This has been a most extraordinary year and Sue and I want to acknowledge immediately the honour and privilege of being Master and Mistress of a Company which has a special place in our hearts.
The 2011 Annual Banquet
At Common Hall in July 2010, I emphasised that music was to be a dominant theme of the year and that music would be used to assist in raising charitable funds to help others in the true spirit of our livery movement.
Three special events make the case.The Annual Banquet was, I think, one of those wonderful evenings that will be remembered for its individuality and fun. This year we deliberately made it the antithesis of a traditional City Banquet -
a sultry sax serenaded us as we arrived and the Mistress’s newly formed ‘Plaisterers’ Jazz Band’ had people dancing in the aisles and clapping in quick tempo. Has a ‘Top Table’ entered before to “When the saints go marching in”? I think not; do I detect the Clerk’s hand in that? We had magical playing that evening by Marisa Gupta, our Bursary student at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama who introduced us to the Spanish composer, Mompou. This year the Banquet was trumped by the Ball. It was a very different and special occasion and was unusually, not held in the Hall but at the Athenaeum, in Pall Mall. The evening was everything the Mistress, the Learned Clerk and I had hoped for.
The Royal Marines Dance Band was extraordinary but few could have expected that we would have had such wines and such a menu and listened to what was, without doubt, the best speech I have heard at a city event. For this reason, uniquely, the Commandant-General’s speech will be printed elsewhere in this Yearbook. How fantastic that this Company has raised over £13,000 to date with more still coming in. This money will be used directly by the Commandant-General to help Royal Marines suffering from combat stress. He told me that he felt honoured by the Plaisterers.
The ‘Masters Outing’ was to the Charterhouse, near the Barbican. The Master of Charterhouse was an old tutor of mine and I knew him to be an excellent teacher and hence a perfect guide! He took us through each epoch of this unique collection of buildings and a choir entertained us with music pertinent to each room and the political situation of the period. The sound of sacred music in candle-lit cellars leading to the chapel was magical.
The Royal Wedding forced the cancellation of the jazz evening for BEAT- the Eating Disorders charity - which was the other Master’s Charity. I am delighted, however, that BEAT have taken up our offer of the Hall in November for a major event in the presence of the Lord Mayor. To date, 12 tables have been taken and they are hoping to raise many thousands of pounds. Again further success for our charitable efforts.
The solo highlight of our music this year, however, was probably Madeleine Pierard a soprano who Sue and I have known for some time and who came to us directly from the Royal Opera House where she is part of their ‘young artists’ scheme. She is well into an illustrious solo career and gave us a spine-tingling professional performance at our Autumn Dinner at which Hilary, our Clerk Emeritus, received her retiring gift from the Livery. It was all a big surprise to Hilary and she was (almost) speechless! It was such a good evening and the Clerk was still pushing people out of the door at midnight- a problem which has continued throughout the year, so we must be doing something right!
The Banquet and the Masters and Clerks Dinner were at virtual capacity but the big surprise was the Spring Livery Dinner. Normally problematic, numbers were much better than expected perhaps because the definition
of a guest was relaxed and many interpreted this as an opportunity to bring a partner or spouse. Again a Jazz Duo entertained us.
Sir David Clementi, Sir Laurie Magnus Bt, Baroness Manningham-Buller, Chris Humphries CBE and Major-General Buster Howes were our principal guests during my year. They fulfilled the brief the Clerk and I gave them; we asked them not to pull punches and not be afraid to mix pleasure with controversy because we thought this makes for a good evening. At the Banquet, Baroness Manningham-Buller - former Director of MI5 - was very frank. Our speakers looked critically at respectively, the financial and economic crises, security issues both within the UK and abroad, the vital need for trade apprenticeships in a modern economy and the needs of maimed or broken soldiers. True thinking topics!
In all we entertained representatives of 52 other Livery Companies at our January Dinner including four from the ‘Great Twelve’. Incidentally we have had a further 12 Masters to others events at our Hall.
In return, the entertainment has been fulsome too. Six of the ‘Great Twelve’ have invited the Clerk and me to their table. I also escorted the Princess Royal at the Coachmakers and sat next to her at dinner.
The Clerk, Mistress and I have been to many Halls but none can match ours. When we dine in Great Hall, I never cease to be amazed by its impact. It is a breathtaking confection; way over the top but it really works. For this reason perhaps a personal highlight was the July Court Dinner when the Mistress provided the musical entertainment, playing a piece by Fauré, some Scott Joplin and one she composed herself aged twelve.
Several new initiatives this year please me particularly. We have launched the ‘Master Plasterer Certificate’; no other organisation in the country offers this form of recognition so this is another ‘first’ for the Plaisterers’ Company.
I’m also pleased about our involvement with plastering training in a Young Offenders Institution - an initiative which fits well with the Big Society.
We can also take satisfaction in addressing another issue. I was delighted that the initiative to invite more senior members of the Company who have not attended a function for a long time, to a simple buffet lunch, was so well received and I am pleased that the April livery event in 2012 will be a lunch instead of a dinner. I’m also concerned that we should have more, younger Freemen in the Company, believing their presence brings synergy with charity. We have also formed an association with 282 (East Ham) Squadron of the Air Training Corps and I shall look forward to seeing this relationship develop over the coming years.
HMS Dragon is our affiliate ship - the ultimate toy for boys! A one-billion pound warship, capable of 35 miles an hour, yet also able to “stop on a sixpence”. We can confirm that it is enormous fun to put such a large ship on ‘hard lock’ in a figure of eight. As much fun was our visit to the Royal Marines Landing Craft training base at Poole where the boats are smaller but faster! However what impressed us the most was the Royal Marine Commando Training Centre at Lympstone in Devon. There the officers and men, uniquely in British forces, train together. These visits were the driving force behind the Ball.
The Guildhall provided the backdrop for the annual Livery Pancake Race and yet again the Plaisterers did well with Liveryman Simon Carr as the overall winner and Sue being declared the fastest Mistress!
The Mistress and I have had a packed year. We found our contacts with the Royal Marine the most humbling; our visit to our new ship HMS Dragon the most exhilarating, our visits to the Guildhall School of Music, the most uplifting and our visits to St Paul’s and Peterborough Cathedrals, quite sublime.
Music has indeed played a dominant role in this year and we have doubled the money the Livery has given to non-bursary charities. This could not have been achieved without the help, support and kindness of Ali and the Learned Clerk, for whom this was also their first year with the Company. Most particularly, I want to thank Sue without whom much in this report would not have been achieved and why this has indeed been a ‘Master
and Mistress’ Year’.
Professor and Mrs J Hubert Lacey
Master & Mistress 2010-11