August can be a quiet month in the City – both business and the Livery are taking a well-earned time off and enjoying what has largely been a lovely warm and sunny month. My diary has also been slower but I have managed to fulfil some visits and experiences that I had hoped would be part of my year as Sheriff.
Made in Sheffield
It might seem unusual to visit Sheffield twice in a Mayoral year but following the special Masters’ weekend there in June, the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs are always invited to the Cutlers of Hallamshire Forfeit Feast at the end of July. It was a good opportunity to see more of Sheffield’s manufacturing and entrepreneurial businesses. The Master Cutler James Tear organised a lunch with 20 or so such businesses. They each gave a two minute oversight of their challenges and plans. It was an amazing mixture of organisations large and small, traditional and futuristic who gave a real flavour of the lively business environment in Sheffield. I wrote a blog on my website which gives a much more in depth report about this: https://www.alisongowman.org/blog/made-in-sheffield
The day included a visit to see the factory of ITM Power https://itm-power.com who make electrolysers for green hydrogen. Their international reach was useful when a week later I met someone in London who was setting up a hydrogen plant in Europe and I was able to put them in touch. I hope that they were able to strike a deal with each other!
Out and about across the City
I have long had an interest in those rough sleeping and rootless. I was pleased to walk around the City with the outreach team from Thamesreach who work with the City of London Corporation. It was a fascinating tour of the places that are favoured and are mostly tucked away and quiet. I wrote a blog about the work with rough sleepers here https://www.alisongowman.org/blog/rough-sleeping-in-the-city-of-london
Another long involvement of mine is as a member of the City Police Board and chairing the Professional Standards subcommittee. I have now concluded both roles. However, I was keen to join an evening with the City Police as part of the Op Reframe project. This link via Twitter gives you some details: https://twitter.com/i/status/1562731661095497730
It is effectively an intensive night-time concentration of police officers (including dogs) around the most vulnerable areas of the City. Working with the British Transport Police; licensing; St John Ambulance and Samaritans the combined work ensures that those out celebrating or intending to do harm are offered help and scrutiny. I attended this on 25th August when only the day before a serious stabbing had taken place near Liverpool Street Station at 4am in the morning.
Whilst the City is very safe the late-night drinking and events do mean that there is more likelihood of crime or problems. I was slightly shocked at one young be-suited man who was paralytically drunk and admitted he had a wife and three children at home, one of whom was one week old! Another young woman had been separated from her friends and was only fit to go after much care and attention and in the company of her mother who had been called to come and collect her. The joint working was building strong partnerships and assured me of the strength and importance of the work.
The City Corporation celebrated South Asian Heritage Month in the City Centre with some great speakers and wonderful food and drink. This year the month incorporated the 75th anniversary of the independence of India, Partition and the creation of Pakistan and the 50th anniversary of the expulsion of Ugandan Asians by Idi Amin. The front of Guildhall was lit up orange, white and green in the colours of the Indian flag as a mark of respect and honour.
The evening explored the vexed questions posed to those people of mixed heritage including a great speech by Jassa Ahluwalia who spoke on the topic of #BothNotHalf. His Ted talk is worth a watch ( https://youtu.be/SP0bAQ8J6C0 ) to explain how he is both Punjabi and British.
Wider City links
A special invite arose in early August to visit HMS Queen Elizabeth at Portsmouth. The City of London is affiliated to this flagship of the Navy and this was the first affiliates day that they had run. What an amazing ship she is and was moored next to HMS Prince of Wales – her equally illustrious ship mate. We had a full tour of the quarters and the Lady Mayoress was particularly keen to see the medical deck where full operations could be performed. We also had a fine performance of the Marines band. Quite a day out!
Many of you will know the wide reach of the City Corporation and I have been keen to visit and engage where I can. I wanted to use August to visit a couple of cultural sites that I have not seen recently and are exemplars of the work of the City Corporation outside of the Square Mile.
The London Metropolitan Archives ( https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/history-and-heritage/london-metropolitan-archives ) are based in Clerkenwell and store the archives from over 1000 years of this great capital City.
It is also a public research centre, caring for and providing access to the historical archives of businesses, schools, hospitals, charities and all manner of other organisations from the London area. With over 100km of books, maps, photographs, films and documents dating back to 1067. I was delighted to meet the Director, Emma Markiewicz, and the senior archivist Elizabeth Scudder. They set out an array of historical documents that referred to my Ward of Dowgate including a wonderful document that famous Dowgate resident, Dick Whittington sealed.
I also visited Keats House in Hampstead. This is a gem of a Georgian villa where John Keats spent a short time of his life but his most productive in terms of poetry and the location of his love story with Fanny Brawne: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/attractions-museums-entertainment/keats-house Inside the house there is a wall of people who inspired Keats (especially Shakespeare) but also whom Keats inspired – surprisingly F Scott Fitzgerald.
Whilst not directly connected to the City I visited St Joseph’s Hospice ( https://www.stjh.org.uk ) that is located just over the City border in Hackney.
It is a well-established hospice that provides free of charge, high quality specialist palliative care to those in the central boroughs including the City of London. I could not have been more impressed with their consideration and purpose as well as the highest standard of facilities. A thought-provoking visit.
Always in the media
I was privileged to go backstage at ITV news with anchor woman and journalist Julie Etchingham. It is edge of the seat stuff as they prepare live news updates for broadcasting. I got to sit in the hot seat in the green studio but luckily the camera did not turn to me - this time.
Old Bailey news
I was pleased to catch the film Witness for the Prosecution on BBC2 as it is set in Number One Court at the Old Bailey. Of course, unlike the judgement delivered to camera mentioned in last month’s newsletter, this was not filmed at the Old Bailey but in a specially designed set. I noticed a few differences to the current Court layout. Well worth watching on iPlayer.