Thursday 28 June 2012

Needlemakers visit to Bletchley Park, June 27 2012

You may ask what Bletchley Park has to do with making needles.  The answer is - nothing - but as it is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alan Turing I indulged my own interests and happily there were about three dozen Needlemakers who felt the same.

We had an excellent guide and, even though I have been there before, I learned so much more.  If you have never been it is well worth joining one of their guided tours.  The insights into the people who worked there are as interesting as the technical information and the guides are knowledgeable and enthusiastic.

It is so important that this site is preserved for future generations (and was so nearly lost) and one can only be impressed by the work of the Trust and especially those volunteers who have restored and rebuilt the equipment.  It was also announced yesterday that Bletchley Park has successfully raised the matched funding needed to release their Heritage Lottery Grant

I will definitely be going back – too much to take in at one go and as the restoration moves forward there will always be something new to see.

If you want to learn further visit the website, Bletchley Park.  There is also a special exhibition at the Science Museum, “Codebreaker Alan Turing’s life and legacy”.  Would I be sitting at my computer today without the ground-breaking work that he did?

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Armed Forces Flag Day, June 25

The Clerk and I returned to the Guildhall where the Sheriffs had been elected in the morning – this time to the Yard where many of the morning’s attendees reassembled with service men and women, cadets, members of the public, local City workers and tourists.

Music was provided by the Band of the Scots Guards who also played a fanfare before the raising of the Armed Forces Flag over the Guildhall at 3.00. This was one of many such ceremonies taking place across the UK and the City’s own tribute.

There were brief addresses from the Lord Mayor and Lord Astor of Hever, the Under Secretary of State for Defence, and a short blessing from the Guild Vicar at St Lawrence Jewry, the church across the courtyard from the Guildhall.

We then went back into the Hall for refreshments and a presentation from Commander Pete Olive, Royal Navy, from the Ministry of Defence on the Defence support for Olympics 2012.  He explained the scale of the operation – the largest in the world with the Paralympics being the second largest.  There are 10.8 million ticket holders over the games – compared to around three million for a football world cup.  So the scale is huge and there are a number of locations that have to be secured and monitored.  There will be 13,500 personnel involved including the reserve forces and men and women from all three services will be taking part.

Election of the Sheriffs 2012

The election of the Sheriffs by the Livery took place in Guildhall on June 25. As there were only two candidates this year the election was uncontested. It is one of those wonderful ceremonies that one can experience in the City, full of pomp and fancy dress – ceremonial dress I suppose would be more accurate. 

This election is not always uncontested and last year there were three candidates for the non-aldermanic Sheriff so the hustings were just that.

Our Livery Company calls the head honcho the Master but some use the term Prime Warden or Upper Bailiff.  We all assembled in the Crypt of the Guildhall and put on our robes, chains and badges.  The Great Twelve – the senior livery companies – stand aside while the rest of us line up in reverse order of seniority.  At number 65 we are just past half way of the 108 companies. The rest of the liverymen are already in the Hall and we process in and take our seats in the Hall and the Great 12 on the stage.

The civic procession then enters the Hall and takes their seats and the Common Cryer, who actually does say “Oyez, Oyez”, opens the proceedings.  His voice projection is something to be marvelled at. (I did wonder if Sheriff Wendy Mead behind whom he was standing perhaps was wearing earplugs.)  He also instructs “all those who are not Liverymen to depart the Hall on pain of imprisonment”.

Alderman Jeffrey Evans (Ward of Cheap) and Nigel Pullman were elected. The new Sheriffs will be admitted into office on Friday 28 September ready to preside at the Election of the Lord Mayor on Monday 1 October (we will all be there!).

Some history - the office of Sheriff, a pre-requisite to becoming Lord Mayor, is one of the oldest in existence and dates back to the Middle Ages. Their duties today include attending the Lord Mayor in carrying out his official duties, attending the sessions at the Central Criminal Court in the Old Bailey and presenting petitions from the City to Parliament.

Those not familiar or sympathetic to the rituals of the Civic City may wonder why we need to go through all this rigmarole.  The process of course is hugely important and largely takes place somewhere else but I have come to value the ritual as well.  Yes, it is fun to line up with all the other Masters and process in wearing our finery but it is more than that. There is something about it that roots one, centres one: the individual who holds office is not very consequential but the office and what can be achieved is. 

Saturday 23 June 2012

850 years of Livery Company Treasures at the Guildhall

Friday June 22 was the opening of the Butcher Baker and Candlestick Maker exhibition at the Guildhall Art Gallery by the Lord Mayor.  This is a fascinating exhibition with a very wide range of exhibits (including from the Needlemakers) exceptionally well curated.  I imagine that the difficulty must have been in what to leave out as there is so much that could be used.  The curators very wisely chose items, not necessarily for their value or antiquity, but for how they fitted into the story.

Included is the Weavers’ charter – the oldest Livery Company - and also one Coronation glove from Elizabeth I and one from Elizabeth II and much, much more.  The exhibition is on through the summer and a chance to learn about the Companies, the traditions, the crafts (old and new) and also to see items rarely or never on view to the public. 

I am now at the point with my fellow Masters that the faces are familiar – as indeed are their Companies – but the names........  I now know why we all greet each other “Hello Master”.  I am sure this is to show respect for office but more likely to avoid having to struggle for the name.

I also realise that you need to be fitter that I am for this “job” – a week of standing at various events and my feet are complaining (not me as I am having a great time). The men have it easy – no heels!  

I will be taking part in "Max's Walk" on July 12.  This is to celebrate the Master Tyler’s father, Max Nicholson, whose idea the Jubilee Walk to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee was.  Happily trainers will be de rigueur.