Tonight it was an absolute pleasure to take part in the graduation ceremony and prizegiving for the Building Crafts College at Carpenters’ Hall. At this event, which takes place every year, the students graduating from their programmes of study are recognised and a number of special prizes donated by sponsors are presented to students.

The Master of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, Lord Flight of Worcester, welcomed all the guests and introduced the Guest of Honour, Mr John Makepeace OBE, an outstanding furniture designer and craftsman. The Chair of the Building Crafts College addressed the assembly after which the students were all presented with their awards individually by Mr John Makepeace.

I was particularly pleased to see the Tyler and Bricklayer sponsored prize being awarded to a brilliant bricklayer, Kate Longworth.

Following the excellent awards ceremony we all adjourned to the ante room for a lovely reception with wines and canapes where Chris Causer, the Chairman of our Crafts Committee and I met with Kate Longworth and her party. It was fascinating to hear her story of how she got involved in bricklaying and to feel her passion for the craft. She has a keen interest in heritage brickwork and we agreed to introduce Kate to our own Emma Simpson, Master Craftsman.

 

It was a delightful evening and I was most impressed to see all the dedicated and enthusiastic award winners.

Today it was the turn of the Plaisterers' Company to showcase their wonderful students who have reached high levels of achievement in plastering and drylining, along with their tutors and colleges. The awards ceremony was held in the most appropriate setting of Plaisterers' Hall, with its décor throughout of the neoclassical style created by Robert Adam in the 18th century. His various designs have been faithfully reproduced in great detail both on plaster and wood, some being taken from his original moulds.

 

Following a wonderful champagne reception, at which I met and talked to many members of the Worshipful Company of Plaisterers, as well as our own Liveryman Bob Howard MBE who was an invited guest, we were led into the Hall for a delicious luncheon. We started with gravadlax of salmon, followed by braised beef cheek with the trimmings and a dessert of apple and cinnamon mousse with baked apple terrine, all accompanied by fine wines.

It was wonderful to see the Right Honourable The Lord Mayor, Alderman William Russell present to make the awards today. The Master, Alderman Alison Gowman proposed the Loyal Toast and the Toast to the Lord Mayor.

We all had a wonderful surprise when we heard the voice of the awards compère, Alan Dedicoat. The name did not mean anything to most of us, but the voice certainly did as it was the voice of the "Lottery" and "Strictly Come Dancing" announcer, very familiar to most people attending. The awards ceremony was wonderful, with music and full of razzmatazz, a true showbiz event. It was very pleasing to see the award winners so happily accepting their much deserved accolades.

 

I was most impressed by this awards ceremony and felt privileged to have been invited to take part.

My final duty for the day was to attend a meeting of the Treasures Committee, a newly formed committee, chaired by Liveryman Tom Christopherson, which takes responsibility for all of the Company's treasures. The venue for the meeting was the home of Past Master Roger Westbrook, a beautiful apartment in the environs of the Palace of Westminster and we are very grateful to Roger for his kindness in letting us use his home for this purpose.

There was a very full agenda and discussions were held about the arrangements for transporting the new centrepiece to different venues, the proposed acquisitions policy, the valuation of the various Masters and Wardens Medals (Jewells) and other items of value belonging to the Company, the replacement of the Renter Warden's Medal, the Company Shield at Ironbridge, the Silver Steward and other matters relating to the Company Treasures. Decisions on the way forward were agreed, to be put to the next meeting of the Court.

Our host, Past Master Roger Westbrook generously ended the meeting by opening a couple of excellent bottles of white wine which the committee members enjoyed whilst continuing discussions.

A very useful and productive meeting and a lovely way to end a fairly busy day.

Maureen and I were delighted to be invited to the fantastic Worldskills UK Live Event at the NEC Birmingham as guests of the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC). Chris Causer, the Chairman of the Craft Committee, and his wife Gilly were also invited guests of the NFRC.

The aim of WorldSkills UK is to improve the prestige of apprenticeships and technical education, to inspire more young people to consider these as career routes and get off to a better start in work and life. They achieve this by working with leading employers, FE Colleges, Independent Training Providers and Universities to enable young people to gain knowledge and skills in an extensive number of diverse career opportunities, including Engineering and Technology, Digital Business and Creative, Health, Hospitality and Lifestyle, and of course, the ever important Construction and Infrastructure Industries. WorldSkills UK LIVE is the nation’s largest skills and careers event that helps to shape the future of a new generation.


We met with representatives of the NFRC on the evening of 22nd November at the Birmingham Hilton Metropole. Our hosts were Bob Richardson (Head of Technical and Training Services), Simon Dixon (Training and Technical Manager) and Kevin Taylor, Senior Vice President. Also present were the all important sponsors of the event, other senior members and staff of the NFRC, plus our own Liveryman Andy Rowlands and his wife Diane. We were greeted warmly by everyone and got to know the staff and the workings of the organisation over dinner and drinks, which was very pleasant indeed. We were made to feel very much at home and everyone was incredibly friendly and welcoming. Huge thanks must go to Jo Lear who organised the event so efficiently and made sure that everything went to plan.


The next morning, following breakfast, we made our way to the NEC for the Worldskills Live event, and what we saw there took our breath away. It is a truly amazing event, showcasing some of our brightest and best young people who were proudly exhibiting their many and varied talents. At the heart of the exhibition are the National Finals of the Worldskills UK Competitions, where these amazing young people battle it out with the aim of being crowned the "UK's best" in their chosen skill. We visited many stands, but focused on our three trades of Bricklaying, Wall and Floor Tiling and Roof Slating and Tiling.

 

 


It was a great pleasure for me to be introduced to all the competitors for the Roof Slating and Tiling event and spend a little time with each to understand their career path and future aspirations. They were truly inspirational young people who will undoubtedly go far. I was also very pleased to hand a certificate of merit to each of them for taking part. Unfortunately only one of them can win the ultimate prize (which was going to be revealed later at a magnificent awards ceremony), but as far as I am concerned, they were all winners.

We left the NEC full of praise for the fantastic work of all the entrants and also full of admiration for the amazing work of the NFRC in supporting their trades and all the young aspiring craftsmen and craftswomen. We had a truly marvellous time and were very grateful to Bob Richardson and the team for their friendliness, warm welcome and hospitality.

My second appointment today was to attend the wonderful awards ceremony for Craft Fellowships given by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. The Chairman of the Craft Committee, Chris Causer, and I had been invited by Liveryman and Master Craftsman Emma Simpson, a prominent member of the Society. The awards ceremony was held in the Great Chamber at the Charterhouse, a magnificent venue, and so appropriate for the presentation of these fellowship awards.


The Craft Fellowship Awards were launched in 1986 by a group of like-minded people who had a passionate interest in traditional buildings and the range of skills and methods used in their conservation. The Fellowship is designed to meet the growing demand from those responsible for historic buildings for sensitively trained craftspeople that have a highly developed sympathy for, and wider understanding of, traditional buildings and their needs.

The large audience was welcomed by Lord Cormack, Chair of the William Morris Craft Fellowship Founding Committee and Matthew Slocombe, the Director.


Four awards were given out today to Stonemasons, Luke O'Hanlon and Sean Henderson, Bricklayer, Matthew Wilson and Carpenter/Joiner, Sam Matthams. These four young men had taken their craft to the next level by studying hard and working diligently with their tutors. They were shining examples of what can be achieved through careful nurturing and hard work. The awards were very well deserved indeed.

The guest speaker, Heather Newton, Head of Conservation at Canterbury Cathedral gave a very interesting talk about her career and the work she has been doing at Canterbury Cathedral for over 30 years.


The event concluded with a round of thanks by Lord Cormack and an invitation to partake in lunch with further networking. This was a very enjoyable event where Chris and I met many different professionals who are incredibly enthusiastic about the preservation of our ancient buildings. Long may they continue to work their magic to ensure that our buildings keep their magnificence.