Friday 20 July 2012

The Bishop, the sun and Southwark

The Needlemakers Company is very fortunate in our Chaplain, Rt Revd Christopher Chessun.  He has been Chaplain to the Company for over 20 years and is much respected and loved by the Livery. We were delighted when he was confirmed as Bishop of Southwark in January 2011 and enthroned at Southwark Cathedral in March 2011.

When he offered to hold an informal reception at his house during my year it is no exaggeration to say that I grabbed at it.  Clearly others felt the same as it was the fastest sell out of any event we have had. If you are thinking grand palace, you are mistaken. It is a large and pleasant house, right in the heart of Streatham and reflects the thoughtful and down to earth quality of the man.

Clearly he has a hotline to somewhere as the sun shone and we were able to stand out in the garden until time to eat a delicious cold buffet.  I tasked my Consort (aka John) to buy the wine and judging by the smiling faces his choices were popular!

It was a very joyous evening. Even more pleasant was to be able to hand over a cheque from the Company towards the creation of new copes for the bishops in the diocese.  We were also delighted to meet the Dean of Southwark, the Very Reverend Andrew Nunn and he has invited us to meet the broderers at Southwark Cathedral in due course – and of course to see the finished articles.

Something about Southwark: Southwark Diocese was formed in 1905 and now covers 317 sq miles, including Kingston, Woolwich and Croydon and just under two and half million people live within its borders.  Bishop Christopher is also the lead Bishop for Urban Life and Faith for the Church of England. This offers him an opportunity to contribute to debates and discussions on the importance of the Church’s contribution to urban and public policy within society.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, 16 July

No panic – I wasn't in the dock. Together with many of my fellow Masters of Livery Companies and others from the City of London we packed into Court Number 1 – to hear good news not bad.  I did avoid sitting in the dock – not that I am superstitious or anything but I preferred one of the other seats.

The occasion was the AGM of the Sheriffs’ and Recorder’s Fund. This charity, little known outside the City, has been helping ex-offenders make a new start in life and also relieved the hardship of families of serving offenders.  The grants it gives are not huge but they are many and each one is targeted and valuable. It is widely supported by the City Livery Companies and individuals but has a modest income with which it does a great deal.

The grants range from clothing which accounts for over 50% (many prisoners leave prison with only the clothes they are wearing), household equipment, tools of trade and education and training.  Social workers or probation officers make the applications so that they see that the money is disbursed appropriately.  A study of outcomes was carried out which found that about 10% of those who had been helped re-offended against the national rate of 53%.

We were addressed by one of the women who had been helped by the fund (no trivial task to speak to a packed courtroom of “suits”) who said how helpful the money had been – she had been a drug user for over 20 years and had now been clean for two and a half years and was volunteering helping others.

You can see more information on the website here.

After the AGM we were addressed by the Rt Revd and Rt Hon Richard Chartres, Bishop of London.  He is an outstanding speaker and his words were eloquent and to the point.

He ended by quoting Moses Maimonides, the mediaeval Jewish philosopher, who outlined eight levels of charity or Tzedakah.  The Bishop focused on the highest level, which is to help a person to help themselves so that they should not need to appeal for help.  This is what this fund does.

The next level, which is the one I like to use, is where someone gives charity without knowing to whom it is going and the person receives it without knowing from whom it came.  No glory for the giver and no discomfort for the recipient.  He also referred to the seventh level, which is where the giver gives less than he should, but cheerfully – as opposed to the eighth and lowest level – he who gives only because he is forced to – with a grumpy face no doubt.

In my years working for a charity I often used to think of these examples – I have met them all.

St Paul’s Cathedral School Speech Day, 13 July

I have got myself a bit out of synch with this rush of blogs and if I knew how to reorganise my blogs so that the last two would be in date order – I would!

However, the day after Max’s Walk I was standing in front of the sundial again.  This time I was going to the Speech Day of the St Paul’s Cathedral School, which was being held at City of London Boys School in their very impressive Hall.

The school is a co-ed school for ages 4 – 13 and also a residential choir school for about 34 boy choristers.  The Needlemakers’ support is for the choristers but I was still interested to learn something about the prep school as it is in the City.

It was a very efficiently run Speech Day and full of interest and entertainment.  The children were certainly enthusiastic and engaged and prizes covered the spectrum from science to sport to music to poetry and academic achievement.

The new Dean of St Paul’s, The Very Reverend David Ison, presented the prizes and broke with tradition and asked the children questions including what memories they were going to take away from school, what they had learned in their own development and received a very spirited response. The school has had excellent success with a number of pupils taking up scholarships, particularly music scholarships, in their new schools.

Women in the Livery, July 9

The City Livery Club shares the premises of the Little Ship Club and is a lovely venue – on the river with a wonderful view of the Thames – it would have been so nice had the sun been shining – rather than looking at a grey river through the grey rain.....

However, the atmosphere was anything but grey inside as it was hosting a reception for “Women in the Livery”.  You don’t have to be a Liveryman to join, but you do need some association with the Civic City – see Membership information.  I sometimes go there and relax between functions or between meetings – and the sun does shine sometimes too.

It was great to catch up with some old friends – Mei Sim Lai, the current Master World Trader, whose initiative this originally was, introduced some of the Lady Liverymen there so that any guests who were interested could identify someone to speak to.  She pressed me into saying a few words about my route to Master of the Needlemakers and after a charity presentation the networking began in earnest!

Max’s Walk, July 12

If I seem to be obsessed with the weather at the moment - well I suppose I am. The day of Max’s Walk was the first morning I  opened the curtains to blue skies and so it remained.

Max Nicholson was the father of Piers Nicholson the current Master Tyler and Bricklayer.  Under Max's chairmanship the Silver Jubilee Walkway, as it was known then, was originally laid down in 1977 as the main feature of the work of the Environmental Committee, set up by the London Celebrations for The Queen's Silver Jubilee. Her Majesty The Queen opened it by unveiling a plaque, on the night of the Thames fireworks celebrations on 9 June 1977.

Starting in 2006, a number of people who knew Max have commemorated this by walking a section of the walk and this year was no different, except of course that his son was Master of his company. Accompanied by a number of Masters of other Companies, Piers led the walk from the front of City Hall through the City, past the Guildhall, to the banks of the Thames, just in front of the City of London Boys School. We met up with the Lord Mayor accompanied by Sheriff and Alderman Wendy Mead by the large sundial above Tower Hill tube station and continued on our way and they accompanied us for part of the way.

The sun shone and as we were all wearing our badges we attracted some attention.  The Lord Mayor was side-tracked by a group of school children and stayed behind to talk to each of them before catching us up.

This is one of the quirky things that can happen during one’s year as Master. What was also interesting is that where the walk ended was in front of a Polar Sundial, designed by Piers and built by the Royal Engineers to present to the City Corporation for the Millennium.  You can see more information about the sundial here.

The photographs below show the opening of the Sundial in 1999 by the then Lord Mayor; the current Lord Mayor addressing the group before we continued on our way and Piers and the Lord Mayor, haloed by the sun.  Not the best quality photograph but I like it.

Needlemakers’ Court Dinner, 4 July 2012

This was our annual Court Dinner at the Butchers’ Hall.  As a Livery Company without our own Hall we are, as they say, peripatetic.  In fact, with gratitude to the Worshipful Company of Butchers, this is our base where we store our gowns and records and where we have one dinner and one lunch each year.  If you are a regular reader you will have seen mention of a variety of Halls  and this is something I rather enjoy.

All our events are special but this one is rather special as it is where we bring our prizewinners from the Royal School of Needlework (RSN) to receive their prizes and certificates and exhibit their work as well as the winner of the Needlemakers' Sword from our associated regiment.

From the RSN, Charlotte Bailey (in red) won the prize for overall Stitchcraft.  She has just completed her Foundation Degree and will go on to do her BA next year.  The technique of her final pieces are or nue which uses metal threads and coloured silks for pattern and shading – she used this in a pictorial way to depict 1950s style tattoo motifs and poster girls.

Anja Fenske (in blue) was awarded the prize for the Final Project of her BA year. Her interest is in fashion and she made three dresses to which she added embroidery embellishment each of a different type of stitch technique.  During the year she undertook a a very interesting and exciting work placement with Jasper Conran.

We also invite the Commanding Officer of our associated Regiment The 3rd Battalion The Princess of Wales Royal Regiment (3PWRR) and the winner of the Needlemakers’ sword for the most outstanding young officer which was won this year by Lieutenant Luke Boxall.  See photo of Luke receiving his certificate.  I had already handed over the sword which I managed to do without decapitating his boss sitting next to me.

At the Court meeting, that took place immediately before the dinner, we elected our officers for the year 2012/13 and voted to admit three new members to the Court. The change takes place in October when I retire to the backbenches so to speak!

We also admitted a new Liveryman, John Wesley Scott.  John is an American living in London and it was fitting that we welcomed him on July 4th.

I was impressed with my discussions with the Commanding Officer, Lt Col Geoff Minton MBE, and his colleagues when I attended the Albuhera Dinner, which I reported on in May, and I won’t repeat the comments I made then.  The scope of what the TA is expected to do now compared to their traditional role has changed dramatically and flexibility from employers is more challenging in the current environment. I thought it would be good for everyone to hear directly from Geoff himself rather than third hand.  It was an interesting and powerful speech and very well received.

As I write I hear that the Armed Forces will place an ever-increasing role in security for the Olympics – happily we still have them to call on in emergencies.