Astro Review 2016 – Part 2
Dinners, lunches, launches, cups, links, sheep and clothing – all in a year at Astro
In part 1 of this two-part blog I featured some of the highlights of our year at Astro. In this second and final part I report on some of my personal highlights that are all part of our commitment to giving back.
New Freeman’s Dinner
My first formal dinner of the year was my Livery Company’s New Freeman’s Dinner on 20 January. This is a great event where new Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists are introduced to some age-old traditions such as ‘The Rose Water Bowl’ and ‘The Loving Cup’ while celebrating their Freedom.
The Rose Water Bowl is an old tradition dating back hundreds of years. As the Rose Water Bowl is passed onto you, it is customary to dip the corner of your napkin in the rose water and dab it behind your ears. It is thought the rose water stimulates the nerves behind your ears and through the network of nerves soothes your digestive organs.
The Loving Cup is thought to date back to the murder of King Edward the Martyr on 18 March 978AD. The unfortunate King was stabbed while drinking at Corfe Castle by his stepmother Elfrida. The ceremony ensures that while standing to take your drink of spiced wine (referred to as ‘sack’) from the Loving Cup, diners to your left and right must also stand. One neighbour must remove and hold the lid at arms-length thus disabling their dagger wielding arm. The other neighbour stands with their back to yours protecting you from any potential attack from the rear.
Charity IT Association
Throughout the first half of 2016 I was involved with some of my Livery colleagues in some pilot projects for a new charity providing IT services to other charities. The Information Technologists Livery Company is one of the founding organisations of the Charity IT Association. CITA was officially launched on 5 July offering three free services to help charities be more effective through their use of IT. CITA simply matches IT volunteers to charities in need.
Any IT volunteer with relevant qualifications and/or experience can sign up to provide one or more of the services on offer. I completed several engagements throughout 2016 with a range of charities, each of them very rewarding. In the second half of last year, I joined the CITA Steering Committee as part of my Livery Company voluntary work.
If you work in IT and you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please click here.
If you represent a charity and you need some help to be more effective through your use of IT, please click here.
Livery Schools Link
In March, last year I was asked to take part in the Livery Schools Link event in The City of London’s Guildhall. The Livery Showcase Event is an annual event providing Livery Companies with an opportunity to attract young people into their respective trades or professions. I was assisting The Information Technologists who were exhibiting along-side 27 other Livery Companies ranging from Butchers and Bakers to Spectacle Makers.
Over 600 students from 25 schools filed into Guildhall. Our stand was busy from the start and on many occasions throughout the day we drew in a large, noisy, inquisitive crowd of students and teachers. Our giveaway – a 3D printed robot, fresh off the press – fared well with the competition: The Butchers were giving away sausages made by the UK’s #1 and #2 Butchers’ apprentices, the Air Pilots putting students through their paces on a flight simulator and many other opportunities to participate. Thankfully, the Barbers (Surgeons) resisted the urge to ask for volunteers for any live demos on their stand as we were well within arm’s reach.
Lunch with Rick Wakeman
The Grand Order of Water Rats work closely with one of my charities, The Bud Flanagan Leukaemia Fund. I was invited as a guest to Rick Wakeman’s Roasting Lunch at the London Lancaster Hotel on 16 March last year. Rick was in fine form as a queue of people took their turn on stage to roast him. The queue included Rick’s son Adam, his friends Ian Lavender and Joe Pasquale and the Chair of the GOWR Kaplan Kaye. Kaplan set the scene by reminding Rick that he had only been King Rat twice to Kaplan’s three times. One of the other members of the long queue praised Rick’s contribution to the music industry, he pointed that without Rick Poundland would not have a music section. When Joe Pasquale took to the stage he asked the resident pianist if he could play one of Rick’s songs that the congregation could sing along to. The pianist looked puzzled and Joe agreed that perhaps this was a request too far.
On a serious note though, Rick played David Bowie’s ‘Life On Mars’ to close the lunch. I have never seen so many grown men and women near to tears, in fact some did have tears in their eyes. Rick is an amazing musician with a distinct style. Hearing Rick play ‘Life On Mars’ in such an intimate gathering is one of those unforgettable life moments.
Every year Astro holds a bowls tournament in Great Yarmouth. We originally launched this tournament around 20 years ago when I saw some young bowlers practicing in Great Yarmouth while visiting my Mum in Great Yarmouth. My stepfather played for Surrey in the past but at that time he was playing local games in Norfolk as well as coaching several young players from age 10 upwards. I asked if the young players were preparing for a tournament and learned that there were no tournaments for this age group. The Astro Cup was born.
Every summer we hold a one day event on Great Yarmouth sea front comprising two tournaments – Under 18s and Under 25s. I have always been impressed by the skill and dedication of the young bowlers and have seen several bowlers go on to play for their county and country and are still regular competitors in the Astro Cup. Over the years we have only ever had one female winner until 2016 when we had our second female winner in the Under 18 category (at 12 years old).
On 26 September, along with hundreds of other Freemen from many different Livery Companies, I exercised my right as a Freeman of the City of London to drive my sheep over London Bridge. I believe tradition is very important and it has its place in the modern world if for no other reason than to reinforce the importance of having standards. Some may think it is a very silly thing to want to do with everything else going on in the world. But, many Livery Company members give a lot back to society by way of fund raising and donating time to help those in need. There is a lot of serious work goes on within Livery Companies so practicing our traditions is just our way of enjoying some down time with our colleagues.
Elevation to Liveryman
I was fortunate enough to be elevated to Liveryman at a Clothing Ceremony in October. A Liveryman is a senior or full member of a Livery Company. In the Information Technologists Livery Company that entitles us to wear a sash at formal functions. Liveryman also have the exclusive right to vote in the election of the Lord Mayor of London.
Work with Blenheim
I mentioned earlier that Livery Company members give a lot back to society. I have had the great privilege to work with some excellent causes over the past few years. For some engagements, we work alone and on others we work with other members in multidisciplinary teams. We have an incredible pool of resource, within our Livery Company and beyond.
Towards the second half of last year I had the pleasure of working with Blenheim CDP. Blenheim is a charity that provides support services for drug and alcohol users, families and carers. Blenheim are doing some great work and making a real difference to the lives of thousands of people in and around London.
The Information Technologists helped Blenheim equip two IT suites, one in Ilford and the other in Catford. The IT suites will help service users back into work, access training and help develop their IT skills and update their CVs. On 2 November, my Livery colleague and I were invited to attend the opening of the IT suite in Ilford. I was honoured to be asked to cut the tape to officially open the suite.
Read the article in the Ilford Recorder – Ilford drug project’s new IT equipment to help addicts rebuild lives.
If you are in the IT industry or work in a related industry and you are interested in learning more about the Information Technologists Livery Company, please contact me.
All in all, a fairly busy and productive year and some excellent foundations for the future!