Peter Murray, Chair of the London Society, explains the thinking behind our new motto. “So what’s our elevator pitch?” said Darryl. “What do we say when someone asks what the London Society is all about?” "Antiqua Tegenda, Pulchra Petenda, Futura Colenda”, I answer. Darryl is not impressed. “Nah! That’s no way to get younger members to join up. Or to get anyone to join up for that matter. Too ancient!” While the translation of our motto - “look after the old, seek the beautiful, cultivate the future” - might still hold good, we felt we needed something more engaging if the Society is to achieve is aim of growing its membership and increasing its relevance in the discussion around planning and architecture in the capital. We wish to engage the widest possible groups in that debate, so clarity is important. We asked ourselves: why are we are running the Society and what is the thinking that drives our programme? We picked up on the theme that was as relevant when the Society was founded in 1912 as they are now: that London’s future must be shaped by both contemporary culture as well as its rich and layered history.
To communicate these two key strands of our strategy, first, we focus our events on celebrating and enjoying the capital’s culture and history - walks around the neighbourhoods of London, talks about our history and tours of buildings of interest. Then we engage in and generate the debate about the London of tomorrow: a city that is beautiful, sustainable and fair. “London of the Future” is the title of the book published by the Society in 1921 and edited by Aston Webb. The reviewer in The Spectator of the day wrote: “Certainly London of the Future is a dangerous book for the Londoner to pick up. Its reading has impoverished the present writer by the amount of three small cheques—one towards saving Ken Wood, one to the Coal Smoke Abatement Society, and a subscription to the London Society itself.” We hope all Londoners who hear about the activities of the Society will react in the same way as that reviewer, so that we can engage them constructively in the critical debate about design, architecture and planning in the capital. Drawing all these strands together and after many months of discussion and a presentation at the AGM we firmed up on a new motto. So if you’re in a lift with someone and they ask you what the Society is all about you can answer: