Your Master has experienced several lightbulb moments during the month of April. On a personal note, my second jab was pretty monumental and now that 3 weeks have gone by, I am ready to face the bright lights and leave the gloom behind.
Livery companies whose halls have been closed throughout this pandemic are experiencing lightbulb moments too, real optimism that their halls will be able to welcome back their members on and after the 21 June. Doors that have been closed for so long have started to inch open, allowing the light creep in, together with the maintenance and cleaning staff. Plaisterers’ Hall, the largest livery hall in the City of London, will be lit up again after the gloom of Covid-19; a shining beacon at the end of a very dark tunnel.
However, as I am now aware, the opening up of our Hall does not mean a quick flick of a light switch and a spring clean. No dear Plaisterers, our Hall needs to be ‘fired up’ with the checks and precision of a Saturn V Rocket launch to the moon. My lightbulb moment was a briefing by the Chairman of Plaisterers’ Hall Limited (PHL), Past Master Robert Dalrymple, so I am confident in the information I am passing on to you. When you arrive at the Hall for our first post Covid-19 livery dinner, consider the following schedule of commissioning and be thankful for the Directors, the Clerk and staff of PHL who have made it all possible. You may also be assured they have done everything to make sure our Hall is as safe and secure as possible and we will be conforming to the rules and guidelines that may be imposed post 21 June.
This was my briefing from Robert. Our Hall has many different and varied machinery/plant and systems which need to comply with legislation. Despite being maintained throughout lockdown, everything has been in ‘sleep’ mode so have not operated with ‘us’ inside for so long that everything needs certificating and/or proving. Whilst Robert and his fellow Directors envisage everything working, of concern is that a number of systems and plant have never been shut down in this way before or for so long.
Our 2 lifts have to be restarted and commissioned along with the safety escape equipment. All the hoists and cranes in the Great Hall ceiling need to be tested for having people (us) seated underneath them. Fellow Plaisterers have you ever seen those chandeliers lowered for cleaning? I have, together with my then Apprentice, who insisted on lying on the floor videoing the chandelier as it descended majestically from the ceiling directly above her. (Sorry Robert, if that is news to you, but yes, the hoists were in perfect working order on that day!)
All WI-Fi and communication systems have to be proven; this includes the PA systems in the Great Hall and all the hardware and software re-booted.
The kitchens have to be commissioned and passed Gas Safe and Electrically Compliant; the same applies to the water and ventilation systems; as well as being deep cleaned. Indeed, the whole venue will be deep cleaned and running repairs carried out, including the Entrance Hall and stairwell following the completion of the Enhancement to the Entrance Hall project. (I hope you have been viewing the stunning photographs on our website, of that magnificent dome and ceiling and so much more)
Robert has experienced numerous lightbulb moments recently, namely changing the lightbulbs of our chandeliers when lowered for cleaning. He had calculated the cost of replacing conventional 60-watt bulbs with new LED’s (Light Emitting Diode) bulbs verses savings in electricity charges. This was not a consideration until recently when new technology allowed LED bulbs to be dimmed. Fellow Plaisterers we are not talking about a few bulbs here! Those 3 chandeliers in the Great Hall each have 52 bulbs; the chandelier in the new entrance hall has 30 bulbs. Then there are the downlighters and sconces, plus the LED strips in the dome, the main feature of the new entrance hall.
Please forgive me for not including the basket type chandeliers in our Livery Hall and the lighting in the Ambulatory, the Humber and Mott rooms and the kitchens, or quoting the differences in wattages painstakingly provided by Robert. I will however share with you figures which surprised me; conventional 60-watt bulbs in the 3 chandeliers produced 9360 watts or 9 kilowatts; the new LED bulbs produce a mere 642 watts or 0.6 kilowatts. The new LED bulbs will produce considerable savings on the electricity bill as well as preserving energy resources. I have been assured the quality of the lighting has not been compromised, so torches are not necessary.
The past and present Directors of PHL are our Shining Lights! The present Directors have had to contend with the ‘firing up’ of our Hall; overseeing the Enhancement of the Entrance Hall project and more importantly deal with the huge financial consequences of the loss of income due to our working Hall being shut since March 2020. Be in no doubt, the pandemic has impacted on the reserves of PHL and continue to do so.
The fact that we are managing to weather the Covid-19 storm so far is due to the Past Masters and Clerks to this Company, who are honoured by the rooms named after them, the Humber and the Mott Rooms. In anticipation of acquiring the land and the building of our Hall, they had the foresight to set up Plaisterers’ Hall Limited, a company limited by shares and incorporated on the 21 January, 1960.
Successive Directors have managed the events/hospitality business of PHL and its assets and liabilities, to ensure the long-term existence of our Hall and the Company. Its sound financial footing is due to the business acumen of those Directors. The present Directors PM Robert Dalrymple, PM Terry Wright, PM Tim Cooke and Renter Warden Tim Stokes, plus the Clerk Garth Manger (Company Secretary) have been holding monthly Board Meetings throughout this crisis, taking the difficult decisions swiftly but prudently to safeguard the legacy of the Company and its employees, shielding our members from the impact of the pandemic. Ahead of them are more difficult decisions as they work with our catering partners to rebuild and restore the business of a premier events venue in the City of London. They are our Shining Lights and we owe them a great deal of thanks.