Friday, 3 April 2009

April Fool?

Exercising our Liberties - 1 April 2009 - The Bank of England

I suppose that someone knew well in advance that the G20 were to meet in London over the current week. What no one on the Company seemed to know when the date for the Annual Livery Banquet was set many months ago for Wednesday 1 April was that a coalition of radical groups, every anarchist in the land and a great many ordinary citizens who, for a variety of reasons had cause to take serious issue with the government of the day, and the banking community had decided that they were to descend on the City on the same day. Trouble was widely rumoured, bankers were invited to stay home or dress down and ordinary citizens were invited to stay clear of the Bank of England.

The venue of the Banquet was Drapers' Hall - not a million miles from the Bank.

There was much soul searching and careful attention was paid to the advice being given by both the City and security services. The Hall staff at Drapers' were brilliant and it was decided to go ahead with the event. The sensible compromise to amend the dress code from Evening wear to lounge suit and day dresses was taken.

The vast majority of the good sized group who attended made it to the event without so much as a sight of a demonstrator. Of those due to arrive there were a mere two 'no shows'.

A splendid evening was enjoyed by all and pictures will be added to this post when they are available. The Civic toast was responded to by Sheriff George Gillon and the toast proposed by the Master to the Guests was responded to by Artist Ben Johnson who, with the assistance of a Power Point presentation gave the audience a fascinating insight into the production of his very individual work. Much of this revolves around the representation of architecture on a grand scale. He is best known for his City Scapes. He has put together monumental works on Hong Kong, Jerusalem, Geneva and, most recently, Liverpool. The latter work was commissioned to mark Liverpool's European Year of Culture status in 2008 - the painting, measuring 16 feet x eight feet now hangs in the Hunter Gallery in that City. Interestingly, the painting was paid for by subscription. Ben is keen to tackle a similar work of the City of London to be complete in 2012. Watch this space - you heard it first here.

The toasts were followed by the Presentation of the New City Architecture Awards which were announced by the Chairman of the Assessors Paul Finch OBE. The details of the winners are set out in the post above.

All present seemed to enjoy the evening. Certainly by the time everyone left the Hall - rather later than is normal on these occasions, there was little sign that there had been trouble in the area.

The Clerk, when he called at the Hall the following day, saw a few signs of the unrest in the form of some hastily chalked up graffiti on the Princes Street wall of Sir John Soane's Bank of England building. There were samples from most of the predictable organizations. The Prime Minister and various police chiefs seemed not to be popular, there was encouragement for the Palestinians and those seeking to save the planet but, most particularly, it was those who worked in major City offices that came in for some stick. Sir Fred Goodwin would not have been flattered by some of his portraits and the artists seemed to have trouble with the spelling of the collective noun commonly used to describe those who work in or for banks. Among all the banal bits of work there was one which will live in the memory. Someone had thoughtfully written 'With all this money in the City why doesn't someone open a sandwich shop - I'm f******g starving!' Says it all really.

The grandiose interior of Draper's Hall, Throgmorton Street - 200 metres from les événements du G20.

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