31 October 2017

The last time I put pen to paper for a Paviors’ Blog, it was still summer: a faded memory now, but I know that many of you got away. I enjoyed some time in Northern France with the family and some sailing around the Channel. You won’t be surprised to learn that we hold a monthly Paviors’ conference call: a chance for Wardens and Past Masters to exchange views. I found myself taking that call sitting on the steps of the beautiful Rouen Cathedral awaiting a Son et Lumière … I was not alone, as it seemed that everybody on the call was in France somewhere!​

It seems to have been a very busy time since my break and that is perhaps reflected in the length of this blog, but I feel you should all have good access to what we are engaged in and our discussions so, on that basis, I hope I will be forgiven.

By now, the latest Pavior magazine will have dropped through your door and I am pleased to see this constantly evolving with the substantial efforts of David Ing and the Marketing Committee. It is good to see it packed with reports of flourishing Paviors activity; we certainly seem busier than ever.

My post-summer events started with a very enjoyable Luncheon Club event at L’Etoile Restaurant in Charlotte Street, where we had a private dining room in this historic restaurant to enjoy magnificent pork belly and crème brûlée, which is difficult to beat. It was a very convivial meeting and the Luncheon Club remains such an important part of our activity and a great way for people to meet and keep in regular contact with each other; long may it thrive!

Later in the week saw the Admissions Committee meet and more excellent candidates coming forward. This time, I sensed a real passion from them all to contribute to our work and activities – and remarkably capable of making that contribution they were too, so I look forward to welcoming them in my year.

That afternoon we also held the Nominations Committee; its powers to actually nominate of course are not that great, as the Master and Wardens of the Company are selected over several years of open voting by the Court. It is a very democratic process. It is important to get the right membership on the various committees to ensure that those who wish to take an active part in the Company and move towards becoming a Warden are able to gain experience and make that progress. I think we have a continually strengthening membership on our committees and a great Paviors’ ‘team’ for next year, with ideas aplenty.

I was horror-struck on Friday 8 September when I had to ‘draw stumps’ on the Paviors’ Sailing day planned for the following Sunday. Forecast winds of 70mph, with a deteriorating outlook (if that were possible), seemed incompatible with comfortable sailing and investing in a nice lunch! My participants were very understanding and we will organize another date next April or May, with the boat now paid for!

The Monday following I found myself having lunch with the Earl of Wessex at the Old Bailey to discuss the Duke of Wessex Award Scheme (formerly DOE). I am interested to see if we can find any crossover here with our activities. That evening I was welcomed onto our very own HMS Argyle in the Centre of London at a reception including the Defence Minister and First and Second Sea Lords. The usually impressive Paviors’ badge of office was rather overshadowed by a plethora of medals. Argyle’s presence underlines her importance to the Navy following her recent refit and, despite being shown off to the World at the Defence Show at Expo, it was clear that the crew had their minds on forthcoming sea trials and imminent deployment.

The morning after I arrived at Paviors’ House for the Finance Committee meeting; some good reflection on the need to evolve our longer-term financial plan, and starting our journey to develop a long-term fund to ensure our future security, both substantial strategic initiatives.

Friday the 15th saw Past Masters and Mistresses Lumsden and Last, accompanied by our Wardens and better halves, plus Judy and myself at the Sheriff’s’ Charity Ball at Guildhall. This proved to be a great evening out, and the coffers of the Lord Mayor’s Charity were further swelled. It was a late finish, and I have to admit to some haziness as I boarded the 6:30am flight from Southampton to Newcastle the next morning … sometimes the logistics aren’t ideal.

As September came to an end, so did the tenure of the Sheriffs and, on Thursday the 28th, Tim Hailes and Neil Redcliffe (both of whom I am proud to say are Paviors), took up their roles, and the City went on to the Sheriffs’ Breakfast at Guildhall to celebrate.

As the ‘Breakfast’ finished (and this is the sort of breakfast which starts at 12:30 of course), I had little time to get out of my morning coat and into my white tie for our Annual Banquet at Mansion House! And what an evening that was because, despite their busy day, we were blessed with the company of the Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress, the two new Sheriffs and their consorts, plus one former Sherriff and his consort; and that maybe says everything you need to know about the high regard for your Company in the City. It seemed that the evening was very much enjoyed by all in attendance. I was very pleased that we managed to secure Steve Norris to speak and that I was able to present the Paviors’ Medal to Sir Peter Hendy, who I assure you was absolutely delighted to receive it. The challenge of making a guest speech has often been referred to as ‘reading out a list, in an entertaining way ‘… it’s a tough task, but didn’t our Upper Warden make a magnificent job of it? I never tire of listening and watching the Post Horn Gallop being performed, and neither it seems does the Lord Mayor …

Let me be frank, it is slightly intimidating to find yourself sitting between the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, under the ceiling of the Egyptian Room with a speech yet to give; but they put us immediately at ease, and both were extraordinarily entertaining (and very interested in the achievements of our Academy). I managed to get many of my family along to the event, and Judy and I will certainly never forget that evening as long as we live. I hope that many of you will also remember it warmly for many years to come.

The next morning, it was back to Guildhall for the Election of the Lord Mayor. This is a ceremony of some complexity but, yet again, a great honour to represent you alongside a full turnout of the Livery Company Masters as we processed, robed and badged, into the morning service and then out and into the Guildhall … supposedly still in numerical order! Afterwards, we Paviors retired to a restaurant for an enjoyable lunch and the Clerk, who had been slightly preoccupied with the events of Mansion House, finally relaxed …

October began with another excellent Admissions Committee meeting and, following this, we held the first Academy, Education Steering Group meeting. This is a group that we have instigated under the Charity Committee to bring our educational interests together and to give us the time and a forum to really explore opportunities as our educational interests mature and grow. We looked particularly at how we could improve the certainty of providing jobs to our successful Academy apprentices and, additionally, considered an initiative being proposed by Construction Youth Trust to improve contact between school students and the construction industry. We will be piloting the initiative on the Tower Hamlets’ schools that we have historically supported, and the Charity Committee will consider the possibility of our supporting an expansion of this initiative into another borough.

It’s very exciting to be so closely involved at the start of this important pilot, and many of us went on that evening to a reception at KPMG for Construction Youth Trust’s launch. The event was attended by many managing directors of the main contractors and a number of key clients, alongside the Duke of Gloucester and Mark Thurston, who leads HS2. In such company, I was very pleased to hear the Paviors named as key supporters.

On Thursday 5th, we held the Marketing Committee, much of this being taken up with discussion the new Pavior magazine plus content for the following edition which is looking, at this stage, very healthy. We also reviewed progress on the Sponsorship initiative, and we now have a long list of external companies looking to support us, something that we will be pursuing with some vigour. We also discussed arrangements for the forthcoming New Members’ evening and a slight change to the format for Common Hall.

A busy week was rounded off by a pleasant and well-attended Lightmongers Master’s lunch at Tallow Chandlers’ Hall. It was sadly the last event for their Master, Michael Simpson, who has been a regular face on my circuit around the City. Many of the Masters change over at this time of year, so it is important to make a real effort to ensure we are in the eye of incoming Masters as we continue to build our relationship with other Companies. There was also change at our friends the Cutlers Company, where George and Isabelle Clerk, fellow Wiltshire dwellers, have reached the end of their year, so I was pleased to attend the Cutlers’ Court Dinner to meet the new team and pave the way for my own successor. As I write this, the Mistress is also at a Consorts’ Lunch at the same Hall, a guest of the Tallow Chandlers, getting to know the new intake.

On the evening before this, we had held a Court Committee Meeting. This provided a chance to review our proposed committees for next year, and some strong points were made over the course of the meeting and the subsequent dinner regarding the need for our Livery to have transparent reporting on the Academy (and possibly our other education initiatives); something that we will initially achieve via the website and news items. We also discussed the continuing challenge of funding the float at the Lord Mayor’s Show, as this is something that gives us a great profile in the City and beyond, and which I know is much enjoyed by many. I am very grateful to those that support this initiative with their efforts, support-in-kind, and also with their direct sponsorship. I am pleased that, since the meeting, more sponsorship has come forward for this, which is a great help.

I was pleased to attend another graduation ceremony at the Paviors’ Academy and to see another 18 successful candidates pass out. There were some excellent jobs on offer too, but more are still needed (I have had some meetings with Thames Tideway, who are supportive). There had been some challenges on this course, so I was particularly pleased to see the successful apprentices who were, as ever, absolutely delighted by their success. They told me to thank you … so that I have now done.

With a little over four months to run, and as autumn breaks, I find myself in the ‘autumn’ of my year-of-office. We now look increasingly to the Upper Warden’s year ahead ( I believe his diary is nearly fixed!). Time passes so quickly, but the strength of the Paviors in recent years has been built through a continuum, a team approach, which is very much at the heart of how the Company is led today.

Four months to go then and, whilst I continue to wear the badge, have breath left in my body, and room for another steak or two, it will continue to be a great honour to represent you: The Most Worshipful Company of Paviors!

Miles Ashley​