Livery companies play an important role in the charity sector. To read how livery companies are running their charitable activities, click through on the headline links below.
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RICHARD BLAUSTEN writes: Livery companies are the unsung heroes of the charity world. These City based organisations, starting out as ancient (and latterly not so ancient) craft guilds, are very different from simply being trade and craft associations, particularly because of their commitment to charity. While livery companies are not themselves charities, they have foundations or trusts which fund or perform good works, e.g. supporting or actually running schools, colleges of further education and centres related to the arts.
In fact it is a requirement that all livery companies have a charitable trust, thus making them an important component of the charity sector. Two companies, the Company of Public Relations Practitioners, not yet a full livery company because it is still building up its charitable trust to the required financial threshold, and the Worshipful Company of Glaziers & Painters of Glass, launched an initiative to promote excellence in charity communications in the form of an award with candidates nominated by the livery companies.
The past two winners of the award, the Clarity in Charity Communications Award, were such outstanding charity communicators that they obviously merited gaining the award with little or no serious competition. The latest recipient, in the award's second year, was Caroline Diehl, for her long-time work as founder of the Media Trust, which she has just stepped down from, and who now is executive chairman of the Community Channel, which she also founded.
The involvement of the Public Relations Practitioners' Company in helping to drive the idea of the award forward was partly motivated by a realisation that the livery companies' involvement in charity needed some better PR! So the PRP has sought to lift the status of charity communications to the level of mainstream PR in the City by having the Clarity in Charity Communications Award included in the series of awards constituting the programme of the PRCA (Public Relations and Communications Association) City & Financial Awards.
All the awards are presented at a special annual PRCA City & Financial Awards dinner at the Merchant Taylors' Hall, with the charity communications award benefiting from the fact that the Master of the Public Relations Practitioners' Company for the last two years has also been director general of the PRCA.
However, despite all this the livery companies as a whole are not getting the message across about their very significant involvement in charity. As Caroline Diehl points out: "The legacy of good communications for charities is obvious - clarity, reach, engagement, behaviour change, policy influence, more donors, more funds. But interestingly, the powerful and often high impact charitable work of the livery companies still remains quite opaque.
"I would love to see the livery companies opening up more to tell their stories, celebrate their history, their charitable support, to talk about the impact they are having today through funding and resources."
Let's hope these words act as a wake-up call to the livery movement to ensure its charitable role is clearly understood, so there is nothing paradoxical about it sponsoring an award for clarity of charity communications!
It was saddening to hear recently that public trust in charities is at its lowest ebb since 2007. But we should not be surprised that public perception has been contaminated by the amount of negative press coverage over the past year. Such issues as questionable fundraising tactics and CEO pay have played their part, but most of the column inches have been reserved for high profile failures; where there has been "trouble at the top".
Excellent governance is the bedrock of a successful charity. We believe that highly skilled and passionate trustees are essential for a charity to achieve its aims and deliver the best possible impact for those for whom they exist to make a real difference. But there are several obstacles to achieving this goal: of the c.170,000 charities in the UK, nearly half have vacancies on their boards; the quality of boards can vary greatly; and there is a general lack of understanding surrounding trusteeship - 95% of the public are unaware that they can support a charity by becoming a trustee.
Recruitment of new trustees is getting harder, and many charities operate without a full range of appropriate skills on the board. Few charities have adequate induction for new trustees or actively assess their own performance as a board. An individual interested in becoming a trustee is faced with the prospect of searching on a number of different recruitment websites, with little by way of coordinated support.
Without great trustees, charities face an uphill struggle to achieve great results. However there are solutions. At the Clothworkers’ Company we have been working, with other relevant organisations, to address these issues.
Research commissioned by the Company indicated that there are a number of key areas which require attention: increasing the pool of trustees; creating an effective matching service; bringing individuals and charities together; coordinating access to appropriate information on trusteeship; funding research into best practice; and improving trustee boards’ performance.
To help potential trustees seek and find board roles, we have established an arrangement with Reach Volunteering. Its TrusteeWorks service allows individuals to choose the sort of organisation they would like to get involved with – whether a local group or a national charity – and matches potential candidates with a range of opportunities around the UK.
Sharing best practice and the latest developments in the sector is vital for keeping standards high in governance. Working with NPC (New Philanthropy Capital), we have held seminars and other events for trustees, at Clothworkers’ Hall, covering topics such as how to fundraise in austere times, and the benefits of collaboration and merger.
We also encourage Clothworkers’ members to seek trustee roles in the charity sector. Such a role is not simply for charities’ benefit. Becoming a trustee can be a hugely rewarding endeavour and members can gain valuable experience while supporting causes which matter to them. Our aspiration is that, over time, the majority of our Liverymen will be actively involved in civil society. This builds on the interest that many have in our charitable work through visiting organisations seeking a grant from the Clothworkers’ Foundation.
Another aspect to our push behind excellence in trusteeship is the collaboration with Close Brothers, through Cause4, in the shaping and delivery of a Trustee Leadership Programme. Several groups have participated, to date in London. In the light of its success, it is envisaged that the programme will spread to, for example, Manchester and Birmingham.
Events, talks, programmes and commitment take us far, but many remain unclear what "good governance" looks like. Several years ago we funded a publication Good Governance – A Code for the Voluntary and Community Sector which appeared in 2005 (with a second edition in 2010) following demand from the sector. Written by members of the Founding Group with support from the Charity Commission, it was produced by the voluntary sector, for the voluntary sector.
Designed to be used by those starting from scratch, or established boards reviewing their own practices, the code helps boards in a number of inspiring and practical ways, including how to recognise and meet legal requirements; make good, timely decisions; provide strong leadership; and treat people fairly and equally. Its use demonstrates to funders and supporters that the trustees take governance seriously.
Finally, we believe that shining a light on excellent governance not only celebrates those who deserve it, but encourages others to share stories of great governance, and perhaps some to get their "own house in order". The Charity Governance Awards, which we run with partners NPC, Prospectus and Reach, are about celebrating the UK’s best charity boards.
The winners of this year’s inaugural awards demonstrated that good governance can come in many shapes and sizes. It was such a successful event that we are running the awards again for 2017. If you believe you should nominate your board, with the chance of winning a grant of £5,000, entries are open from 6 October this year.
"Without great trustees, charities face an uphill struggle to achieve great results."
"Our aspiration is that, over time, the majority of our Liverymen will be actively involved in civil society."
Among the livery companies of the City of London are many trades and crafts. Some titles are self-evident - it requires little imagination to conjure up the jobs of the Goldsmiths, Furniture Makers and Butchers, but with the passage of time, others have become a little more obscure. Girdlers, Horners and Fletchers are less common trades today, but like those of us in the Cordwainers Company, liverymen in those companies probably face puzzled questions as to exactly what they get up to.
Just for the record, cordwainers made high quality shoes, originally using leather from Cordova in Spain, which is the derivation of the company name. Rope or cord does not feature, and please, don't mention cobblers.
City livery companies must evolve in order to survive and we are determined that the Cordwainers should continue to be relevant to the British footwear industry, while remaining a significant charitable patron, in the spirit of some of the company’s great donors.
Like other livery companies, the Cordwainers’ prosperity was due in no small measure to the generosity of five or six individuals, who left property in the City and around to the company. Our challenge is to encourage similar generosity today from among our members.
The Cordwainers have recently launched their 2020 Vision, a campaign to promote the company to its members, to the City, to the footwear trade and to the wider world. The four strands - Participation, Profile, Charity and Growth - aim to increase members’ involvement, raise our public profile, increase charitable giving, and secure the company’s future prosperity.
In the past five years we have given over £800,000 to our chosen charities, and charitable giving has increased by over 100% since 2008-9 – no mean feat during a recession. So how have we achieved this?
We are a small, close-knit company, and many members can trace their family links back nine or ten generations. Some of the most distinguished names in footwear are among the livery: Lilley, Skinner, Peal, and Church. Proud of their family heritage, yet in some cases no longer active in the footwear trade, these members remain keen to work for Cordwainer charities today, partly out of family and company loyalty.
Family ties are at the heart of the Cordwainers, and their strength in charitable terms was demonstrated most recently this summer, when over 30 members of the company entered the Blenheim Triathlon. Over 100 turned up to cheer them on, living up to our unofficial aim to "put the fun in fundraising". Even better, we raised over £30,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Cordwainers 125 Campaign at the University of the Arts.
We are anything but a closed shop, however, and have invited some of Britain's finest footwear designers and manufacturers to join the livery. L K Bennett, Daniel Casey, Guy West and the world famous Jimmy Choo are Cordwainers, as is John Church, the president of Church’s Shoes. In this way the Cordwainers keep in touch with their roots and can be guided by these experts in the best way to demonstrate support for the footwear designers and craftsmen of the future.
In 2014 we were delighted to inaugurate the Cordwainers’ Footwear Student of the Year Award, a prize open to footwear design students at the three "footwear universities" (University of the Arts, Northampton University and De Montfort University). Judged by industry professionals and presented by Jimmy Choo, the award was not simply financial.
The winners’ work was also well publicised throughout the professional sector of the footwear design world and, with luck, would guide their steps towards successful careers.
The Cordwainers are very proud of their ties with British footwear design and the shoe industry. We have forged strong links with the three universities which run footwear design courses, building upon our historic associations with institutions such as Cordwainers College in Hackney (now the University of the Arts, London) and forming new ones with younger establishments, such as De Montfort University, Leicester.
Away from the leather trade, we also support the C Company of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, and more recently, we have adopted the Urswick School in Hackney, building on our connection with the area to support secondary education.
The work with The Urswick School is some of the most satisfying that we undertake and money raised by the Cordwainers has a tangible effect on the lives of schoolchildren in a challenging area of London. The Urswick was a failing school but it has been revitalised by Richard Brown, its dynamic headmaster, and the company was able to raise funds to fill up the new school library with much needed books.
Communicating our aims is crucial and we have worked hard to ensure that members know about the company's aims and feel involved and enthused. Younger members of the company, some of whom have backgrounds in marketing and PR, run our events committee. They have arranged some inspiring fundraising campaigns that have captured both the imagination of members and the other donors.
In 2010 a team cycled to Cordoba, earning £19,000 in sponsorship and in 2011 another group joined in a sponsored military challenge run by the Fusiliers. Events such as these are not only fun, but they also cement bonds between our members, and with our charitable partners.
In the world of charitable fundraising, no one can ever be complacent. The whole company is inspired both by our historic links to the shoe trade and by our more recent efforts to support modern footwear design. One of our Masters noted that we should "do good and have fun" and this message has inspired the Cordwainers to put their best feet forward to support the company’s core charities.
"In the world of charitable fundraising, no one can ever be complacent."
A unique commitment to the charity sector
FROM THE EDITOR: The aim of this special feature is to display the very substantial charitable commitment of funds and personal effort by livery companies and their members. This commitment to charity is in the ethos, indeed DNA, of all livery companies. As a whole, and particularly so in the case of certain companies, the range of charitable activities and objects is surprisingly wide.
Where the commitment is more narrowly focused it is still highly effective due to the expertise and discipline, coupled with imagination and enthusiasm, which characterise the charitable activities of livery companies.
Under the rules which govern them. livery companies have to commit to charity, but it is the unique way in which they do this that makes them so important to the charity sector. The articles below give examples of how individual livery companies carry out their charitable activities. What is apparent is how the Worshipful Companies featured are taking their original charitable traditions into the modern world, working always to the ultimate benefit of the community, i.e. public benefit.
Please scroll down to see each article.
Continuing a history of philanthropy
SIMON WATHEN, Master Mercer of the MERCERS' COMPANY, says: The Mercers' Company, which received its first royal charter in 1394, is one of the oldest livery companies of the City of London and first in the order of precedence. Mercer and mercery derive from the Latin word "merx" which means merchandise. In England it came to refer specifically to trade in luxury fabrics such as silks, linens, velvets' and other fine textiles and dress accessories imported from abroad.
The Mercers’ Company was therefore originally a body of London merchants who dealt in the import and export of textiles. The first reference to Mercers as a corporate body comes in a 1304 lawsuit, indicating that there was already a form of organisation in existence although the exact detail of the company’s origin is not known.
The company grew significantly over the years but by the 16th century its connection with the original trade had diminished considerably. Today, the company is a predominantly philanthropic organisation, the trustee of several charities and responsible for a significant grants programme that supports education, general welfare, church and faith and arts and heritage.
In addition, the Mercers’ Company retains responsibility for managing several Almshouses and other homes for the elderly associated with the charitable trusts the company oversees. These activities are funded by income derived from its investments, principally the extensive property portfolio.
Many illustrious figures have played a part in Mercer history and left their estates to the company to manage. One of the most famous is Richard (Dick) Whittington, the hero of the children’s story, who in real life was four times Lord Mayor of London and three times Master Mercer. Richard Whittington died childless and left his considerable fortune to fund good works in the City of London, one of the earliest and most generous examples of philanthropy.
A sizeable part of Whittington’s estate was left to the Mercers’ Company to administer, which it still does, 600 years later through the Charity of Sir Richard Whittington (Whittington Charity) of which it is trustee.
The principal object of the Whittington Charity is the administration of almshouses at Whittington College, Felbridge, Surrey and at Lady Mico’s Almshouse, Stepney, London Borough of Tower Hamlets. In addition, the charity makes payments to individuals and institutions in need of relief and to support community welfare, the elderly, education, and the handicapped and disabled.
SIMON WATHEN of the MERCERS' COMPANY continues: Whilst the Whittington Charity is an illustration of a historic endowment providing contemporary benefit, the Mercers’ Company is a modern organisation drawing on its asset base and utilising the skills and talents of its membership, and the executive, to drive new philanthropic endeavours.
Many members are successful and leading figures in their professions, not least the business arena, allowing the company to benefit from transferable skills and tap in to an achieving mentality. Great care is taken, where possible, to appoint those with relevant skills and experience to the company’s philanthropic committees so that their insight and knowledge can inform the decisions made, complementing the experience and grant-making expertise of the executive officers.
At the heart of how the company works are measurement, impact and relationships which allows it to understand what has been achieved but also what refinements and improvements can be made to ensure it continues to work in the most efficient and appropriate way. Visits by committee members to applicants and grant recipients are an important way of achieving this.
The Mercers’ Company has a long and rich heritage but is modern and forward looking in what it does. It is focused not only on delivering immediate benefit and results but also on building for the long term and operating a sustainable philanthropic programme which will deliver today, tomorrow and for years to come.
A main charitable programme plus proactive initiatives
PHILIP HOWARD, grants manager at the CLOTHWORKERS' FOUNDATION, says: Founded by Royal Charter in 1528, the Clothworkers’ Company existed historically to protect its members and promote the craft of cloth-finishing in the City of London. Almost 500 years later, although we continue to value our past, our traditions and our heritage, the Clothworkers’ Company also believes it should make a contribution to society, which it does primarily through the Clothworkers’ Foundation.
The Clothworkers' Foundation, an independent grant-making trust, was set up by The Clothworkers' Company in 1977. It awards capital grants to UK not-for-profit organisations which aim to improve the lives of people and communities, particularly those facing disadvantage.
Current areas of focus are: alcohol and substance misuse; disabled people; disadvantaged young people; disadvantaged minority communities; domestic and sexual violence; elderly people; homelessness; prisoners and ex-offenders; and visual impairment.
There is the Main Grants Programme (for charities with income of less than £15m) which has no grant limit – the average grant size is £25,000, although it has awarded up to £250,000. A recent grant is the £45,000 awarded to Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid towards refurbishing its new refuge for women and children affected by domestic violence, rape and sexual assault.
There is the Small Grants Programme (for charities with income of less than £250,000) which awards grants up to £10,000.
The Clothworkers’ Foundation currently awards around £5.5m in grants a year, with more than £100m awarded since it was set up 37 years ago.
PROACTIVE GRANTS PROGRAMMES. The foundation has a small number of proactive grant programmes which fund specific fields in which we aim to make a significant impact over a period of time (usually five years). The themes and priorities change periodically. As the name suggests, potential grant recipients are selected proactively and unsolicited applications are not accepted. Previous proactive programmes have been Autism and Mathematics education.
We commissioned external evaluations of both programmes. The Autism evaluation (for which we tendered competitively) looked covered the impact not just of the programme but of proactive grant-making. Key learning points and findings for proactive grant-making included: target a sector strategically; develop an understanding of the sector; facilitate collaboration between grant recipients; and continue a supportive and flexible approach.
We intend to use the findings of the Autism evaluation to ensure the success of future proactive grant programmes, not just from our perspective as a funder but, crucially, in making a significant and positive difference to whichever sector we choose to work in proactively.
Our current proactive initiatives are:
Conservation - this has been running since 2008 with an allocation of £2m. Concentrating on "moveable heritage" rather than the natural environment, we have funded a number and range of conservation internships identified by the sector as "at risk". They include recent internships in botanic conservation at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and in conservation science at the British Museum.
We also advertise externally each year for an annual £80,000 Conservation Fellowship which supports a senior conservator at a UK institution to do work on a research and conservation project, with our grant for a Junior Fellow to cover their post. Fellowships include the one awarded to Glasgow Museum for a project in stained glass conservation and research.
Better Futures - this is a £1.25m five year programme which supports organisations and projects which could deliver significant benefits to vulnerable young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Better Futures grants include £300,000 awarded to Catch22 for Engage in Education, a three year intensive programme of support for secondary school pupils in Manchester at risk of exclusion from mainstream education.
PHILIP HOWARD of the CLOTHWORKERS' FOUNDATION continues: We have also recently launched a new five year proactive Dramatic Arts initiative, the cornerstone of which is the annual Clothworkers’ Theatre Award of up to £150,000 a year to a regional producing theatre in England. The 2014 award will be announced at the UK Theatre Awards at the Guildhall in October.
The award is part of a wider £1.2m programme which will also support talented students whose financial circumstances would otherwise prevent them from accepting a place on an acting or technical course at selected institutions.
As with Mathematics Education and Autism, we will commission external evaluations of Conservation, Better Futures and Dramatic Arts in due course.
TEXTILES. With roots in cloth finishing, we also continue to support textiles proactively through our textiles programme. Major grants in recent years have included: £1m to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2010 for the Clothworkers’ Centre for the Study and Conservation of Textiles and Fashion; £750,000 to the British Museum in 2011 for the Clothworkers’ Organics Conservation Studio and £1.75m in 2013 to the University of Leeds for the Clothworkers’ Centre for Textile Materials Innovation for Healthcare where we are also funding PhD students in textiles and colour science.
We are also a long standing supporter of the Centre for Textile Conservation in Glasgow.
CHARITY VISITS PROGRAMME. Our charity visits programme has been running for seven years. It involves members of the livery visiting selected charities where we expect to make a potential grant over a certain amount. We offer training for visitors, and ask them to complete a standardised report after their visit, which informs our assessment of the application and supports the trustees in reaching their decision.
TRUSTEESHIP. The company (not the foundation) encourages members to become trustees or school governors in order to participate in civil society through pro bono involvement. Improving charity governance through our members acting as trustees, and the company funding appropriate initiatives, is our common purpose.
Contributing expertise as well as funds
STEVE GRAHAM, chairman of both the GLAZIERS' FOUNDATION and the GLAZIERS' TRUST, says: The charitable activities of the Glaziers’ Company are mainly, but not exclusively, focused on stained glass. The Glaziers' Foundation, created in November 2011, has responsibility for the funds dispensed by the Glaziers' Trust, the London Stained Glass Repository, the Charity for Relief in Need and the Cutter Trust. The company is not blessed with vast reserves and all our funds come through the membership. Our money seems all the more valuable for that reason.
The foundation’s committees carry out the work of our charities and are populated entirely by members of the company. The expertise that is available on the committees of the trust and the London Stained Glass Repository is probably unrivalled in the world of stained glass, historic and modern. To this we add the administrative and other support provided by members of the company whose background and experience is in other areas.
The Glaziers’ Trust has the largest budget and has two principal objects. It is probably best known for assisting with the restoration and conservation of historic and important stained glass. The trust also promotes the craft by supporting the education and training of craftsmen and women and by fostering public information and awareness. The board of the trust sits four times a year when it considers applications for grants.
The board is reluctant to make an award unless the remedial work is to be carried out by an accredited glazier. Funds are too hard to come by to risk the work not being carried out to the highest standard.
The trust is not often able to fund the cost of an entire restoration project and sometimes only provides a fraction of the overall cost. However, such is the depth of knowledge and experience on the board that its approval for a project, even if it results in only a modest award, is regularly used by applicants to help raise funds from other organisations.
Another example of where the trust’s expert opinion is as valuable as its financial support came recently when it lent its support to objections to a residential development in Hampstead in London. The proposed development would, if completed as planned, severely affect the natural light flowing into St Andrew’s Church through a famous Douglas Strachan window commemorating those who fought in the Great War.
The board keeps a close track of projects and is in regular communication with successful applicants. We are notified when the work is completed so that steps can be taken to release the award. Very often the board or a representative is invited to view the work on its completion.
The trust supports other organisations within the stained glass community such as the British Society of Master Glass Painters and the Stained Glass Museum in Ely. Both of these receive an annual grant to help them continue their work The trust also supports the much respected publication, “Vidimus”. The only online magazine devoted to stained glass.
Through the company’s Craft and Competitions Committee the trust funds several educational initiatives such as the Stevens Competition. This is a nationwide competition for architectural glass design and we believe it to be the only national competition of its kind. It attracts entries from young artists which are judged by a panel of prominent craftsmen. Sponsors of the competition regularly commission work from among the entries and the careers of many young artists have been launched by participation in the competition.
The Award for Excellence (40 weeks) and the Ashton Hill Awards (10 weeks) provide opportunities for those wishing to pursue a practical career in stained glass. They provide the funds for placements in working studios where mentored and supervised work experience takes place. In addition to these initiatives the Arthur and Helen Davis Travelling Scholarships provide opportunities for the study of glass outside the UK. Recent awardees have studied in the United States, Iceland, France, Germany and the Czech Republic.
The Continuing Professional Development Awards are for practitioners who want to broaden their skills either artistically or by attaining accredited conservator status.
The London Stained Glass Repository (LSGR) provides an escape route and relocation service for good quality stained glass. Redundant churches provide the main source of glass and the Church Commissioners are usually the first to alert the repository. In addition to building closure, glass may need to be rescued and protected from the threat of vandalism.
Once vulnerable glass has been identified the Management Committee of the LSGR assesses its artistic merit, state of repair and general condition. When this work has been done negotiations for the release and storage of the glass begin. Once in store the glass is photographed, catalogued and all relevant information recorded. Only then can a new home be sought with most of the glass going to religious buildings.
Much of the repository glass goes abroad to destinations as far afield as the United States, Australia, the Falkland Islands and Croatia. Glass is sometimes lent to museums or included in educational projects, home and abroad.
New owners of the glass are not charged although many have displayed their gratitude with donations. The current catalogue of the London Stained Glass Repository can be viewed online.
Similarly to the board of the Glazier' Trust, the LSGR Committee keeps in contact with the recipients of relocated glass. Recently the committee and other members of the company attended the dedication of two windows by Robert Anning Bell which had been reinstalled in their original home in Gray’s Inn Chapel. The windows had been removed on the outbreak of the Second World War and stored for safe keeping. The chapel was rebuilt after suffering severe bomb damage but the windows, which had by that time found their way to the repository, were never put back.
STEVE GRAHAM of the GLAZIERS' FOUNDATION continues: The Charity for Relief in Need was created to provide funds to alleviate personal difficulties being suffered by anyone who is working or has worked as a glazier. It recently paid for accommodation expenses for a student on a placement in Germany when the original arrangements fell through at the last moment. Recently it paid for a replacement cooker to be delivered to a retired glazier just before Christmas.
The Cutter Trust is the only non glass related charity under the Glaziers Foundation umbrella. As one of the City livery companies with a hall adjacent to the river the Glazier’s Company funds the upkeep of a Traditional Thames cutter, “The Master Glazier”. The crew, which comprises of ladies who work in education, predominantly in East London, row the craft in events organised by the Thames Traditional Rowing Association.
In addition they take part in other Thames based livery events such as the Great River Race in September and the Lord Mayor’s Flotilla in November. The cutter is stored and maintained at the Ahoy Centre in Deptford. When not racing the Master Glazier is used by those attending the Ahoy Centre for training in rowing and general boat handling.
Some of our funds are generated by investments but in recent years this has reduced. The majority of our income still comes from generous donations by members of the company and their charitable budgets are being stretched. It has to be recognised that there are far more emotional appeals for money than those for stained glass, no matter how beautiful or historically significant. This is one of the reasons why external fundraising is so difficult.
The work of our charities can only continue with the personal support of the members of the livery. The Glaziers' Company really does put its money where its mouth is.
Encouraging excellence in vocational training
PAUL NASH, clerk to the PLUMBERS' COMPANY, says: If you travel into London by train (for work or pleasure) through Cannon Street Railway Station you will see a large green man (boy actually) standing on the concourse opposite platform 4 and the ticket office. The Plumbers’ Apprentice Statue was unveiled by HRH the Duke of Gloucester in 2011 to mark the 400th anniversary of the Royal Charter of the Plumbers' Company and to recognise the company’s support for the training of apprentices.
In case you are wondering why Cannon Street Station was chosen as the location, it also marks the former site of the company’s hall, which was demolished in 1863 to make way for the station!
One of the ancient livery companies of the City of London, in its early years the Plumbers’ Company was responsible for setting and maintaining the standard for all plumbing apprentice training within London and it also ran the voluntary National Register of Plumbers. Today that falls within the remit of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE), with whom we have close links, but the company through its Charitable and Educational Trust still plays an active role in education, training and other charitable causes.
We run a bursary scheme to help support young plumbing apprentices if they need financial help to complete their training up to S/NVQ Level 3. Supported by the individual’s training college and employer, the decision on whether or not to give a bursary is made jointly with CIPHE and we have been hugely grateful to City and Guilds which have also provided matched funding for recent awards. The panel that makes the decision is drawn from qualified members of the profession within the company and we ask for feedback to see how the young trainee is progressing.
One of the challenges we face is publicising our bursary scheme. We have had very few applications recently and work is in hand to spread the word. Sadly higher level vocational training today in the plumbing sector is not as readily available as it used to be and we applaud and support recent initiatives to reinvigorate training in this area. Many colleges and organisations now only provide training to NVQ Level 2.
The Charitable and Educational Trust is supported by our Technical and Education Committee, which also helps with a number of awards we give to recognise those who have excelled in their training. Its members are drawn from those who have a wealth of experience in the trade and profession. Again we work closely with the college or training organisation and often the decision on who receives an award is given over to them entirely. We draw on their experience and expertise.
One award, “The Wilkinson Shield”, is a joint annual award to the best student and college in the North East Region of England. They are selected by the Newcastle and County Durham branch of the CIPHE and the competition is fierce – it is probably unique in that both the trainer and trainee at the institution must excel to win. Named after one of our Past Masters who inaugurated it, it celebrated its Centenary Award last year. In this region a strong tradition of vocational training continues.
PAUL NASH of the PLUMBERS' COMPANY continues: Whilst we recognise the importance of supporting training in the modern plumbing profession which we represent, you can see from our history that it is also an ancient craft - and lead working on which much of it was based is one of the traditional crafts we support.
An offshoot of the company is the Plumbers’ Workshop Charitable Trust, located at the Weald and Downland Museum at Singleton, West Sussex. Here you can see demonstrations of, and learn about, ancient lead working skills - skills we cannot afford to lose, as they are still needed today and in the future to repair and maintain our fine heritage of ancient buildings, palaces, churches and cathedrals across the country.
The Plumbers’ Company and its charity also support a wide variety of other causes, including city farms in London, musical education and awareness through the St Paul’s Cathedral School Choir, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Apollo Music Project at Columbia Primary School in Tower Hamlets, and rehabilitation and training for ex-offenders through the Old Bailey.
We are also proud of our association with the Armed Forces, to whom we provide an annual award to the best plumbing and hydraulic students in each of the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force. We also support the Richmond Sea Cadet unit with the training it gives to young people, who repay us by kindly providing a Guard of Honour for our formal banquet in the Mansion House each year.
Supporting education in the broadest sense
ALISON MURDOCH, director of charities at the HABERDASHERS' COMPANY, says: When I mention I work at the Haberdashers’ Company most people say, “Ah, you have schools don’t you?” Indeed we do and the company is proud of its reputation in the field of education.
The schools foundations which support those schools and academies directly account for around 75% of the Haberdashers’ Company’s charitable giving in any given year. However, the company is also trustee of four grant-making trusts and this article is about the work enabled by donations from those charities.
Like any other grant making trust with finite resources we have to be focused in our grant making in order to make the most effective use of our limited funds. Given the company’s expertise in the field of education it is unsurprising that one of the main strands of support relates to charities working in education in the broadest sense. We have, for example, funded the work of the Shannon Trust in helping prisoners to learn to read.
We also support disability charities in offering help for education, training and employment, particularly self-employment. Charities such as The Prince’s Trust, London Youth and Youth at Risk have also been supported in their work with some of the most vulnerable young people to help them access the support they need to fulfil their potential and avoid a cycle of exclusion from school, gang culture and offending.
We have also been, and continue to be, very strong supporters of Teach First since almost from the beginning and are proud to share its vision of breaking the link between educational achievement and parental income. There are Teach First participants in our academies and Haberdashers’ Hall regularly hosts Teach First events.
Some of the funding available to the grant making trusts is restricted to providing support for our own schools, their pupils and former pupils. Once of the biggest programmes within this relates to the provision of university bursaries.
With five academies in some of the more disadvantaged areas of the country, we use these funds to offer financial support to pupils from low income families who may be the first in the family to go on to university. We have recently been joined in this initiative by the chemical company AkzoNobel which has generously funded bursaries for students in science, engineering and technology. We are looking for our next corporate partner.
ALISON MURDOCH of the HABERDASHERS' COMPANY continues: In order to monitor the effectiveness of our funding and “add value” to our financial support we do a number of things. Firstly, we do a lot of research to ensure that the work being done by a charity “fits” with our focus areas. We then require a formal evaluation report to be completed for every grant we make over £2,000.
This is essential for a grant-making trust as we are to a large extent reliant on others to fulfil our aims and objectives, including the requirement for public benefit.
However, we also appoint a member of the company to act as Company Contact with charities to which we have given substantial support or have a long standing relationship. Reports from the contacts help in making decisions about further funding as well as giving another view on the work being done. Some Company Contacts also act as volunteers with their charities or have been able to put them in touch with others who can assist them.
The company also provides networking opportunities. For instance, there is the Company Service and Garden Party. This is an event at which we give thanks for the benefactors who have enabled the current grant making programme and celebrate the work being done by the charities we support.
Some 30 charity representatives will join the company for this event to meet each other as well as members of the company. Where possible we promote events or volunteering opportunities with the charities we support to our members.
Another important part of increasing the effectiveness of our funding involves partnerships. For some years we have been running the Haberdashers’ Entrepreneurs’ Award Scheme in conjunction with the University of East London (UEL).
Small grants are made to UEL students who have set up their own businesses. Many are also using this to provide opportunities to disadvantaged people in their local area. The university offers a programme of business support for the young entrepreneurs in addition to our funding and has also worked with pupils from our South East London academies.
In a recent letter from UEL’s vice chancellor, Professor John Joughin, he states that “schemes like the Haberdashers’ Awards are at the forefront of the type of initiative we want to develop over the next few years”.
One way that the company keeps in touch with its original trade roots is by an annual competition for first year students on the MA Textiles course at the Royal College of Art (RCA). Eight finalists come to our hall to present their work to a judging panel made up of members of the company. Substantial prizes are awarded to the top three students. In future the RCA will host students from our London academies on visits to help broaden their horizons.
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg of an increasing range of possibilities which help make up a package of support we can offer charities in addition to our financial support. We believe this is the best way of making sure that we are as effective as possible in our grant-making.
Each year on an early summer’s day, bustling commuters having survived the rigours of rail and bus travel, stream across London Bridge to their work places. They are somewhat taken aback as they cross the bridge to be confronted by 20-30 people clad in fur lined robes of bright colours and black bonnets and wearing spectacular badges of office; these people are energetically bringing to the attention of passersby, collection boxes.
Like migrating birds, the group are but a transitory presence, 90-120 minutes in the morning and again at night. A different posse of similarly clad people seek to fill their collection boxes as the commuters make their way home. Lessons in how to fold notes are freely given to passersby.
A closer examination of these groups reveals them to be the Lord Mayor of London (his diary commitments permitting), the Sheriffs of the City and some of the Masters of the 108 livery companies of London. Typically the group contains captains of industry or lead partners in the City’s financial institutions as well as, for example, a clockmaker, taxi driver, stained glass glazier, an expert in environmental cleansing, a butcher and an expert in church organs.
Their common purpose in the giving of their valuable time is the collection on that day of some thousands of pounds on for a particular charity. In my year as Master of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass, it was for the Red Cross. The generosity of the City folk enabled me to personally collect around £150 pounds in that short time.
Charity fundraising activity
This is just the visible tip of an iceberg of the fundraising activity that the mayoralty and the liveries in London engage in each year. It is estimated that some £40-£50 million is generated each year for charitable purposes.
A RED CLOAK, A BLACK TRICORN HAT AND SIR THOMAS MORE'S CHAIN (AS WORN BY THE LORD MAYOR). The first mayor of London was appointed in 1192, not so very long after the Battle of Hastings in 1066! Alderman Roger Gifford is the current (2013) Lord Mayor and is the 685th person to hold this distinguished office. His roles are set out below.
PROMOTING UK-BASED FINANCIAL AND PROFESSIONAL SERVICES. The Lord Mayor’s principal role today is as ambassador for all UK-based financial and professional services. He is elected on an annual basis for one term in office, and will be a member of one of the livery companies. The position is at some cost to the holder as it is unpaid and apolitical. He addresses in the region of 10,000 people each month making around 700-800 speeches each year. The Lord Mayor spends some 90 days promoting the City abroad and also makes a number of business focused visits to different parts of the UK.
HEAD OF THE CITY OF LONDON CORPORATION. As well as promoting the financial and professional services industry in the UK, the Lord Mayor also supports the Corporation’s other responsibilities, from providing excellent services to the local community, to maintaining parks, museums and other art venues. The City also supports a number of schools and forests.
He also presides over the City of London’s governing bodies- the Court of Aldermen and the Court of Common Council. He is the Chief Magistrate in the City of London Courts.
PHILANTHROPY AND CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY. Notwithstanding the many and demanding tasks above, philanthropy and CSR are at the heart of the City’s vision for itself, through initiatives like Heart of the City and employee volunteering.
Annual charitable appeal
Each year the Lord Mayor runs a charitable appeal. There have been some outstanding examples:
• Sir Richard Whittington whose charity continues to assist people in need.
• Sir Thomas Gresham whose efforts in education are well exampled by the first college of higher education, Gresham College.
• Sir John Cass another dignitary who left his mark on education.
• Sir William Treloar who founded Treloar College in Alton, the UK’s leading specialist centre providing education, independence training and opportunities for young people with the most severe physical disabilities that one can imagine.
Roger Gifford’s appeal is under the banner "The City in Society" and the specific charities to benefit will include:
• The City Music Foundation which gives new opportunities to aspiring new musicians in the early stages of their careers, both financially and mentoring.
• Futures for Kids, the relief of hardship, poverty, sickness and distress among children in the UK and overseas.
• The Gifford Wood Appeal directed toward the planting of 4,500 trees on a site recently acquired by the City of London.
• The Harold Samuelson Collection – the conservation and maintenance of this internationally acclaimed collection of 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings.
• The Lord Mayor’s Scholarship Programme which will support Sir John Cass’s Foundation and the Mansion House Scholarship Scheme.
Alternatively, a previous Lord Mayor’s strap line "City of London, City of Learning’" focused on parallel cross border learning and understanding, a theme developed from the bombings of 9/11 and 7/7. VSO was the chosen organisation of Sir John Stuttard to manage this activity:. Other charities to benefit from his appeal included King Edward’s School Whitley, the Mansion House Scholarship Scheme and the Charitable Fund of the Guild of Educators.
These appeals generate seven figures each year. No wonder then that I am frequently asked by charities "who are the likely personalities to be Lord Mayor in the near future and how best can we approach them for inclusion in their fundraising activity?".
Much hard work
A red robe, a black tricorn hat and Sir Thomas Moore’s centuries old chain translate into a lot of hard and committed work for an individual during his year of office. The public recognition of this work is richly earned and well-deserved.
THE JOLLIES SCOFFED AT BY THE ILL INFORMED. Trade and craft associations have flourished over Europe for centuries but the City of London companies, now known as the Livery, are unique in number and diversity. Our livery companies have their origins in the ancient city craft guilds and the old companies date back to the 14th century. My own was first mentioned in 1328 when a John Husbonde was Master.
Such guilds were vigorous organisations formed wherever there were skilled craftsmen, specifically to set standards; regulate training and the wellbeing of apprentices; control costs and prices; and when necessary, develop strategies to keep out imports – what is new in life, true cartels even then!
However, the social and economic conditions which produced the guilds have long since been overtaken by changes in industry, commerce, and consumer and work place legislation but the Livery still flourishes today. With some livery companies the link with their old crafts are tenuous but all continue to undertake good works. Livery companies in themselves are not charities but will have foundations or trusts through which they support a wide variety of good works.
The Clerk’s office in a livery or the website will normally be helpful in setting out the areas in which a particular livery offers help and the best way of proceeding if an application is relevant to that livery. Support from various livery companies is available across many fields: education, general welfare, medical welfare, youth, culture and support of art, and religion. There are also grants available from some liveries to help develop administration systems for charities.
It is a requirement that all liveries have a charitable trust and for new organisations wishing to attain livery company status, the trust/foundation must have a minimum of £300,000. Many and especially the ‘great twelve’ have endowments running into millions and it is their charitable activity which binds them together into a cohesive force for the good of our communities.
Heavily supporting education
The Great Twelve Livery Companies heavily support education. For example, Merchant Taylors own two schools and support 6 others, colleges of further education and centres of excellence related to the arts. Similarly the Skinners are responsible for five schools including Tonbridge and two academies, whilst the Fishmongers' involvement with Gresham School is long established. Support for the elderly and homeless is evidenced by, for example, the support for almshouses by the Drapers and Skinners.
This common theme of support in education and relief of poverty and hardship particularly among the young and elderly, is the very DNA of the Livery movement. For instance, the Hackney Carriage Drivers provide the disadvantaged young and those with life threatening illnesses with an annual magical taxi tour, which is regularly featured on news programmes.
Preservation and restoration of our heritage and supporting the basic craft skills of a new generation are of prime concern to the Livery, especially to crafts such as carpentry, masonry, stained glass windows and basketry. My own livery, the Glaziers, finances the restoration of stained glass windows of historical merit and quality, funds work placements for aspiring glaziers; organises and funds competition and design activity; funds travelling scholarships; finances the relief of need. We, like other liveries with halls, make our facility available for worthwhile causes.
Fundraising is time consuming, be it for a banquet at the Guildhall in aid of Help for Heroes or a simple motorised treasure hunt. The end result of such evenings or events is the presentation of a cheque for a specific purpose. We do like to get some enjoyment and fun as well as a sense of social contribution to the communities we serve.
Serving the community
In short, the survival of the Livery today has been achieved by not only continuing to foster its trade in a wider context where relevant, but also by serving the community particularly in a charitable manner. During my year as Master I hosted a number of dinners. It was interesting to read the background notes of my guests and the many good works that each was involved in.
So remember when you next cross London Bridge in early summer, or watch the Lord Mayor’ Show in November or a banquet in one of the City’s major halls, you are witnessing the tip of the iceberg. Not only must we attempt to do more and provide help where it is needed, we must be more vociferous in proclaiming our charitable works and achievements. They are considerable, highly valued and much appreciated by the beneficiaries.
For livery companies, feasting together has always played a major part in in the life of the livery – and so often it has formed the perfect occasion to announce the livery's donation to a charitable cause. However, today’s tastes are slightly more modest than some of our ancestors. In November 1798 members of one leading livery company met together at the London Coffee House for the Lord Mayor’s Dinner. The Bill of Fare for about 80 guests included:
6 dishes of fine Cod boiled with Fryed Smelts and a proper quantity of Oyster and Shrimp sauce
2 fine hams weighing about 20lbs each
18 fine fowls, 6 boiled and 12 roasted
1 surloin of fine Beef roasted about 20lbs
1 buttock of fine Beef boiled about 20lbs
6 fine turkeys with a proper quantity of sausages
6 dishes of wild ducks
4 plumb puddings
4 fine marrow puddings
12 fine mince pies
6 dishes of fine lobsters boiled
6 dishes of fine fricasees
1 best Gloucester cheese 8lbs.
A proper proportion of greens, potatoes, bread, butter, beer, salt, pepper mustard etc.
According to the records they sat down to dine at 4.00pm. It does not say when they rose from the table but I suspect they were there some time and it was certainly quite a feast!
So what makes a good livery dinner today? Let me offer a few thoughts from a caterer’s perspective.
The food that is served has certainly come a long way since 1798 and even in the last 30 years, styles have changed considerably. Today’s menus are shorter than their predecessors and the dishes are lighter. Thirty years ago most dinners were four or even five courses; today serving three good courses at a livery dinner is quite acceptable and even preferable for current tastes.
The only sadness perhaps is some of the classic elements of an English banquet are disappearing. For example, the savoury course so beloved of the Edwardian and Victorian eras was still a common feature 30 years ago, but sadly we seldom see such British classics as Scotch Woodcock or Devils on Horseback on a menu anymore.
On the plus side the renaissance in British cooking and our heightened interest in food mean that the menus chosen reflect current culinary fashions. For example at a recent banquet the menu included “Ceviche of Razor Clams” and a “Duet of Beef cooked Two Ways”, two dishes that could easily be seen on Masterchef or on the menu in leading London restaurants.
From a personal point of view I would like to see the menus that are chosen for livery dinners being even more adventurous. When we recently served a fish main course at a livery dinner, a nervous Clerk was hugely relieved at the positive response it received from the guests.
The style of service has also changed in recent years with much more emphasis on the presentation of food. Dishes are now generally served “restaurant style” and fully plated. Thirty years ago every course would have been silver served or even butler served by the waiting staff giving each guest the opportunity to have as much or as little as they would like. This has all but gone now and silver service is a dying art.
Whilst there are lots of advantages to the new styles of service, it does mean that the waiting staff have less opportunity to engage with each guest and the service is perhaps more impersonal. As a result the challenge is for caterers to get their staff to interact with the guests. Perhaps it may just be as simple as introducing each dish as they present it.
Another important aspect of the service at a livery dinner is the importance of sticking to timings, so that evenings do not overrun and guests aren’t disappearing for trains during the speeches. Most Clerks plan the programme for the evening down to the last second, and a good City caterer will work with them in keeping to those timings and advise them if they are not achievable. The worst case scenario is where timings are simply unrealistic and as a guest you are rushed through each course and simply can’t enjoy the meal or the experience of the evening.
Aside from the food and the service, what makes a livery dinner special are the unique traditions and the ceremonies. The input of the caterer here can also help prevent potential slip ups. Even the most experienced liveryman sometimes does not know which way to start the loving cup. A good head waiter will point them in the right direction and avoid loving cups meeting in the middle of a table while those opposite look on wondering when their turn will come!
Similarly some guests unused to formal dinners are unaware that they need to keep the port decanters moving. Of course it is considered very bad form to ask for it so an alert catering manager can spot the problem and intervene to move it along.
If the manager does not spot the problem then you can also resort to asking the offender, "Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?" If they are familiar with port etiquette they will soon realise the error of their ways and pass along the decanter with an apology. If not, and they answer “No”, you should say: "He's a terribly good chap, but he always forgets to pass the port."
Ultimately though a good caterer will enhance the whole experience with delicious food and seamless service, but what really makes a great experience at a livery dinner is as true now as it was in 1798. It is the pleasant company and amusing conversation of one's fellow liverymen and their guests.
"Aside from the food and the service, what makes a livery dinner special are the unique traditions and the ceremonies."