Last chance to enter the world’s oldest design award for plastics

August 11, 2015

It’s hard to believe that a venerable institution like the sonorously named Worshipful Company of Horners could run anything quite so brazenly modern as a ‘Plastics Design and Innovation’ award. After all, this is a company to which the earliest extant written reference was in 1284.

The Worshipful Company Of Horners is an ancient guild and livery company of the City of London. The livery companies, which probably date back to before 1066, are similar to the fraternities and guilds that flourished throughout Europe for many centuries. The term "Livery" originally referred to the distinctive clothing worn by the members, and later came to mean the associations themselves.

So what’s the Company’s connection with plastic?

The Worshipful Company of Horners originally controlled the purchase and sale of raw horns within 24 miles of the City of London and the early statutes were to protect these rights. Horn is a natural thermoplastic and from time immemorial, has served as a raw material to make a wide variety of everyday objects, such as combs, spoons and tool handles. Until the early years of the twentieth century, that is, when many objects that used to be made of horn started to be more cheaply produced in modern thermoplastics.

Which is why, in 1943, the Company formed a close association with the plastics industry—its natural successor—in the shape of the British Plastics Federation. In 1946, a plastics exhibition was held on the initiative of the Horners at Guildhall, the magnificent building built in the early fifteenth century and housing the ceremonial and administrative center of the City of London. Since that time, the relationship between the Federation and the Worshipful Company has flourished, with the Horners’ Award, generally held to be the longest established Design Award for Plastics in the world, forming just one of their joint activities.

The first plastics design competition was held in 1947, when it attracted 14 entries. Since that point, says the Company, the award has gone from strength to strength. According to the rules, an entry must consist of “a polymer based product, which will be judged on its design innovation, demonstrated commercial potential, environmental advantage and UK content. The scope of the award also includes polymer related machines or processes.”

“Last year we again saw a record number of entrants all demonstrating high levels of innovation and exemplary creativity in design,” said Raymond Layard, the Master of The Horners Company, on declaring the competition open earlier this year in February.

"The caliber of entrants year-after-year demonstrates their uniqueness and how vital it is to promote all that design in plastics stands for.”

The original deadline for submissions for the Worshipful Company of Horners’ annual design awards was 24 July 2015. This deadline has now been extended to 14 August 2015.

The winner of the competition will be presented with their awards during the Annual Banquet of the Worshipful Company of Horners, on 2 October 2015, or the BPF Dinner, as appropriate.

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