Have you been here before, a chap asked as I waited in a queue last night to go inside the Mansion House in the City of London.
As it happens, I have been in before – for a tour – and also to other lectures facilitated by the organisers of last nights event, Gresham College, but no, I have not been to the Lord Mayor’s Annual Gresham Lecture before.
It was odd that I hadn’t been to one before, or even been aware that such an annual lecture took place. The reason for my slight confusion was swiftly explained after we were all settled in the grand hall, as the Provost stood up and welcomed us to the very first-ever “annual” lecture.
All City of London traditions have to start with an inaugural event, and last night was such a moment for what is hoped will become a long running tradition. They have the next couple of expected Lord Mayors booked up, so the tradition is bound to last a few years at least.
Gresham College is itself no stranger to long-running traditions – being over 400 years old itself, and once housed the Royal Society for a few years after its founding in 1663.
This year, we were informed that some 14,000 people have attended their lectures – some in the small Barnards Inn, and rather more in the larger Museum of London. Both venues are dwarfed by the grand hall we found ourselves in last night.
Considering the small rooms they usually hold talks in, it is very useful that most of the talks are put online as well, and they have had over a million downloads this year, from all around the world.
Last night’s talk was a run-through of the position of the City in the financial world and the challenges/opportunities the current economic situation has thrown up. Fortunately, the liberal distribution of loudspeakers around the hall meant the speech was able to drown out the sound of the noisy seats, which were noticeably uncomfortable, and creaked alarmingly if you moved on them during the talk.
I found the talk itself interesting, although it was evident from the audible scoffing from my neighbour in the seats at some of the Lord Mayor’s comments that not all the audience was that receptive.
Still, a nice brief lecture in the visually stunning main hall of Mansion House, what’s not to like?
I presume the next one will be in a year’s time.