Friday, 15 April 2011

Rocking in the aisles

 One of the interesting things about most Livery Companies is that in general the membership is older rather than younger. Rock and roll was what they were brought up on in their youth. So it's no surprise that the Company's trip to see Million Dollar Quartet at the Noel Coward theatre last Thursday had a big turn out. It was a hugely successful evening. But then it's a hugely successful musical commemorating as it does the day when Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash  were all in the studio together making music: a unique occasion. This was a 100% feel-good factor night out in the company of these legends. The evening started at the glamorous Ivy in the upstairs Ivy Club. Here everyone met and pre-theatre drinks and food were served. Senior Warden John Flynn, a serious West End theatre goer and investor, had used his connections to have a West producer talk to us about the nature of putting on West end shows, the risks involved, the work involved, the strong nerves needed, and the rewards if if a show became a hit. A lively question and answer session followed. Then, as they say, it was on with the show.

The evening was a glorious rock and roll celebration with a cast who gave more than 100% as smash hit after smash came out----Blue Suede Shoes ( a Carl Perkins song pinched by Elvis); I walk The Line; Great balls Of Fire; Hound Dog; See You later alligator.....and on and on. This was more than foot tapping, this was music in the blood. ''The devils music' it was called when it broke on an unsuspecting world used to the crooning of Sinatra. It was in its day mould breaking;  it was the music which led on to the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and everything that's come since.
A great evening to remember.


The Gift of Basketmaking

     Basketmaking is an ancient craft, older even than weaving and pottery. Not so the Basketmakers, they youthfully spring from 1569. When I said at our Spring lunch last week that the basket makers were expelled from the City in the time of Henry the Eighth on account of their negligence, I should perhaps have made clear that this was basket makers in general not The Basketmakers Company who were formed a little later. Anyway I was generously entertained on Wednesday at their Livery Dinner. And a grand occasion it was in Skinners Hall. 

I noticed on the Menu that against the white wine it simply had 'PPW White Wine''. The Basketmakers have a Prime Warden not a Master. ''PPW'' stood for Past Prime Warden. The Past Prime Warden who owns  and runs the vineyard from whence the white wine at dinner came was sitting, coincidentally, next to me. We had an entertaining conversation on the subject and I feel sure, as I have mentioned to him, that our own Past Master John Petersen will, in the fullness of time, provide the Marketors at one dinner or another with wine from his own extensive and immaculate vineyard. 

The speaker was Murray Craig, Clerk of the Chamberlain's Court who will be familiar to many as the man who takes applicants through the Freedom of the City ceremony. With such a great variety of different people passing through his office to gain the Freedom he had many stories to tell. I particularly liked the one about Rowan Williams who, when the old right of driving your sheep over London Bridge came up in conversation, remarked that his 'flock' was anyway rather too big for such an event.

The evening passed all too quickly and at the end I was, with other guest Masters, called forward to receive a beautiful gift of a handmade basket from a Yeoman Basketmaker of the Company. No glue, no pins, no trickery, sheer basket making skill; it is indeed a wonderful gift.                                                                    

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Spring Lunch (and more)

      Friday last was the date of the Company's annual Spring Lunch  in the elegance of Saddler's Hall. When you are Master it is always a concern, when choosing a hall for a dinner or lunch, to be sure of selecting one that is both the right size for the event, not too big, not too small, and which is also suitable for the occasion. Saddlers happily was ideal both in size and because of its light and airy feel due to its huge windows. Perfect for a sunny spring luncheon.

Before lunch at a Ceremonial Court  meeting I had the great pleasure of clothing in the Livery Victor Chopin-John; Christopher Goard and Sylvia Robert-Sargeant.  I was also pleased to welcome into the Company as new Freemen Annie Brooks and Simon Carter. After three years on Court and a superb and much longer history of service to the Company, it was also my pleasure to award Mike Kearsley with a framed certificate acknowledging his contribution  to the Marketors.

Ceremonial Courts are also the time when we are able to  recognize publicly those receiving Awards for academic excellence. These are awards for post-graduate studies on marketing topics which have been agreed with the Marketor's Awards Committee chaired by Sue Garland-Worthington and funded by our Marketors' Trust. Awards and cheques were given to :

Christina Howard, London Business School
Lilli Allihn, of Nottingham University
Folaki Olatunji, of London Business School
Dr Philip Klaus of Cranfield University Business School was unable to be present at the last moment due to his wife's illness and so his award was picked by his academic superviser whom we were pleased to see. 

We had an extremely high turnout for lunch and reached the absolute maximum that the hall would hold for lunch.The assembled members and guests were not disappointed by either the lunch or the Speaker. Richard Reed is one of the co-founders of Innocent Drinks now a leading food and drinks company with a turnover of £150million and brand leader in its space. He informed and amused us in equal amounts as he recounted his own lowly beginnings in business in a biscuit factory before he co-founded Innocent Drinks with two university friends. Amongst the anecdotes and jokes (who will forget the two plump nuns) he explained the strong sustainability ethos and ethical stance of the company which gives away 10% of its profits to charity. I thought Mark Price the MD of Waitrose who spoke so well at the Installation Dinner would be a hard act to follow but Richard  followed on effortlessly and everyone went out into the sunshine with a smile on their face.

A world Class University

Last Thursday was the City University London, Chancellor's Dinner. As Lord Mayor, Alderman Michael Bear is the Chancellor of the University. A great many friends and supporters of the University sat down to an excellent dinner. The Marketors, through the Marketors Trust, provide very significant financial bursaries to students of Cass Business School, part of City University. It's a rolling 3 year programme of financial support. The Dinner was both a recognition of support and an update on the University.

City University is over 100 years old and is ranked in the top five percent of universities in the world. Cass is only one of seven schools which make up the university in total. The evening began with the Lord Mayor speaking about the role of the university, its academic excellence, the support it receives and his hopes for the university in the future. It fell to an alumnus of the university, Daniel Finkelstein, to make the keynote address. Since both his father and brother have been Professors at the university it seemed more than fitting. Daniel is the Executive Editor of The Times, its Chief Leader writer and a weekly political columnist. As a Conservative adviser he united with George Osborne and David Cameron, amongst others, to form a strategy to modernise the Conservative party.

He spoke eloquently about his time at the university, and the value it brings to its students (10th in the UK for graduate employment). He was followed by a star student, and multiple award winner, Beth Shrubsall reading for a Civil Engineering Batchelors degree. She extolled the university's support for less well off students and the contribution the university had made to her own life.

City University goes from strength to strength and as Marketors we should be proud and pleased to play a part in its success.

A History of London: The Urban Space

The title above was the subject of a talk given by Dr Simon Thurley at Mansion House last week. As a property and construction man The Lord Mayor has organised a series of three lectures focussing on a range of urban issues, with a particular focus on London and the City. Last week the lecture was specifically on why London and the City rose from being one of the smaller capital cities in Europe to become a dominant world City and by far the largest in Europe.

To have Simon Thurley address you is unalloyed pleasure. He is a leading architectural historian and the Chief Executive of English Heritage as well as being a writer and broadcaster and the Government's principal adviser on the historic environment in England. He has an enormous passion for his subject as well as a masterly grasp of it. He explained the factors which led to the growth and success of London and the City which included everything from its strength in exporting wool in medieval times, through the transformative effects on the redistribution of property after the dissolution of the monasteries, similar transformations after the great fire of London and the effect of the railways coming into London and into the City. His talk was rich in content, his slides fascinating, his enthusiasm infectious. I could cheerfully have listened to him for hours.

The next two lectures in this trilogy are on 18 July on 'The current challenges facing London in retaining its position as a leading working city'; and the 18th October on 'The future challenges and prospects facing global cities.' One can only hope that these next two are as good as the first one. Simon Thurley has set the bar very high.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Big, very big,Curry Lunch

Yes, it's a very big logo--for a very big event. The Big Curry Lunch, held annually at Guildhall, is in support of The Soldiers' Charity--the Army's own national charity. Over 67 years old, the charity is providing a lifetime of support to soldiers, former soldiers and their families, whatever the circumstance, whatever the age, whatever the rank.The Patron is her Majesty the Queen.  The Lord Mayor's Big Curry Lunch in Guildhall is the flagship event for the National Big Curry Lunch Campaign which raises  £450,000 for the charity.

The Marketors, through the Marketors' Trust, have been regular supporters of the Charity, and this event,  together with 48 other Livery Companies from the Mercers and Grocers downwards. The Lord Mayor attends and in the absence of the Queen, His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent meets with us as sponsors before lunch.

The lunch is so well attended that even in Guildhall three sittings are necessary to accommodate everybody. This is indeed a very big event. There is a major Silent Auction and a major raffle ( I'm still waiting to hear if I have won a trip for two round the Champagne area.......) It's a memorable occasion for an extremely worthy cause.

Looking back; facing forward: the first 100 years

If you have a big birthday do it in style. This clearly was the thinking at the Chartered Institute of Marketing as they celebrated their Centenary with a  spectacular bash at Windsor Castle. The castle is the preferred home of the Queen and it is easy to see why. It is magnificent as anyone who has been there will testify and yet it's not overpowering.
The evening started with a champagne reception towards the end of which a few selected guests, including your Master, were shepherded into a separate room to to meet his Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, the CIM's Patron.  A wonderful dinner followed, the highlight of which was undoubtedly the speech given by HRH. After the opening formalities which included the immortal line  ''I have been your Patron for half of your existence'' (he has indeed been Patron for 50 years), the Duke then spoke, unscripted, about the castle, the fire which did such tremendous damage to the great hall, and the subsequent renovation. He spoke at length and with real feeling--he obviously loves the place as much as her Majesty the Queen.
The dinner was attended by a gratifying number of Marketors, all Fellows, and included two Founder members of the Marketors, Norman Boakes and Austin Nunn. As well, of course, as the great and the good from the Chartered Institute and elsewhere. It was without question a Birthday celebration with style.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

151 Regiment Officers Mess Guest Dinner

Our relationship with 151 Regiment is a very strong one thanks to much good work done by our Regimental Liaison Committee ably headed by Liveryman Steven Rowe. It is no surprise therefore that they invite us to their dinners. The Dinner last Saturday was held in the Officers Mess in Bordon Hampshire, a relatively modern, very large officers' mess building situated in  beautiful rural surroundings. Would it survive the armed services cuts I wondered as I looked out of my bedroom windows at the surrounding woodlands.

It was a traditional Officers' Mess Dinner but this one was special since it was the occasion when the Regiment and the Marketors said goodbye to the Regiment's retiring Honorary Colonel, Brigadier Richard Rook. Richard has been invaluable in helping to build the relationship between 151 Regiment and the Marketors as I emphasised when I spoke after dinner. We and the Regiment welcomed at the Dinner the Regiment's new Honorary Colonel, Major General Mark Poffley. His is a huge job, as he is in charge of the whole of the UK land army and so he has what is reputed to be the busiest job in the army.

The evening progressed. The port went round, as is customary, and round, and round again. And again, then round again. I can't remember much more after that......

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

United Guilds Service

This service is held annually and has been since 1943 when the Great Twelve Companies decided to hold a service for  Livery Companies and Guilds to help raise spirits after the Blitz. The Lord Mayor and Sheriffs attended as they do to this day. It is now one of the very few events during the year at which all the Livery Companies and Guilds come together.
The procession is long and apart from the Masters of the Great Twelve Companies also includes the Masters from twelve other selected Livery Companies. The Marketors were selected and so I found myself processing up the enormous nave of St Pauls at the start of the service. The service itself was very fine although, as always, the Lessons and Sermon had great clarity whilst the huge choir, brilliant though it may be, was quite wasted due to the appalling acoustics in St Pauls. It's an extremely well known and commented on weakness and I simply dont't know why, with modern acoustic technology, they don't fix it.

In this most Protestant of churches the sermon was given by  the Very Reverend John Hall, Dean of Westminster Cathedral. The occasion coincided with the 400th anniversary of the death of  the poet and churchman John Donne. He was a man of great paradoxes, who grappled with intellectual paradoxes and as a metaphysical poet his work frequently contained paradoxes. A Roman Catholic he converted in 1615 and became an Anglican priest largely it has to be said because James 1st ordered it and partly for financial reasons. He went on to become the Dean of St Pauls. The sermon preached by the Dean of Westminster  naturally used paradoxes as a basis for an excellent peroration.

After such spiritual refreshment we walked across the road for some corporeal refreshment at Stationers Hall where 14 Marketors sat down to a most enjoyable and paradox-free lunch.

The Lord Mayor's Dinner

Every year the Lord Mayor has a Dinner for the Masters of all the Livery Companies plus wives. It was last week and needless to say Mansion House was packed out. At such events I find I can greet an increasing number of friends as I get to know more Masters of other Livery Companies. The Dinner itself, in the Egyptian Room was splendid with first class food and wine. On such an occasion the Lord Mayor is thanking, praising and encouraging the Livery (as well he might as the Livery put him in his exalted role!) Lord Mayor Michael Bear spoke eloquently but perhaps equally eloquently but a little more cogently was the response on behalf of the guests given by the Master of the Mercers. It was an outstanding speech and I have taken the liberty of writing to him to ask for a copy. All in all a delightful evening and makes one reflect upon what it means to be Master of a City Livery Company.