Lord Mayor Alan Yarrow - Speech at Mansion House celebrating Diwali

Diwali reception


Monday 2 November 2015

The Rt Hon the Lord Mayor

Alderman Alan Yarrow

Good evening and welcome to a very colourful venue to celebrate a very colourful festival!

We are absolutely certain that this will be the best Diwali event ever at the Mansion House… not least because it’s the first one ever to be hosted under this roof!

That’s right – in the 250 years since this building was completed, there has never been a Diwali celebration here. Though there have been a few other notable celebrations…including hundreds of Lord Mayors’ Shows.

The 800th Show is coming up in under a fortnight’s time, and although the details of that anniversary is kept strictly under wraps, if it’s anything like my own Show, last year, then it will be a riotous festival of enjoyment and showmanship. Which is exactly what I’ve been told to expect from tonight.

We are absolutely honoured to be asked to kick things off and light the diya, and as part of my introduction Dhruv asked me to say a few words about my own experiences of Diwali. But truth be told, I’m afraid my stories are a bit thin on the ground – which is strange, considering the sheer number of visits and events Gilly and I have done as Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress as Lord Mayor.

Remembrance services. Grand openings. Meetings with heads of state. School ceremonies. Livery dinners. Business conferences. State banquets. And that’s just from one week in the middle of October!

You might think that after a year, some of those events start to blur into one. But not a bit of it. They’re each so different, with such specific requirements and outcomes, that every day we are surprised afresh.

Although they are all different, there are some threads that run through almost every event, from the social occasions to the very serious business summits.

One of those threads is the desire for the City to thrive – and the understanding that to thrive in today’s modern, interconnected world, you need more than a Twitter account – you need diversity.

We are delighted that Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and indeed people of all other religions come to the City, roll their sleeves up and do well.

The Square Mile is one of the few genuine meritocracies in the world, and it’s part of what makes us such a unique and successful place. We value different views and different beliefs, we don’t bash it down or try to pretend it doesn’t matter.

And it’s only when you’re open-minded that you realise how much we all share. People from any religion or none. The City is not about our differences – it’s about our similarities, and what we can brings us together. At work, at home, in the communities that surround us.

Gilly, my wife, and I have been lucky enough to have unusually close engagement with India during our year in Mansion House.

For example, two of the staff here at Mansion House are Hindu or come from a Hindu background – and one of them, Jay Patel, has just started a course in Indian Head Massages! It looks like Gilly and I are leaving at precisely the wrong time…but I hope our successors enjoy hours of head-related relaxation! And I’ve been told by Jay that he is now taking bookings, and charges extremely reasonable rates.

But on a more serious front, our first overseas visit was to India, in December last year, less than a month after we arrived here. We spent a week in Delhi and Mumbai and met a fantastic array of businesspeople and ministers, including two meetings with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. And we’re particularly excited that next week we will meet President Narendra Modi as part of his visit to the UK.

It is really important for both the UK and India that we do all we can to cement what is already a very strong business relationship. India invests more into the UK than it does into the rest of Europe combined. And in return, Britain is one of the top three investors into India. If you want to see the vibrancy of our shared relationship, just go to an England vs India cricket match and you’ll see the mutual respect and camaraderie.

We both look forward to that relationship continuing, in the City and elsewhere. Not least over a very, very happy Diwali.

Thank you very much.