Monday 4 March 2024

St David's Day Celebration at the Guildhall


Jane Lambert

One of the highlights of Wales Week London is the annual St David's Day dinner at the Guildhall. No greater pleasure or honour can be offered to a friend of Wales than an invitation to that event.  My invitation came from Pryderi ap Phisiart, Managing Director of the Menai Science Park ("M-SParc"),  for which  I am very grateful.

From time to time I am asked about my connection with Wales.  I cannot claim Welsh birth, kin, domicile or even education but I have enormous affection for the land and its people.  Having been born not far from the border I have visited Wales several times a year almost every year of my life.  The regions that I know best are the North West and South East.  I have watched with concern the decline of the staple industries in both regions.  Many of Wales's best and brightest young men and women who have been educated to a high level in those regions' excellent secondary schools have left their country to find work or continue their education and have never returned.

There are two institutions in particular that are helping to arrest and reverse that decline albeit in very different ways.  In the North West, M-SParc opened for business on 1 March 2018.  It provides space and support for new knowledge-based businesses on its own site and catalyzes enterprises throughout the region.  In the South East, Darius James set up a classical dance company not in Cardiff but in his birthplace, Newport.  The company brings an art form that began in the courts of kings and emperors, developed in the world's leading opera houses and is still associated with major cities to communities throughout Wales.  Not only does the company entertain audiences in those communities it also trains their young people.  In some cases,  Ballet Cymru's training ignites an ambition that leads talented kids into careers in dance and other performing arts. I champion both of those institutions and assist them in any and every way I can.  They are my connection with Wales.  

The St David's Day celebrations at the Guildhall began with preprandial drinks in the Old Library, continued with dinner in the Great Hall and ended for some with postprandial libations and community singing at The Trading House on Gresham Street.  

Before dinner, I met some distinguished fellow guests including a former law officer of the Turks and Caicos Islands and Bermuda, a leading South Wales fashion designer, a teacher of fashion design at the University of the Creative Arts in Epsom, a partner of a leading law firm and several angel and private equity investors.  As they came from  Cardiff,  Carmarthenshire, Glamorgan, Gwent and Pembrokeshire I told them about M-SParc and its work in the North West. I  encouraged them to participate in M-SParc's World IP and Wales Enterprise Day celebrations.   Since Ballet Cymru's studios in Rogerstone are close to many of them I mentioned the company's inclusive classes and performances at the magnificent Riverfront Theatre,

M-SParc had two tables in the Great Hall.  Pryderi presided over one and Gwenllian Owen, the science park commercialization and information officer, over the other.  Guests on my table included investors and mentors, M-SParc employees and other friends of the science park.  I sat between the investment manager of the Investment Fund for Wales and the Investment Partner of the Clean Growth Fund.  Dinner consisted of a fish starter, lamb main course, dessert, cheese and coffee accompanied by excellent wines.   

We were welcomed to dinner by the President, Peter Evans.  Grace was said by the Rev Robert Nicholls of the Welsh Church of Central London, A toast in memory of St David was proposed by the psychologist and TV journalist and presenter Dr Sian Williams.  The keynote speech was given by Lord Wigley of Caernarfon who spoke on the centuries-old relationship between Wales and London.  He celebrated the enormous contribution that Welsh émigrés had made to the City's financial services industry over the years mentioning a time when 3 of the leaders of the 8 largest insurance companies in the United Kingdom were Welsh speakers.   The "Welsh diaspora" in London and other big cities in the UK and around the world was an important connection for those who remained in Wales.  I had heard him speak on a similar theme at a reception in the House of Lords last September (see Reflections on Wales Innovation Week in London 20 Sept 2023).

Two highlights of the dinner were the presentation of the Community Foundation Wales award to an impressive young man whom I met briefly at the Trading House and the singing by the Côr Llundain.  I live near Huddersfield which has its own grerat choir.  We like to believe that our Choral is second to none.  Having heard Côr Llundain's O Gymru, Migldi Magldi, Dana Dana and Gwinllan A Roddwyd I have to say that Huddersfield has serious competition from London. Just before the end of the meal the choir led the hall in singing Cofian Gwlad and Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.

Much of the choir'smusic was new to me but I knew Migldi Magldi from Cerys Matthews's Tir.  Ms Matthews is one of the patrons of Ballet Cymru and Darius James and Amy Doughty have choreographed a most beautiful ballet to her music which they performed recently at the Pontio Centre.

Singing continued at the Trading House until the early hours of the morning though the repetoire was more varied in that it ranged from Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer to Tom Jones's Delilah.   It included my favourite Welsh song, Calon Lânwhich never fails to moisten my eyes.  Especially as I now know enough Welsh to follow the lyrics.  Networking also continued until well into Saturday.

The main sponsor of the event was the computer security specialists Pure Cyber.  The wealth management company RBC Brewin Dolphin sponsored the choir.  Amgueddfa Cymru, Bethan Jones Boutique, Swansea University, the Welsh Government and several other businesses, institutions and individuals also contributed to the event.   As the late Queen said at the end of her last speech to the Senedd, diolch o galon to each and every one of those who facilitated the event.

Anyone wishing to discuss this article may call me on 020 7404 5252 during normal business houers or send me a message through my contact page at all other times.

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