Friday, 15 October 2010
Those amongst you who are keen readers of the Court and Social announcements section of the Daily Telegraph will have been excited to read about a dinner at Haberdashers Hall last week to mark the installation of the new Master of the Information Technologist's Company, a City Livery Company.
You will have been even more excited to note that at that very event, one Tom Ilube was installed as Panels Warden of said Livery Company. My mum reckons that I am now part of "The Establishment", but if I am it is only because I have climbed in to "The Establishment" through a broken downstairs window and am currently hiding in "The Establishment's" basement hoping that they don't spot me and toss me back out on to the street.
City Livery companies are ancient (and some not so ancient) guilds that represent trades that are or were practised in the City of London. In the old days you had to belong to the relevant guild to be able to practise the trade - if you wanted to be a goldsmith, join the Goldsmiths. They date back hundreds of years, some even claim a thousand years. The "Premier" Company is The Mercers, grand old fellows who I believe used to trade silk and such like around the world. Others include the Goldsmiths, Tallow Chandlers, Glovers, Skinners and many others, including the Information Technologists.
The Information Technologists' are the 100th Livery company. I am told that we could have been higher up the list but we deliberately held out for this binary number and we are very pleased with ourselves (although no-one else seems to care!). We have over 700 members, mostly CEOs, Chairmen, Directors from across the IT industry and a few honorary luminaries such as Sir Tim Berners Lee, Vint Cerf and Bill Gates.
Everyday phrases such as "Hallmark", being "at sixes and sevens" and (possibly) "keep it under your hat" derive from Livery traditions. And tradition is what Livery companies do best. The world around us changes but Livery companies keep to their traditions generation after generation. I think that's what I like about being involved. It fits well with my Tai Chi/Yin Yang mindset. In the innovative, fast moving, constantly changing world that I live my life and thrive in, I enjoy the periods of calm and constancy that come with the Livery movement. The same dinners, the same speeches, the same long meetings discussing the same agenda points, the same little jokes that I have heard for the last ten or more years make me relax and say inside "ahhhhh, thank goodness, some things don't change".
The main thing that Livery companies do, apart from upholding City traditions, is charity work. We collect and distribute tens of millions of pounds and this is were I get busy. Spending it, that is! My company, the Information Technologists', and the Mercers are sponsoring the Hammersmith Academy, our new school that will open in September 2011. This new school, specialising in ICT and Creative and Digital Media, is an exemplar of combining the old traditions of excellent education with the new creative and digital industries. We are raising over a million pounds for the school and all of that is coming straight out of the pockets of the members of the Livery company.
So, if you are wondering what a modern, high tech entrepreneur like me is doing hanging out with old Livery companies, that's the reason. Leveraging the deep roots and traditions of the City of London over the past thousand years to get exciting, innovative, charitable things done today is why I do it.
And I'm very proud if it.