The Clerk's Blog
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!
It is with great sadness that I write to report the death of Eric Buckley. I know that many members like me will remember Eric fondly as an active member of this Company and of the Wynkyn de Worde Society. I also knew him well in Oxford where he was the penultimate 'Printer to the University'. He came to his role at OUP from Pergamon Press.
Eric's funeral is at 3 pm on Friday, 4 June in the St John's Chapel at Oxford Crematorium. Eric's son, Clive, has said that all Stationers are most welcome. Sadly I cannot attend but I would be very grateful if some members, perhaps those who live close to Oxford, could attend and represent the Company. If you are able to go, perhaps you could let me know.
If you wish to write to Clive, his address is Clover Cottage, Hazler Road, Church Stretton, Shropshire SY6 7AF. Or you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clive has said that it will be family flowers only but donations may be made in memory of Eric to Helen & Douglas House Hospice, 14A Magdalen Road, Oxford OX4 1RW.
I was delighted that the Court were able to say their own 'thank you' to Denzil at the Court Spring Dinner on 18 May. The evening was made particularly special by the presence of not just Denzil and his partner, Caroline Whitlock, as our guests of honour but of his daughter, Gemma, and his son, Jasper, who were 'surprise' guests. Denzil had no idea that either were coming, particularly as Jasper had flown in from Austria especially for the occasion. I managed to get a photo of all four of them with the Master and I have put this on the Latest News page which you can access here.
At the dinner, the Master presented Denzil with an Edwardian silver bowl inscribed with the Company's crest and our thanks to Denzil for 14 magnificent years of service as Clerk. The bowl was purchased from Alistair Dickenson, who does a wonderful job looking after all our silver purchases and repairs, from money very kindly donated by members of the Company. My thanks go to everyone who did this.
It was a great evening and Denzil seemed genuinely pleased with his present and the surprise at finding his family amongst the guests. After dinner, we were richly entertained by Charlotte Kelly, a visually-impaired soul singer, whom the Master had come across through his work with the RNIB. As ever the office staff did a great job organising the evening, the catering staff produced a lovely dinner and the Hall staff made everything run like clockwork.