The Master with Lieutenant General Richard Filton CBE and Liveryman Tony Westley present the Aerotron Scholarship for 2017/18 to Tsungirirai Maruta

19.12.18 John Ponsonby OBE

A roving reporter’s eye – the Aerospace Industry Livery Dinner

Pictured above: The Master with Lieutenant General Richard Felton CBE and Liveryman Tony Westley present the Aerotron Scholarship for 2017/18 to Tsungirirai Maruta


When the Master calls, you answer. “John, could you write a few words about the Guest of Honour’s speech at the Aerospace dinner?” “Of course,” I said. “How long?” “Just a short paragraph,” writes John Ponsonby.

Fast forward to the night. Oh John, said a newly clothed Liveryman. I gather you are the roving reporter for the night. Am I? I said, with a slightly curious look. Yes, we want you to capture the flavour of the evening and write a piece with a reporter’s eye. I think this conversation was between the starter and the main course, so the rather small piece of paper I intended to use to capture one speech, resulted in a number of menu cards being used for a different purpose.

So, to the evening. One of the benefits of not having our own Hall, is the great thrill we all have when we walk into yet another splendid and magnificent Hall of another Livery Company. I had never been to Clothworkers’ Hall; the 6th Hall on the current site off Mincing Lane, with the previous five all suffering various fates, the last as a result of a fire in 1942. But we would agree that it really can take an event such as the Aerospace Dinner in its stride. Glancing up at the portraits of learned men, I couldn’t help feel that strong sense of history and service that sits in the atmosphere, as mist clings to the valley floor on crisp spring mornings. I did not have the chance to look at the more modern piece of art on the wall at the end of the Hall, but I thought it blended well with the surroundings, and I assume it was made of a fabric – cloth perhaps?

Master, Wardens and newly clothed Liverymen Ian Gorsuch, David Kynaston, Sharon Pink and Robert Pleming

Master, Wardens and new Liverymen Ian Gorsuch, David Kynaston, Sharon Pink and Robert Pleming

Before dinner, I did a bit of roving, and met up with a few familiar faces. Past Masters, members of the Court, and a number of friends from my days with Leonardo. It was great to see such an excellent turnout and to see some familiar uniforms of former Royal Navy, RAF and Army colleagues. But what was most inspiring of all was to meet a few of the prize winners, who came across as confident young people, with clearly a passion for aerospace and aviation, albeit slightly overawed by the experience and surroundings of the event.

I was placed at an end table closest to the excellent Quartet performed by students from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Oh no, I thought, I will not be able to hear myself speak! How wrong I was. They were brilliant throughout the evening and a wonderful addition to the whole atmosphere. I was sitting next to someone I had met before, and a guest of a Liveryman. The guest had never been to a Livery dinner before and her main concern was about the Loving Cup ritual, which she pulled off perfectly, with a bit of heckling from her host. All in all the food, wine and service were outstanding, with one omission – not enough chocolates to squirrel away for the journey home; I jest of course!

So to the purpose of the evening. The Master’s speech covered, in the traditional way, the guests for the evening, principal of whom was the Guest of Honour; Lieutenant General Richard Felton, the Colonel Commandant of the Army Air Corps, a Regiment I had the pleasure of serving with in West Germany in the early 1980s. Other guests included the Master Farrier, Master Joiner and Master Girdler (including the Clerk – Colonel Murray Whiteside late AAC). And other distinguished guests, not least the Master (desig) of the Company of Air Pilots.

The Master greets the Honorary Chaplain, The Venerable Ray Pentland CB

The Master greets the Honorary Chaplain, The Venerable Ray Pentland CB

The Master’s main message was about the Coachmakers support to careers in engineering in the Aerospace and Motor industries. The passion for supporting young people into these industries was palpable and the examples shown through the awards given out at the end of the evening, left a lasting impression of the quality of our education system and the quality of our young apprentices and graduates entering the aerospace and motor sectors. The guest speaker, Abikearo Looi-Somoye, has a CV that most people at the end of their careers would be proud of, let alone a CV at the beginning! Abike spoke eloquently and with passion for the work she did with various organisations during her degree course, and also confidently reminded the audience of the stark reality of the diversity statistics in engineering as a whole where 90% of people in the sector are male, and 94% are white. What a star she is!

Before releasing the floor to the Guest of Honour, the Master also briefed the assembled company on the plans to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the Coachmakers, a milestone that will be reached in nine years’ time. A committee has been formed, with among other goals, to reach a target to raise funds to ensure the Company has a bright future ahead for another 350 years.

Richard Felton seemed genuinely inspired by Abike’s short speech. His main message was about opportunity in the army, with particular reference to the Army Air Corps. He talked about the opportunities to develop character and potential in the Army Air Corps, regardless of academic qualifications, using the example of Senior NCO pilots, many of whom have risen to high rank and roles, despite starting life as troopers in the Regiment. He talked about the need to develop inter-personal skills, so important in all walks of life. He also emphasised the Army’s commitment to improve its record in the area of diversity, which must have been music to the ears of the younger generation in the Hall. It was an excellent speech and our thanks to Richard for his contribution.

And so to the prize winners, whose achievements were extraordinarily impressive;
The Eric Beverley Bursary to Fabio Cresenti
The Sir Frederick Handley Page Scholorship to Omar Selim
The Sir Sydney Camm Scholarship to Sophia Webb
The Sir Geoffrey De Havilland Scholarship to Milan Stojsavljevic
The Victor Gauntlett Scholarship to Gemma Jefferies
The Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown’ Flying Scholarship to Andrew Kuribayashi-Coleman
The Aerotron Scholarship to Tsungirirai Maruta (2017) and Lewis Brooks (2018)
Coachmaker Jaguar Land Rover STEM scholarship for women to Funmi Looi-Somoye.

To sum up, what another excellent Aerospace Dinner. I am proud to be involved in an organisation so dedicated to the future by investing in the education and training of people looking for a career in the aerospace and motor industries, with an eye towards the traditional Coachmaking industry. The Company is a fine example to other institutions, not only in the City, but also across the country.