I thought it was a good opportunity to write to everyone again in this Bulletin at the end of July. For most of us this time of year signals the start of the summer holidays. Normally there are long queues at airports, with everyone excited as they take a break, whether at home or abroad. This year everything is different: the news about ‘air bridges’ being opened – and then shut again suddenly – and for all of us our concerns about safety in airports, aircraft or busy holiday destinations themselves are paramount. So it may be a ‘staycation’ – which is not so exciting a prospect after more than four months of lockdown – or wait and see what the next few weeks bring about travel. One way or another, it will feel very different. Whatever your plans are for the summer and holidays, I wish you well with some time of relaxation and escape from the routine.
Looking at the Livery calendar, from the Master’s point of view those Livery activities that can go ahead are happening, albeit by Zoom and so much of the behind-the-scenes routine meetings are happening. Such virtual committee meetings are, I am glad to say, particularly well attended, as those who found travel into London a problem can join us without that difficulty. You will expect that we have been keeping a careful eye on how the changing financial climate affects the Livery and our Treasurer Brian Fishwick, supported by Keith Etherington who will take over the role in the next Livery year, have worked very hard to prepare a forward-thinking budget that will share costs better across the Charity, Livery and the Hall and ensure a balanced budget that will allow us to undertake the full range of activities we expect in the coming year. We have also held Court meetings by Zoom, again very successfully with typically 20+ people attending and our getting through the Agenda in good time and with all who wish being able to contribute. We have also admitted a number of Freemen and Liverymen by Zoom, with the Master, Clerk and the Wardens representing the Court at these events – and we have promised those admitted in this way, that when we can meet face-to-face, we can have the usual photographs and welcome reception. Our usual Open Evenings have been replaced by several ‘get to know you’ sessions where we have introduced the Livery to potential members by Zoom – our Recruitment Warden, Jim Webster has coordinated these sessions and feedback has been good.
The big loss of course is our events programme. Our SIMposium was cancelled – I felt that a Zoom-based SIMposium would not work well as one of the key benefits of the SIMposium is people who do not know us well actually coming to the Hall to meet us and learn about the Livery in the splendid surroundings of the Hall – and hopefully be impressed with what the Livery has to offer. We have lost two major dinners, including the Annual Banquet and with that the opportunity for many of us to get together in the Hall – that is a shame but understandable. The Livery Hall itself has been closed during this lockdown period, but plans are underway for a limited opening later in the year: we will keep you updated on that. Our Admission Court is set for 22nd October 2020: we are looking into what sort of event we can hold and again, nearer the time, let you know about our plans as we welcome our new Master. At the recent election Court, Martyn Wheatley has been elected Master; Charles Holroyd Senior Warden and Philip Thomas Junior Warden for the year 2020-21. I congratulate them on their election and wish them well in the year to come – one when we hope to see some greater level or normality in our programme.
One possibility for our getting together that I have heard from other Liveries is a virtual drinks evening or even a virtual dinner, all by Zoom. If you have any views on whether you think either of these would work, or experience from any other organizations, then let me know and we can see how or if we could plan for something like this. My diary remains littered with cancelled and postponed events: the usual opportunity to enjoy the hospitality of our brother Liveries – and of course to reciprocate – is not happening and losing that important part of Livery life is very sad. I have, on behalf of the Livery, attended a number of the Lord Mayor’s Coffee Events – virtual of course – and these have been an occasion where many Livery Masters get together and are briefed by the Lord Mayor on what is happening in the City. That does help to give this community some cohesion, given that we cannot meet in person. Also there have been one or two seminars or symposia organized by other Liveries that I have been invited to which have worked quite well.
You will have seen the sad news about the passing of Past Master Guy Brocklebank and I am pleased to say that a number of us were able to listen into the funeral service via the weblink. Our Chaplain, Rev Preb Jeremy Crossley led the service. We will miss enormously Guy’s enthusiasm and support for the Livery and his deep knowledge of so many people associated with it.
Let me close by again wishing you well and encouraging you to stay safe, even as we venture out again in a limited way. I hope that you enjoy the summer, that we have some tolerable weather and I look forward to making contact again in September.
With best wishes to all.
Ken and Lesley Grattan