Date: 17th January 2018
Venue: Stationers' Hall
David Fursdon principle guest at the 2018 Livery Banquet
The 2018 Banquet was once again this year, a sell-out, with over 200 Liverymen, partners and guests filling Stationers' Hall - one of the very few Livery halls big enough to hold our most prestigious event of the year.
The surroundings are of course splendid and although in recent years the event has become 'white tie preferred', there was still a preponderance of full evening wear on display, and it does make for a very special atmosphere and occasion. Guests were politely and smartly greeted by members of our affiliates, the Middlesex Wing of Air Cadets. Pre-dinner drinks, served to the accompaniment of music played by the London Banqeting Ensemble, were very convivial, with lots of inter-mixing between parties and groups allowing Liverymen and guests to catch-up with old friends and perhaps make a few new ones too.
The Beadle called the party to order and seats were taken in the grand hall with its splendid stained glass and a feeling of being in the very heart of Livery London. The Master and his principle guests processed to their appointed places on the top table in an orderly fashion and dinner commenced on time. The Master welcomed everyone and said a few words about his year to-date and then reinforced his, now well-established theme for the year of 'Land tenure after Brexit', by introducing Mr David Fursdon, his guest speaker.
Mr Fursdon a chartered surveyor, past President of the CLA, Crown Estate Commissioner, Lord Lieutenant of Devon and more recently, chair of the Government's 'Future of Farming Review', was clearly eminently well qualified to address the Company. He spoke passionately about the need to adjust to the new reality facing farming after Brexit and for land owners and farmers to recognise the needs and priorities of the wider community. The importance of realistic land prices and the continuing relevance of tenant farming were also stressed.
The announcement by the Master, a little later in the evening, that the Company's Silver Salver (awarded to the member of Livery, not on Court, who has made the greatest contribution to the life and work of the Company in the past year) was to be presented to Liveryman, John Martin, the man behind the Company's highly successful and much larger 2018, Lord Mayor's Show entry, clearly came as a complete surprise to the recipient. The award had been kept a closely guarded secret up until the last minute and when the presentation, by NFU National President Meurig Raymond, was made John was as delighted as he appeared shocked. The award was very well received by the assembled company.
The Loving Cup - an essential part of every WCF Banquet was passed and appeared rather better managed than it sometimes is. The Loving Cup ritual was, as ever, accompanied by hearty sing of 'To be a Famers Boy' played by the splendid quintet that had made pre-dinner drinks so pleasurable.
One final tradition was also upheld - two members of the said quintet entertained the assembly with a spirited if rather space confined rendition of the Post Horn Chase' which was clearly much appreciated by all present.
A stirrup cup was served in the outer hall before Liverymen and guest made their way out into the night air of London and home.