The first of my three appointments today was a meeting at Mercers' Hall to discuss the proposal from the Pan Livery Group aimed at reducing reoffending.
The Chairman of the Craft Committee, Chris Causer, and I met with Past Master Mercer, Johnny Robertson, Past Master Musician, Tessa Brewer and Past Master Builders' Merchant, Stephen Turner to discuss the project and how the construction livery companies can help to progress implementation. The group outlined the aim of the project which was to build a programme to help offenders find and sustain work with a strong focus on housing and community integration. There will be a 12 month pilot facilitated through the charity Bounce Back, who are experienced in helping people leaving prison find and stay in work. The aim of the pilot is to engage with 300 individuals and achieve 40 people into sustained employment, with housing provided as necessary. The cost of the project is £320,000. Reoffending costs the UK economy £15 billion a year and the reoffending rate for those given 12 month prison sentences is 64.1%. This project is therefore seen as a useful addition to the strong tradition of philanthropic giving by the Livery.
The project is looking for Livery Companies to contribute in two ways, the first is by making a funding contribution directly, and just as importantly, by offering employment to appropriate candidates as they leave prison. The construction sector is being targeted because this is traditionally an area where ex-offenders find good employment and are most comfortable.
We gave the representatives assurance that the Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers would take the matter seriously and do all we can to bring this project to the attention of our Liverymen who own their own building, tiling and other related companies, and outline the benefits both for the offender, and for the company as well. Bounce Back are very happy to talk to individual prospective employers to outline the benefits of the project.
We thanked the three representatives for outlining this worthwhile project and all agreed to keep in touch over the forthcoming months.
It was a great pleasure for Maureen and I to attend the 43rd Brick Awards Event at the Royal Lancaster Hotel as guests of the Chief Executive of the Brick Development Association, Liveryman Keith Aldis. In the traditional way, we were welcomed by Keith and his wife Ally, with a glass of bubbly and were introduced to other notable members of the Association. It was great to see some of our fellow Tylers and Bricklayers at the Awards Ceremony, two of whom were judges for the event, Past Master David Cole-Adams and Liveryman Ian Wilson, Ian having been a past winner.
It was also a great surprise to be seated on the same table as the main host for the night, Gyles Brandreth, who was incredibly charming and friendly.
We dined on pan fried scallops with crabmeat, juniper marinated venison loin and spiced pear petit gateau, which were quite delicious, all accompanied by some fine wines. Following the coffee it was time for the big event to commence, and what an event it was! Full of razzmatazz, music, smoke machines and tinsel, it was a truly fun event. And Gyles Brandreth brought his own inimitable style and sense of humour to the show, on occasions bringing the house down with his wit and repartee.
There were 350 entries from all areas of the industry, reflecting the prestige with which these awards are held. The judges had the unenviable task of whittling this down to a shortlist of 100 from which they had to choose 15 categories of winners and one supreme winner.
Every single entry displayed exceptional craftsmanship and celebrated the wonder of clay brick, truly magnificent entries, as exemplified in the photo of the Cambridge Central Mosque below.
Following the Awards there was entertainment by the Riot Jazz Band, a Casino and the evening was rounded off with music by DJ Richie Staunch. It was a truly memorable evening which showcased the very best of UK craftsmanship.
Every year, on the "Friday next preceding the second Saturday in November", The Lord Mayor elect is admitted, i.e. he is sworn into office, at the Guildhall. The ceremony is known as Silent because, apart from the incoming Lord Mayor making his Declaration of Office, it is held in total silence.
The silent ceremony is a hugely popular event and as there are very limited places in the Great Hall, there is a ballot for the seats each year. This year the Tylers and Bricklayers were very fortunate to have won 6 seats in the ballot, a most unusual and happy occurrence. I was accompanied to the ceremony by my wife and consort, Maureen, the Upper Warden, the Renter Warden and his wife and the Clerk.
The ceremony is witnessed by the Aldermen, the City Officers, Masters of Livery Companies and hundreds of their fellow Liverymen. It is full of pageantry and is a great piece of theatre. Following the large procession into the Great Hall and the Declaration of Office by the incoming Lord Mayor, the new Lord Mayor dons his Tricorn hat and simultaneously the late Lord Mayor removes his, thus symbolising the transfer of power. Following this, the officers take it in turn to present their symbols of office; the Sceptre, Seal and Purse by the Chamberlain, the Sword by the Swordbearer, the Mace by the Common Cryer and Serjeant-at-Arms and the Collar of SS and Badge by the Swordbearer, each one taking three steps forward, making three reverences, then presenting the symbol.The new Lord Mayor then touches each of the symbols in turn and the officer takes the symbol and walks backwards, making three reverences each time again, essentially reversing the whole process.
This whole scene is very powerful as the gathered audience watch both the power and responsibility of the Lord Mayor being transferred in complete silence. The proceedings end with the procession in reverse order, with the new Lord Mayor leading the way.
On the following day the new Lord Mayor, preceded by a procession, travels to the Royal Courts of Justice at the Strand to swear allegiance to the Sovereign before the Justices of the High Court. This ceremony demands that the Lord Mayor “show” himself at the High Court and so it is named the Lord Mayor’s Show.
Today I was honoured to attend the Remembrance Service at St Paul's Cathedral with Maureen and the Renter Warden, Professor John Schofield. This is an occasion when the representatives of the Livery Companies are all gowned, with their medals fully on display, looking quite superb.
The Livery representation had been organised by the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers, for which we are all grateful. We took our designated places in the South Transept and waited in anticipation for the Lord Mayor and the procession to arrive, and when they did, we were not disappointed. Everyone looked magnificent, the Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress and the civic party, plus all the military personnel, the clergy, the choir and of course, the Standards.
There followed a wonderful Service of Remembrance with The Commemoration of the Fallen, led by the Dean, the Very Reverend Dr David Ison, with readings by a young Lance Corporal Fiona Osei-Karikari, and the new Lord Mayor, Alderman William Russell. The choir sang beautifully with the whole congregation joining in to sing some well loved hymns. The service ended with the very moving Kohima Epitaph and the sounding of the last post.
Following the service, the Livery representatives marched in formation to the Royal Exchange, for the laying of the wreaths by the Right Honourable The Lord Mayor and other representatives of many organisations. The Master Fruiterer laid the wreath on behalf of all the Livery Companies.
The morning ended with the march past and salute to the Lord Mayor. It was a magnificent sight to see the beautiful horses lead the way, followed by the Military Band of Guards and all the others in the procession. We felt honoured and privileged to have taken part in this wonderful ceremony.
Following the meetings of the Finance and Communications Committees I met up with Maureen and we made our way to the In and Out Naval and Military Club to join the Royal British Legion at a special event hosted by their new National President, Lt General James Bashall CB CBE.
We were warmly welcomed by staff of the Royal British Legion who gave us very interesting information about the work of the Legion, including showing us a poignant film about the work which moved everyone deeply. For almost 100 years the Legion has been a constant presence, championing the unique contribution of the Armed Forces community, providing life changing support and ensuring that the sacrifice and service of those who have gone before is honoured and remembered.
Lt General Bashall, who has had a distinguished 34 year career, gave a talk about the Legion's strategic objectives and then introduced an amazing war veteran who had been on the HMS Sheffield during the Falklands War. He gave an extremely moving speech about his time in the forces and how he had been chatting to many friends below decks just moments before the Argentinian Exocet missile hit the ship.killing them all. He talked very openly about the mental health problems he and his colleagues have suffered over the years, and was full of praise for the wonderful work of the Royal British Legion in helping so many people like himself.
Maureen and I felt very privileged to be at this important and significant event.