Thursday, 22 September 2011

A Professorial Exposition

One of the threads that runs through my year is St Paul's Cathedral, from the Loriners 750th celebration there, the United Guilds Service, the 300 year anniversary of the Cathedral, the Sons of the Clergy service and again last night for a brilliant talk by Professor Peter McCullough a Lay Canon of St Paul's and Fellow and Tutor of Renaissance Literature at Oxford University. He spoke on ''St Paul's, the Corporation, and Liveries in the age of John Donne.''

We sat, theatre style, under the dome and a warm and amusing introduction was given by Graeme Knowles the Dean of St Paul's. He then introduced the speaker which is when it started to go wrong. Peter McCullough had a lapel mike which was linked to the main sound system and the echo this produced made it incredibly difficult for everyone to understand what he was saying. Concentration was all.

He spoke eloquently on the way in which the Cathedral, the Livery and the City Corporation have been entwined for centuries. John Donne, poet, lawyer, Ironmonger Liveryman and priest was the Dean of St Paul's in the time of Elizabeth the First. This was pre-Wren when the old cathedral dominated the London skyline with its spire. In the 100 or so years before the cathedral was destroyed in the Great Fire of London it was considerably decayed and dilapidated. Professor Mc Cullough explained the very close relationship the Livery had with the cathedral in those times. Indeed more than the Guildhall chapel itself, St Paul's was one of the most important stages upon which the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Liveries showed in a visible and corporate way their support of the crown's established church. This talk was so good that I have put a link in here so that if you have the time you can read it for yourself.

Chains of Office

The Sheriffs were elected a short while ago but this week saw the presentation of the Shrieval chains to Alderman and Sheriff Alan Yarrow and Sheriff Wendy Mead. Chains of office are elaborate, individually designed by the wearer, very expensive and very impressive. Justifiably so as Sheriffs once held the highest office in the City as the Kings representative governing the City until they were bumped off the top spot by the institution of the Mayoralty in 1189.

Wendy Mead held her presentation in Carpenters Hall where the chain was on display. Because chains are so expensive an appeal is made to raise funds and all those who had contributed are invited to the presentation. Speeches follow and the champagne flows. Beside the chain is a beautiful hand written ledger detailing the names of all those who had contributed.
Alan Yarrow had his presentation ceremony in Fishmongers Hall and it followed the same format. His chain was significantly different. This is because the centre piece of the chain is a badge containing a coat of arms designed by the College of Arms representing the interests and achievements of its owner, together with a chosen motto.

These events attract a large crowd of supporters from the City as well as from the Livery although it was a pleasure to catch up with Masters I know. We are in Master 'change over' season now so many I know are now being replaced by their Senior Warden . I have a lot more new faces to get to know.

Monday, 19 September 2011

The Sheriffs' Opera

Last Friday evening the Sheriffs combined to raise money for the Lord Mayor's appeal by staging the Sheriffs' Opera - A Bear of Two Cities-in the Great Hall at Guildhall. Dickens' Tale of Two Cities was ingeniously reworked into a musical in which a man and a bear, like the famous Dick Whittington and his cat, leave the delights of Paris to travel to London through the port of Le Havre. The trials and tribulations of the journey were reflected in the music which encompassed work by Verdi, Puccini, and Donizetti. The adapted story line was amusingly narrated by Hannah Gordon as the fictional journey progressed. This 'contemporary opera' starred the the great diva soprano Nelly Miricioiou. She was accompanied by the Chelsea Opera Group Orchestra and Chorus a body of which Fiona Woolf is Chairman and on the night a participating soprano. Surprisingly good acoustics and some wonderful singing made for a splendid evening.

All Day Walking

If you think the Marketors are an energetic lot you don't know the Environmental Cleaners. For the seventh year running on Thursday last they organised their 'Livery Halls Walk' which raises money for charity. It takes all day and participants walk to visit all 40 Livery Halls. There were 44 of us walking. The weather was wonderful for walking and those of us who had done it before wore walking boots. Novices didn't. And regretted it.

The Senior Warden and I met at the office to collect our gowns and bonnets and then walked to Armourers and Braziers, the start point. Breakfast in the form of orange juice, coffee and bacon rolls was provided.. Then the long walk. We took in several halls before arriving at Ironmongers where we were invited in for a decent size glass of dry sherry. It was just gone 10am not the time one usually starts imbibing but most fortifying nevertheless. We took in 22 halls before before a quite excellent lunch provided by the Bakers in their hall. After lunch another 18 halls were visited, including champagne at Vintners and tea on HQS Wellington with the Master Mariners.

The walk finished at Mansion House where Lady Bear was presented with a cheque by the Master of the Environmental Cleaners. All in all a very pleasurable day full of camaraderie and one which helped mitigate, in a small way, rather a lot of Livery 'hospitality'.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Becoming, Or Not Becoming, Energised

One of the pleasures of being Master is that you are invited to other Companies' annual lectures. On Tuesday I went to Drapers Hall as a guest of the Fuellers Company to listen to John Cridland, the Director General of the Confederation of British Industry, talk on the extent to which the UK's energy policy is fit for purpose. Something of a dry subject (unless you are a Fueller) one might suppose. And a little incongruous for the Fuellers whose Latin motto translates as ''Our strength is in coal.' Never mind. The reality of course is that when you have a high intellect person speaking on a subject on which they are not only extremely knowledgeable but also quite passionate, it is a fascinating experience

Energy policy needless to say is set at government level but it is business that feels the effect and John Cridland's view was that not enough consultation with business takes place. The competitiveness of energy intensive industries is, he believes, under threat because of government policy.

Worse yet, renewable energy (think wind farms) are not cost effective. Indeed sometimes they have to be shut down when it's too windy (no, really, they do). So to be told that Tony Blair, just before he was removed from office, signed us up to a European legal commitment to have 30% of all energy produced to be from renewables by 2020 is more than a little disheartening.

I met a lot of familiar faces at the reception afterwards and happily we all had enough energy to enjoy the Fuellers' hospitality.

Winning In Today's Digital World

On Monday, for the first time, the Marketors held a joint event with another Livery Company : the Stationers and Newspaper Makers. Both Companies have a shared interest in the digital world. So the Stationers Digital Marketing Group and the Marketors' Think Tank got together to put on a seminar and discussion at Stationers Hall under the title 'How Do You Win In Today's Digital World'

We enjoyed a very high class Keynote speaker, Rory Sutherland the Executive Creative Director of OgilvyOne and Vice Chairman of Ogilvy Group UK. Rory is an acknowledged expert on Behavioural Economics or 'Nudge' theory as it is known. This is the theory underpinned by the belief that the decisions which people make are hugely influenced by unconscious and non-rational factors and nudging to influence behaviour can be more productive than instruction or overt coercion-sometimes simply by making decisions easier. Rory demonstrated the use of the theory in digital marketing, particularly in terms of responses to web sites.

Daniel Finklestein, the Executive Editor of The Times talked more directly about the issues of monetoising content-content on line being something that people have historically taken for granted as being free. The Times and The Sunday Times are pursuing a paywall approach to monetising their content. The industry looks on with great interest at what many see as an experiment.

Daniel was followed by Fergus Boyd the acting Head of E-business at Virgin Atlantic. The airline uses everythting from apps to social media as well as mobile and web as well as all the traditional media, cross promoting across them. As a sophisticated user of on and off line and integration the two Daniel demonstrated the width of possibilities available for the adventurous like Virgin.

The final speaker was Professor Merlin Stone, visiting Professor at Oxford Brookes, Portsmouth and DeMontfort Universities who is an expert on customer relationship management. Ex IBM he has been a leader in e-commerce since the mid 90s. Perfectly positioned therefore to explain how customer relationship management skills can profitably migrate on line.

Questions to the panel rapidly followed the speakers' presentations. With well over 100 people in the audience we were fortunate to have immediate Past Master Venetia Howes moderating the evening, not only opening proceedings with skill but controlling the questions and bringing them to a well timed conclusion. Hospitality, as it is quaintly called, followed rounding off a very informative and successful evening.

Friday, 9 September 2011

A nght at the Proms

On Monday evening 23 of us had the great pleasure of going to the BBC Proms at the Albert Hall-amazingly a building built with the money left over after the construction of the Albert Memorial opposite, the funds for which were raised by public subscription. The nation's appreciation of Albert was clearly considerable. We went to a concert given by the Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra led by the Maestro Manfred Honeck. He follows on from the many illustrious Music Directors and Conductors in the past including Otto Klemperer, Fritz Reiner, William Steinberg and Andre Previn. Manfred Honeck began his tenure as the orchestra's Music Director in 2008/2009 after periods as Conductor of some of the most famous orchestras in the world.
The programme contained works by Beethoven )Piano Concerto No.4), Tchaikovsky (Symphony No.5) and work by the lesser known Braunfels.
The Marketors' connection with the orchestra goes back to Past Master Keith Arundale's very successful trip four years ago to Pittsburg. After the concert we had drinks 'back stage' and met with Honek and some of his principal musicians, a rare treat.

The Beethoven Piano Concerto was played by the world famous pianist Helene Grimaud with great sensitivity and to huge applause. Proms audiences always make clear what they like! This was a wonderful evening and we can only wish the Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra well as they continue their European tour in France and Germany.