I was delighted to be part of the Lord Mayor’s party to visit Liverpool on 25 February. The Lord Mayor’s year includes many visits overseas but also a growing number of regional visits to those UK cities that are closely involved with the Financial and Professional Services sector. I know well how connected Liverpool is. The legal firm that I first joined as an articled clerk, then known as Alsop Stevens Batesons & Co, was a Liverpool/London firm, in that order. The business started in Liverpool in the mid-19th century and came to London in 1954. The work of the firm was rooted in the maritime and insurance world with some major banking clients as well. That same mix of maritime and wealth management is strong in Liverpool today. The visit provided a great insight into that sector and into the education and research being carried out at the University of Liverpool and the innovation and growth happening on a major scale.
Any Mayoral visit hopes to meet the main leaders of the City and we were pleased to have meetings with the Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram and the Civic Lord Mayor, Councillor Mary Rasmussen. Mayor Steve was keen to talk about the digital connectivity of the Liverpool area which would be a real driver for the region. Further links with London and potential private financing of new businesses and innovation could build a positive partnership. The Lord Mayor showed us the Town Hall which was built just 10 years after the City's Mansion House. It is not surprising that Liverpool's Georgian architecture has been much lauded.
Our day started on the Waterside and coffee with Stephen Cowperthwaite of Avison Young and a member of the Professional Liverpool Board. He was very upbeat about the positive developments in the city including the Spine - said to be the UK's healthiest building. We were lucky enough to visit this landmark later in the day and see the accommodation that the Royal College of Physicians has taken as a second location outside London. Such a good choice with the Knowledge Quarter burgeoning with medical and pharma occupiers. The new Pandemic Institute is a global first and will stand alongside the work of iiCON, the infection innovation consortium, that we visited. This is led by Professor Janet Hemingway of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. We were shown state of the art facilities and learned about their development of products that will help reduce the burden of disease worldwide.
The University of Liverpool was also a key partner and we could see the benefit of this campus site in the centre of the City and the Knowledge Quarter. The Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy was very much my interest and the science research here is just the sort of innovation needed to be financed to help mitigate rising carbon emissions. Solar power and a more efficient way of collecting and transmitting this with the possible use of perovskite solar cells was one lesson I learned ( hoping that I got the science right in this case).
I do not want to miss mentioning our visit to the Tate Liverpool to see an amazing range of works that included a hill village built of couscous and wallpaper paste as well as an image of our own City’s London Bridge in Arizona. The Tate has a significant outreach programme that clearly helps to build community links and provides education, job experience and employment.
Liverpool struck me as a very cohesive City, confident of their way forward and with strong leadership and aims.
Here you all are my Livery Companies - the Magnificent 7 and here am I YOUR SHERIFF.
I don’t think that following the story line of those Magnificent 7 movies will bring much of a theme for my speech tonight. The Sheriff was corrupt and ends up dead like all bad sheriffs should do. I hope I am proving to be a good sheriff.
As you will all know I love this City of London. I first visited for the anniversary of the British and Foreign Bible Society when I was about 11 or 12 and taken with my best friend Jane by my Sunday school teacher Mr Barnet to the Guildhall and it was packed with people, mainly children as I recall and there was an enormous cake that was cut to celebrate the anniversary. Childhood bliss. The cake that is and not the splendour of Guildhall What is entirely incredible is that the Ward of Dowgate that I have represented for the last 30 years was in fact the location of the founding of the forerunner of the Bible Society and so a circle of links begins to turn.
That is one of the reasons that I love this City and that I chose the mobius strip or loop as the background to my shrieval badge. The continuity of that shape and the energy that such activity it embodies ; I hope is a symbol or emblem of the way that I have tried to act in my professional, personal and civic life.
So what is it I love?
It strikes me that however you arrive in the City on foot train bus or plane or helicopter - it’s exciting
Coming over one of the City’s 5 bridges owned by the City Corporation trustee of the Bridge House Estates of which I am now the Deputy Chair again – you cannot but look up from your paper or iPhone and see the river flowing majestically beneath you – the tide coming in and out like the commuters and the renewing of the foreshore and the purpose as they arrive each day be it for work play or business.
Arriving from the north – down the hill just like Dick Whittington –That’s another link to my ward as he lived there and founded almshouses and the church and he left funds to create 64 long drops - equal numbers for men and women – he is my sort of hero- although we all know that women need more facilities in order to avoid the queuing which I am sure happened even in medieval times
Once in the City who can but wonder at the eclectic mix of buildings crammed into such a small square mile. Every variety of financial and professional service and supporting businesses; the churches with towers and spires pointing heavenward and, of course the Livery Halls that so many pass by without notice of their purpose or what or who is happening inside.
The spaces between are just as important - the roads and pavements parking bays cycle racks and e scooter and taxi ranks, the piazza and squares and the wonderful gardens and lawns under our feet or flying high in the air above us – public or private. The flora and fauna and precious buds and burgeoning bursts of life that amaze us. The ponds ornamental water features lakes and drinking fountains. Yes we have Hills – Ludgate and Cornhill and they are not artificial such as some neighbouring boroughs want to build and then demolish pretty smartish.
And I haven’t even started on the people who are at the heart of this buzzing City. They too reflect so many different backgrounds and purposes of this great metropolis. I use the word reflect rather than represent as there are many not present or not in the profusion that they should be and that is a challenge we all need to address and a purpose we need to pursue together.
And the Livery companies are part of the warp and weft of this City and not just a manufacturers label on the garment of the City. All of you are my Livery companies because you get the relevance of the Livery to our professions crafts and trades; our potential and outreach and our love of the Mayoralty and ceremonial. This runs true for the companies and for the added work such as that of the Livery Climate Action group. No I have not missed the opportunity to discuss the need to protect this precious environment – a word that I use in its widest possible meaning.
I do want to give huge vote of thanks to the members of the Livery Climate Action Group who are here “outwith” the Magnificent 7 and deserve all my thanks for all their hard work and positive response and assistance to the founding of the group and the bringing together of now over 40 Livery Companies as members. Thank you and well done.
Do you love this City? Can we all work together to make it better? Do we have arms wide enough to throw open to bring in and nurture the best talent? To lead the way in responsible business and creative and innovative solutions? To ensure we keep our place as the global financial centre with the ability to cascade the jobs and financial benefits throughout the UK. Can we believe this? I do and that’s what I love about this City and these people.
So I return to the theme of the western – I do reckon that I could have been a good Sheriff then and prevented all those duels that start off “This town ain’t big enough for the two of us.” You just need better town planning.