacity as Lord Mayor but also as a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Woolmen. Each of us described the charitable work our company is supporting, from prizes to bursaries to apprenticeships and sponsorships – not only in London but across the country. In 2010 Livery Companies gave around £42 million to charitable causes of which around half was to education. I was impressed with how targeted the giving was and with the level of personal involvement.

The Needlemakers is part of this charitable work. The needle manufacturing industry has long since moved abroad and we now direct our charitable support to the people who use needles rather than make them such as the Royal School of Needlework, The Royal Colleges of Surgeons and Nurses, Fine Cell Work, the Victoria and Albert Museum and to supporting several educational institutions which range from a number of City Schools, a chorister at St Pauls’ Cathedral Trust, a woodwind prize at the Guildhall School of Music and a long-standing relationship with Old Palace School in Tower Hamlets, one of the most deprived areas of London. I am taking your advice and using every opportunity to talk about our work – and write about it in my blog.

Before I propose the Civic toast I must share with everyone here the last time I was in this magnificent Egyptian Hall. It was one Saturday afternoon in January and I was accompanied by Darth Vader, a Toy Soldier and two hippies attending your annual Children’s Fancy Dress Party. This merry group, also known as my grandchildren, were amongst six hundred others in this room being wonderfully entertained before following you and the Sheriffs all in your full regalia around the Mansion House in a giant conga. Your duties during your year are certainly many and varied!"

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I ask you to rise.

The Lord Mayor, The City of London Corporation and the Sheriffs