Reformation The Mallowstreet Party

Vincent Franklin looked out from what used to be the roof of City Telephone Exchange.

The Exchange (according to Con Keating) had walls fifteen metres thick and had been built to withstand a nuclear bomb. They’d pulled it down to build the Grange Hotel and so we could have the mallowstreet party on the roof. In so doing they had annoyed Con who worked next door.

There was a young lad there starting out in his career, Mark asked him how he found the City. “Beats being a professional rugby player” seemed to be the gist of his reply.

Mark, Vincent Con  and I looked out over the City and Canary Wharf beyond, the Shard stuck an insolent finger up from the South of the River, the skies were a menacing grey.

Vincent started talking about the damage to the City of recent events. My mind went back to when I was this young man’s age (we’d been at the same school as it happened). Back then I saw the City through the eyes of Mary Poppins, as the upholder of a certain set of British Values.

Then Vincent made a startling comparison, he likened the state of the City with the state of the Catholic church, the desecration caused by the scandals of the paedophile priests…He came upon a good word -not just “un bon mot” but le mot juste”


Not just the sacred Catholic Church but the secular City need the kind of root and branch reform that comes about when things have gone too far. Maybe the Catholic church will find another Luther , maybe the global banking industry, currently headquartered in london will find some equivalent.

As we talked , the sun went down. The Shard, that had looked so impressive by day, turned into a mess of neon like a demented Dalek. The City was topped by garish Olympic logos swathing the Nat West tower – a corporate games for a corpulent City.

We looked behind us and saw the great dome of St Pauls, that magnificent statement of restoration , of confidence in reformation.

I thought of Shakespeare’s line on the gutted choir stalls of Britain’s churches 100 years before St Pauls was built.

Bare ruined Choirs where late the sweet birds sang

Then I thought of Eliot’s great lines that kick off Burnt Norton, the first of his Four Quartets – his great meditations on history and faith

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future

It occurred to me and to Mark that in this word Reformation we held the greatness of Wren’s vision and the paucity of the vision of bankers like Diamond and Goodwin. A reformation is needed as deep as the change in Outlook that Luther brought. A refocusing on things that matter doing a good job honestly and an abandoning of the fraudulent nonsense of synthetic structured powderpuffs that annihilate value.

That dome, lit up so much better than the Shard or the City or Canary Wharf. 350 years and it still does the business, its plinths still empty,

It was a great party- beer was drunk, there was dancing and Alexandra showed us her new shoes.

The rain held off, Robert and Dawid looked cool and Eamonn O’Connor brought the most diverse and wonderful young team out to play.

Thanks Mallowstreet for a great evening. Thanks to L & G, Clear Path and Quietroom for paying for it  and thanks Mark for one of those little insights that might just stick around like Luther’s declaration!

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
This entry was posted in Bankers, Change, Church of England, corporate governance, economics, Fred Goodwin, leadership, mallowstreet, Olympics, Olympics 2012, pension playpen, pensions, redington, Retirement and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Reformation The Mallowstreet Party

  1. Mike Atkin says:

    I sense a contradiction. Thanks to L & G, Clear Path and Quietroom for paying for it – are you sure they paid for it Henry or was it per chance their customers. There seems to be no end to the pension related “events” which seem to be a happy go merry around with little expense spared. Perhaps as well as a shareholders spring we need a customer spring and start trimming some of those hidden charges that serve a self serving industry.
    Alternatively, invite me, sounds a lovely evening.

  2. James Souttar says:

    Very nicely put, Henry! I like this image of ‘reformation’.

    Incidentally “…a corporate games for a corpulent City” set me thinking. I’d never considered the London Olympics to be *the City of London’s games*. For many of us… Londoners… the City seems a city apart from that which we live. A city within a city, as it were, populated by day by people who come in from Guildford and Sevenoaks and other such places, and at night by security guards and cleaners and IT contractors behind on their schedules. With its own police force and government of grandees and its curious tax-haven privileges it doesn’t seem to be that well integrated with the other London – the one that I’d always thought was holding these Olympics. Maybe reformation needs to involve bringing these cities back together again?

    • henry tapper says:

      Cheers James- everywhere I go in the City I see the games being advertised but nowhere do I feel less in touch with the spirit of the Olympics!

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