Carpenters Hall was the venue chosen for the 2023 Court Meeting followed by the traditional Worshipful Company of Distillers’ February Lunch. Situated amongst sky-scrapers and modern build, one gains access through a rather modest side door off Throgmorton Avenue – which then opens out into an airy atrium that eschews the dark wood that one might imagine would be the legacy of 7 centuries of carpenters at Livery.
Armed with the Assistant Clerk’s carefully curated seating plan, we ascend to the first floor for pre-lunch libations and to mingle briefly with a fleet of guests comprising Alderman Bronek Masojada, and Masters (some with their Clerks) from the Upholders’, Shipwrights’, Coachmakers’ and Farmers’ Companies. Of particular note, was good attendance by many in our Corporate Membership Programme – and, not least, Javier Ferrán Chairman of Diageo who was seated at our Master’s right hand at lunch.
Once called to table, and with the room echoing from the usual drum beat hand-clap for the top table party march to their seats, our revered Honorary Chaplain, Rev’d Canon, David Parrott got matters underway with a highly witty and poetic grace, giving his most usual references to location – in this case incorporating saw, plane, drill, screw and nail – perhaps he might consider “stand up” as he (sadly for us, happily for him!) retires from his role as our Honorary Chaplain shortly.
Amens and chuckles complete, we slide our chairs out from under the tables over the exquisitely polished wood floor, and glance upwards taking in Carpenters’ Hall in all its majesty of fine woods, careful carving and marquetry inlay. Light streams in through well-glazed and finely-bordered windows, whilst the black leather-back chairs are easily the most comfortable to dine in around the Livery halls of the City of London. The Carpenters’ staff were swiftly out and keep us well-lubricated continuing the Master’s theme of Mediterranean wines which perfectly complement the bladed beef, and Yorkshire Pudding laced with delicious horse radish. A rich Royal Brackla 12 year old, darker than the wood on the ceiling, completed the drinks’ array, with our coffee, before the Beadle summoned Middle Warden, Nick Carr, to his feet – chosen expressly to speak to Vocational Training and Education (VT&E) and the Livery’s journey and progress here over the last 3 years especially.
The Middle Warden proceeded to recall item by item the Livery’s growth agenda in VT&E – breathlessly explaining the increase in funding, the supporting of our award winners with mentors from the Livery, the establishment of Livery-delivered day seminars on “The Business of Spirits”, and commencement of a work experience programme for distilling students, and an embryo Memory of the Industry programme that captures and digitally records the wisdom, experiences, learnings and successes of this generation of Liverymen for the next – and for wider student bodies and members of the public to draw upon, too. This aperitif gave introduction to two of our award-winning mentees – Diana Lyalle and Daniel Collis – who then gave a short and highly-effusive account of how their mentors (respectively, Upper Warden Lorne MacKillop and Liveryman Andrew Cox) had helped them progress their careers over the last 18 months to great and significant effect. Two very convincing tales indeed, and all in the Livery were encouraged to lend support to the Mentoring Programme from whatever background they might emanate.
All too soon, the Master was on his feet – complementing the Livery teams involved in Auction and wider philanthropy – and looking forward to great success in both these areas in 2023. With barely a pause, lunch was over, and we were ushered out into the ante-room for a stirrup cup and to be joined by the consorts who had at that moment arrived from a seemingly very enjoyable Lunch lead by the Mistress, Sue Searle, at Vintners’ Hall, with guest speaker Professor Rosie Campbell, Director of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership.
As City clocks struck 4pm it was time to vacate the Carpenters’ clutches and take a bracing walk home through the City, scalved and be-hatted against the icy February breeze, reflecting on our most successful Livery company – which has easily moved up into the ‘top 10’ with its many philanthropic initiatives firmly-established with the giving of Time, Treasure and Talent to those wonderful people in, and newly-joining, the Distilling industry and its associated trades and Livery interests.