London is an old city with some interesting history, and outside of the royal family and some of their traditions, there’s an organization with living ties reaching back into the 12th Century and medieval times. Back then, various trades created a larger entity promoting professionalism and charitable efforts – and qualifying groups called themselves a “livery company.”
The ranks have been added to until now there are 110 livery companies in London. Some include trades such as scriveners, haberdashers, wax chandlers, iron mongers, and weavers – those are the ones with longer histories in the organization. But more recently trades such as tax advisors, insurers, environmental cleaners, management consultants, and information technologists. The latter group has a well-known member in Bill Gates and the robes they wear to formal meeting are made of gold to symbolize “conductivity.”
Liverymen attend gatherings sometimes wearing the flowing robes that have represented their trades for centuries. They raise money for charity, drink toasts, and promoted the best practices in their areas of expertise. They also vote for London’s sheriffs and the Lord Mayor of London – though these offices are more symbolic than having any power. There are intimate black tie affairs where they drink from a goblet they call the “loving cup” and raise large amounts of money to support worthy causes.
Early on in the Livery history, each group took on a name to identify their trade, but all of them started with “The Worshipful…” They think it was partly because historically they met in churches according to the chairman of the Livery Committee, Nigel Pullman. That committee is the governing body for the groups. To be considered for addition to the Livery organization, the trade group being considered must have at least 100 members who practice the trade and show an ability to raise large amounts for charity.
Public Relations Struggle for Inclusion
In 2000, the Guild of Public Relations Practitioners was launched using the motto “Influence Integrity Trust.” A coat of arms was created featuring a herald’s horn with blue background representing ecological or “blue-sky thinking.” But they were confronted with a problem early on, The Worshipful Company of Marketors (advertising people) said PR was part of their group and didn’t need a separate spot. But the London authorities allowed the PR Guild to hold events and raise funds. They got started, but then came the recession, and since the PR group didn’t have deep pockets or high-priced assets, they lost a lot of ground. One of their founding members died and in 2008, their newsletter had to make a push for members to pay their annual “Quarterage” fees.
But they’ve started building momentum again, forging a partnership with the British armed forces, including the PR squadron of the Royal Air Force, whose mottos is “Always the Truth.” And they’ve amassed enough funds so in 2013 their guild moved up a step toward a different medieval level, “Company without Livery.”
Francis Ingham, high in the PR group’s leadership pushes for Livery status because he feels it will add energy and reinforce their belief in “Doing business as well as doing good.” Ingham believes livery status is still a few years away, but would love to see that time shortened. To that end, a survey was sent to members, mainly what they wanted to learn was, “What is it that we can do to improve?”