THERE will be no time clash or irony about the high-tech video screens and communications systems being used amid the oak bays and spans of the 14th century Great Hall at the Merchant Adventurers, York, on Thursday.

Indeed, the black tie ceremonial supper marking the Evening Press Business Awards 2000, where some of the most influential names in the city's modern business community will gather, is a vital link from the past into the future.

The event will go to the heart of the strategy for the new century planned by the York Company of Merchant Adventurers - to explore how it can best increase its influence both within the city and wider Yorkshire.

As retired district judge Michael Grills, governor of the Company of Merchant Adventurers, puts it: "Our previous regulatory powers have long since been swept away.

''But through our members we retain close connections with most sections of the business and professional life in the city and beyond.

"In this way our task has been to recognise and encourage excellence wherever it is found.

We see the Evening Press Business Awards as the ideal vehicle to advance that aim."

Another aim the Adventurers have set for themselves is to increase charitable activity.

"We are exploring ways in which the company's limited resources might bring help, especially in the fields of education and training."

By which he means that although 20 per cent of all visitors to the hall are schoolchildren on organised visits from all over England, relatively few of them are from York. The Adventurers want to stimulate their interest, too.

"In these ways, the interests of business and charity come together, continuing what the company has stood for over all these years," he says.

Meanwhile, when business guests pass through the oak mailed double doors into the undercroft reception area built in the late 1500s, sipping champagne before its massive hearth, few will see evidence of the latest floods - unless they peer through a glass panel in the pine floor.

This time just two inches of water flooded into the original floor level one and a half metres below the existing floor.

But in the light of devastation caused before the Foss barrier existed where watermarks on the wall testify to the deluges of 1982, 1947 and 1831, there was relatively nothing to fear.

James Finlay, clerk to the Merchant Adventurers, received a red alert that the nearby Foss was in danger of breaching defences as 195 Merchant Adventurers arrived there for a venison feast. But there was no evacuation.

"Of course not," says Mr Finlay. "They were bound to show the true Adventurers spirit."