Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Opera Holland Park at Stationers' Hall Monday 29th April

What a triumph of an evening!  After a champagne reception, courtesy of Pol Roger, the producer of Opera Holland Park, James Clutton, gave us an insight in his introduction to the programme of glorious singing that awaited us. It proved no less than outstanding.

The evening, in aid of the Lord Mayor’s Appeal, was the brainchild of Sheriff Nigel Pullman who had sought sponsorship for the concert, managing to get British American Tobacco plc (BAT) on board as well as the Cook and Butler, and Partridges to provide the wine.  The Worshipful Companies of  Leathersellers, Broderers and World Traders also contributed. As the Lord Mayor was abroad rightly banging the drum vigorously for UK plc, the Lady Mayoress was our gracious host.  A Bluthner Grand piano had been loaned, a brilliant accompanist found, and the scene was set. 

Court Assistant Peter Rees was mentioned twice in the course of the evening, having designed the web site for promoting the event and it never ceases to amaze me how often Peter’s name is mentioned (last time it was the fundraising concert at St Vedast).  Peter seems to do the charitable work that others cannot do – programme design and production, website, on line booking systems. You name it and ask for Peter!

With Opera Holland Park’s booking opening and the start of their open air season not far away, we heard a feast of talent from the National Opera Studio trainees.  These were young and extremely talented singers, many with contracts lined up with the Royal Opera House and other Opera Houses, post the summer season.  They were joined by well known seasoned professionals and together the programme was uniquely special. Hearing such singing in Stationers’ Hall was also a unique experience.

Me with the very talented National Opera Students
With nearly every Master seemingly in attendance the reception afterwards was lively and informal, reflecting the fellowship that is generated when the Livery get together.  For a Monday evening, particularly with our Rededication Service and Spring Dinner the following day, it was uniquely entertaining.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists 4th Masters and Clerks dinner at the IT Hall. Wednesday 24th April 2013

The Master, Michael Grant, and senior members of his Company hosted an excellent dinner at the Information Technologists Hall in Bartholomew Close, located between the hospital and Smithfield Market. 

It was a pleasure to meet the Master Fletcher, Lesley Agutter, wife of our own Liveryman Richard.  Captain John Freestone MNM, Master Mariner, who I had lunched with the previous week, was in attendance, along with the Master Fueller, Paul Cuttill OBE, a guest at the Installation Dinner.  The Master Security Professional was opposite me, alongside my good friend David King OBE, Farmers’ Clerk. His Master, John Reynolds, was with us. Also present were the Master Bowyer and the Master Butcher (whose Hall is very close by), Master Baker and Master Founder.  I was intrigued to hear about the Founders, the tradition of their trade, covering so many aspects that still provide apprentice opportunities, and the historical influence of foundry work in all its aspects.  Industry is so very relevant to getting Britain back on its manufacturing feet.

I was delighted that Doreen, Assistant Clerk, accompanied me to this event for the final time due to the unavailability of the Clerk, previously committed elsewhere for this date, and I would like to thank her profoundly for all her efforts on behalf of the Company.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Subalterns Dinner Wednesday 17th April 2013

It was excellent to visit Fujitsu Defence who once hosted us at Baker Street for what has become an important event in the Marketors annual calendar. I was accompanied from the Company by Past Master Roger Hood and the Senior, Middle & Junior Wardens , as well as representatives of our own Freemen.
Our host for the evening was again the non- executive Chairman, Simon Blagden MBE, who had literally just stepped off a flight from Japan. He welcomed us all and, in response, Court Assistant Richard Christou, Chair of the Armed Forces Committee spoke of the continuing work of the Company in its support to 151 Regiment and HMS St Albans, a type 23 frigate.
I was delighted to thank Fujitsu for their hospitality, the dinner now in its fourth year, and explained how the Company had expanded its support to the Armed Services, no less because as Freemen we have a historical commitment, no longer permitted, to bear arms in defence of the Lord Mayor, also reporting any treasonous activity in the City of London that might give cause for concern.  With Baroness Thatcher’s funeral having taken place that day there was little need to emphasise how well our professional Armed Forces support and protect our country with no assistance required from itinerant Freemen!
It was a pleasure for me to ask Captain Rebecca Hudson, Adjutant of 151 Regiment to read the citation for Staff Sgt Leeming who received the Worshipful Company of Marketors 2013 Award for his outstanding work in the recruiting and marketing of the Squadron, a vital activity in considering the increasing demand and planned dependency today on our reserve forces at a time of more restricted financial resources for Defence.  The Territorial Regiments are to be renamed the Reserve Army.
I spoke briefly about the challenges faced by potential employees today to not mention or draw attention to their reserve commitments when applying for a job. They have been conscious of a reducing willingness of employers to offer promotion to those necessitating leave of absence with what might often seem endless and recurrent tours of duty. Major General Mark Poffley OBE responded by talking about Future Force 2020 and the increasing opportunities and challenges this initiative presents to all reservists.  However, the upside of the opportunities available for training and active service continues to be attractive to so many dedicated men and women.
I talked of the need to encourage the next generation to serve and how delighted the Company is with its affiliation with the St Dunstan’s College Combined Cadet force.  Providing young people with the opportunity to be involved annually with the Lord Mayor’s Show each November and, more recently, to provide a carpet guard for the First Sea Lord at my Installation Dinner as Master in January, offers encouraging experiences for future young men and women to serve our Country in uniform.  My personal support to the MOD as guest speaker at First’s conference last April at HMS Collingwood on strategic communications, is just one example as to how the Marketors can contribute.
The evening ended with thanks and coffee, to which we all subscribed!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Back Stage at the National Theatre Wednesday 17th April

Whilst the great and the good were attending St Paul’s Cathedral for the funeral of the longest serving Prime Minister of the twentieth century, and indeed the only woman to lead a political party, I was safely away from the madding crowds across the river.

National Theatre by NightNational Theatre by dayThe National Theatre has a worldwide reputation for its award-winning shows, with recent successes including the smash-hits War Horse, One Man Two Guvnors and The House.  In its three theatres, the National presents over 20 new productions each year, from new plays to classics, comedies and musicals.  I had an invitation to see behind the scenes with the Vintry and Dowgate Ward Club and as a former thespian myself this could not be missed. NT on South Bank was designed with three stages, which opened individually between 1976 and 1977.   It was controversially constructed internally and externally in grey concrete, albeit textured by the widespread use of wood shuttering. Despite the controversy over its fairly brutalist style of architecture, the theatre has been a Grade II* listed building since 1994 and has appeared simultaneously in the top ten "most popular" and "most hated" London buildings in opinion surveys.

We heard from our excellent guide that the theatre presents a varied programme, including Shakespeare (currently Othello) and other international classic drama; and new plays by contemporary playwrights. Each auditorium in the theatre can run up to three shows in repertoire thus further widening the number of plays which can be put on during any one season, or indeed any one week with alternation of plays within a week within the same stage venue.
The National Theatre building has traditionally had three separate auditoria:
The Olivier Theatre (named after the theatre's first artistic director, Laurence Olivier), was first to open in 1976 and is the main auditorium, and we learned it was modelled on the ancient Greek theatre at Epidaurus; it has an open stage and a fan-shaped audience seating area for 1,160 people. It boasts an ingenious 'drum revolve' (a five-storey revolving stage section) which extends eight metres beneath the stage.  The drum has two rim revolves and two platforms, each of which can carry ten tons, facilitating huge and rapid scenery changes. Its design ensures that the audience's view is not blocked from any seat, and that the audience is fully visible to actors from the stage's centre. We also viewed the Lyttelton Theatre (named after Oliver Lyttelton, the National Theatre's first board chairman) has a proscenium arch design and can accommodate an audience of 890. The Cottesloe Theatre was a small, adaptable studio space which was in fact the venue on my last evening at the NT to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.  However this amazing production about autism has sinced been switched to the West End and the Cottesloe has been closed. The space is currently being refurbished and also renamed.   Instead we were treated to a visit to the Shed, a new 225 seat temporary (and contemporary) performance space at the front of the building which has just been opened. The distinctive 'red wooden shed' structure to the front of the NT will only be used for just a year.

The interesting Backstage tour included a look at the rehearsal spaces and workshops where scenery and props are prepared. We were also amazed at the detailed authenticity of costumes – made to a higher standard than strictly necessary but helping actors to get into the character by the feel and restriction they give.   

At the conclusion of the tour I discovered that the upper terraces of the NT provide excellent views of London across the river, with many flags visible at half mast in honour of Baroness Margaret Thatcher.


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Monday 15th April 2013. 150th anniversary of the Ward of Cheap Club with a Service of Celebration at the Church of St Lawrence Jewry next Guildhall and Dedication of a new window

The Assistant Clerk and I walked the short distance from Plaisterers to the Church ‘next Guildhall’ with the Lord Mayor and Sheriff’s present. There has been a church on the present site since the twelfth century. The first church is thought to have been built in 1136 and was destroyed in the Great Fire of London. The church was one of many rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren, work beginning in 1670 and being completed in 1677. It was one of Wren's most expensive City Churches. During the Second World War, the church was extensively damaged on 29th December 1940 but not completely destroyed.  It was designated a Grade I listed building on 4th January 1950 and restored in 1957.  It is now the official Church of the Corporation of London and like most Wren Churches few walls are at right angles. However the "sumptuous barn" white interior with its gold-leaf and chandeliers is spectacular, the church being described by Sir John Betjeman as "very municipal, very splendid." 

Photo courtesy of PM John Fisher
Our Hon Liveryman, Adèle Thorpe, is the current President of the Ward of Cheap Club and read the lesson. Now celebrating its 150th year, we are rightfully proud of the considerable efforts made by Adèle to celebrate this milestone for the Club with a highly attractive new stained glass roundel window within the church. We were pleased that the Marketors’ Trust had contributed towards the cost and the window was duly dedicated by the Guild Vicar and the Archdeacon. It was a very special service with tributes from Alderman and Sheriff Jeffrey Evans, Patron of the Ward Club, as well as the Rt Hon the Lord Mayor and the Archdeacon of London, the Venerable David Meara.  The excellent choir sang Cantate Domino by G O Pitoni, the lovely Wesley Anthem Thou will keep him in Perfect Peace, and Mulet’s Tu es petra, accompanied by the magnificent Klais Organ built in 2001 by Johannes Klais Orgelbau of Bonn, Germany. With an impressive City presence at the service, the fellowship and conversation in the Church as champagne and canapés were served only emphasised the strong links that exist between all Livery Companies and the twenty-nine City churches. As a Friend of the City Churches, I highly recommend their monthly newsletter highlighting the many opportunities for worship and reflection that these wonderful respites of silence and spirituality in the Square Mile offer to all on a daily basis. 

Friday, 12 April 2013

Visit to Two Temple Place and HQS Wellington Friday 12th April

Two Temple Place is a magnificent 19th century building built for William Waldorf Astor  – his London town house complementing the Cliveden Estate on the Thames near Maidenhead. The building itself on the Embankment is one of London's hidden architectural gems, an extraordinary late Victorian mansion with fine features befitting of its American owner’s wealth and status.  Access is free and there is a fantastic exhibition of Cornish paintings on view.

HMS Wellington as she looked in 1943
HQS Wellington moored nearby at Temple is a familiar sight on the river, having been there since 1948, sitting right on the boundary between the Cities of Westminster and London.  Deceptively, like HMS Belfast she is a warship, having once sported guns and depth charges, but now painted white and without weapons her original role is less obvious - in fact she served most of the Second World War protecting vital Atlantic convoys.  She is a listed Historic Ship and nowadays known to us in the livery as the floating livery hall of the Master Mariners and also providing an office to the Scriveners.  However she also forms an important role in raising public awareness of the history of the British Merchant Navy, impressing young people with an understanding of our nations reliance on the sea for our trade and economic prosperity.
An exhibition is due to be opened on 8th May by our own Honorary Freeman, Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the role of the Merchant Navy in the Battle of the Atlantic and work is well in progress on preparing this.
As HQS Wellington today
As a livery hall and the venue for a wonderful lunch with the ladies of the Tylers and Bricklayer’s Company to which I had been invited, HQS Wellington comes as something of a surprise.  The ship is a bit like the Tardis. The Court Room, as it is called, is a fully panelled room of some considerable size under the waterline with glass fronted display cases on both sides and a high ceiling.  It is a room in size quite befitting an ocean liner rather than a small escort sloop – but uses the very generous space once occupied by its engines and boilers.   Only the occasional slopping of water against the sides of the ship give a clue to where we are, deep in the bowels and under the Thames.  It was interesting to note that the Master Master Mariner (no, not a typo) has the perk of a magnificently sized cabin on deck, providing useful and spacious accommodation and private entertainment space during a year of office.   The Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Princess Royal have all at various times been Master, as has King Edward VIII whilst Prince of Wales.  Whether they too had use of the cabin I do not know.
I would urge all to try to visit this ship during the exhibition.  It is open to the public on Sundays and Mondays from May 8th until the end of the year.   

Thursday, 11 April 2013

City University Chancellor’s Dinner at Mansion House Wednesday 10th April

The Rt Hon Lord Mayor is Chancellor of City University and Cass Business School and annually hosts a fine dinner at Mansion House, attended by members of Council, faculty, students as well as those who annually receive awards from Livery Companies and other charitable organisations. For several years the Marketors have sponsored an MBA student at Cass as well as holding Think Tank evenings and other events at the University. Court Assistant Sue Garland Worthington and I had only recently enjoyed lunch with the Dean, Steve Haberman.
The Lord Mayor spoke enthusiastically about the opportunities to study at the University and did not think that visa restrictions on foreign students were biting on numbers. With a high ratio of City and Cass students gaining employment, optimism and enthusiasm was the order of the evening.
After an excellent dinner, the keynote speech was given by Dick Olver, Chairman of BAE Systems, one of the world's largest defence contractors. Dick recounted how he discovered that ShareSoc had chosen the Easter weekend to come out against his re-election as chairman of BAE Systems! Dick was awarded the prestigious Non-Executive Director of the Year Award at the 6th annual NED Awards sponsored by The Sunday Times in March 2012.  In his speech he focused on the lack of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills training in the UK and the shortage of qualified engineers available to recruit in this country. In contrast Dick mentioned the many thousands being trained in India and China and this made me recall the visit I organised in 2009 for a parliamentary group to the Indian Institute of Engineering in Mumbai (the education funded by companies like BAE and massive foreign investment).
Each year the present Lord Mayor is appointed Chancellor and so there is a refreshing diversity brought to the role annually.

Luncheon for Masters and Clerks at the Worshipful Company of Actuaries at Staple Inn Hall Wednesday 10th April.

The Actuaries, at number 91 in precedence, became a Company a year after the Marketors and are deeply involved in the Financial Services Industry, not only in London but all over the world. Both of us are members of the FSG (Financial Services Group) of Livery Companies, and we have worked together on the various Lord Mayor’s initiatives restoring the values and integrity of the City as well as joining us on various Think Tank activities.
Staple Inn, London, has been used by actuaries since 1887 when the Institute of Actuaries was first based here. Over its history it has been as an Inn of Chancery for younger members of the legal profession and then a principal office for the Actuarial Profession, and continues to be a meeting venue for actuaries. Many actuaries around the world consider it their "home", rather as we do The Chartered Institute of Marketing at Cookham.
The earliest reference to Staple Inn can be traced back to Norman times. In 1292 the site housed a building known as le Stapled Halle, which was probably a covered market as it means in today's French word halle.  The 'Staple' derived from a duty on wool that was introduced in 1275 at the 'request of the communities of merchants' with the intention that the burden of tax should fall on the foreign buyers of wool.
It is not clear how the Society of Staple Inn, an organisation of lawyers, came into being. The evidence available suggests that it did so from 1415 when the name Staple Inn appears to have been first used by lawyers and students who formed the Grand Company and Fellows of Staple Inn. By 1586, its status was established as an 'Inn of Chancery', a medieval school providing primary training in legal practice, and a college in the 'Third University' in London, junior to the 'Inns of Court'. Staple Inn was most associated with Gray's Inn, an Inn of Court, on the opposite side of Holborn.
Inside the current Hall, some early stained glass windows have features contemporary to the site's origins as a venue for merchants and to the Tudor period. Other windows commemorate early Fellows of Staple Inn, as well as Tudor and Stuart monarchs and judges.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Lloyd’s of London, Tuesday 9th April

As guest of the Chairman, Chris Skinner, I attended the Financial Services Club Annual Keynote Dinner at Lloyd’s of London at One Lime Street. Designed by the acclaimed architect Lord Richard Rogers, the Lloyd's Building still stands out as one of the most unique landmarks on the City’s skyline. With a contemporary Cafe Bar juxtaposed with the classic elegance of the Old Library where the dinner was held, dining at Lloyd’s for me has always been a great pleasure.  Lord Levene, former Lord Mayor and a previous Chairman of Lloyd’s, had regularly hosted for me whilst I was CEO of the Industry and Parliament Trust.  For those many parliamentarians who lacked knowledge of how Lloyd’s worked, it was an essential part of their valuable and necessary induction into the City.  In earlier years I had also variously arranged for Vince Cable and David Laws to speak to the FS Club at annual dinners in this spectacular venue.

The guest speakers were Professor Grzegorz Kolodko, former Deputy Prime Minister of Poland and my favourite and most knowledgeable speaker on the EU, Graham Bishop, consultant, speaker and writer of many books on the subject of Europe. The subject of the Meeting was: The future for Europe and the Euro: whither Europe? 
Professor Grzegorz Kolodko is one of the world's leading authorities on economics and development policy and a key architect of Poland's successful economic reforms. He communicated his strong views on the current, possibly bleak, situation for the future of Europe. He is the author of nearly 40 books published in 23 languages on the subject, with his most successful work to date being Truth, Errors and Lies: Politics and Economics in a Volatile World. In this the Professor applies his far-reaching knowledge to the past and future of the world economy, introducing a framework for understanding our global situation that transcends any single discipline or paradigm. While serving as the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance in Poland from 1994-1997 the Professor helped lead Poland into the OECD and, holding the same positions again in 2002-2003, he played an important role in Poland's integration with the European Union. Effectively the third most prominent politician in Poland through the last two decades, he is renowned for his economic thinking.  More to the point, we were all presented with a signed copy of his book which by reputation provides remarkable insights into the future of Europe and the euro.
Graham Bishop provided a response to Professor Kolodko’s speech in his usual highly informed and relaxed style. Graham was a member of the European Commission's Consultative Group on the Impact of the Euro on Capital Markets (called the Giovannini Group). He was also a Member of the Commission's Strategy Group on Financial Services responsible for creating the Financial Services Action Plan, and the Committee of Independent Experts on the preparation of the changeover to the single currency. Since 2005 Graham has been on the Board of the so called Kangaroo Group.
These two very knowledgeable speakers were timely in making generous tributes to Baroness Thatcher as the doyen of Europe, who had died the previous day.  My own main recollection of the great lady was that I was told many years ago on good authority, that she always carried a copy of the Maastricht Treaty in her handbag! Perhaps to give the handbag more weight if used in anger.
At the dinner, the Marketors were represented not just by me but also by Freeman George Ryder.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Speaking to the Rotarians Wednesday 27th March

I was asked some time ago if I would give an insight into the life of a Master of a City of London Livery Company and I was delighted to fulfil that request at dinner with the Rotary Club of South Foreland in Dover. This Club is a member of Rotary International, and I researched to find with interest that Rotary was founded in Chicago in 1905 and now has well over one million members worldwide and some 32,000 branches. The origin of the name is that meetings “rotated” from one members place of business to the next.
The business of the Club was interesting to observe, particularly the ‘money box’ that was rattled to see if members had any good news to impart.  If you do, you tell everyone and put money into the kitty. The meeting is also conducted with the aid of a table top ship’s bell that is rung. 
I mentioned that, while I had come by train from the City of London, I have also in past years been variously hosted by the Welsh Livery Guild in Cardiff, the Merchant Venturers of Bristol and the Merchant Adventurers of York so the Guilds were not confined just to London.
I gave a brief history of the origins and developments of the guilds and friendly societies that grew up in all of the major cities in Great Britain within trades to promote, regulate and maintain standards in a particular craft or profession. In London I explained how wealthier guilds were granted charters, at a price, which extended rights to trade and also provided the basis of the City of London’s governance, its Sheriffs and Lord Mayor.  Today the City Livery Companies still retain involvement in the annual election of both the Sheriffs and of the Lord Mayor.
With the oldest Livery Company believed to be the Worshipful Company of Weavers, receiving a Royal Charter in the 12th century, I explained how in the 16th century an order of precedence was established, at the head of which are the ‘Great Twelve’ Livery companies: Mercers, Grocers, Drapers, Fishmongers, Goldsmiths, then Merchant Taylors alternating their place with the Skinners, along with the Haberdashers, Salters, Ironmongers, Vintners and Clothworkers.
I went on to say that my Livery Company, of which I am only the second lady Master, promotes excellence in marketing and was established by letters patent in 1978.
The events and activities, structure and governance, as well as charitable work of all Livery Companies and the professional and social occasions which take place in the 40 Livery Halls, Mansion House or Guildhall was outlined.  The recent enthronement of the Archbishop of Canterbury had been attended by the Masters and Upper Wardens of the Great Twelve Livery Companies, and whilst not invited as Master MARKETOR at lowly number 90 in the roll of the 108 livery companies, I was there wearing a different hat – that of a member of General Synod representing Canterbury.
Attempting to distinguish Livery Companies from Freemasonry in questions often seems necessary – there is a perception that they are somehow related.  I indicated that Livery Companies do not have secret ceremonies, passwords or hand signs.  However, one always feels this is a bigger subject than one can tackle with authority and certainty as there is debate between Freemasons in where the historical connection or divide may or may not lie.   I also explained that the older Livery Companies had evolved to meet more modern skills and industries.  The Worshipful Company of Fanmakers, for example, are now involved in aerospace engine fans and the whole “air moving” industry while the Stationers and Newspaper Makers are well connected into the digital media world.
 I was introduced by John Dunkley and received a vote of thanks from Robin Dodridge.

Sally with some of the members of South Foreland Rotary Club

I do think that it is vital that livery members should feel able and willing to speak to other organisations and associations about the City of London Livery Companies. It is always useful to have a reason provided for conducting personal research and engaging in reading in preparation. It takes away the mystery for those outside the City as to what Livery Companies do and could lead to raising interest.  It certainly helps reveal exactly what knowledge or ignorance may exist in the public at large.  Equally it should make us modest in our City based philanthropic endeavours when one realises that there are also organisations like Rotary quietly doing very valuable work to benefit good causes in every town across this country, and many others worldwide.