I continue my round of beautiful, but smaller livery halls, which is a particular treat as we are limited to a few larger halls for most of our dinners. I had my first taste of finding that I had to give the toast to the Company when I arrived at the Environmental Cleaners’ lunch (being the most senior Master present), which was a pleasure to do. Later in the afternoon, I then had the privilege to process through St Paul’s Cathedral with the other Livery Masters as part of the annual ceremony for the Sons of the Clergy, and listen to the singing of the combined choirs of St Paul’s, Canterbury and Coventry Cathedrals as part of the service.
And then it was the Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, something I had very much looked forward to for its gardens, and I wasn’t disappointed – except by the almost constant drizzle of rain, which was such a shame. This was an interesting, but slightly surreal event, undertaken in great British style; but what a magnificent venue to host so many people – if only the sun had shone, it would have been wonderful to sit on the lawns and enjoy the immaculate and beautiful gardens. Walking back through the Palace itself was equally interesting, and has stimulated an interest to revisit on a tour, with its magnificent, but slightly under-stated grandeur, the product of a long history: very special.
One of the organizations we sponsor, but which is probably little known within the Company, is the trust set up for the Mansion House Scholars. I attended an annual event related to this, where the Lord Mayor spoke about how he has been involved with the scheme this year, and presented an award to one of the scholars. The trust sponsors students from all round the world who come to England to take a post-graduate year in banking; unsurprisingly, they are supported by the International Bankers Livery, who provide a mentor for each student. And what an articulate and interesting group of students they are, who clearly value the experience very highly. The process helps to build strong links between their home countries and ours, as well as each other, and create useful connections within the wider banking world. I also chatted with Pavior William Russell about his forthcoming year as Lord Mayor (all things being equal!), and am very much looking forward to supporting him through that process, albeit we are not his Mother Company.
Each year the Mercers Company arrange a concert for the other liveries to attend, which this year featured the much revered Endellion String Quartet. Sitting in Mercers’ Hall, surrounded by the delicacy of sound and virtuosity of the performance, was a real pleasure, particularly being in a hall with such excellent acoustics. The performance was then followed by an informal dinner for all the guests, where Maurice and I continued to develop good friendships with a range of Masters we have now met regularly from the Glass Sellers, Constructors, Upholders and Environmental Cleaners, as well as meeting new Masters from a range of other companies.
And then there was Ironbridge. That much vaunted weekend for all Livery Masters, which didn’t so much start with a bang, as a hurricane, with torrential rainfall for around five hours as everyone tried to make their various ways to Telford. I think we all arrived eventually, but many came late. This was a shame, as the first afternoon was a group-wide discussion, arranged by the Lord Mayor, to discuss issues around the livery movement: its value, strengths and weaknesses, and how it could change and develop in the future. This a first for the livery movement as a whole, and a worthwhile time was spent, as the rest of the weekend was devoted to leisure.
The museums at Ironbridge are many and varied, but the working museum at Blists Hill has to be the best, for its careful reconstruction of the ‘village’, and the knowledge of those working in the various reconstructed shops and businesses, who are ever-willing to explain how their trade operated, and to demonstrate their skills. I even found the plaque that commemorates the Paviors and the work undertaken by Aggregate Industries in repaving the main street there! A most enjoyable day, albeit a rather soggy one. The evening saw the Summer Ball held in the Engine Hall, with dancing led by the Lord Mayor, Peter Estlin and Sheriff Liz Green, including ‘dancing on the tyre’ by the intrepid few (which, of course, I had to join!). On the final morning, the meeting to decide the formation of the Masters’ year group was held, so we are ‘Apollo 19’ – now launched. Let’s see whether we can fly to new worlds!