On 1st March, officially the first day of Spring, the Phoenix Masters Association held their second annual Spring Dinner. This is the event in the year when the Phoenix Masters are encouraged to bring their partners for a black tie event. It was held in the resplendent Saddlers’ Hall and was graciously hosted by the Past Master Saddler Charles Barclay in the presence of our Vice President, Dr Christine Rigden.
But the arrival of first the Beast from the East and then the Storm Emma from the south hindered some members’ efforts to make it. Well over 70 members and partners did battle the elements to get through and were rewarded with an excellent meal accompanied by fine wines.
The first of these wines was the Phoenix Masters’ own Cuvée of champagne – Cuvée Phoenix, no less. This was a premier cru blanc de blancs champagne from the Oger-based house of de Vaugency, which has been run by the same family since before the French revolution. Well, we in the livery movement do like things with a bit of history! All agreed it was of high quality, and Phoenix members are able to order this for their own consumption at the bargain price of £135 per case of 6 bottles, delivery included.
Charles welcomed those present and told us that Phoenixes were more at home in fire than in snow. He then told us something about the Worshipful Company of Saddlers. It is not a large company but the great majority of members have a genuine link to the saddlers’ trade either historically through family connections or in a present way of business. His own family connection dates back to the 18th century and he is the fourth member of his family to be a Master or a Prime Warden. Unusually the Saddlers now have a Royal Perpetual Master in the person of HRH Princess Anne and so the next in line who conducts most of the duties is referred to as a Prime Warden but when he steps down from the chair he becomes a Past Master.
The Saddlers can lay claim to being the oldest guild although Charles was careful to acknowledge the Weavers’ well-established claim to the oldest charter which dates from 1155.
In view of those members and guests who had not been able to attend the Chairman Mark Chambers proposed a toast to absent friends.
The menu comprised Scottish oak smoked salmon with caviar scrambled egg and mimosa dressing served with Hartenberg Riesling 2014; followed by Beef Wellington with mushrooms duxelle, madeira demiglace with truffled mash and carrot & bean bundles served with Mountadam Barossa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010; then finally Lemon pannacotta and citrus salad, served with Château Petit Védrines Sauternes 2013 and all was delicious courtesy of Party Ingredients.
The Hon Elizabeth Green, Past Master Framework Knitter gave the speech before proposing a toast to the Phoenix Masters. To keep our attention she asked us to think of the two Tube stations that have all five vowels in their name, one of which is in the City and she would mention it in her speech. She is very involved in the new Pan Livery initiative launched in 2017. This now consists of three committees, one steering committee, one focused on Communications, both internal and external and a third on Philanthropy. The initiative will try to strike a balance between helping share best practice and also promoting a more positive attitude to the City in general and the Livery in particular while preserving the absolute independence and unique character of each individual Livery Company.
Liz is also a member of the Phoenix Masters Outreach and Purpose Committee and she told us of some of its plans. It is currently focussed on supporting the Lord Mayor, Charles Bowman’s charities. Charles is a Vice President of the Association and asked us to help with his chosen charity The Samaritans and also with City Giving Day.
The Samaritans were founded by Chad Varah when he was Vicar of St Stephens Walbrook, the Lord Mayor’s Church. The initial costs were met by the Grocers. The Samaritans are best known for their work in dealing with desperate people but they are keen to help people recognise the signs of mental illness before they become desperate. To this end, they have developed a programme called Wellbeing in the City which is the Lord Mayor’s chosen charity.
The Samaritans have developed online and video materials which can be used by companies and their employees to identify early signs of mental illness. The materials have been tested in PwC where Charles is a Partner. There will be a wider launch to the City in April. We have a list of companies already signed up to participate and we will send this out to members to see if, through our contacts, we can expand this.
Similarly, Charles has asked us if we can help increase participation in City Giving Day. This takes place on 25th September. Last year 220 organisations took part and this year the Lord Mayor’s Appeal office is aiming for 300. So if every member introduced just one organisation to the programme they’d achieve their target. The aim is for companies to demonstrate to their own employees as well as a wider audience the good work they already do with charities and other good causes. This is not just about fundraising but much more about the pro bono work that so many companies already do. Research indicates that only 20% of employees are even aware of their employer’s good work in this way.
Liz asked members present to get behind these two initiatives. If we are successful we will be breaking new ground as a Past Masters Association. We will be writing to all members soon with more details of what we are asking them to do.
The City tube station with all five vowels in its name is, of course, Mansion House. The other one is apparently South Ealing.
Secretary Isobel Pollock-Hulf said “The dinner was excellent and showed what can be achieved through adversity when presented by the challenges of weather. Many appreciated the increased mix and mingle time created by a very efficient dinner service and short speeches. I much enjoyed the meal and its accompanying wines preceded by Phoenix champagne.”
Thanks must go to organisers Past Upper Bailiff Weaver John Nugée and Past Master Tin Plate Worker alias Wire Worker Ian Makowski. Next year’s Annual Dinner will take place at Mercers’ Hall on 14th March 2019.