Dear Liverymen,

The last time I looked at the Livery list of over 200 Feltmakers was before Christmas when I endeavoured to send you all a Christmas card. It was a reminder of what a special community we are and how privileged I feel to be your Master for a year. Then, I was looking forward to the events that would bring us together throughout the year and a number of those events we have already enjoyed: the Installation dinner, the Lord Mayors show, the Carol service and the Atherstone and Luton lunches. Thank heavens we did, because now there are many of our get togethers that have had to be cancelled: the Spring Dinner, the visit to Zurich for the Sechslauten, the Hatting Competition, and a visit to HMS Lancaster. And it may be that the Summer Banquet, the Livery golf day and the Inter Livery tennis will not be possible either, we will have to wait and see.

I have been so touched by the calls, letters and e mails I have received from Livery members expressing sympathy to me for this happening during my year as Master. I appreciate their thoughts, but the truth is we are facing something far more important than the cancellation of a few dinners. The challenge of the corona virus pandemic affects every person in our Livery. We are in a fight for survival against a deadly virus that will be targeting many of our members. It is an unpleasant realisation for many of us that we ARE the old and vulnerable! As we wait for the numbers affected to peak, all of us are gripped by the fear of uncertainty and worries about our friends and loved ones. And, as Feltmakers, we should be sparing a thought for the hatters and milliners whose businesses will be affected by the disruption to our economy.

However, I don’t want this letter to dwell too much on the negative. We may not be able to meet together for a while, but anyone feeling anxious or lonely and isolated should draw comfort from the friendships and support that your Livery can offer. The business of the Livery goes on thanks to modern technology. We have made an additional charitable donation to the Providence Row charity doing fantastic work for the homeless who are particularly vulnerable at this time. We are also looking to the future: our Clerk, Jollyon Coombs’ call to recruit younger members to join the Livery comes at a particularly pertinent moment, and the search for his replacement is progressing well with a talented field of applicants being processed by the selection committee; the candidates are being assessed by conference call.

The truth is we know this period of isolation will end, and although the world may well be very different the Feltmakers will still stand for fellowship and tradition.We must believe that good and positive things will come out of all this. To quote our new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak
When this is over, and it will be over, we want to look back on this moment and remember the many small acts of kindness done by us and to us. Now more than at any time in our history we will be judged by our capacity for compassion.

My very best wishes to you all – stay safe.

Gilly