Master’s Weekend 2019

It’s a tradition within the Livery Movement, that the Master hosts an annual gathering of his/her Freemen to enjoy the Fellowship that resides at its core. We at the Guild of Entrepreneurs are no different and 27th to 29th September saw us gather in London to enjoy a range of activities carefully curated by the Master.

The weekend kicked off on Friday morning to experience a behind-the scenes visit to the huge £3.8bn Tideway construction project, we saw first-hand how the Victorian sewers are being supported by building 25kms of a new Super Sewer directly under the Thames.

Following a delicious lunch hosted by our friends at Drapers’ Hall and with a few more Freemen joining us we relocated to the Mansion House for a private tour. Our personal guide John shared its fascinating history and introduced us the behind the scenes that visitors wouldn’t usually get to see. We were also able to visit the vaults where The Lord Mayor’s treasures are stored; including the various swords, maces and regalia worn by the Lord Mayor throughout history. After a short walk across to the Guildhall we were taken by one of the London Metropolitan archivists to the Art Gallery see its own very own copy of the Magna Carta and then to the Library to a private view of their copies of Shakespeare’s folios, including a hugely rare first edition worth some £5m. A priceless artifact that for some reason they seemed keen that we did not handle. The look of trepidation on the archivists face, as fifteen jolly Freemen approached, was a delight!

With a quick turnaround to spruce up and don more formal attire we were invited to join the Argentinian Ambassador at his residence for drinks. With his time being precious he made a delightful speech welcoming us, but then had to bid us goodbye to attend another event. Not to fear though he would join us at another event on the Saturday… Passing across to our Master Peter Hewitt, Peter spoke of the relationships between our two countries and how with the assistance of the British & Argentinian Chamber of Commerce, entrepreneurialism is flourishing and how via Connect AR – UK business relationships are being built every day. With a response from representatives from the association and formalities complete, we did what us entrepreneurs do best, network. With some real energy in the conversations and connections made, this brought our first day to a close over a couple of glasses of gin at private members’ club Home House.

Saturday morning had been arranged with an alternative private guided tour of Tower Bridge or an exclusive visit to the Air Ambulance at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. With numbers split and once again more Freemen joining in we each took our tour. For those visiting the bridge they got to enjoy a completely immersive experience of its construction and vital role played then and today in London’s rich commercial tapestry. And for those visiting the Air Ambulance it was a clear reminder of the valuable role it plays in saving lives on a daily basis, and how all of this is achieved outside any financial support from the NHS, it having to raise the considerable funds required themselves. Lunch followed in the bustling Market at Borough at Fish! where we all came together, ate, drank and enjoyed much merriment sharing stories of the weekend thus far. We are blessed with a lovely range of people & personalities and it is at events such as this that the genuine fellowship we enjoy comes to the fore.

Suitably refreshed, we took a lovely walk along the South Bank heading west up the river to Waterloo Bridge which happens to be the home of the RNLI Tower Station. We are proud that we include Stephen Wheatley amongst our Freemen. Stephen has been a lifeboat crew volunteer for a decade or so, based at this station. He had kindly arranged for us to have a private tour, including a presentation from his colleague Martin, who shared many fascinating facts about the RNLI’s history and the variety and scale of operations they undertake both around our coasts and inland waterways. Stephen then gave us a talk about the boat they use at the station that allows them to get to “shouts” over an extended distance in very short periods of time. The tides and flows of the Thames make it a very dangerous body of water and speed really is of the essence to save lives. The modesty and pride both Stephen and Martin portrayed was humbling in the extreme. Our tour there ended in the kit room, where as is traditional, we got to enjoy some dressing up! Despite the Thames being surprisingly clean (the brown colour is caused by silt), the overriding message was “don’t swim in it!”.

Bidding them farewell some of the group relocated to St Paul’s to enjoy its Evensong service, whilst others retired to their hotels to ready themselves for our weekend closing dinner. Donning our Black Ties and Cocktail Dresses and courtesy of the Worshipful Company of Watermen and Lightermen who allowed us to use their hall, we were once again reunited with the Argentinian Ambassador and his wife as they joined us as guests of honour for dinner. Following a delicious meal cooked by Watermen’s Hall caterer and Freeman Entrepreneur Mark Grove of Cook & Butler, we were entertained by Tower of London Yeoman Warder Colin Smith MBE BEM, who told many an amusing story of the Tower and his work there. This was a precursor of the treat that was to come as we followed Colin down to Tower to experience the centuries old event of the Ceremony of the Keys, when it is locked up for the night. Not open to the public, the event has taken place every day for at least the last 700 years and it is a true privilege to witness it, made more so with Colin guiding us through it in his own inimitable style! 

Not even the slightly biblical rain could put a dampener on events and once being sure the Tower was properly locked, we made our way back to the Watermen’s Hall for a nightcap and to say some final goodbyes as the weekend’s events drew to a close. For many that was the close but for a few, they stayed in London for Sunday’s annual Freeman of the City’s Sheep Drive. Arranged by the Worshipful Company of Woolmen, those with the Freedom get to mark this by driving sheep across London Bridge. Freemen Judy Hadden and Mark Huxley drove their sheep (well walked tentatively behind them) supported by some other Freemen who stayed over to enjoy the event as well as the Livery Fayre nearby at Monument. 

With that really being that, the weekend is now but a happy memory and am sure our Master Elect Rick Lowe is already plotting and planning his own weekend for 2020. Something that will be something not to be missed.

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