Let me start by thanking you for all your kind comments about this newsletter and your overwhelming good wishes for Christmas. Can I reciprocate in wishing you all the compliments of the season and the hope that the New Year will bring us all a healthy and productive time ( as the Shrieval Christmas Card says).
Can I assure you that, whilst there have been some last minute changes in the diary for the Civic City ( the Lord Mayor’s Visit to Scotland changed to being virtual); the intention is to maintain a normal calendar as prevailing conditions allow.
Business as usual
This month the business agenda for me included several meetings and events and none more international than speaking at Chile Day conference in the Mansion House. This event is a real showcase for businesses from Chile and the UK to meet and speak about their engagement and interests. Chile is a vital partner for the UK, see: https://en.mercopress.com/2021/12/01/chile-day-in-uk-british-ministers-and-president-pinera-will-be-attending
City Governance issues and the Livery
The Lord Mayor keeps in touch with the Livery in many ways. Soon after he took office Vincent made the annual presentation to the Livery Masters which gave the Livery a chance to ask questions and raise topics. Interestingly topics included the voting arrangements for the Common Council elections and diversity. Both indicate how the Livery is getting more involved in the City Governance.
This was also reflected in the letter that the Lord Mayor wrote to the Livery about the review of the Corporation’s structure and oversight as a response to a Report by Lord Lisvane in 2020. The letter to the Livery was a very useful update and link to the Report and to the status of the review, see: https://www.liverycommittee.org/city-corporation-governance-review-update-in-response-to-lord-lisvane-report/
The recommendations proposed and passed at the Policy and Resources Committee in November (mentioned in the letter) were agreed at a long, but useful, meeting of Court of Common Council on December 9th. They will be implemented from April 2022.
You can watch the Common Council on YouTube here:
Some Livery Companies also took action to write to the members of the Common Council about a challenge to a planning permission granted in respect of a building in Houndsditch.
The building (if built) would be tall and immediately adjacent to a residential area. The residents who submitted a challenge felt that the wrong decision had been made by the Planning and Transportation Committee and wanted to bring this to the Common Council to overturn. Unusually the Council was lobbied by many interests and took the view that they should not consider the application as it was in breach of process.
As a property lawyer, I would like to stress how important real estate is to the economy of the City and the UK. Local authorities (including the City of London) in the UK have statutory and proper process to approve planning applications, and there are clear avenues for individuals to pursue objection or appeal. The relevant committee is obliged to weigh up these issues, assess planning applications & objections vs statutory parameters and governmental planning practice guidance (see: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/planning-practice-guidance ), take advice and ultimately decide on the application.
Activities at the Old Bailey
The Old Bailey’s business continues with many high profile trials but inside the building the human interaction is positive. Sheriff Nick and I, with Glenn and Felicity, were taken on a tour of the basement and found the boilers. Critical as the weather changes, they are also part of a £38 million pound investment by the City Corporation who own the building which is in need of a serious upgrade in many aspects. The boilers are being replaced by more efficient, smaller and cleaner models and we all hope to keep warm and well this winter and for decades to come.
The City Corporation’s Property Investment Board based their away day at the Old Bailey. (I am a member of the Board). After an in depth review of our large £4bn property portfolio and some strategic thinking for our future needs, I took the Board on a tour and they enjoyed the cells, the Roman Wall as well as the new boilers!
Livery and Ward Club attendance
I had a variety of events with Livery Companies and Ward Clubs. The Masons’ Livery award The Duke of Gloucester’s Awards every two years and last time they were awarded I attended as Master Plaisterer. The skill of the craftsmen is exceptional.
See it at: https://www.masonslivery.org/the-duke-of-gloucester-awards-2021/
I always enjoy making speeches and was pleased to be the guest at the Broad Street Ward Club. You might enjoy my sense of humour in this speech: https://www.alisongowman.org/blog/speech-to-the-broad-street-ward-club The envelope handed to me was for the Sheriffs’ and Recorder’s Fund and not my fee ( I come free on all occasions).
I have been pleased to attend many Christmas events including the Bailey’s own carol service and homegrown choir of superb voices. With the Lord Mayor I turned on the lights at a bespoke and unique Christmas tree on the balcony of the Mansion House.
Rivalling the tree in Trafalgar Square for adverse comments, this reflected the need to think about waste this Christmas. Designed by artist Áinne Burke, it was made of items that have been recovered from the City’s refuse – drinks cans, batteries, construction detritus and packaging. Whilst it does not look glamourous the news item whizzed around the world, proving that news can be mercurial ( if not fickle), see: https://www.euronews.com/2021/12/01/lord-mayor-of-the-city-of-london-unveils-a-rubbish-christmas-tree
I turned on the lights at the wonderful tree outside St Paul’s Cathedral accompanied by singers from St Paul’s Cathedral School choir. However by far the largest crowd was at Leadenhall Market. The retailers here have had a very difficult time during the pandemic and the City Corporation, as Landlords, have been supportive of the plans to bring people back to shop in the City. The Markets’ Committee ( on which I sit) were entertained at various shops and restaurants and I broke my “ no drink” rule to share a glass with Andrien Meyers, the Chair of the Property Investment Board.
Just before Christmas the City Corporation with the Mayor of London produced a one-off spectacle in Guildhall Yard – Borealis. No tricks or skulduggery but beautiful coloured lights projected onto a created mist that provided both eerie and ethereal designs overhead.
With those gentle colours and music echoing in my memory can I conclude by wishing you a peaceful and healthy New Year.
For the City of London November means the Lord Mayor’s Show and the transition of power with a new Lord Mayor. The other international event was the COP26 Climate Summit and a pivotal time for the City and the world to transition to net zero.
Installation of new Lord Mayor
The weekend starts with the Silent Ceremony – the most moving event in the calendar as the new Lord Mayor makes a short declaration and the insignia of office are presented to him in silence. Next day, the Lord Mayor’s Show is a full programme of fun and purpose. Watch highlights at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyu9guWMczk I was pleased to see both the Glovers’ and Plaisterers’ floats in my honour this year! I also enjoyed the Upholders where I am an honorary Liveryman alongside the Lord Mayor. Photo credit: Gerald Sharp
For the Lord Mayor, the Show is punctuated by two formal events – one is the blessing at St Paul’s Cathedral and secondly the stop at the Royal Courts of Justice to make the oath of allegiance to the Queen in front of the Lord Chief Justice and other senior judges. Neither have I been able to photograph as I am not present at St Paul’s (being in an earlier carriage) and the Courts ban photography. See my book The City of London: who, what, why if you want to know more! Find it at: - https://www.alisongowman.org/how-the-city-of-london-works.html
On Monday 15th November the Lord Mayor’s Banquet took place and the splendour and delight of the Guildhall is a wonder to behold. The Banquet is hosted by the Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs and we believe our planning came to a successful conclusion. Fine speeches by the principal guests included a tour de force by our new Lord Mayor Alderman Vincent Keaveny.. Read it at: https://news.cityoflondon.gov.uk/lord-mayor-calls-on-city-to-boost-social-mobility-and-deploy-finance-for-social-impact/
The Prime Minister spoke on foreign policy - https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-speech-to-the-lord-mayors-banquet-15-november-2021 And the Archbishop of Canterbury delivered a thoughtful speech reminding us of the important foundations of people, vision and God’s faithfulness which should make us bold and give us hope -https://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/speaking-writing/speeches/archbishops-speech-lord-mayors-banquet
Old Bailey news
A dedicated member of the Shrieval team retired just at the end of October, Nick Lee. Nick had been a footman at the Bailey for decades and was a font of knowledge and stories about the place and the people. It was a testimony to his popularity that so many City folk knew him. He was an invaluable help to Sheriff Nick and me in the start of our year. He leaves for a happy retirement with his boat in Devon.
We have had a cautious start to the lunches with the Judges and are now hosting guests on about 4 days a week. I held the first themed lunch in November which was on the topic of Property – one of my focuses this year. The coats of the arms of the Sheriffs appear on the wall in the Judges’ Dining Room and ours are now on show in the long line with all the previous Sheriffs who have served the City so well.
The international event that I have been working towards for some time and on which the whole world is depending landed in Glasgow from 1 – 12 November. You cannot have missed it! I attended in the second week for the day focussing on Cities, Regions and Built Environment. I took part in the Green Zone Carbon Trust panel session:
Enhancing ambition on climate change in cities and regions, speaking about the work of the City of London’s Climate Action Strategy; our huge ambition and how to achieve it. I attended various other events including the UK100 hub, which is a confederation of cities and regions of the UK who have pledged to meet net zero.
I had a useful bilateral with a representative of the Mexican Minister of Finance, pursuing my work in Latin America. Since COP I seem to have done a lot of talking or writing about it! Including at the Rotary Club in Mayfair and with the World Traders’ Livery online.
Read my blogs here https://www.alisongowman.org/blog
My mother Livery Company, the Glovers, held an impressive seminar on the history of gloves and glovemaking at the Old Bailey and had the benefit of noted medieval historian Professor Caroline Barron as well as our own Liveryman Mike Redwood and Peter Brown. We learned a lot about the medieval context in which the glovemakers thrived and created beautiful and intricate gloves for adornment. Supreme examples of these are part of the Glove Collection Trust held at the Fashion Museum in Bath -
I have attended several Livery dinners and learned a lot about the various companies. A distinct theme has been developing around the maritime industry and the interplay with the aviation sector regarding the use of heavy fuels and transition to more sustainable energy sources.
It started at the Green Aviation Conference convened by the Air Pilots and Scientific Instrument Makers where I spoke ( see contemporaneous article in Air Pilot - https://www.airpilots.org/news-and-comment/air-pilot-magazine/) A really compelling story was discussed of the need to innovate but with news of ideas and improvements over time. The air sector were looking to maritime to collaborate on ideas and dining with the Shipwrights, Master Mariners and Baltic Exchange ( all separately) it was clear that this was a common aim. I hope that some engagement might blossom in this important area as the success of these sectors is vital to our trade.
Alderman & Sheriff Alison Gowman
Welcome to my first newsletter as Sheriff and, as promised, a catch up on all that I have been doing in my first few weeks.
Needless to say the start was very busy: getting used to a new office at the Old Bailey, the dress changes and luxury of a footman and car were all a bit bewildering. I will unpick more of that as the year goes by.
The schedule is however quite hectic and I cannot summarise all that I have done but I want to give a flavour and report on some of the elements that may not be in the public eye or may need other comment.
Life at the Bailey
The usual apartments are undergoing much needed refurbishment and so Nick and I have been allocated offices that are otherwise used for Judges and are surplus at present. These provide a desk and space for small meetings and somewhere to change for the evening events. An early visitor to my room was the Harris’s Hawk that is regularly flown to deter the pigeons that seem to gather in old buildings such as the Bailey.
Real life at the Bailey, of course, consists of the busy Courts and in my first week there were two significant cases that caught the headlines.
The sentencing of Wayne Couzens who murdered Sarah Everard and the first hearing in relation to the murder of the south London primary school teacher Sabina Nessa. I have a particular interest in the treatment in the criminal justice system of violence against women and children and you will see this become an issue on which you will hear more from me.
The first day of duty on 29th September is also the Election of the Lord Mayor, where the new Sheriffs with the Common Serjeant act as the tellers of the Livery vote. It was slightly more complicated this year with both my Co-Sheriff and I in nomination for Lord Mayor. The Livery favoured Vincent Keaveny and then Nick Lyons and the Aldermen chose Vincent, as expected! I was happy to be called out for “later”.
The Sheriffs have an important second part to their installation which is the ancient Quit Rents Ceremony at the Royal Courts of Justice where the approval of the Queen is given to the election of the Sheriffs by the Livery ( back in June). The ceremony is preceded by a river trip from Tower to Temple Pier and it was fitting that we were photographed by Tower Bridge. Nick is the Alderman of Tower Ward and I am the former chair of the City Bridge Trust that is linked to the City bridges.
Knuckling down to business
I am always happy promoting sustainability and the City Corporation are working hard on this topic to meet their Climate Action Strategy commitments. A report on the first 6 months shows that the City is on track with its milestones. I was therefore pleased to attend and open the Meet the Cities event held with Westminster City Council and ReLondon encouraging collaborative work between innovative SMEs and large construction companies around the circular economy.
I was delighted to act as Representative Lord Mayor at the City of London School for Girls prize day in Great Hall. I had been the chair of Governors for a period spanning the Millennium and so it was poignant to see the girls still high achievers in academic, sporting and cultural pursuits. No hand shaking due to Covid but over 80 girls were awarded prizes. I did consider that they reintroduce the curtsey that was still used in 2000 but that did not go down well!
Similar Covid conditions meant that the Glaziers’ Livery Company Stevens’ Competition was held on Zoom. I announced and presented the virtual prizes for a design for a stained glass window at Haberdashers’ Girls’ School and was pleased at the innovation in such an ancient craft.
The Sheriffs’ calendar includes many events with Livery Companies and it is wonderful to share some magnificent dinners either in Mansion House or elsewhere. I have been delighted to receive an occasional posy of flowers that grace my Old Bailey office. Whilst largely events of fun and fellowship I have found out a lot about the unsung work of the Livery Companies ( Cooks Livery donating some £500,000 this year to Covid related and other charities; meeting young apprentice Kemi an aspiring Haberdasher; putting a Consort in touch with a Livery that they may well join; and everywhere a positive response to the Livery Climate Action Group that I lead!).
Sheriffs’ Bravery Awards
The Worshipful Company of Security Professionals chose the Old Bailey for their dinner and the presentation of the 2021 Sheriffs’ Bravery Award. I was truly humbled to give this to Lukasz Koczocik. He was chosen to receive this due to the bravery he had shown at the terrorist attack at Fishmongers’ Hall in November 2019. This honour will be marked on the board and in the book displayed outside the Judges’ Dining Room for all to see.
Photo copyright Gerald Sharp.
Livery Climate Action Group
Some of you will already have heard about this network of Livery members and Companies who are looking at how we can all reduce our carbon emissions in line with the City Corporation’s Climate Action Strategy. After 9 months of concerted work, three seminars and lots of research and writing the Group launched its website and the invite to everyone to join. Over 200 joined our virtual event and since then many have signed up.
Please see our new Livery Climate Action Group website and consider joining to find out more. There is no fee or qualification – just an aim to work together to reduce emissions and leave the planet in a better state for the future.
Just before I started in my role as Sheriff my Church ( Hinde Street Methodist Church) kindly blessed me in my work including the following words:
“..sustain and equip, we pray, all who give their time and energy to serve in our various communities as elected councillors and leaders. As Alison takes on the high office of Sheriff of the City of London, we pray your blessing on her today…”
This was echoed in the City Prayer Breakfast on 10th October at Holy Sepulchre High Holborn where the combined congregation prayed for the work of the City in all its guises and where I also read a lesson. It is good to know that the City is living up to the motto on its crest Domine Dirige Nos.
Alderman & Sheriff Alison Gowman