30 June 2017

The first week in June was a challenge as I balanced work (some of it in Cumbria) with Paviors’ business. One of the first engagements, though, was the absolute pleasure of attending St James’s Palace to present the Paviors’ City and Guilds Award with the Princess Royal to Lauren of Britcom. Of the three of us on stage, two were born in the same town – and it was certainly a proud day for Scunthorpe. As if to prove the point, the picture above even made the Scunthorpe Times!​

The weekend that followed was spent in Ironbridge Industrial Museum with my fellow Masters. This is one of the highlights of the year for Master and Mistress, as it is a really precious opportunity to catch up with others, and very nearly all Companies’ Masters and Mistresses attend. It is also a great chance to see this remarkable museum over a number of sites, with the amazing Iron Bridge over the gorge at its centre. Apart from a few late nights, I was given the opportunity to ride an 1840’s ‘Ordinary Bicycle’. Most of us would still call this a ‘Penny Farthing’ and, yes, it hurts to ride. We turn out to be a close group, and one of my fellow Masters is an old school friend not seen since the age of 13. I am sure we will all have many years of happy Past Masters’ events and a few late nights to come. It being 2017 (a prime number), we decide to call ourselves ‘Prime Masters’ (subtext…we cannot be divided…).

On the Monday following, we were back together again for a City dinner at Cutlers’ Hall and then, on Tuesday, we had a Paviors’ Court Committee meeting at The Charterhouse, followed by a further very pleasant dinner.

The following week turned out to be a week of ‘Craft’, as we held my Master’s Summer Event in the Courtyard of Apothecaries’ Hall. Fine craft ales were consumed on a wonderful summer evening surrounded by a blacksmith, turner, carpenter and mason, all demonstrating their wonderful skills. We also had a short guided walk in the area to point out some craftsmanship, old and new, that one might have walked past many times before. This was a very successful evening, due mainly to strenuous efforts from the Clerk!

The day after, I was treated to a tour around the Carpenters’ Building and Crafts Academy. This amazing place has trained many hundreds of youngsters for trades and, perhaps most impressive, is how it provides a backstop for those excluded from the school system who require ‘alternative provision’. The Academy has a 100 per cent success-rate in training them and achieving sustainable employment for them, and that is surely the power of the modern livery movement in action.

In the evening, Judy and I climbed into the car and headed for Lincoln for the cathedral craft event attended by the Lord Mayor and 57 other livery companies. Thanks to the help of John Clugston, we had our own stand manned by some extremely enthusiastic people. Later we paraded through the streets of Lincoln with the Lord Mayor, entering this beautiful cathedral through the front door for a service of thanksgiving and an organ recital by our Lord Mayor. Dinner that evening in the transept of the cathedral ended a truly wonderful celebration of craft.

The City’s Masters were back together again on the following Monday for the Election of the Sheriffs in Guildhall. You are left in little doubt about the power and splendour of the City when you see its members amassed and in their home, and when at the centre of this ancient ritual. The two Sheriffs were elected unopposed, and rightly so, as they are both Paviors!

Immediately following this, I had been invited by the Past Masters for a lunch in the room above Temple Bar. Taskmasters all as individuals, they are a rather formidable force when amassed. I was given a sandwich, a glass of wine, but I was given no quarter (you will be pleased to learn) in the conversation that followed. It remains a healthy characteristic of our Company that everyone is held to account, and let me assure you that principle is alive and well.

On Wednesday, we hosted an Alumni event at The Charterhouse and welcomed some of those who had been through our Academy, the Arkwright Scholarships and Budding Brunels scheme with Construction Youth Trust. It was great to see how a small community of those we have helped is building, and how they are continuing to support each other.

As it turned out, the month saved the best for last and, on the morning of the 30th, I attended the graduation ceremony at our London Construction Academy. I was met by a group of extremely enthusiastic youngsters who had clearly enjoyed the experience. They thanked me warmly and said genuinely, time and time again as they shook me by the hand, ‘thank you for changing my life’. They spoke clearly and candidly about the challenges that they had faced before they had arrived, and the ambition they now had for a career in construction. Of course, they weren’t really thanking me, they were thanking you, because it is your money that enables the Academy to function, your job-opportunities that they depend on, and your Livery Company that supports it. The Academy may be modest by comparison with the Carpenters’ Academy, but our Academy changes the lives of 70 youngsters a year in the clearest way possible by giving them a completely rejuvenated future. It is something that you should be very proud of; I know I am.

Miles Ashley