Blog of 31 August 2019
Common Hall, or indeed almost anything at the Guildhall, has to be a highlight of the year when you are Master. From gathering in the basement to don your gown and chain of office, and being marshalled into formation (and order of precedence) by a most efficient and autocratic member of the Guildhall staff, to weaving your way up the stairs (all whilst trying to catch up on news and gossip with fellow Masters), and then finally, quietly, formally entering the packed Guildhall, is very special indeed. We process slowly in a stately manner, taking our places in precedence at the front of the Hall. Fortunately, I was then asked if I wanted to move forward to the front row as it was empty, which of course I immediately did, and so witnessed the entire event close-up. We really do know how to do pageantry and history very well, with the unusual procedure of public voting by holding up a card (albeit the votes are now properly counted). Having met, and become a supporter of Chris Hayward, I was delighted that he was elected to be the next non-Aldermanic Sherriff, a role I am sure he will fill extremely well.
Whilst other Paviors went off for lunch together, I was invited to lunch with the Past Masters, which is seen by some as a challenge! So what can I say? They were collectively charming (once I had finally found them up the stairs of Temple Bar!), but at times challenging, as is their right. I felt we had a positive conversation around how the year was going, and what I had achieved so far; with questions around what was still to come. Some very good ideas were proffered by Past Masters John Cruse and Sir Michael Bear, both of which I am developing, so watch this space.
I have attended a wonderful array of lunches and dinners over the last month, with some excellent speakers and table discussions, starting with the Chartered Surveyors, where the guest speaker was Ken Shuttleworth, who is also a Pavior. He provided some challenging thoughts around sustainability and the future of our urban environment, all of which were both undeniable and essential. The Water Conservators are also a forward-thinking company, again, with ambitious plans for their company, and their liaison with William Russell when he becomes Lord Mayor.
The Mansion House is becoming an ever more familiar environment, with a number of memorable dinners, including with the Lightmongers. Dinner was enlivened by eternally amusing anecdotes from the immediate past Lord Mayor, Andrew Palmley, and equally amusing and robust anecdotes from Dame Betty Boothroyd (still much missed in the Commons for her wit and management of the House). I was very fortunate to be seated between the Masters of the Constructors and Plaisterers, both of whom have become friends, and between us we hatched and debated ideas around greater inter-construction livery co-operation.
Dinner with the Plumbers followed soon after, with their Master: our own Dame Fiona Woolf. An insightful speech by Patrick Jenkins, Financial Editor with the Financial Times, which has led to an interview with the FT about women in the livery, and the modernization of the livery movement, as exemplified by the Paviors, amongst others.
In between all this was our Charity Golf Day at Burhill, an excellent and enjoyable day as always, and perfectly organized by John White. The sun shone, only four people won a prize at my challenge hole, and everyone had a happy day. We had a good dinner and entertainment, and did well with the charity auction; so a very satisfying day all round.
In complete contrast, I visited the London Construction Academy again and, interestingly, had a very different, but equally interesting, experience with this next group. It was great to see three girls in the current cohort, and a greater number of attendees. It was even better to have three companies attending to promote opportunities within their organizations, plus another who came as an observer, and who will hopefully participate at the next course in October. I already have 5 October in my diary, as this time I want to meet the group on both Day 1 and the last day, to really understand how the group develops and changes throughout its journey through the Academy - so watch this space for the next instalment.
Almost the final event before the summer break was attending the unveiling of a new tapestry that was commissioned by the Charterhouse, and woven by West Dean Studios. Charterhouse involved a team of children from a local school, St John the Evangelist in Islington, to create the design, working with West Dean’s weavers. A large group attended the event, and very excitedly awaited its unveiling. Philip Sanderson and Ellie Rudd (Tapestry Tutor and Trainee Weaver at West Dean Tapestry Studio) ran two workshops with the pupils, creating nautical designs inspired by one of the first Charterhouse residents, George Fenner, who served as a sea captain under Sir Francis Drake. They then used these designs to create the tapestry incorporating the children’s work. The piece forms a wonderful addition to the tapestries at Charterhouse, and was funded by Neil and Emma Redcliffe (Sheriff in 2017/8), who unveiled the finished piece.
The final events were on the following Monday, and this was a day to test my stamina, with both lunch and dinner at the Old Bailey, but for two very different occasions. Lunch with the judges is not to be missed, but ensure you go with your wits about you! It’s certainly a stimulating and enjoyable experience that lasts no longer than one hour, just giving the judges time to leave court at 1pm and be back by 2pm.
In the evening, the Sheriffs Liz Green and Vincent Keveany hosted a large group of Masters and their consorts for a tour of the Old Bailey and then dinner in the Grand Hall. Liz’s abiding concern was that no one closed a door in the cells and locked themselves inside! The Old Bailey may be a grand building in its public parts, but behind the scenes down in the basement is very different, with boards listing the individual names of people being tried each day and the prison where they are currently being held. The courts also varied in size, with defendants sitting behind glass screens, and with the potential for the witness box to be fully screened by curtains, so that the identity of the person can be hidden, if required. Having witnessed a sentencing earlier that day, whilst thankful for our system of justice, such proximity to its procedures and consequences was disturbing. However, we had a fun evening, as is invariably the case when Liz is part of the team, as both she and her husband Peter have been a real highlight of these events with their enthusiasm and zest for their role in the mayoralty.