The Central Institute London was originally founded in 1989. In a bid to attract new members, the constitution and format of the Institute was changed at the end of 1999. CIL became a non-examining social body, retaining some elements of a learned society, concerned with academic dress, ceremonial and related issues. It advised several bodies on the design of academic dress and succeeded in raising awareness of its areas of interest.
The Institute elected applicants to membership at one of several levels. The level of membership was assessed by Council based upon the applicant’s CV and a supporting letter of application.
The Institute held three successful Congregations, the last of which, including the Sir John Gielgud Memorial Lecture, took place at the chapel of Royal Holloway, University of London, on 1 November 2003. On that occasion, I was admitted to Honorary Fellowship of the Institute.
I am in the back row, second from right.
In May 2005, the Council of CIL announced that the Institute would cease its activities, citing a decline in membership. This was in my view regrettable, since CIL fulfilled a unique niche in its fields of interest. CIL wore its (considerable) learning lightly. It encouraged members to enjoy academic dress and ceremonial without becoming stuffy or overly tied to the academic establishment in its approach.
On 1 November 2000, Andrew McConnell, quondam Registrar of the CIL, had established the Academic Society of London, which was described as being in the style of the ancient Academies of Rome, as an intellectual centre where scientific, literary and artistic culture mingled side by side together for the greater achievement of mankind, providing the context for the ‘Renaissance man’.
The aims of the Society were: (1) to provide and foster the opportunity for an open dialogue across all disciplines of academia (2) To foster and encourage a more combined interdisciplinary approach to research and study (3) To reconsider academic credentials and achievements within a framework of ‘connoisseurship’ as encouraged by the philosophy of Elliot Eisner.
On 1 June 2000, the ASL was incorporated by simple charter into the CIL. It consisted of Members, who were admitted without prerequisites, and Fellows, who were diplomates, graduates or otherwise professionally qualified. The ASL survived the dissolution of the CIL in 2005 and was run by a Council of three members for some years, now electing solely to the Fellowship by invitation only. I was elected a Fellow of the Academic Society of London shortly before it, too, was dissolved.