Last week, on Wednesday 17 April 2019, it was a glorious day. The sun shone and an historic event occurred in the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists’ Hall: we were honoured by an official visit from The Right Honourable the Lord Mayor, Alderman Peter Estlin. I was delighted that he had accepted the invitation, specifically at the behest of Past Master Dame Stephanie Shirley CH, to unveil her gift to the Company, of a painting of the Hall.
The last time the Lord Mayor visited this Company was to celebrate our 25th anniversary when he was Sheriff. Readers may recall that he was threatened by Storm Troopers at the entrance to Guildhall! Last Wednesday, he was greeted by a far more benign presence, the RAF Cadet Band - the only Band ever to win the Lord Mayor’s Cadet Band prize. They gave a rousing rendition of ‘Scipio’ on the Lord Mayor’s arrival and then the Band Master invited the Lord Mayor to take the baton which he did with alacrity before entering the building. In the Treasures Area, he was greeted and presented to Dame Stephanie and to Saied Dai, the artist and the party was warmly welcomed by members of the Court and Livery, the Masters of the four other Companies which are tenants in our Hall, and some of our neighbours. The Lord Mayor was accompanied by the Lady Mayoress and by Alderman and Sheriff Vincent Keaveny who, co-incidentally, is Alderman for Farringdon Within, the Ward in which our Hall sits.
Some twenty-five years ago, our embryonic Livery Company, received an astonishing gift - it was our Hall, our home, generously donated by Dame Stephanie Shirley, our First Lady Master. Dame Stephanie had the perspicacity to firmly believe that IT would become one of the most relevant disciplines in the Square Mile, not to mention the world. This was why I was so pleased that the Lord Mayor, with his foresight and passion for Shaping Tomorrow’s City today, was able to join us to further cement and align our common themes and interests. And so a quarter of century later, Dame Stephanie has so thoughtfully marked this milestone in our development, with, what I am sure you will all agree when you next visit 39a Bartholomew Close, is a magnificent painting of our first home, our Hall.
Dame Stephanie introduced the artist, Saied Dai explaining that she had much admiration for his style of
painting. The painting was then unveiled by the Lord Mayor and Dame Stephanie together - and a
fabulous work of art was revealed. In the words of Saied Dai, he detailed why the painting is as it is:
“This has been a wonderful commission, instigated through the generosity and foresight of Dame Stephanie Shirley. It is a fact not commonly known or understood that for a work of art to succeed, it effectively needs to have two subjects. One, the subject of the painting and the other - the visual subject, which will best express the artist’s intent. In this case, it was the kaleidoscope of geometry, pattern-making and colour. My first impression, was the stark incongruity of the building in its setting, overshadowed and dwarfed by Brutalist architecture all around it. It is now so singularly out of place, that architecturally it is like a dignified lady in the company of brutes. There is almost a pathos to it. I was very fortunate to gain access to the building directly opposite the Hall, which enabled me to look back from an elevated viewpoint, thus seeing more of the relationships of the background structures. Ultimately, the painting is an attempt to create order, out of the chaos - to produce an intense image that is timeless, rather than a mere illustration. All good art is effectively a ‘Memento Mori’, an attempt to capture time - a memorial of the living to the living, in defiance of all the transience and infidelities of life. The Arts possess a little power over the grave and I hope this image lasts for the WCIT.”
It was a unique occasion in the history of the Company and one which will remain in my memory for many years to come. I should like to pay tribute to the Hall Staff who did so much to make the event the great success that it was.
Master WCIT 2018-19
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