On Thursday 27th April, Company Members and their guests gathered in the recently redecorated splendour of Drapers Hall for the World Traders’ annual Election Dinner. We met to clothe two new Liverymen, welcome three new Freemen and celebrate the election of the Company Officers for 2023-24.
This year’s election by the Court of Assistants of the World Traders followed tradition with Senior Warden Michael Larsen elected to become Master and Junior Warden Lars Andersen elected Senior Warden. The news on the night therefore was the election of the Richard Burge to become Junior Warden. All these elected Company Officers will take up their term of office following the Installation Court on Monday 30th October 2023.
Welcoming Liverymen and Freemen
Proceedings began in the Court Room where, following the ritual reading of the official script by our Master and Senior Warden, and under the watchful eye of the Learned Clerk, Freemen Wil White and Anders Weide were clothed as Liverymen, permitting their full involvement in City democracy including electing the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs, and voting at the Company’s Common Hall (AGM).
Following a similar script read by the Senior and Junior Wardens, highlighting the personal undertaking they were agreeing to in support of the City and our Company, we also welcomed Adam Hadley, Pekka Halmet and Lauren Welch as Freemen of the Company. We look forward to seeing them at future events and wish them enjoyment of Livery Company fellowship with us.
After being received by the Master, Wardens and their Consorts, diners enjoyed a pre-dinner sparkling aperitif in the elegant Drawing Room, before heading into dinner in the magnificent Drapers’ Livery Hall.
Grace by the appropriately named Rabbi Helen Freeman reflected both the Master’s faith and the diversity of the Company. Before conversation was allowed to resume, the consorts of our Senior and Junior Wardens illuminated the grand design of this historic hall with spotlights, describing the architecture and ornate decorations, as well as the vibrant ceiling artwork depicting scenes from Shakespeare’s plays.
Once the palatial London home of Thomas Cromwell before his beheading in 1540, the building was bought from the Crown by the Drapers in 1543 and has been in their care ever since. It took five years to rebuild after the Great Fire of London in 1666, and the frontage was redesigned after another fire in 1772.
A wonderful dinner was followed by a welcome return to tradition, as the Loving Cup ceremony reappeared. In these more risk-averse post-Covid times, it was not filled with wine, but with chocolates.
There being no specific guidance, nor practice, on this new routine, the Learned Clerk and Beadle were called upon to oversee the at-times haphazard direction taken by the Loving Cups, with the number of chocolates in front of them evidence of those lucky enough to have had more than one cup pass their place-setting.
Having started with Emilie Laurence Brut Mousseux in the Drawing Room, we washed down our dinner with French Cote du Duras Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot from the Colchagua Valley in Chile, together with an advised glass of water (or two), before we concluded with coffee and Taylor’s LBV port.
During dinner, we announced the Sailor of the Year Award 2022 onboard the World Traders’ affiliated ship HMS DAUNTLESS. Seldom has this former naval officer heard such a broad and glowing citation for work within a sailor’s own department (weapons engineering), which included reducing the expected time to bring the ship to operational readiness by three months, alongside his efforts to support the general well-being of the Ship’s Company onboard such as ensuring they could properly celebrate Christmas.
A thoroughly well-deserved award and one the Master was delighted to present to Chief Petty Officer (Weapons Engineer) Weeks, who was accompanied by his wife as honoured guests of the Company.
A Heartwarming Surprise
After the Loyal Royal toasts and traditional singing of the Company grace, events took an unfamiliar turn. While music after dinner is usual, having The London Performing Academy of Music Ukrainian Ensemble playing is not. The students – all refugees – included a male pianist given special dispensation from military call-up to further his musical talents through study and help keep alive traditional Ukrainian culture.
The students had been studying at Ukrainian Conservatoires prior to the Russian invasion last year, and subsequently seeking refuge in London, supported by donations from amongst others the Worshipful Company of World Traders’ Charitable Trust. While their Mozart recital was a favourite of the Master, their talents and passion shone through most vividly in a traditional Ukrainian tune movingly played on piano, oboe, accordion and violin.
The speeches began with a light-hearted toast to our guests by Court Assistant Zoë Buckingham. Our guests included His Excellency Viljar Lubi Ambassador of the Republic of Estonia and his Consort, the Masters of the Arbitrators, Plaisterers, and Solicitors’ companies and the Deputy Master of the Marketors’ Company together with their Clerks.
The Response together with the Toast to The Worshipful Company of World Traders was given by Deputy, and former Sheriff, Chris Hayward, one year into an anticipated five-year term as Policy Chairman of The City of London Corporation. He began by kindly comparing the beauty of the venue to the warmth and hospitality of the World Traders. His “high steaks” joke raised a chuckle and led into the serious message of his speech. Quoting the Company’s motto and its origin from US President Thomas Jefferson’s Inaugural Address in March 1801 imploring his fellow citizens to show courage and confidence in their nation and principles, Chris urged us all to show the same to our city: to do what we believe is right.
The Corporation see international competition from other global cities and climate change as the biggest threats to the City of London’s position as the leading global centre for finance and services. While continuing to believe that success will come through being open, innovative and sustainable, the realities of post-Covid working practices are forcing significant change on the City.
The Corporation is seeking to “Reimagine the Square Mile” as a place for workers, visitors and residents, and investing £2.5 million in new cultural partnerships to create Destination City. Building upon its financial heritage, The Corporation will seek to create an enduring transformation of the City as we know it, becoming as world-renowned for arts and culture as financial services.
While it is early days, Chris trusted this plan would have the support of World Traders. His vision is for the City to continue to be best-in-class internationally for the rest of this decade and beyond. It would not be easy, but by working together as the Livery, Corporation, business and government, he is optimistic of success. He reminded us that with an economic scale of £278 billion, the City represents 12% of the UK economy and 13% of UK tax revenue.
Before finishing with a lighter self-depreciating tale ahead of toasting the Company, he remarked on how much he is looking forward to working on this project with the next Lord Mayor who, subject to election, will be the first to call the Worshipful Company of World Traders his mother company.
Words From the Master
In his Response and thanks, the Master highlighted Chris’s existing legacy to The City. Remarking on how in his previous role, Chris had facilitated the building of iconic and now nicknamed skyscrapers, while preserving the City’s historic heritage views. This could clearly be seen by looking over the City from the south of London Bridge.
Reaching the half-way point of his year of office, the Master mentioned some recent highlights: marking the 600th Anniversary of the death of Sir Richard Whittington (Dick Whittington of pantomime fame), the International Women’s Day heath-focused panel sessions at Goodenough College, the World of Work event for Year 10 students ably supported by our Journeymen, and services at religious venues across the City including St Paul’s. He was very much looking forward to joining fellow Livery Masters at the Coronation Garden Party, reminding us all of Samuel Johnson’s wise words: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”
Looking at forthcoming events for the Company, the Master reminded Members that this year’s Tacitus Lecture is right around the corner. Speaker Rory Stewart OBE will be lecturing on “Populism, Poverty and Hope in the 21st Century” explaining his firm belief that humanity has the power to end extreme poverty this century.
Just back from a recce to Estonia, the Master was very much looking forward to heading back with forty-six World Traders in June. In thanking his guests, the Master mentioned how much his wife Jill was enjoying her role as Consort and that she had had more Livery-related engagements in February than he had! He concluded, as is customary, by inviting us all for a stirrup cup.
This traditional parting libation was a fitting end to a most marvellous gala evening, which despite being a regular annual “great event” for the Company, had been made a uniquely personal and memorable evening for us all, reflecting our Masters’ theme of “the Richness of World Trade”, due to the hard work of so many working behind the scenes for our enjoyment. Although for some, there proved to be an extra richness of a Scotch nature located around the corner on our way home.