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A year in the life of a Master…….continued


The highlight of every Master year is the Banquet at Mansion House held this year on Valentine’s Day February 14th. We were honoured the Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress and the two Sheriffs together with their wives were all able to attend. Their presence helped make it a memorable occasion.

Our guest speaker was The Honourable Mr Justice Blair QC.  Sir William is the chair of a group of which I am a lay member. The focus of the group is “Law and Ethics in Finance”. Both our speeches touched on the values and behaviour of individuals that help create a successful organisation in which there is a culture of mutual respect. Our most recent Colloquium held in the Bank of England not long after the Banquet on March 7th had the Governor of the Bank Mark Carney, the Chair of the Banking Standards Commission, the Chair of the Federal Bank of New York and the Lord Chief Justice for England all as key speakers.

The second period of my year has continued to feature delicious dinners, interesting lectures and concerts, powerful church services and a few of our own events. Sadly I was unable to attend the World Traders annual Tacitus Lecture in the Guildhall because Doris intervened. The weather was so bad no trains were running from Nottingham to London so Simon attended this on his own. I understand it was an excellent event.

I missed the annual Pancake Race due to a University Finance Committee scheduled on the same day. I know where I would rather have been, but I suspect it may have been a good thing I didn’t attend because tossing pancakes has never been something I have learnt to manage with any degree of certainty. In particular I’ve never been entirely confident of the likely arrival of the pancake back in the pan.

I did however attend the Glass Sellers Livery Company’s Ravenscroft Lecture, held on the 30th floor of Barclays Bank headquarters Canary Wharf. The venue was superb with wonderful views over Canary Wharf and beyond across London.  It was a fascinating evening. The keynote speaker was Steven Roberts, the Innovation Director at  Barclays, who shared with us how working with communities  is enabling them to benefit from the Bank’s transformation programme which includes their Digital Eagles programme and apprenticeships for both young and old. 


Our first event in March (the 7th) was our visit to the Bank of England. We had the maximum number permitted (50) attending firstly a lecture about the role of the Bank past and present, followed by a viewing of the Museum and finally lunch in a nearby restaurant. Please do look at the separate fuller piece with photographs about this event in the website news section.

The following day Simon and I joined the Lord Mayor’s visit to Treloars School. A great programme was arranged for us, we learnt a lot and it left a very considerable impression afterwards. Again, please see the fuller piece with photographs in the website news section.

I was joined by the Clerk, Senior Warden and Pamela Goldberg – Chair of the charity Committee at the Royal College of Surgeons on March 9th. We met and had lunch with this year’s Bursary award winners. As always we had fascinating time learning about their various specialities and the education programmes they will be attending as a consequence of our funding. It is because of lunches such as this, which only a few are able to attend, that stimulated me to invite some of our recipients to talk to Common Hall in April. It is reassuring to know our funds are being so well spent and to such good effect.  

On March 14th I attended the Gala Concert in St Pauls with Colin Tiffin - Senior Warden and his wife Tiz together with Pamela and John Goldberg. It was a remarkable concert with the London Symphony orchestra (LSO) in aid of the Lord Mayor’s appeal.  City Historians are pretty sure that in the 827 years of the existence of the Lord Mayor, an educationalist and musician has never been appointed as Lord Mayor, and certainly none has ever taken the stage for such a momentous musical performance. The Lord Mayor has been the organist at St James Garlickhythe for some 35 years and we have had the privilege of having him play for many of our services during that time. But to see him march in surrounded by the pikemen and musketeers and then hear him play the Saint-Saens Organ Symphony with the LSO in such magnificent surroundings was very special. The experience measured up to all my expectations, I just wish we could have heard more of his playing. I look forward however to a repeat performance sometime soon at St James, although I suspect we won’t get the Pikemen too!   

I spent a considerable amount of time one weekend reading the 30 applications for our shared Royal College of Nursing Foundation bursaries. Short listing took place on 16th March. As a member of the selection panel I was pleased we were able to award 10 bursaries to a variety of nurses undertaking interesting further education programmes to improve their skills.

Some of the Livery Companies I have come into contact with have had remarkably long histories; the Carmen Company are no exception. The Clerk and I were invited to their Celebration of 500 years, firstly attending a delightful evensong in St Pauls and then a wonderful reception at Stationers Hall. The following day was one of our Committee meeting days, followed by the Woodwind Competition at the Guildhall School of Music. See the separate news item with photos.

There are many privileges to being Master but one I think particularly special is being invited by the Sheriffs to have lunch with the Old Bailey Judges. I have to admit to having been once before, on that occasion the other two guests were Stephen Fry and Justine Webb. This time the guests included the Bishop of Ely who amongst other things is Chair of the Council of the National Society Council supporting schools and higher education, the Ambassador for Austria and Dame Esther Rantzen. The invitees all have an interest in the mental health of young people, which is a particular area of interest for our host, Alderman and Sheriff William Russell. Afterwards I sat in court listening to evidence relating to a murder case. I left feeling chastened.

One of the spectacular events of the Lord Mayor’s year is the Dinner at Mansion House for all the Masters, Prime Wardens and Upper Bailiffs of the Livery Companies of the City of London. An amazing event not least for its grandeur, and lovely champagne! It was particularly lovely that Bishop Christopher and his sister were also guests. I had a fascinating evening sat next to the Chair of the Corporation of the City of London Policy and Resource Committee on one side and the consort of the Master of the Worshipful Company of Chartered Surveyors on the other. 

The following day it was the United Guilds service in St Pauls. This was a very special occasion for our Livery, as not only was it our turn as a Livery to join the procession, which is something that happens very infrequently, but also our Honorary Chaplain Bishop Christopher gave the Sermon. He was brilliant and I strongly recommend you read it if you were not able to attend - it too is on our website.


We have a close association with the Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers, so it was a particular pleasure to be invited with our new Clerk to attend their Master’s Installation Dinner at Skinners Hall. As you can probably tell I am gradually working my way around all the Halls, they are all beautiful and quite unique. Paul Constantinidi, the new Master, is a bit of a wine expert. The dessert wine and port served during dinner came from his own cellar. I don’t expect we will have any difficulty choosing wines for the supper after the carol service! They too had a service at St James Garlickhythe prior to dinner.

I was delighted to be invited back to the Gardeners for their Spring Court dinner with our Clerk. Once again the floral arrangements were fantastic. The dinner was at the Grocers Hall, as we entered the dining room the scent from spring flowers was immense. The arrangements were all along the tables in small containers in recognition of the role of grocers. They had for example used attractive tin cans, jam jars, milk bottles, and cups and saucers. At the end of the evening we were invited to take a decoration home with us if we paid a minimum of £5. Another good idea to consider?

One of our closest Livery Company is the Framework Knitters. Their Installation dinner was at Vintners Hall on April 7th. It was a delightful event particularly because I have now reached a halfway point of my year and the Masters and Consorts I see at events will in the main be in my Past Masters year group.

Just occasionally I do a little work on behalf of the Livery and don’t just sit and eat! On Sunday 9th April I joined Henry and Susan Milward at Utoxeter Race Course for the Quilt and Stitch event. We provide the prize for the public choice of best quilt. It was lovely to be able to present the engraved plate and cheque to someone who was absolutely delighted that she has won the prize and whose work was quite charming. There is a picture on the website courtesy of Henry.

Common Hall and the lunch afterwards took place on April 12th at the beautiful modern Haberdashers Hall. The purpose of opening up the Court Meeting for Liverymen to observe and to then hold Common Hall was to further inform the Livery on the range of issues the Court covers, how decisions are made and who makes them.  We formally installed Fiona Sedgwick as our new Clerk and admitted four new Liverymen including our immediate past Clerk and the Recorder of the City of London.  

During Common Hall we had 4 speakers all of whom are beneficiaries of awards we have given. Each spoke for 5 minutes about the impact of the award on their working lives. Each of them gave a moving and inspiring account which stimulated a lot of questions.

Pamela Goldberg put together an excellent display relating to our charitable work, which resulted in a number of Liverymen volunteering to act as the named person to liaise with the organisations we support, which is great. I am hoping that the combination of the presentations, observing Court and the display will have helped ensure we have all learnt a little more about what goes on behind the scenes.

During Lunch Dr James Munroe, a GP by background, spoke about his role as the Chief Executive of Patient Opinion - an award winning not for profit social enterprise. Patient Opinion is an independent feedback platform for health and care which has been viewed 85 million times. He impressed us all with the way he spoke about how Patient Opinion offers the opportunity for patients and their carers to give feedback about their experiences in many instances resulting in restored relationships,  complaints avoided and services improved at low cost . See also the news item on the website about the Court meeting and Common hall.

It was lovely to attend at the invitation of Lynette Stone firstly the church service and then the Parish Clerks Easter dinner at Leathersellers Hall. It was a fabulous evening, very different to any other Dinner I have attended – let’s just say they have their own unique way of doing things! Lyn was the perfect host and I know will make a great Master in two years’ time. The dinner coincided with the Launch event for the Institute of Apprenticeships at the Guildhall which the Junior Warden – Anthony de Lacey kindly attended on my behalf.

I was introduced by Pamela Goldberg to the Lady Masters Association whilst Senior Warden and attended my first AGM at the Guildhall on 24th April. The meeting was short mainly consisting of receiving the reports of the various committees and the election of the various officers including the next chair. This was followed by an excellent supper.

At the invitation of Vic Flintham I attended the Air Pilots Club lunch on April 26th at the RAF Club on Piccadilly. Male attendees significantly outnumbered the women, but this didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the occasion! It was both enjoyable and interesting although the after lunch speaker did have to compete with the pneumatic drills outside.      

The final Needlemakers Livery event for this quarter was the Reception in the River Room – House of Lords followed by the tours of both Houses.  I am extremely grateful to Bishop Christopher who sponsored the event and his Parliamentary Aid Peter Haddock who supported me in making the arrangements. The maximum (50) number allowed for the event attended, which was marvellous, enabling us to admire Pugin’s fantastic decor. We were lucky the event was able to go ahead given that Whitehall and the surrounding area was closed down for a while during the afternoon, due to the arrest of a suspected terrorist. Bishop Christopher joined us at 6 pm following the prorogation of Parliament. This meant that we were able to view both houses. The real treat for me however was to be able to see a little of the magnificent quarters utilised by the Speaker of the House of Lords, especially the River Room where the reception was held. One of our guides, who had worked in a number of roles within the parliamentary estate for 25 years, had never been into the speakers’ quarters before.  

My next instalment will be at the end of July – I expect you can’t wait.  

By The Master