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18 November 2023

The Lord Mayor’s Show 2023

Tag(s): History, Languages & Culture, Business
The Lord Mayor’s Show has been held every year since 1215 except in 1852 when on the 18th of November the State Funeral of the Duke of Wellington took precedence. It carried on even in wartime to maintain morale. The Lord Mayor’s Show takes place following the accession of the new Lord Mayor in the Silent Ceremony at Guildhall usually on the second Friday in November. I have attended every Silent Ceremony for the past 10 years. I’ve regarded it as not only a solemn occasion but also one that is central to the governance of the City of London Corporation, a unique organisation in the world which is much misunderstood. The Ceremony is completely silent except for when the Lord Mayor briefly makes his or her vow. However, at this year's Silent Ceremony there was an interruption from I assume a member of the public. Usually, the majority of the audience is drawn from the Livery which after all elected the Lord Mayor. But this year the committee in charge of these things decided to restrict attendance for each livery company to just four members and to offer the rest to the general public. When livery companies apply for their tickets in the normal way of things, they do it through their Clerk and therefore the Clerk knows that they are members of the company, and they are the sort of people who respect tradition. However, if members of the general public can simply apply as if they were applying for theatre or concert tickets then there is no such control and so it proved because one interloper just when that ceremony's procession was about to start intervened in a loud voice to protest against the City of London Corporation's role in financing fossil fuel companies and other protests from one assumes Extinction Rebellion.

The City of London Corporation is not an investor. It has many roles but that isn't one of them. It was entirely inappropriate, and I raised my concerns with the new Lord Mayor at a second ceremony later that day for the presentation of addresses in which we participated as the new Lord Mayor is an Honorary Liveryman of my livery company. He took my comments on board and referred them to a member of his staff.

The Show that takes place the following day is the largest unrehearsed pageant in the world and again has been going on almost continuously for hundreds of years. My great grandfather’s first cousin Sir John Bell was Lord Mayor in 1907-8, having been Master of the Fan Makers in 1897. In 1882 he joined the Court of Common Council representing Coleman St Ward and in 1894 joined the Court of Aldermen, being elected Sheriff in 1902. He revived interest in the Lord Mayor’s Show making it a spectacular pageant which it still is today. Again, I have attended every Show over the last 10 years and have participated in four. On these occasions any member of the public can attend, many thousands do, and I was not aware of any misbehaviour. Indeed the 2 minutes silence held at 11:00am prior to the procession starting from Mansion House was observed with impeccable respect.

The new Lord Mayor Alderman Michael Mainelli is a highly successful businessman with several other qualities making him uniquely qualified for the role of Lord Mayor. Conventionally he can be described as an accountant, an academic, a management consultant, a research scientist, an economist, and a banker but he describes himself in short as a scientist economist. His aim is to promote societal advance through better decisions about technology and finance.

He admits that he was 35 before he even knew there was a Lord Mayor. His father's claim to fame was that he was project manager for the Apollo capsule. Aerospace was a pretty peripatetic career, so he went to 18 schools. When he was 16, he got a scholarship to intern at a defence aerospace research establishment for three years. That led him to architecture and mapping, then to electronics, then to planning and economics, and the City.

He has Italian ancestry, American citizenship, was educated in Ireland and the UK and is married to a German lady Elisabeth. He came to London and branched out into research consulting, with the UN, British Leyland and firms in the City. Realising he needed to learn more about finance, in 1986 he joined Arthur Andersen, then in 1988 took a partnership at BDO Binder Hamlyn. He came perhaps relatively late to City activities but became an active member of Broad Street Ward Club, then Chairman in 2004. When Sir David Lewis stepped down as Alderman, Michael ran for office in 2013, and then served as Sheriff with his brother Sheriff, Chris Hayward from 2019 to 2021, the first two terms Sheriffs since 1228.

He's fully aware that the question for a Lord Mayor is not so much putting your own stamp on the role but working in teams with the Court of Aldermen both with your predecessors and with your potential successors. His theme for his year is Connect to Prosper. He wants to celebrate the ‘Knowledge Miles’ of the Square Mile, and London as the world's coffee house. Commerce, community and charity totally depend on connections. He asks us to note the city has more scientists, engineers and technicians than it has bankers and insurers. Alongside lawyers, accountants, actuaries, architects, artists and others there are over 600,000 talented, professional, and well-connected workers in the Square Mile who deliver solutions to the world's problems.

He plans to host a programme of nearly 100 Knowledge Miles webinars, showcasing the vibrancy of the City's intellectual life and international connections. At Mansion House they will have 25 Coffee Colloquies convening 2,000 thought leaders from the City’s knowledge networks to showcase solutions to global challenges.

They will also be working to promote the Lord Mayor's appeal, MQ Mental Health, Wellcome Trust and the University of Oxford's £5 million GALENOS mental health research project. They will also have the 695th Lord Mayor’s Ethical AI initiative, addressing the global challenge of AI ethics. The 695th Lord Mayor’s Space Protection Initiative highlights how the insurance and risk cluster in the City can help alleviate space debris. This is certainly an ambitious programme, but Michael understands if you try to change too much, you won't succeed. But if you don't change things a bit, then why bother?

I have known Michael and his wife Elisabeth since I met them during my year as Master in 2016 as they were the owners of the famous sailing barge the Lady Daphne. They spent 21 years restoring her. I hired her and my Company had a wonderful day out on the River Thames in glorious August sunshine enjoying the sailing and the views.

I suggested to Michael that he might like to join the Worshipful Company of Marketors as an Honorary Liveryman. I'm glad to say that he accepted my suggestion but I wasn't the only one for as well as his mother company the World Traders of which he is a former Master he is also a Waterman, an Honorary Liverman of the Furniture Makers, Water Conservationists, Tax Advisers, International Bankers, Management Consultants, Security Professionals, Engineers, Architects, Makers of Playing Cards and Scientific Instrument Makers, plus an Honorary Freeman of the Educators. Most of these companies are among the modern livery companies which can be no surprise.

I mentioned before the misunderstanding that many of the general public have about the City of London Corporation. It's worth just summarising a few of its activities and responsibilities. Elected annually, the Lord Mayor promotes the City or Square Mile in UK financial and professional services on the world stage, leading trade delegations abroad to major markets and representing business in meetings at the highest level of government and industry. When he travels representing the UK, he has cabinet rank. Also, he is apolitical so very often he is much more welcome in a country because it is understood that he will not be simply putting a party-political point of view but rather what is in the best interests of the UK financial and professional services as a whole together with those of the country which he is visiting. He is clearly the head of the City of London Corporation, the governing body of the Square Mile, dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally successful UK. To achieve this the Lord Mayor works alongside the chairman of the City of London Corporations policy and resources committee and other leading members of the organisation to reinforce the City's reputation as a key driver for the UK economy.

The organisation also provides leadership on cross industry and government issues, such as launching a centre for financial innovation and technology to maintain the UK's dominant position in fintech; Hosting the Net Zero Delivery summit, to translate climate commitments into action; and Vision for Economic Growth - the road map to prosperity designed to drive economic growth and jobs across the City.

But the City isn't just about business. This year saw the launch of a major new City of London destination brand and website ( ). The new website and digital channel showcase the best of the City's leisure offer - promoting its world leading culture, heritage, attractions, experiences, hotels, pubs, bars and restaurants.

This is in addition to the wealth of culture already offered by the City Corporation itself: the world renowned Barbican Centre, Museum of London (currently closed but planning to move to its new location at Smithfield), five city bridges including Tower and Millennium, whose income finance is one of the oldest charities in the world, the Monument, London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Art Gallery.

Obviously, you would also expect standard services from local government including education and street cleaning, housing and planning but the City Corporation also has a number of special services within and outside the Square Mile. These include looking after 11,000 acres of green spaces, such as Epping Forest and Hampstead Heath; the Animal Reception Centre at Heathrow; the Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey; Billingsgate, Smithfield and Spitalfields wholesale markets, and is London's Port Health Authority.

The Show itself started with the flotilla early in the morning on the River Thames. Then at 10:45 the Lord Mayor travelled from Guildhall to Mansion House. At 11:00 the show began with a 2-minute silence to mark Armistice Day. Then the Lord Mayor waved the procession off from Mansion House because his coach goes near the very end of it. At 11:30 the head of the procession reached the Royal Courts of Justice. At 12:00 the Lord Mayor left Mansion House to join the procession reaching St Pauls Cathedral with the Lady Mayoress to be blessed by the Dean at 12:15. Then at 12:30 he arrived at the Royal Courts of Justice to swear an oath of allegiance before the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales and the Master of the Rolls. That is actually the central point of the Show as the Lord Mayor is showing himself to His Majesty’s judges.

There were 132 floats in this year’s Show, and I have endeavoured to categorise them in the following table:

Category Number
Pageant 6
Officers & Aldermen 12
Livery 17
Education 6
Charity & Culture 10
Military including Cadet forces 40
Bands 18
Overseas 10
Wards 2
Business 9
Public Service 5
Total 132
Some of the categories perhaps overlap a little bit and it should be noted its very large military representation does include a significant number of cadet forces from schools and other institutions. This year's overseas representation was the largest to date including the first representative in the Lord Mayor’s Show from an African nation. The breadth and diversity of the Show is fascinating, and I thought I cannot convey it in a blog of this nature without resorting to lots of photographs which is not my style. The creativity of what was on offer was splendid. The size of some of the floats was extraordinary. The representatives from Zurich seemed to go on for 1/4 mile and there were hundreds of them.

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