The Master’s Newsletter, December 2020

Dear Member,

I think I have started every Newsletter since March with the thought, (if not the precise words) that we can only hope that it will not be too long before things improve.  There are now more than a few vaccines in sight. On a Zoom call recently, the Lord Mayor commented, firstly that “this is the beginning of the end”, which I think he meant positively, and secondly that he thought he might be travelling again before the end of the year (he didn’t, maybe wisely, say which year). But perhaps we might be allowed to enter a very strange festive season with a glimmer of hope and expectation on the horizon. Fingers crossed. It has been an exceptionally long time. Another glimmer of light is the rescheduling of the United Guilds Service, which was due to be held in March, then cancelled: it has now been reinstated for 21 May.

It was a very great honour and privilege to be re-elected as Master at the Court meeting on 10 November. History was not made with the re-election: a quick look at the Archive will show that several Masters have served more than one term. But it was certainly made by being the first virtual Installation Court, which was recorded and subsequently sent to all Members so they could get a flavour of what a Court meeting looks and sounds like.  It may also have been the shortest Installation Court: with no Prize giving ceremony, the “business” of the day lasted around 20 minutes. I have commented before on how the conducting of business has been speeded up this year: this was an excellent example. It was also, though, an even better example of what is lost on the small screen: being present in a historic Hall, with the exchange of gowns and medals, the oath taking and the signature of documents. All part of the rich panoply of history and City tradition, which quite simply vanishes when you zoom into it.

There have been few Awards and Prizes since last I wrote in October, but I hope that you managed to catch up with the recording in early November of the Dankworth Awards, where I had the chance to chat to the winners: gaining some fascinating insights into the creative process.

Shortly afterwards, on 27 November, we held a virtual event for Members: a conversation with Roderick Williams. I recorded an interview with Roddy, which was streamed with a live question and answer session afterwards. 46 Members logged in, and from the enthusiastic feedback I have received, the event was very much appreciated. Maybe something to be repeated in future! We have so many possible interviewees amongst our Yeomen and our Award winners.

Future events: please don’t miss the virtual Carol Service on 16 December, and the Livery Club’s meeting with the Turners Company on 20 January at 5.30pm. On 17 February, also at 5.30pm, we will have a webinar, arranged by Pastmaster Leslie East and Court Assistant John Harle, on “The New Renaissance: Building a new musical Utopia”, followed, in March, with a virtual visit to the Handel House Museum. Also on the stocks is a virtual visit to the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court, timing to be decided.

I am sure you don’t need reminding, but please do watch and listen to the #MiddayMusic series as it continues on YouTube. More splendid concerts by outstanding Young Artists, continuing now until February.

Membership: you might be interested to see the following statistics from the Senior Warden, from the last Membership meeting. The Company now has 435 Liverymen, 159 Freemen and 202 Yeomen. The total is 796: with Yeomen making up over a quarter of the Membership (25.38%). Even more tellingly, we have 26 former Yeomen as Freemen and Liverymen (including those who have applied, but have not yet been admitted due to the lockdowns). The Company is visibly in fine fettle on the Membership front, which is marvellous news.

I attach the Lord Mayor’s latest Newsletter for information. On the Livery movement as a whole, the last Zoom meeting with the Lord Mayor brought out the statistics that the Livery contributes a total of £72 million to charity, plus 120,000 hours of time, worth another £6 million. In addition to that, personal donations from Livery Members total £10.5 million: an overall total of £88.5 million: a very remarkable achievement, and one of which we can all be justifiably proud.

We can also be more than proud that we have been able to continue with all of our charitable work in very trying times: I would like, on your and my behalf, to thank Hugh, Amanda, Christine and Charlotte for all they have done to keep the show on the road during such a very difficult period.

With that, I will close this last Newsletter of 2020, and wish you all a very merry Christmas, and a happy and prosperous New Year.


John Nichols