The Clerk's Blog
Members may be interested to know that the Company has not been archiving minutes of the Court Meeting since February 2005 when my predecessor stopped the process to investigate the possibility of modernising it. Prior to this point we had been using a calligrapher to transcribe the minutes into beautiful vellum-bound books which go back continuously to 1571.
I have been looking into this and have concluded that we should re-start the process and catch up on the backlog. The problem with printing the minutes is that laser-printer and ink-jet inks are only guaranteed for 70 years and we need a solution which will continue a 400+ year old tradition for another 400 years! At last week's Master & Wardens' Meeting and at today's Court Meeting, my conclusion was endorsed and I plan to start catching up the backlog starting next month.
The trouble is that the process isn't cheap. A blank book, that will cover around 8 years of minutes, will cost around £1,700 and the transcription costs £30 a page. I am sure that the Company can cover the costs of transcribing the minutes going forward but the backlog will cost around £10,000 and this is a lot to swallow.
I therefore wonder whether there are any members out there who might be interested in helping cover the costs of the backlog. Such members will be acknowledged in the Court minutes with a special mention that together they subscribed to complete the exercise. I know that the new Master will be mentioning this when he writes to everyone in the autumn but I thought that I might flag up the request in this blog to see if there are any generous donors out there. If you are interested in donating towards the cost of this work, which is vital to the continuous recording of our Company's history, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you in anticipation.
The growing dominance of digital printing was emphasised by Francois Martin, Marketing Director for Hewlett Packard Graphics Business Solutions in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, when he spoke at the Digital Media Group meeting on 12 July.
This was another great DMG event, showing once again how the DMG is keeping the Company at the cutting edge of new media technology. You can read much more about the event on the DMG website by clicking here.
Once again I would like to thank Ian Bennett and his team, including Ian Ames-White from HP, for organising a successful and enjoyable event.
Tom Hempenstall has pointed out an interesting programme on BBC Radio 4 which members may care to tune into or record on their DAB radios.
At 11.30 am on Thursday, 22 July (FM only) there is a programme in which Ben Schott charts the history of almanacs published in the 16th and 17th centuries including Old Moore's Almanack which was published by the Stationers' Company. More details about the programme are available here.
I can't promise you that the Stationers'Company will get a mention but this might be an interesting programme to listen to anyway. I will try to catch it myself. However of any of you do hear it, please let me know whether we get a mention or not.
At the start of this new Company year, I thought that members would like details of our new Honorary Almoner.
John Peters has very kindly agreed to take over from Gerald Hill. He can be contacted by phone on 01179 628622 or by email at email@example.com.
Please contact John if you are aware of any member in need who might benefit from a grant from the Welfare Fund. More details are available from the Stationers' Foundation pages of the website which you can access here.
I am sure that you will all join with me in wishing John the very best of success in his new role. This is also a good opportunity for me to publicly thank Gerald for the wonderful work that he has done as Honorary Almoner over the past three years. Gerald will be a very hard act to follow but I know that John will do this with aplomb.
Some fantastic news!
Penny Smith, the charismatic and sometimes controversial presenter of GMTV's Breakfast Show, has agreed to be our Principal Speaker at this year's Livery Autumn Dinner to be held on the evening of Wednesday, 15 September.
Penny has been a journalist for over 30 years but she shot to fame as a newsreader for Sky News before 17 years as a presenter for GMTV. Voted in the top 100 sexiest women in the world, Penny is well known as a lively and amusing speaker with strong views on the British media industry. Since leaving GMTV earlier this month, Penny continues to write for national newspapers and magazines and she is working on her third novel.
I am really pleased that we have found a high-profile and exciting speaker for our dinner this autumn and I am desperately keen to make sure that we have a capacity audience to hear her. Please book places for yourself, your spouse and your friends now. We can't get more than 210 into the Hall and, as this is bound to be a wonderful evening, I wouldn't want you to be disappointed.
I got back from a dinner in Oxford early this morning to find a fire engine outside the Hall and discovered to my horror that we had suffered a serious fire in the Hall yesterday evening!
It happened at around 8.15 pm during a dinner of the Worshipful Company of Musicians. Just after the main course was served, the waitresses noticed smoke billowing out from under the right-hand chiffoniere in the Henry Ford screen under the minstrels' gallery. Ron and Paul were very quick to evacuate the 180 guests and 30 or so serving staff and to call the fire brigade. Thankfully the evacuation occurred smoothly and no one was injured in any way. Ron and Paul made some progress fighting the fire themselves before the fire brigade arrived. However the fire got hold of the old timbers in the screen and it took some effort by the firemen to get it extinguished. At one point the flames were floor to ceiling high and it looked like the whole Hall might be lost. However the fire was put out and the damage, although extensive, is limited to the south-west corner of the Hall. The fire was caused by an electrical fault in the optical fibre lighting to the chiffoniere.
I have spent the rest of today sorting out the mess with Ron, Mark Stott, our Surveyor, the Loss adjustor and Susana, our Commercial Manager. Thankfully the structural damage is limited to the screen although there is very unsightly scorching to the wall and ceiling of the Hall in that corner and a lot of smoke contamination. It is going to take some complex repairing. My priority is to minimise the disruption of the damage and subsequent repairs to Company events and commercial bookings.
My plan has three phases. The first is immediate cleaning and rendering the Hall commercially usable and I aim to complete this by the middle of next week. We have employed the services of a professional smoke damage clean-up company and they start work at 8 am tomorrow. It may also involve screening off the south end of the Hall to hide the damage. The second stage is repair work that can be done during the August close-down. This will involve a complete clean of the Hall walls and ceiling and the removal of the right-hand portion of the screen for restoration work and its replacement with a temporary structure. If we are lucky it may also include a complete redecoration of the Hall although I fear there may be no time for this. The third and final stage will take place in the August close-down next year. This will involve the re-instatement of restored screen and complete redecoration if there is no time for this in stage two.
We will inevitably lose some commercial bookings but I am confident that these will be manageable and the loss will, of course, be insured.
The accident is obviously a tragedy and it is so sad that the 350-year-old screen, which survived the blitz, should have fallen foul of 21st Century electrics! All of us here on the staff are devastated but we are determined to move forward with sorting things out and I am certain that no one is to blame for what was a simple accident. To put things in perspective, it could have been a lot worse and the main blessing is that no one was injured; the 18-month wait to get things put right will be a negligible blip in the 600-year history of our Company. I am also touched my the many messages of support and offers of help from other Livery Companies.
Lastly I would like to pay tribute to Ron, Paul, Sam and Life's Kitchen, the caterers, for ensuring that this terrible incident caused no injury or harm to our guests.
Yesterday evening I attended, along with Rod Kirwan, a seminar on copyright organised by the British Black Music organisation. It was a somewhat surreal experience sitting at the University of Westminster surrounded by black musicians and students!! For aficienados, there was a singer from BoneyM in the audience! However to my delight, the Stationers' Company got a special mention as the Chairman discussed the history of copyright in the UK and my presence at the event was recognised and welcomed.
What was interesting, and cheering, was that almost everyone there (mainly black musicians) strongly supported the need to stop online piracy. I had somewhat assumed that musicians had largely abandoned the fight to prevent the illegal downloading of music and were concentrating on earning money through live performance. But this certainly wasn't the case yesterday. There were some interesting ideas on how the problem might be addressed and genuine enthusiasm for the responsibilities placed on ISPs in the recent Digital Economy Act. Only two people spoke out for open access (the organiser of the Notting Hill Carnival was one!), but the rest all saw the need to protect the commercial needs of the creative industries.
It was a very enlightening evening.
Another really busy day!
Master and Wardens' Committee in the morning with five new Freemen admitted to the Company and some useful discussion on the Future of the Company Archives. The Upper Warden reported on the outcome of the deliberations of his small group looking into this. The conclusion is that the Company should keep the Archives here but only if we can make better use of them and look after them properly. This is good news and I am sure that we can meet the condition imposed. To do so we have two things to do. The first is to get them fully digitalised and available online for researchers to properly use the unique historical information contained within them. We should be able to raise revenue from such online access and thus extend the hours of our own archivist. The second is to find a better location for them and the Library. This will be part of a larger project to undertake a complete review of how we use all the space in the Hall and its related buildings. And ultimately it will rely on our ability to raise funds to cover the associated building costs.
This was followed by the Awards and Committees Lunch with just under 60 people present. It is the Company's opportunity to thank everyone who has served on a committee and helped the Company over the past year. I would like to add my own thanks to the Master's. Without the massive support the Company gets from its members we wouldn't be able to do a tenth of what we achieve. The Master also presented awards to students on graphic communications courses.
Straight after lunch I dashed to a meeting of the Industry Group where plans for future Industry Group and Digital Media Group meetings were discussed. There were lots of ideas but, as always, we welcome input from members so, if you have any suggestions for speakers and subjects for events, please let me know!
The day finished with the Summer Forum. The theme was Packaging and the Environment. This was a highly appropriate theme for the final month of a Master with a distinguished career in packaging but it was also a slightly esoteric one and I had been very nervous that we wouldn't attract enough attendees to make the event a success. In the end my worries proved unfounded: with 78 people present, the Court Room was full and we had a very lively and informative discussion. Peter Day was, as always, faultless as Chairman and Dick Searle, Jane Bickerstaff and Sonia Raja (Head of Packaging at Tescos) made excellent presentations. There was a forest of hands throughout the question time. I would like to thank all four of them but most of all Mike Hancock who organised the whole event. All in all, another Stationers' triumph!
I thought that I would share with you an email I received this morning. It reads as follows:
My wife and and I were sitting opposite a woman who has had a tough time with cancer and has difficulty in eating. I asked Sue of the catering staff if it was possible for the woman's food to be pureed so that it was more digestible. Sue immediately dealt with the situation, was most considerate and was a great credit to the Company. The best tribute to her was that the person concerned was able to enjoy the meal which she finished completely.
This makes me so proud to be Clerk of this great Company and I would like to personally thank Sue Carson and all the Catering staff for giving us such wonderful and kind service. I am very lucky to have such a good team behind me.
The next time you see Sue, please take the opportunity to thank her for 'going the extra mile'.
What a busy day! A Court Meeting at 9.30am, followed immediately by the Richard Johnson Service at St Bride's, then the Members' Lunch and finally a meeting of the RNIB Gala Event Organising Committee!
I won't say anything here about the Court Meeting as I don't want to steal Deborah Akers's thunder and I am sure that she will post a report on the meeting on her blog over the next few days.
I was pleased with the lunch despite my concerns at having to extend it into the Stock Room as well as the Hall. It wasn't an easy decision: the event was so popular that we reached the maximum number for the Hall some weeks ago and thus risked disappointing a large number of applicants. However by using the Stock Room we were able to avoid turning anyone away. That said, I am aware that those guests seated in the Stock Room may have felt slightly 'hard done by' and I would welcome feedback on the subject. I know that the limitations of the current AV system made it slightly hard for those in the Stock Room to hear the speeches. At least this will be addressed when we completely replace the AV system this August. It would be useful to know what members think in case we are faced with a similar dilemma the next time a lunch proves very popular.
On the RNIB Gala Dinner, arrangements are going well but my major concern is that the bidding on the 'Auction of Dreams' isn't as busy as we would have hoped. There are some fantastic prizes to be won and, at current bid levels, some unbelievable bargains to be had; all in a very good cause. So please visit the auction website (by clicking here) and place some bids. The process is very simple and it is a great opportunity to make someone's dream come true!