The Lord Mayor's Appeal 2017

The Lord Mayor’s Appeal 2017

The Lord Mayor’s Appeal 2017 supported the LSO Discovery Programme to encourage young organists, Music in Hospitals and St Paul’s Cathedral Music Outreach. Fund raising was achieved by inviting people to participate in a variety of activities. One was a 629ft abseil of the Leadenhall (Cheesegrater) Building in the City, which I and 96 others, took part in on Friday 8th September.

The Lord Mayor’s Appeal 2017Having abseiled 369ft of the Lloyds Building in the Lord Mayor’s Appeal 2012 I approached the challenge quite relaxed. Fortunately, I’m comfortable working at height, just don’t look down! Have faith and confidence in the equipment and the people running the operation: accept that, put anxiety behind you and enjoy it.

Once checked-in, I donned my Worshipful Company of Firefighters tabard, was fitted out with harness, helmet, gloves, soft overshoes to protect the glass wall and introduced to an instructor, Tom, from the Mile End Climbing Club which was running the activity. We took a lift to a small flat roof section, four floors from the top, where three sets of descent ropes were rigged from a scaffold structure. Whilst waiting my turn Tom and I viewed the city below. The rain had held off, we identified notable landmarks and Tom explained to me the intricacies of the descent apparatus and the safety devices.

The moment of truth arrived when Tom went forward to secure himself to a set of descent ropes. When beckoned forward by I stepped up onto the platform where the guy in charge promptly snapped a clip onto my harness which was attached by a short rope to him and to the platform to prevent me from falling over the edge, or perhaps, running away! My harness is checked and tightened, I’m ushered forward; my harness is attached to the descender device on a rope, another short rope clips me to Tom. The guy on the platform releases me from his rope and I’m invited to turn, face the building, allow the rope to begin to take my weight, place my feet on the edge of the building and lie back into the void. The descent begins.

The Lord Mayor’s Appeal 2017Tom talked me through getting moving. Surprisingly, the weight of 600 feet of rope hanging beneath you tensions the rope threaded through the descender device to provide sufficient friction to prevent the rope moving. Tom tells me to lift the rope hanging beneath me, I do and the desecender device attaching me to the rope, starts to slide down with each lift. Soon I’m told to grip the rope and let it slide slowly though my gloved hands to control the descent and we slowly start our journey downward.

Growing confidence, feeling secure and understanding what’s going on, soon enables me to establish a steady rhythm sliding down the rope. We overtake two others on neighbouring ropes and begin to chat about the intricacies of rope work and improving technique. We pass level fourteen, which Tom knows by now by the colour of the carpet there. It’s a glass wall all the way down and we give those on the inside a wave as we pass by. It’s time to look down and there below is the ground reception team waiting to receive us.

Curiously, as we get lower, Tom explained that we would drift a few feet away from the building. Nonplussed, I asked why. It didn’t seem to make sense that 500 feet or so of rope above me, hanging vertically from the very edge of the building, would not remain close to the building all the way down. Tom spoke about cantilevers and how rope systems work; but added, smiling, that maybe the building wasn’t quite upright!

Feet on the ground, a sense of relief and I’m unhooked from everything that made the descent safe and secure. Helmet and gloves off and shake hands with Tom who made it interesting, safe, fun and enjoyable. Then greet Chris, a Basketmaker who had sponsored me and came along to watch with a fellow Basketmaker and my Grandchildren who, with Mum and Dad, came to watch Grandpa and take photographs.

Through a account and individual payments by cheque and cash I raised £1105 for the Appeal. Sincere thanks to all those who gave so generously to the Appeal through my adventure. I enjoyed it and I’m sure those who benefit from the proceeds of this abseil event, which raised over £160,000, will be grateful.

Alan Wells
Past Master 2005/06
Worshipful Company of Firefighters