One Term Sheriffs
We, Chris Hayward and I, have just completed a rare two-year term as Sheriffs, the first two consecutive terms since 1228 AD. We, and our spouses, Elisabeth and Alex, are still adjusting to having left our Clerkenwell Cottages at Old Bailey, with 18 courts, 400,000 square feet of offices, 74 jail cells, two cabinets of medieval torture equipment, and no television, and have moved back to our homes. It’s nice to have television, and to be able to call our former ‘consorts’ ‘spouses’.
We kicked off our year with Professor Jo Delahunty speaking on diversity & inclusion at a wonderful Sheriffs’ Breakfast. We embarked on a fairly traditional Shrieval season. Early on, in recognition of Michael’s extensive work in China, the Chinese city of Xi’an presented us with a six foot high, heavy clay replica of a Terracotta warrior, now on the first floor of the Old Bailey. The staff call him “Mike” (we wonder why?).
As coronavirus darkened the horizon, we had already delivered 48 formal speeches and 18 panels between us and hosted 85 Old Bailey luncheons with 477 guests. We had themed luncheons on Goodenough College, South Africa’s Abe Bailey Bursars, Vice Chancellors, Lawtech, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.
On Commerce, we promoted the Lord Mayor’s Global UK theme, meeting overseas delegations. We asked the 15 strong Financial Services Group of Livery Companies to start a taskforce strengthening and simplifying anti-money laundering. The taskforce closed this September with a global survey, seven webinars, gala conference, and weekly bulletins, gaining support from the Law Society, and the attention of government departments.
On Community, we visited Pentonville prison, wound up doing three Security Professionals’ Bravery Awards, three Information Technologists’ awards, an Amity Dinner for Inner and Middle Temple, an Islamic City evening, spoke at the Kids’ Lit Quiz finals, gave mock Oxbridge interviews, helped Guildhall School for Music & Drama with its consultancy programme, and hosted a scientific Hyperion dinner.
On Charity, we sold books such as “A Decade of Criminal Justice”, edited by Roger Gifford and Adrian Waddingham to raise money for the Sheriffs’ & Recorder’s Fund. Using Neil Redcliffe’s generously donated history notes, we gave over 60 Old Bailey tours. Chris famously lost 46 pounds in weight for charity. Following Samantha Bowman’s example, Michael later rode his trusty steed Leo round the City with seven of the HAC’s Light Cavalry and City of London Police horses visiting 18 livery halls. We held the fifth Sheriffs’ Ball. Total charitable earnings are estimated at well over £150,000.
And we had the honour of attending livery and ward club events, all wonderful, though it would be nice if a few more people thought the Post Horn Gallop wasn’t the apogee of a musical interlude. We should have been first people to get Covid. In six months we had been at functions meeting over 35,000 people.
Then on 13 March the Cordwainers’ invited us to dinner at the Clothmakers. The next morning everything came crashing to a halt. And stayed stopped until July this year when the Playing Card Makers hosted our first livery event at Plaisterers’ Hall.
What got cut? Well all our overseas visits. This was a bit of a family problem for Michael. His first grandson was born in Yokohama on Christmas 2019 and he’d hoped the Corporation of London might wind up paying for granddad’s first visit. His second grandson was born in October. It’s now most unlikely the Corporation will be paying for that visit. Naturally, cuts went deeper, including events on International Arbitration, UK Quality Infrastructure, High Sheriffs Association, Combat Stress, Hostage International, St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital, and many more. Mournfully, Michael played his bagpipes one dark and stormy Saturday afternoon in the Grand Hall.
And we got started again. The Old Bailey was in the midst of choosing a new Recorder, so we Sheriffs had a small executive role in making the courts covid-compliant and keeping the facility running. Then came video-conferencing. It’s no accident that our two other Past Masters Associations are the Zoomers and the Unmuteables.
Ridley Scott’s film Alien has the tagline, “in space no one can hear you scream”. Well on Zoom, no one laughs at your jokes. After presenting some 800 webinars, we finally found two jokes that work. We held two virtual ‘movie’ evenings at the Old Bailey for 1,300 people, watching the legal documentary ‘Life is Wonderful: Mandela’s Unsung Heroes’. At mid-summer the City & Livery asked us to serve another year; while they may call us two-timers, we prefer two-termers for some reason.
We filmed ads for empty market openings at Leadenhall, Cheapside, and Bow Lane, twirling around City streets in my red robe trying to bring shoppers in for the wonders of Christmas. The streets remained silent.
And then starting in May 2021, things came back. We chased a Shepherd Neame dray round the City, went upriver to Parliament’s Mayflower 400 event, found an abandoned museum inside the Old Bailey on the 3rd subterranean level, and ended in September with things close to normal. There was even time for Michael to make a dinner faux pas. Sitting between the Master Cook and the Master Baker at lunch, Michael innocently asked what was the dividing line between cooked goods and baked goods, take mince pies for example. The Master Cook patiently explained the difference was that cooked goods were so tasty that they were eaten on the premises, while baked goods were put in a bag to take away. The Master Baker, impishly asked, “If that’s so true, then why do you need doggy bags.”
Having given our farewell speech at Common Hall a tearful Lord Mayor said goodbye while waving us off as Elisabeth and Michael rowed Chris downriver in the Corporation’s Thames Watermen Cutter.
With a nod to the Clockmakers, livery companies embody for us the clocklike mechanism of social organisations that get everyone working together for commerce, community, and charity. No City on earth has the City of London’s booster club of 55,000 people in the livery movement.
Over nearly two years, people have been working hard to deal with Covid. The liveries led us in how to help when we wanted to do something, but individually were unsure what to do. The phenomenal liveries of the Livery Kitchen initiative, engineers manufacturing PPE and ventilators, financial support for charities and reaching out to zero hours contract staff. Sheriffs are only figureheads, but we felt we were figureheads for the most worthwhile movement.
We face steep and complex changes. Our geographic City has had an economically torrid twenty months, while the south-east of England technology and financial services cluster has boomed. A big positive change among the livery, guilds, and ward clubs has been reaching out strongly to members we sometimes innocently overlooked, those not within easy commuting distance of London, retirees, those overseas. There has been a significant rise in the intellectual life of the City. We need to fan these embers, cooperate on technology, go more international, and work harder at bringing business delegations to London.
‘The Knowledge Mile’ is Michael’s working title for presenting London as the place businesses come to ‘go global’ in a combination of business, technical, professional, and financial services. The World’s Coffeehouse, delivering superb value to humanity. The City is always about continuity and change, conducting our rituals while seeking to renew our relevance.
In September 1666, the City of London fathers did not exactly shine in the early days of the Great Fire. We are honoured to have been Sheriffs at a time when the Civic City was called forward again to help the City face a major threat, and hope the Civic response was a bit better this time. We shall work with our successors to move further forward as we face the major changes and opportunities that are certainly coming to our great City.