The return of milder temperatures, longer days and the arrival of blossom on the trees marked the Feltmakers Spring Dinner at Vintners Hall.
Liveryman and their guests, including many of our younger freemen, filled the Hall with excited conversation and laughter; a joyous return to normality after the seemingly endless restrictions caused by Covid. As Assistant Peter Winfield noted in his address to the guests, ‘Zoom doesn’t cut it for dinners’.
It was a special delight to welcome Jollyon Coombs’ widow, Ruth, among us as a Freeman and we were also to congratulate our current clerk, Aidan Smyth, on his promotion to Major General.
The Masters’ principal guest and after dinner speaker was Sir Brian Leveson, QC. Sir Brian was one of the most senior criminal judges in England and Wales. Best known for chairing the inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press, Sir Brian retired from his judicial role as President of the Queen’s Bench Division and Head of Criminal Justice in England & Wales in 2019.
In a heartfelt speech, Sir Brian reflected on his 53 years as a criminal lawyer and the current state of the criminal justice system. With already poor conditions exacerbated by Covid restrictions, he presented a bleak portrait with the four key pillars – police, probation, prisons and lawyers – not being given the importance and recognition they should in a democratic society. He strongly encouraged us as a livery to look to support the charities which seek to break the cycle of reoffending. As the Master noted in his response, Sir Brian is learned in both the law and humanity. It was indeed a privilege to hear him speak.
The Master closed the evening by reminding us of the importance of neighbours and community and the centrality of relationships to the livery movements. Given the troubled world we now live in, he asked for us to remember the people of Ukraine in our thoughts prayers and through our giving.
On a brighter note, looking forward he encouraged Liverymen to attend the Banquet at Mansion House in June and his own charity event on the Cutty Sark in July.
Zoom might have enabled us to keep in touch in the past few years but nothing beats a delicious meal in one of the city’s oldest livery Halls accompanied by our fellow Feltmakers.