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The Master’s Voice – April 2013

Peter Rilett, Master of the Society of Merchant Venturers

It is now almost five months since Charter Day and my becoming Master of the Merchant Venturers. It is a fascinating journey that is strengthening my understanding of the Society and my pride in all that it contributes to the community.

I believe that we need to work even harder in building understanding of the work that we do and the nature of our organisation amongst the community in our home city of Bristol.

We have much in common with the London Livery companies, who with great warmth include us in their fellowship. I have had the pleasure to visit a number of these remarkable institutions in recent months.

They, like us, have a heritage reaching back many centuries to a mediaeval craft or trade – they were once armourers, bakers, goldsmiths, weavers, haberdashers, salters…

We share with the City of London livery companies a long tradition of commitment and philanthropy – but good that is often done without any public awareness.

Also like our own Society, they have demonstrated an astonishing ability to reinvent themselves, whilst adhering to traditions that reach back centuries. For example, the Salters Company, who once held the charter to sell salt in the City of London, are now chemists. Their current Master, Sir John Holman is Professor in the Chemistry Department, University of York and Senior Fellow for Education at the Wellcome Trust. The Salters set GCSE and A-Level Chemistry papers.

Supporting education is rooted deep in many livery companies. They include 464 school or college governors amongst their number. Altogether they support 162 schools with some 105,000 students.

One pleasant surprise for me has been the affection with which London livery companies embrace the Merchant Venturers and the high regard they have, not only for our work, but also for Bristol. I have been approached by Past Masters of these grand London livery companies, who refer to visits to our Society as a highpoint of their year as Master.

Our support for an increasing number of local schools is respected. Our work providing care for older people is recognised as being innovative and highly effective. Bringing together a huge resource of committed, hard working individuals, the livery companies are valuable companions for us to exchange ideas and share experiences.

Invest in Bristol and Bath

Congratulations to the Local Enterprise Partnership for the launch of the new Investment Service for this region. This is providing real energy and collaboration across the region in attracting high value businesses. I understand that the launch at the leading international property show, MIPIM was a great success. I am sure that Merchants will support individually and collectively this drive to bring much needed new jobs to this city region.

Peter Rilett

Master of the Society of Merchant Venturers