Date: 21st January 2020
The Company’s annual banquet is always a special occasion and Master Farmer, David Bolton presided over a particularly grand iteration as the guest of honour for the 2020 Annual Livery Banquet held at Clothworkers Hall on Tuesday January 21st was, I am delighted to be able to report, Past Master, HRH The Princess Royal.
Clothworkers Hall, as we heard in a very well researched and informative opening speech from Senior Warden Richard Whitlock, sits on an ancient site in Mincing Lane, acquired by the then Shearmen’s Company in 1456 and subsequently the site on which the first and all future halls for the company have been built.
The current hall, the sixth to be built on the site was opened in 1958 replacing the hall designed by Samual Agnell that was destroyed during the Blitz in 1941. We have visited this hall on a number of occasions, it being one of the very few halls big enough for what is usually the biggest even in our Company calendar, and it has always been a splendid venue. 2020 was no exception. Two hundred Liverymen and guests including guest of honour HRH The Princess Royal, Group Captain Steve Kilvington from RAF Waddington, Major Sam Beagley representing the Westminster Dragoons and Lt Cdr Teilio Elliot-Smith from HMS Defender gathered in the Great hall for dinner.
The Master, in his speech to welcome the Company’s guests, reminded us of his theme for his year in office - ‘change’ and commented that this was indeed a time of momentous change in our industry. He made the important point that, as we enter a period where the demand for a more sustainable, natural farming system is driving a wave of change that many farmers are finding challenging to respond to, the need for the kind of education and training that is at the forefront of the Company’s work, has never been greater.
The Company, the Master said, was delivering excellence through its education programme and gave as evidence of this comments from his own twitter feed (we really are he said ‘moving with the times’) following the successful conclusion of the 69th Advanced Course in Agricultural Business Management just a couple of weeks previously.
It was heart-warming, he said, to read amongst many, many others, these twitter comments:
“Amazing three weeks –
each and every delegate an absolute inspiration”
“Thank you for providing such an interactive and stimulating learning
Speaking briefly of the work the Company is currently undertaking to ensure that its education programme remains relevant he said
“We are making big strides in helping farmers get ahead of the
curve through education. Our courses are evolving … and we are
actively reviewing their suitability.
We have surveyed our members … and discussed with course
providers what tomorrow’s world will need …
The answer is a modern and sophisticated approach.
He also commented on the excellent work now being done by the Company’s alumni association and asked HRH The Princess Royal to award the Company’s Silver Salver to the out-going chairman of the association, Mr Mark Hall. It is a tradition now that the name of recipient of the award – which is given each year to the Liveryman, not on Court, who has made the greatest contribution to the work of the Company, is kept completely secret. It was very pleasing to see this tradition had been upheld as Mr Hall was clearly completely surprised and delighted when his name was announced.
The Master made a second award – this time to HRH The Princess Royal herself – a cheque in support of the Princess Anne’s Charities before welcoming the Company’s guests and proposing a toast.
In replying on behalf of the guests HRH The Princess Royal said she had seen first-hand during her time as Master of the Company and subsequently at various events including the Oxford Farming Conference the importance of the work the Company does. We have she said a real issue of getting people to understand what farming is today and the importance of an effective farming sector in delivering quality food that everyone can afford. We are, she said,
“…an industry in change – there are no longer any unskilled jobs in farming.”
She also commented on the importance of the work the Company is doing to promote awareness of the health and wellness issues in an industry whose members are numerically and geographically isolated from each another and from potential support mechanisms. And went on to say that Farmers Markets were now more important than ever. Not just as commercial activities but as places where farmers can meet the public and get access to everything from just good company to health services, financial advice.
In recognising the Company’s work she said that going forward the was a great deal for the Company to do not just in education but in raising the profile of the industry so she said in thanking the Company on behalf of the guests she wished it ongoing success and health.