The Feltmakers gather each October at Haberdashers’ Hall to celebrate the installation of the new Master who will be their representative in the City of London for the next 12 months. This is an extremely important position with a remit that seeks to strengthen the Feltmakers’ standing and continue their good work, whilst each individual Master leaves their personal stamp on their year of service.
Our new Master, Simon Wilkinson, has a personal connection with the hatting industry as the grandson of Alderman Albert Wilkinson, a partner at Hucklesby’s of Luton, which was a large hat producer for more than 40 years (between 1880 and 1920). He therefore has a deep personal commitment to the craft, focusing his energies within our Livery, on ‘Promoting Hatting’.
As the hall fell silent, the Master delivered his speech, citing three themes to pursue in his term of office.
The first was to encourage recruitment of new liverymen, younger, more diverse people who wanted to ‘make their way in life’ through friendship and participation with fellow liverymen.
Secondly, he wanted us to ‘have fun’, by encouraging active participation and providing interesting, exciting and informative events. Especially, with so many new members, apprentices, freeman and liverymen coming through. ‘We aim not to be a stuffy, old-fashioned and crusty group of largely, middle-aged men, but a lively, receptive engaging group with life experience and knowledge’ he declared.
Thirdly, to promote our working milliners, be they start-ups or established. ‘We have a wonderful blend and mix of creativity and energy amongst these hard-working folk. We must do more to promote them, their world leading designs, and magnificent creations. Many are the envy of the world and through British tradition they reinforce our national standards and values, through weddings and family events, to Henley, Royal Ascot, Glorious Goodwood and Royal Garden parties. Hats are very British and we make the best in the world’.
He then referenced the connection with the Swiss Guild of Zurich, the Zunft zur Waag, and our ever-growing closeness, particularly their brilliant festival to mark the end of winter or Sechseläuten. And finally, in a year that coincides with the Paris Olympics, his support of the chosen charity, ‘Wheelpower’, which enables some 70,000 wheelchair users to participate in sport and to have a better quality of life.
Life-affirming messages all round.