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April/May 2024

Captain’s log, stardate 2024 nearing the end of an amazing intergalactic journey through the City cosmos…..

Sorry, dear readers, I was getting carried away with a Star Trek analogy (for those of you who remember that television Sci-Fi series); but it has been quite an incredible experience and an enormous privilege to be Master Arts Scholar where, on occasions, two worlds happily collide.

One such event occurred early in April in Windsor. The Arts Scholars support the cadets of the Thames Valley Wing who were recently reorganised following a merger with other cadet units. As a result, they commissioned new colours from the College of Arms and on 7 April 2024 a rarely held service was planned for presentation of the new colours at Windsor Parish Church. The occasion was entitled The Standing up and Celebration of The New Thames Valley Wing Air Training Corps. I had already been invited as Master Arts Scholar, as had Tom Christopherson. As the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire was unable to attend, I was called upon the represent His Majesty the King as Vice Lord Lieutenant.

Tom Christopherson, myself and Revd Bill Beaver with cadets at the presentation of new Colours to the Thames Valley Wing at Windsor

Arts Scholar, the Revd Dr W Beaver, is also Deputy Wing Chaplain and Chaplain 2121 (Abingdon) Squadron. He was the driving force behind obtaining the new colours of the Thames Valley Wing and Bill was delighted to invite me to present the colours at the service combining my two roles of Vice Lord Lieutenant and Master Arts Scholar. It was with great pride that I donned the uniform of Vice Lord Lieutenant together with the badge of Master Arts Scholar. Bill had written some wonderful words for the ceremony and I was required to say:

“As the authorised envoy of the Royal Air Force Inspector of Badges, the Vice Lord Lieutenant of the Royal County of Berkshire and Master of the Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars, I must ask you, the Cadets of Thames Valley Wing, to confirm that you will display this badge as appropriate, symbolising, as it does, the combined effort and ambition of all the cadets, staff, Civilian Committees and parents, acknowledging a proud past, a challenging today and a successful future.”

This was a very proud and moving moment and certainly one of the highlights of my year.


The splendid new colours of the Thames Valley Wing presented on 7 April 2024

9 April: I was guest of the Worshipful Company Actuaries at a lunch at Leathersellers’ Hall in St Helens Place. The lunch was congenial with a fascinating speaker, the Rt Hon Sir Stephen O’Brien whose starry career included a senior role in the UN. The venue was quite incredible. While the Leather Sellers Company is 600 years old, the hall was completed in 2018 and is light and airy with a wonderful array of modern works of art.

10 April: this day combined a meeting of the Investment Advisory Committee, expertly chaired by Bill Hiscocks, and the Eva Weininger lecture. There was packed audience at the delightful Waterman’s Hall and the brilliant speaker was Caroline de Guitaut who is Surveyor of the Kings Works of Art. Caroline gave us a breathtaking tour of how the royal collection (with over 700,000 works of art) had evolved under the reign of Her Majesty the late Queen Elizabeth II. Afterwards we enjoyed a champagne reception with Arts Scholars avidly discussing the wonders of the Royal Collection.

With Caroline de Guitaut at the Eva Weininger lecture

16 April: Joanna enjoyed a visit to Painter Stainers Hall where consorts were instructed in figural drawing. Joanna’s sketch of a flamenco dancer is reproduced here – a much better drawing than I could achieve!

Joanna’s sketch of a dancer drawn at Painter Stainers’ Hall

That same day, in the evening, I had a close encounter with the shadowy world of the secret intelligence services. I was the guest of the Worshipful Company of Security Professionals at Butchers’ Hall where the speaker was none other the Director General of MI5, Ken McCallum. It was a wonderfully forthright presentation and was followed by questions which were answered very openly. It was, of course, conducted under Chatham House rules so I cannot possibly divulge what was discussed (besides which there were several men present who noted our names and whose suit jackets bulged with items that were not just wallets). As soon as you have read this paragraph I must ask you to delete it and erase it from your memory.

18 April: I joined the very long lunchtime queue to enter Guildhall for the Big Curry Lunch which raises money for the Army Benevolent Fund. I quickly encountered fellow Arts Scholars Sonya Zuckerman and Alan Cook – the latter hosting a reception for the City Livery Club. I was pleased to see Andrew Marsden again, former City Sheriff who had presided with such fun and wit over the sentencing of Livery Masters at the Jailed and Bailed charity event last year.

I had an enjoyable lunch with Alderman Alison Gowman, who does so much for the City, and then toured the stalls of livery companies selling their wares. I bought a pullover from the Framework Knitters (which features in the Roman photo below) and a bowl from the Turners.

Having just bought a pewter bowl from Marc Meltonville, Arts Scholar and Pewterer, I was walking to the next stall when I heard my name being called – I turned to see Past Master Arts Scholar Loyd Grossman who was promoting his latest book. At that moment Master Pewterer and Arts Scholar Wendy Joseph appeared and the snap of three Arts Scholars was happily captured for this blog. I willingly acquired a further copy of Loyd’s excellent book, “An Elephant in Rome: Bernini, the Pope and the Making of the Eternal City.”

Loyd Grossman, HH Wendy Joseph and me at the Big Curry Lunch

19 April: Joanna and I flew to Vienna to take up the prize Joanna had won at the Arts Scholars auction. We had a wonderful tour of this fabulous city and visited several of its outstanding museums including the Kunsthistoriches Museum where we met up with my friend Klaus Vondrovec who is Director of the Vienna Coin Cabinet. We also visited the Roman city of Carnuntum, 45 kms away where they have reconstructed several buildings of the Roman city complete with furniture and a working hypocaust system. A great weekend!

Recline and sprawl: The Master enjoying his visit to Carnumtum near Vienna

26 April: Joanna and I were honoured to be invited to David Needham’s birthday lunch at the Cavalry and Guards Club (whisper it softly, as he doesn’t like to be reminded but, incredibly, David is now a nonagenarian). The occasion was utterly delightful with guests, of course, being mainly family, including the wonderful Celia Imrie, with some privileged Arts Scholars and all of us full of admiration and affection for one of the most kindly and courteous men I have ever encountered.

27 April: I travelled to the Edward Brookes Barracks near Abingdon in the depths of Oxfordshire to a presentation evening for the Thames Valley Wing. I presented Squadron Leader Melanie Kendall-Reid with the Arts Scholars Best Adult Volunteer Award 2023/2024. Bill Beaver was presented with the award of the Commandant Air Cadets Certificate for Meritorious Service. In addition, as Master, I have a discretionary award of £1,000 to present to the charity of my choice and I decided to give this money to the Thames Valley Wing, having heard about the severe cuts in their funding. They were delighted.

Presenting the Best Adult Volunteer Award to Melanie Kendall-Reid of the Thames Valley Wing

30 April: the Arts Scholars were at the Old Bailey for a lecture on Elizabeth Fry given by Arts Scholar Magdalen Evans. We were honoured to be in Number 1 Court and the lecture gave a brilliant insight into the extraordinary life of Elizabeth Fry, whose statue stand in the hall. We were joined by the Recorder of the City of London and by Sir William and Hilary Russell – Lady Russell now chairs the Sheriffs and Recorder Fund which has supported London’s prison leavers since 1808. After the lecture we had a reception in the spectacular marbled hallway and Neil Redcliffe, who had helped organise the event, gave an informative speech on the history of the Old Bailey. It was wonderful to see so many Arts Scholars at this event and everyone enjoyed being together in this very special City venue.

1 May: I took Master Painter Stainer, Ivor Macklin to lunch with Roy Sully. We had a positive discussion about how the two companies might work more closely together.

2 May: I was a guest of the Worshipful Company of Girdlers at Girdlers Hall. To my delight, another guest of the Master, Nigel Salisbury, was Gemma Murray of the Royal School of Needlework, who had created the wonderful embroidered ribbon for the Master Arts Scholars badge. Gemma had been commissioned by the Girdlers to create nothing less than the Stole Royal and Girdle for His Majesty’s Coronation and was being made a member of the Girdlers’ Company.

3 May: my final Arts Scholars Fish and Chip lunch, as Master, at the City University Club. The founder of these lunches, David Needham attended, as did Magdalen Evans, our lecturer at the Old Bailey along with prospective members. I must say, the Fish & Chip Lunch is now a delightful Art Scholars institution and a wonderful way to bring together established and future members.

7 May: this week saw the final set of committee meetings as Master. The Past Masters Committee and the Events Committee went very smoothly indeed.

Dinner that evening was at Pewterers Hall with Alan Cook, our Clerk. This was a joyous occasion from start to finish. There was a select group of Masters and Clerks, all of whom I had got to know over the last year and Wendy Joseph made us all vey welcome indeed. The evening floated by in a haze of bonhomie and delight. A really enjoyable livery dinner in my final weeks as Master.

8 May: in between the Finance and General Purposes Committee and the Membership Committee the Clerk and I enjoyed a convivial lunch at the City of London Club with Nigel Israel, a one man institution. Nigel is singlehandedly responsible for introducing me to the Arts Scholars in 2009 so I always say he is to blame for everything! (Nigel tells me, with a grin, that he has very broad shoulders).

9 May: to Goldsmiths Hall with the Clerk for the Trial of the Pyx. This is a wonderful and very ancient ceremony which still has validity in Law. Essentially, every year, a jury of goldsmiths tests the coin of realm for quality and accuracy. The word pyx derives from the Latin Pyxis, or the box in which the coins are carried. Following the testing of the coins, a verdict of the testing is delivered at Goldsmiths Hall by the Jury and in attendance are the Kings Remembrancer, complete with tricorn hat over his wig, and the Economic Secretary to the Treasury representing the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Following the verdict we have lunch in the splendour of Goldsmiths Hall. To my delight I was seated next to Simon Gray, the new Clerk to Clockmakers who was a colleague at IMRO many moons ago.

That evening, I attended a reception at Mercers’ Hall where there were many familiar and friendly faces of Masters from other companies. Katie Lane, the Consort of the Master Mercer, sought me out as she had heard about the splendour of the Arts Scholars ribbon created by the Royal School of Needlework. I am pleased to say the ribbon lived up to her expectations. Lucy Salisbury, the Consort of the Master Girdler told me how much she was looking forward to seeing Joanna at next week’s lunch for Consorts at Girdlers’ Hall.

My diary remains full with invitations still coming in for my last few weeks as Master but, for the time being, I will sign off here and look forward to seeing many Arts Scholars at Roy Sully’s installation as Master at Apothecaries Hall on 30th May; I know the Company will be in very good hands. I hope that, through this blog, you may have gained at least a flavour of the extraordinary journey through my year as Master of our wonderful company – the Worshipful Company Arts Scholars which is truly a shining light in the City Livery firmament. Having consulted the augurers, I predict that the planets are aligning to usher in a Golden Age for our still young but flourishing Company.

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Disclaimer: the views and opinions expressed by the author of this blog post do not necessarily reflect those of the Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars or its members.

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