Charity, the North Star of the Livery Companies

The City's 110 livery companies are a diverse bunch of organisations and it is fair to say that there is not likely to be much in the way of occupational or professional overlap between the Air Pilots and the Wax Chandlers, but there is one aspect of the life of the livery that is shared by every company and that is their ethos of charitable giving.

Charity is the North Star of the livery and every company is involved in philanthropic activity to a lesser or greater extent as its corporate means, and the means of its membership, permits. A popular internet encyclopaediadescribes several of the livery companies as having lost their connection with trade and transformed in to charitable bodies. This suggests that the livery companies have belatedly become involved with charity, whereas the charitable aspect of their activities has been evident since the earliest times. Moreover most livery companies are still intimately connected with their trade.

While this article focusses on the m…

Please pass the Port

Anyone who has attended a City of London civic or Livery Company banquet will be familiar with the numerous toasts that follow after the meal and before the speeches. These toasts are usually taken with Port wine, or occasionally Madeira.

Quite when port became the wine of choice for toasts is unclear, but the custom is as well entrenched in the City as it is in the ward rooms and messes of HM Armed Forces, at Oxbridge Colleges, Masonic dinners and elsewhere. Port wine was originally, and very specifically, developed for the English palette and nowhere is it more popular than in Britain.

First a little history

The history of Port wine is inextricably linked with Britain's connection to Portugal and the numerous British families who developed the Douro wine region inland from Porto. Today names such as Croft, Churchill, Dow, Graham, Taylor, Sandeman, Symington and Warre are well known brands of port. While much consolidation has occurred in the wine trade, the British representation…

Social Media Engagement: The case for Livery Companies to embrace root and branch change in communication

The topic of improved communications within and about the Livery has recently been one of much discussion among the Livery Companies, especially through the Pan-Livery initiative. The Lord Mayor raised the issue in his Address to the Masters and Clerks at Mansion House on 22nd November 2017.

In his speech the Lord Mayor said that the view of the Livery is: 'at best unknown, at worse unfair'. In my view the Livery does far too little to communicate its purpose, values and impact. What is does is defuse, lacking coordination and often inward looking.

This desire for better, or as the Lord Mayor put it in his address 'radical' communication, of the work of the Livery Companies is nothing new, but radical? Let's see...

Where My Lord Mayor was the live Periscope broadcast of the Address, or the Tweet stream, or the Facebook posting? Can I watch it on YouTube or follow up the discussion in a blog?

To be fair, radical is not a word that sits naturally or comfortably with …

The City of London and Livery Company links with Education

The City of London and its Livery Companies have been involved in education and occupational training for many centuries, certainly long before the government took on the responsibility of providing free universal education in the United Kingdom with the advent of the first government funded schools in 1870.

Outwith the City, the Livery Companies, and other privately funded schools, only the Church of England has a longer history of involvement in education from elementary schooling through to university. Indeed where longevity is concerned it would be difficult to better the Church of England's record of involvement with education, the King's School in Canterbury is held to be England's oldest founded in 597AD and still going strong.

The Livery Companies and the City of London Corporation continue to support education in the broadest sense, from schooling to apprenticeships, from professional development to academic bursaries and postgraduate research. The array of ways i…

A triptych of radio interviews on the City of London for QuayFM

One of the consequences of public speaking on City of London and Livery Company topics is that once you've started the requests keep coming in, often from new and unexpected angles. The first talk I gave on the government of the City of London was at Cambridge University in 2012, since then I've spoken at long series of events in the City and elsewhere.

In June of this year I received an out of the blue request to be co-interviewed with David Barrett, Clerk to the Makers of Playing Cards, by QuayFM which broadcasts from the island of Alderney in the Channel Islands. QuayFm run a regular series of specialist subject interviews that are broadcast across the Channel Islands and later made available online. The audience for QuayFM spans the Channels Islands and their online recordings are available world-wide.

In the end David Barrett and I recorded separate interviews, exploring the City and its Livery Companies from different angles. It was only after my interview was completed …

The traditions of the City of London and its Livery Companies

The traditions of the City of London and its Livery Companies rival those of the Royal Household for their displays of pageantry and public spectacle, blending of the past with the present and sense of majesty that no other city can rival. The fact that more troops of the Crown participate in the annual Lord Mayor's Show than parade in the Sovereign's annual birthday parade (Trooping the Colour) illustrates the scale of the City's ability to put on a show. In fact the very word show when taken to mean a public spectacle derives from the requirement that the City's elected chief magistrate 'show himself' to the Monarch or his justices and swear allegiance, hence the Lord Mayor's Show.

The early 20th century antiquarian and author Dr George Williamson captured the panoply of City ceremonial in Curious Survivals, a book presented to Queen Mary and now in the Royal Collection. The opening chapter of his comprehensive work on British customs and traditions reads…