On 1 December journalists attending the British Journalism Awards reception will gather at a building where members of the media have met for more than 300 years.
Stationers’ Hall, near St Paul’s Cathedral in London, has been the venue for the event since it was launched four years ago thanks to the generous support of the Stationers’ Company – which dates its own formation back to 1403.
The Company was formed to represent manuscript writers, illuminators and suppliers of pens and paper. But it learned to move with the times and embrace dramatic changes in the media from an early stage.
Today it is keen to encourage more journalists and those working in digital media to join the Company.
Clerk of the Company William Alden says: “In recent years we’ve had a big surge in membership from journalists. Traditionally we’ve always been strong on the production side, and we’ve had press barons as members, but we’ve been trying to encourage more content producers.
“We are almost unique among the medieval livery companies for retaining a very close connection with our industries. The Fletchers for example don’t have very many members who are active arrow makers. The same also true for the Mercers.”
Alden says the Company has not looked back since welcoming Wynkyn De Worde, the first printer to set up in Fleet Street, as a member in the late 15th century.
Alden says: “We face as big a challenge today in the digital media revolution as those manuscript writers and illuminators did at the end of the 15th century. We need to say to the likes of Google, Amazon and Apple – join us.”
Around 90 per cent of the Stationers’ Company’s members are actively involved in the media industry.
Alden says: “People in the newspaper industry have been meeting in this hall since it was built in 1673 and we want them to go on meeting here.
“We aim to be the opposite of a club. In a club it’s bad form to get your papers out to discuss business. We want to discuss business and we have a broad mix of people here, such as printers and publishers, who can buy and sell from one another. That networking element is very, very important.”
The second most important element to the Stationers’ Company is charity work, which includes sponsoring the Stationers’ Crown Woods Academy in Greenwich – a secondary school specialising in digital media.
It also supports three Saturday schools organised by Civitas offering children help with literacy and basic maths.
The Company holds 60 events a year, including monthly roundtable meetings to discuss topical developments in the media industry and around a dozen formal dinners a year.
Membership of the Company is limited to 551 Liverymen plus an unlimited number of Freemen. There are discounts for the under 30s and under 40s.
The original Stationers’ Hall was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. The interior of the current hall is largely unchanged from 1673 when it was built.
The Company’s Royal Charter was granted by Queen Mary Tudor in 1557 and it was empowered to check books for seditious content. For more than 300 years the Company kept a register of all books published in England for the purposes of maintaining copyright, a function which only ended in 1911 following a change in copyright law.
Today, Clerk Alden says the Stationers’ Company maintains a vital role in the UK media.
“It’s a unique organisation in terms of the breadth of the industry that it covers. It is the only organisation where a journalist can sit next to a printer and a publisher and a paper maker and a digital media executive and meet a complete cross section of our industry.”
More details available from the Stationers’ Company website, www.stationers.org.
Membership enquiries should be directed to: Deborah Rea, Communications Manager email@example.com