London's grand feast for Singapore's President

The City of London gave a glittering banquet in Dr Tan's honour on Wednesday in the historic Guildhall, famed for being the setting for banquets in honour of royalty and world leaders. -- PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
The City of London gave a glittering banquet in Dr Tan's honour on Wednesday in the historic Guildhall, famed for being the setting for banquets in honour of royalty and world leaders. -- PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Under the lofty arches of the grand Guildhall building in London, President Tony Tan Keng Yam on Wednesday hailed the warm and longstanding relations between Singapore and London as global cities.

And in a sign of their deepening ties, Dr Tan announced that Singapore will take a central role in the annual City of London Festival next year, when the Republic celebrates its 50th year of independence.

Singapore will be the featured country at the summer arts festival, whose themes in recent years have included the cultures of London's major trading partners like Japan. This cultural exchange arising from the festival would reinforce the links between both cities, Dr Tan added.

The President made the announcement at a glittering banquet given in his honour by the City of London and hosted by the Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf.

Hundreds of guests, including the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Sheriffs of London and Singapore's High Commissioner Foo Chi Hsia, were elegant in evening gowns and white-tie attire with coat-tails and bow ties.

The banquet tables were just as impressive, decorated with pink-and-white orchid arrangements, a nod to Singapore's national flower.

Ms Woolf, in her speech, paid tribute to Singapore's vibrant culture and diverse communities.

She also recalled fondly the hospitality she received when she worked in Singapore in the 1980s.

She never ate alone when at work in Singapore as her colleagues would always offer to have meals with her and introduce her to different food, she said, to laughter from the guests.

The pomp of the occasion began with a red carpet welcome for Dr Tan. A guard of honour gave a royal salute as a marching band played Majulah Singapura.

The President, who is on a state visit to the United Kingdom, inspected the guard before entering Guildhall, famed for the banquets held for kings, queens and world leaders for six centuries.

In March this year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was similarly hosted under its historic roof.

charyong@sph.com.sg