December has been another month of continuous change, with rising Covid-19 infections as the backdrop. The short lockdown ended on 2nd December but a new 3 tier system of restrictions was introduced by the Government, which changed to a 4 tier system by the end of the month. The good news was that the UK was the first nation to approve two vaccines, the Pfizer/BioNtech solution and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. This means that the vaccination programme, which is already well underway, can be accelerated immediately in the New Year and we can hopefully get back to some sort of normality in the Spring. I am very optimistic that this has signalled the start of our journey out of the Covid-19 crisis and that we will be able to get some normality back into our lives in the early part of 2021.
December has been relatively quiet month in terms of T&B meetings, reflecting the run up to Christmas. I have continued to meet with the Wardens and Acting Clerk on a weekly basis via Zoom to discuss various Company issues and I also met with our new Clerk designate, Heather Smith, to discuss the Master's role and to commence planning how we will work together in 2021.
I also attended the Treasures Committee, a meeting of my Past Masters' Association and the December meeting of our Court of Assistants. The Court meeting had a large number of items to discuss, the major one being the report on the 2020 Strategic Review. The findings of the review and its many recommendations were introduced by Past Master David Szymanski and there followed much constructive debate and discussion about numerous items. There was general agreement that the Strategic Review had been carried out very professionally and effectively. Thanks to Past Master David Szymanski for coordinating the review and bringing it to a satisfactory conclusion. Thanks also to all the other Liverymen and Freemen involved in producing this excellent review, especially the Chairmen of the three sub-committees who drove the review forward despite the setback of Covid-19. The three Chairmen were, Court Assistant Jenny Rolls, Past Master Roger Westbrook and Renter Warden Professor John Schofield. A special thank you for all the hard work you have undertaken during 2020. The finalised Review will now be presented to the whole Livery at Common Hall in February 2021.
In terms of City functions, again, it was a fairly quiet month. I attended the Lord Mayor's Christmas Carol Service which was live streamed from the stunning Church of St Anne & St Agnes in the heart of the City - a most joyous occasion. I also attended two very interesting lectures given online. The first addressed "Faith in the City", given by Niki Gorick who gave a fascinating and illuminating talk about how different religions have impacted and shaped the City of London as we know it today. The second event, presented by Lance Whitehouse, Clerk to the Worshipful Company of Bakers, covered ‘Victorian City Life within the Square Mile’, an illuminated talk including an exploration of Dickens’ role in fighting Victorian poverty. Both excellent events.
And of course, there was the magnificent Tylers and Bricklayers Annual Christmas Carol Service, held virtually for the first time in our history. There was a fabulous turnout for the Service, which was really professionally performed. The Lothbury Singers were on top form as usual and did the Company really proud. The Carol Service always marks the start of Christmas for me, and this year was no different - truly beautiful.
We also managed to catch up for a short while afterwards via Zoom, to raise a glass of champagne and wish each other Happy Christmas. It was really wonderful to be able to see so many fellow Liverymen and Freemen before Christmas - a delightful evening despite us all being so far from each other.
This is my last blog of 2020, a year that none of us in our wildest dreams could have foreseen. It has been a strange journey, but we have all coped well despite the difficulties that the year has laid in front of us. I am honoured and delighted to continue being the Master of such a wonderful Company.
I wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year 2021.