Cambridge Society of Paris News Bulletin 8
A Bumper Year!
“Mais oui” said the French diplomat “I am perfectly confident that it will work in practice. I only worry that it may not work in theory!” One of the many anecdotes in the star-studded speech by Sir Christopher Meyer at the recent Annual Dinner of the Cambridge Society of Paris.
Each of the targets that the Cambridge Society set itself two years ago has now been, or is close to being, achieved: a doubling of the membership, driven by College Representatives and high-profile events, up from 100 to over 250; many new younger members; and a healthy expansion of its network, including English and French academic and other Parisian institutions.
Along the line, about to be released, thanks to Stephanie Coutu, a new greatly enhanced website, with online purchasing and bar-code ticketing. Also, closer liaison with Cambridge alumni groups outside Paris, and with the University itself.
The expansion of our network has been realised in part thanks to the two new roller-coaster lecture series; The Cambridge Cutting Edge Lectures and Glory Days of Paris. The former scientific (but accessible to all); the latter a celebration of those heady, crazy Montparnasse days in the 1920s and ‘30s, with their prelude in Montmartre and swan song in Saint Germain-des-Prés.
The initial Cambridge Cutting Edge Lecture is very soon indeed; mid-day Thursday 7th March. A talk by Nobel Laureat President of the Royal Society, Venki Ramakrishnan, at the Institut Pasteur, about the profound importance of Ribosomes, and the Sociology of science. The chance to meet such an eminent scientist, and visit the Institut Pasteur, should not be missed. We can take bookings up to this weekend.
Glory Days of Paris launches on Thursday 16th May when Douglas Lyndon-Skeggs, an exceptionally good lecturer, tells us about the Pilgrims of Babylon, the artists of Montmartre, from 1870 to 1910. Montmartre the epitome of Bohemian life, decadence, poverty .. and revolutionary art.
But that is the future. Let’s step back a moment, for this year has already started with a bang. In line with our policy to welcome Cambridge students, as well as alumni, Tony Banton organised a first ever Cambridge Society of Paris event in Cambridge, carrying with him a selection of fine French cheeses. With a remarkable attendance of 62 Cambridge undergraduates and graduates, the event was a resounding success and our younger membership has grown further as a result. Thank you, Tony!
The Annual Dinner is always an important event in the CamSoc calendar and this year, on Friday 22nd February, we had the best attendance ever! Credit to the rude good health of the Society. Thanks also to the presence of Sir Christopher and Baroness Meyer as guests of honour. Sir Christopher’s speech was superlative: amusing, perceptive and compelling with a depth of wisdom reflecting his 37 years in the British Diplomatic Service, including the longest post-war tenure as Ambassador to Washington, covering 9/11 and the run-up to the war in Iraq.
Following the first Cambridge Cutting Edge Lecture, and before the initial episode of Glory Days of Paris, we have a whole host of interesting events. Profitez-en!
On Friday 15th March we, jointly with British Luncheon 1916, are hosting a concert at the Travellers Club, given by the 24 members of the Corpus Christie choir, featuring sacred music and well-loved songs such as A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square and Shenandoah. The concert will be followed by a champagne reception and promises to be a charming and thoroughly civilised evening.
Later, on Thursday 28th March, Professor Wendy Ayres-Bennett will be visiting us from Cambridge to tell us about language, linguistics, the origins of the French language, its relationship with English and, in particular, the Menace of Monolingualism.
Just a few days on, Tuesday 2nd April, a chance to meet the Vice-Chancellor, Stephen Toope, over drinks in the historic HSBC premises at 109 Champs Elysées. The Vice Chancellor will give us some insights into the current policies for Cambridge, and an emerging liaison with one of the Paris based Grandes Ecoles. He will also answer questions about any aspect of the University you may care to discuss, especially important given the changing political climate.
This year really is a bumper year and events flow thick and fast: the boat race, Mead Making in the Catacombs, First Wednesday drinks with UCL as special guests, Glory Days of Paris episodes 2 and 3, Professor Sir Roger Penrose speaking at the second Cambridge Cutting Edge Lecture, plus the Garden Party in May.
All of this, I shall cover in future Bulletins. Meanwhile, I leave you with the interesting thought of two further Challenge Debates. The first, later this year, against Trinity College Dublin, in the magnificent Irish Embassy, former home of the Duc de Breteuil. The second, around May next year, against the Ecole Militaire who, by the way, receive ten hours of debate training each week! If you would like to join the Cambridge debating team, do please contact me.
It is wonderful that you are a member of the Cambridge Society of Paris; your support is of real importance. We are proud to be one of the largest, perhaps the largest Cambridge Association outside the UK; long may it remain so. Above all, do please join in as many of our events as possible. You will be highly welcome, and it is this that makes it all worthwhile.
With very best wishes,
President, Cambridge Society of Paris.
Wednesday 27th February 2019.