Friday, 30 June 2017

172. Summer Charity Concert – Medici Choir

Some of you may know of the Medici Choir which is well known for performing classical concerts in London, having been founded in 1951.

The Consort to the Master Architect (Richard Brindley) is a longstanding member of this choir and in support of the Lord Mayor’s Appeal this year, she organized an excellent concert at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey earlier this week. (Photograph shows the tower of the Church in the grounds of Westminster Abbey).

The concert was well supported with many livery company Master’s, Consorts and Guests present. The Programme, which lasted for two hours (including work by Bach, Purcell and Faure) was brilliantly performed by the 60 strong choir, the organist and eight musicians. (See photograph of the Programme).

The church is beautiful, with lovely stained glass windows and an intricately carved timber ceiling – see photograph of one of the stained glass windows.

The concert successfully raised substantial sums towards the Lord Mayors three identified music charities and he managed to fly back in time from his business trip to Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania (see my blog no 168) to see the end of the concert and to give a vote of thanks.

It was a beautiful summers evening as we arrived and the Palace of Westminster and the Abbey looked great against a clear blue sky – see photograph of Big Ben.

Many thanks to Nicola Brindley for organizing this excellent event and for including us.

171. Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy

Fiona and I were fortunate to attend the Summer Exhibition earlier this week at the Royal Academy in Piccadilly. This exhibition is one of our favourite events in the London Summer Calendar. (Photograph shows the outside of the Royal Academy building).

For those of you that have never been the exhibition is an eclectic mix of paintings, sculptures and models chosen by a panel from the Royal Academy – anyone can enter a piece of art for consideration so there is a mixture of famous and unknown artists and sculptors. Most of the works are for sale and we have bought some interesting pieces over the years.

This year, the centre piece in the Central Hall was a converted motor scooter with long arms and glass containers for carrying liquids (see photograph). It did occur to me that if we ever get fed up with the Bouget (an ancient way of carrying water) that is an integral part of our coat of arms and regalia, then maybe this could be a substitute!

The exhibition runs until 20th August and if you are in London it is worth taking a look – tickets can be purchased on-line in advance. (Photograph shows the List of Works on display, complete with prices).

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

170. Meetings with CIWM and CIWEM

Some of you will recall that Court Assistant David Richards has been leading discussions with Professional Institutions, CIWM and CIWEM, in seeking closer co-operation going forward.

I reported earlier on a meeting with CIWM CEO Dr Colin Church. A draft simple document which would provide, amongst other things, Fellows of the Institution the opportunity to apply to join our Company. This document is being considered by both organizations.

More recently, David met with CIWEM’s CEO, Terry Fuller at their London HQ and discussed a similar proposal to that discussed with CIWM. This met with considerable enthusiasm and David is hopeful of reaching agreement over the summer.

This is great news for our Company and could enhance our status within the Institutions and provide potential growth in our membership.

Well done David!

Photograph shows the London HQ of CIWEM.

169. Follow up with City, University of London

As some of you might recall, I have been cultivating a relationship between our Company and City, University of London.

I am delighted that The Water Conservation Trust has already agreed to sponsor a post graduate student, but there may be other ways in which we can help our potential engineers and scientists of tomorrow.

Earlier this week, I met with Allison Platt who is the Development Manager in Development & Alumni Relations at the University. We discussed, amongst other things, assisting with their student hardship fund and ways in which our Members could get involved with the University’s mentoring programme. More details to follow in due course.

Photograph shows the very smart new Nespresso Café (the first of its kind) in Cheapside in the City, where I met Allison.

168. Election of Sheriffs

Earlier this week the process of electing Sheriffs to serve in support of the Lord Mayor for the year 2017/18 took place in Common Hall at the Guildhall.

The term Common Hall describes a gathering of liverymen often associated with an election. There are two elections held each year to elect the Sheriffs (as close as possible to Midsummer Day in June) and the Lord Mayor (as close as possible to Michaelmas Day in September). The events are well attended by most of the Master’s of the 110 Livery Companies and any Liveryman (who can obtain a ticket) can also attend to vote.

The ceremony is very formal with the Common Cryer (who has an amazingly loud voice!) and the Town Clerk leading the proceedings. This year there were just two candidates for the two vacancies of Sheriff - an Aldermanic candidate, Timothy Hailes, and a Non-Aldermanic candidate, Neil Redcliffe. Both were appointed and made brief acceptance speeches.

Photographs show the papers for Common Hall, the Master with the Master Firefighter and Master Hackney Carriage Drivers before the ceremony, and the Lord Mayor swiftly departing the Guildhall prior to flying to eastern Europe to lead a delegation of bankers to Poland the Czech Republic and Romania.

Friday, 23 June 2017

167. Armed Forces Flag Raising Ceremony

Each year the City of London Corporation organises a Flag raising Ceremony in Guildhall Yard to coincide with Armed Forces Day and to say thank you to the armed forces who work so hard to protect us all.

This year the ceremony was held on 22nd June (see photograph of invitation leaflet) with Cadet, serving Military Personnel and Veterans in attendance. The Band of the Grenadier Guards (see photograph) played throughout the ceremony and brought much splendor to the event which was held on a very warm afternoon but under somewhat leaden skies.

The Lord Mayor arrived (see photograph) with the Lady Mayoress to take the salute and to watch the Armed Forces day flag raised over the Guildhall building (see photograph).

The Lord Mayor then inspected the soldiers and veterans who were in attendance, whilst the Lady Mayoress and Sheriffs took the opportunity to chat to guests, including girls from the City of London Girls School (see photograph).

A colourful and moving tribute to our armed services held in the very centre of the City of London.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

166. Admiral of the Port's Challenge

This race was inaugurated by the Lord Mayor to mark his dual role of Admiral of the Port of London. It is contested by traditional Thames Waterman's Cutters.  The Thames Waterman's Cutter is 34 feet long with a beam of 4 feet, 6 inches. In keeping with the concept of traditional rowing, it has fixed seats and room for a cox and two passengers under a stern canopy. In this form the Cutter closely resembles the decorated craft often seen in historical scenes of the Thames in earlier centuries. Our cutter is called the “Water Forget me Not”.

This event is raced from HQS Wellington to Westminster Boating Base, a distance of 1.33 statute miles (although it seems much further than that!). The rules of the race require that the Cutters are rowed by four oars, must be rigged with their ceremonial canopies and flags, and must carry two passengers.

This year’s race was held on the hottest day of the year, the 19th June, with temperatures reaching 33C in London. We gathered on the foreshore of the South Bank of the Thames (close to the National Theatre and Waterloo Bridge) at 6.00pm to prepare the cutter and get in position for the start of the race at 7.00pm. (See photograph of our cutter on the foreshore). Merlin Dwan, son of our Bargemaster Johnny Dwan, took charge of the event for us and ensured that our four rowers (all female and from the Poplar Rowing Club) and our cox (Aran), were there on time and ready to go!

Our rowers have an enviable record of success and didn’t let us down. At 7.00pm we were in position alongside HQS Wellington (see photograph of Fiona and I on board and ready to go) with two other all female crew from the PLA and the Glaziers Company. As the start signal was given we powered off up the Thames with the benefit of a strong incoming tide. The rowers were magnificent and immediately pulled away from the competition! As we passed the Palace of Westminster (see photograph) we were almost a minute ahead of the closest other cutter and we made it to the Westminster Boating Base in just over 15 minutes and were the clear winners!

The Lord Mayor, Alderman Andrew Parmley presented our crew and cox with the winners rose bowl, and liquid refreshments and some fine canapés quickly restored the needs of the crews. (See photograph of our successful crew with Merlin Dwan on the left and our cox on the right).

A great evening with well deserved success for our rowers.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

165. A short stay in the sun ……….

Fiona and I have popped down to our property in Spain for a few days to get it ready for a much longer stay later in the summer and to prepare ourselves for the last few weeks as Master and Consort!

Our property is about 25 minutes up the coast from Gibraltar. With temperatures currently hovering around 30C and everything looking remarkably green it is easy to forget that during the winter this part of Spain suffered unprecedented rainfall and flooding with one poor resident of a basement property being drowned.

The closest town to us is Estepona and much work has been completed in recent years to restore the old town and it is an unspoilt, colourful and quiet working town.

Looking forward to seeing many of you at the remaining events of our year and to the Installation of Mike Williamson on 6th July as our 29th Master.

Photographs show one of the colourful streets of Estepona and a restored ancient doorway.

Monday, 12 June 2017

164. Livery Company Weekend at Ironbridge

As many of you will know, the birth of the industrial revolution took place in the Severn Valley in Shropshire near a town called Coalbrookdale. A natural combination of water, coal, iron ore and timber combined with the ingenuity of Abraham Darby, a Quaker, resulted in the production of pig iron in a blast furnace fuelled by coke rather than charcoal.

A number of industries grew up in the gorge which has been renamed as Ironbridge. The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust was established in 1967 to preserve this unique location and it was subsequently designated as a World Heritage Site.

Each summer for the last 34 years, Livery Company Masters and their Consorts have stayed at Ironbridge for a weekend of visits and social events. This year the event was held over the weekend of Friday 9th – Sunday 11th June and was attended by 100 Livery Companies as well as the Lord Mayor and his two Sheriffs. (See photograph of list of attendees, itinerary and maps).

We gathered during Friday afternoon at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Telford and events began when we were taken by coach to Coalbrookdale for a Black Tie Livery Dinner. We were welcomed by Anna Brennand the Chief Executive of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust before sitting down to an excellent dinner in a converted and beautifully decorated industrial building. (Photograph shows the Master with the Master Firefighter enjoying a glass of bubbly.)

On Saturday morning we were up early and after breakfast joined one of four coaches for an all day tour of some of the ten museums managed by the Trust. Our first stop was at the Jackfield Tile Museum – this site was originally occupied by Craven Dunnill who manufactured high quality tiles for hospitals, underground stations, Palaces in India, the palace of Westminster, butchers shops and homes. They exported their products all over the world and after leaving the site in 1951, returned in the year 2000 to restart the manufacture of high quality tiles. (Photograph shows Fiona in their reconstructed Trade Showroom).  The Company and the Trust have developed a fascinating display of tiles manufactured during their long history and have built exhibitions of an underground station, butchers shop and a pub! (Photograph shows a Craven Dunnill tile display rescued from an about to be demolished children’s ward of a London hospital).

Our next stop was the town of Ironbridge and the world famous cast iron bridge. The bridge (see photograph) was the first cast iron bridge built in the world. All the parts for this 30m span bridge were cast at nearby Coalbrookdale and construction was completed in 1779 at a total cost of £6,000, almost twice the original estimate of £3,200. The bridge, which operated as a toll bridge until 1950, was opened in 1781 and brought visitors from around the world to marvel at the use of this new material in bridge construction. The Trust owns the Toll House on the South side of the bridge which houses an interesting collection of memorabiiia.

We then drove to Coalbrookdale for the next part of our tour visiting the Darby Furnace, now housed inside a dramatic building (see photograph). This was the furnace developed by Darby using coke as a fuel to produce pig iron. It was in this very crude looking structure that all the 1700 components of the iron bridge were cast before assembly on site. We then walked the 200m to the Museum of Iron, a newly refurbished exhibition over three floors tracing the history of iron manufacture in the gorge. This was a particularly impressive museum with great displays.

Our next stop was for lunch also in Coalbrookdale, where I was delighted to see the Water Conservators crest (see photograph) proudly displayed among many others, as supporters of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.

After lunch we headed off for Blists Hill, where the Trust have recreated a Victorian High Street with shops and businesses – this is a large site covering over 52 acres. The purpose of this reconstruction is to show what life was like in the area around 1900. There are innumerable shops (bakers, post office, bank, drapers, photographers) all fully stocked with goods of the time as well as local businesses including plumbers, tinsmith, candle maker and a sawmill. (See photographs of signs outside two of the businesses). A very interesting visit.

Our last stop of the day was at Coalport to visit the world famous pottery. This pottery was founded in 1796 by John Rose following completion of the Shropshire canal in 1793. This enabled raw materials (including coal to fire the kilns) and finished goods to be easily transported into and out of the site. We visited the wonderful exhibition of porcelain produced at the site (see photograph) before watching demonstrations of delicate flowers being made ready for firing. One of the kilns has been “opened up” to show how it would have worked and has been stacked with newly made products prior to firing. (See photograph).

After a long and busy day we returned to our hotel for a brief rest before setting off back to Coalbrookdale for the Black Tie Presidents Ball. The champagne reception was held in Engenuity (a hands-on exhibition for children of all ages!) – see photograph of Fiona and I. After a very enjoyable dinner and a very amusing speech given by the Lord Mayor, Andrew Parmley, we headed off back to our hotel, arriving as the clock struck midnight.

On Sunday morning, immediately after breakfast, a meeting of Masters and Consorts was held in the hotel bar to establish the names for the 2017 Association of Masters and Consorts who will continue to meet and socialize into the future. As 2017 is a Prime number the names chosen were “Prime Masters” and “Prime Mates”! Late on Sunday morning, we packed our bags and headed off home to Gerrards Cross.

Many thanks to the Trusts’ CEO, Anna Brennand, and the London Committee (Chaired by Tony Gordon-James) for organizing such an enjoyable weekend.

Friday, 9 June 2017

163. Finance, Membership & General Purposes Committee

Earlier today I chaired my last meeting as Chairman of the Finance, Membership & General Purposes Committee – Mike Williamson will take on this role for the next 12 months, once he is installed as Master on 6th July.

The meeting was held in the Aldermans Court Room at the Guildhall and the Agenda included a report from the Masters Committee, a Membership report from our Clerk, and a Finance report presented by our Honorary Treasurer and our Clerk. We were delighted to note that the current financial year (ending July 2017) showed a surplus as a result of the good budgeting and support from our Members and their guests at both our formal and informal events during the year.

I took the opportunity to thank the Members of the FM & GP Committee for all their support in making a successful year of 2016/17 and wishing Mike Williamson every success for his forthcoming year as Master.

Photograph shows our Clerk, Ralph Riley, working on the next iteration of our budgeting process!

162. Twelfth Night – Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

Some good friends invited Fiona and I to join them at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre earlier this week to see a performance of Twelfth Night.

What a fantastic, vibrant, colourful and brilliantly cast performance it was, all under the watchful and unconventional eye of Emma Rice as producer. Although overcast, this was a great summers evening in London to enjoy a wonderful performance of an enigmatic play in a unique theatre on the banks of the River Thames.

It was great to see the resilience of the international population of London out enjoying themselves just four days after the mindless events of London Bridge and Borough Market.

How lucky are we.

Photographs show the stage just before the performance began and the beautiful London skyline photographed from the “wobbly bridge” near St Pauls Cathedral.

Monday, 5 June 2017

161. The Terrible Events of Saturday Night

I am sure that like many of you who live in, work in, or visit London, I find the mindless violence of three depraved individuals last Saturday night difficult to comprehend.

Like me, I am sure that many of you have looked at the images and remembered when you last walked over London Bridge or ate in one of many lively and welcoming restaurants in Borough Market. It is heartbreaking.

Despite the tragedy of seven innocent people killed and nearly fifty people horrifically injured, the stories of heroism, kindness and generosity have shown that London is an unbelievably resilient City that we can all be proud of. The emergency services, particularly the police, ambulance and hospital medical teams have been incredible.

I hope, like me, you feel that our City based Livery Company, which does so much to support good charitable works with universities, schools and the needy, in a truly multi-cultural society, can help heal the wounds of this awful outrage which attempted to destroy our open way of life.

Root and branch, may it flourish for ever.

Photograph shows the iconic Shard building rising above Borough Market.

160. Master’s Committee Meets at The Guildhall

As many of you will recall, the Master’s Committee, comprising the Master, the Wardens and our Clerk meets several times each year to look at the best way of providing continuity of leadership in our Company and at longer term issues that face us.

Earlier this week I chaired the last Master’s Committee of my year and was delighted to welcome Rob Casey, Walbrook Warden Elect, to join us and help get him “up to speed” on the initiatives we are taking and the issues we face.

Discussions included how best to recruit new younger Members into our Company, developing relationships with professional institutions to help grow our membership at more senior levels, the organisation of the WET10 event in Spring 2018 and how best the Master’s Committee can work with the Past Masters for the maximum benefit of our Company. You will see more details of the outcome of all these discussions in the next few months.

Mike Williamson will take on the role of chairing the Committee once he is installed as Master for 2017/18 and we all wished him every success in his endeavours. I took the opportunity to thank the Wardens and our Clerk for supporting me in what has been an exciting and enjoyable year.

Photograph shows the modern West Wing of the Guildhall where we held our meeting.

Friday, 2 June 2017

159. Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace

Each year, Livery Company Masters receive an invitation from the Lord Chamberlain to attend one of Her Majesty’s Royal Garden Party’s at Buckingham Palace. This year twenty Masters chose to attend the garden Party on Thursday 1st June and I was delighted that Fiona and my eighteen year old son Alexander were able to join me. (Photograph shows the invitation and details of the event).

The Master Management Consultant agreed to organize lunch for us all and fifty of us had a delightful lunch in a private room at Rubens Hotel, located close to the Palace. Many thanks to Noorzaman Rashid and his Clerk for all their efforts in arranging a very successful start to the day!

At 3.00pm we processed from the hotel to the Palace (see photograph of immaculately groomed gardens opposite the Palace) and entered the very tight security cordon surrounding the event. Two photo ID’s were required to accompany each personal invitation and this together with the sight of armed Police Officers on the roof, gave considerable comfort to what is a large gathering of (circa 3,000) people.

On walking through three rooms in the Palace we emerged down the steps and into the beautifully maintained garden. With the sun shining and a military band playing, this was Britain at its best. We took the opportunity to walk around the very extensive grounds and lake (photograph shows the view of the Palace looking across the lake and sight of one of the tea tents). We met some old business friends who were as surprised to see us as we were them! We also saw the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but he looked too pre-occupied to stop and chat.

At 4.00pm we gathered near the foot of the stairs leading into the garden and awaited the arrival of the Queen and Prince Philip. They arrived, with military precision, exactly on time and looked sprightly and well. (See photograph of the Queen and Prince Philip as they arrived). After the National Anthem, they descended the stairs (accompanied by the Duke and Duchess of Kent) and made their way along the carefully choreographed lines of guests stopping to speak to a few key individuals who had been pre-selected for presentation.

At this point we headed off to the tea tent for a selection of finely cut sandwiches, raspberry tarts and chocolate éclairs all washed down with an iced coffee. We found an empty table and sat in the afternoon sunshine enjoying the food, the atmosphere and many interesting people to chat to. A further stroll around the gardens followed (see photograph of Fiona, Alexander and me) and all too soon, the military band played the National Anthem and the Royal Party retreated into the Palace at 6.00pm.

This was the signal that it was time to leave and we headed back through the Palace and out onto The Mall for our waiting car. We all received many admiring and confused glances from the tourists outside the Palace, who must have wondered what on earth was going on!

A truly memorable afternoon for all three of us.