President’s Letter 2023

Last year I wrote that “the pandemic, and the broader halt on many of our more traditional events, gave us pause to reconsider our raison d’être and our Committee structure, and 2022 was a significant year of transition for us”.

Well, if 2022 was the year of transition, 2023 was certainly the year we found our feet again.

An early highlight was undoubtedly dinner with Professor Robert Lethbridge, who provided a fascinating and candid account of his life as Master of Fitzwilliam, held at a sold-out Brasserie Bofinger.

After a four-year hiatus, I am particularly pleased that we saw the return of the Cambridge and Oxford garden party, gathering alumni in late July at the British Ambassador’s residence. We welcomed Wesley Kerr OBE, former BBC Royal Correspondent and Trustee of London’s Royal Parks, who treated us to anecdotes from his time with Cambridge, the Royals, and the UK’s magnificent horticultural heritage. We hand over the baton to our friends at the Oxford Society for 2024’s edition.

Into la rentrée, we hosted our now traditional welcome mixer for freshers embarking on their Cambridge adventure, back this time in the familiar surroundings of Bastille after the iconic Château de Longchamp – home of the Fondation Goodplanet – last year.

October saw our annual dinner, later than usual but held as is now the tradition at La Maison des Polytechniciens. Lord Clement-Jones, former chair of the Liberal Party and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Artificial Intelligence, shone a light on AI, especially how we might govern its use.

Our aim to restart more social and cultural events gathered momentum later in the year, starting with a wine sampling in Montmartre hosted by our newest committee member Nils Brockmann (more on that below) in November. This was such a success that we have already pencilled in a follow-up in February next year.

As is customary, we were delighted that Edward Archer once again organised a sold-out Carols evening at The Travellers. And closing out the year in style, members were treated to a guided Van Gogh tour at the Musée d’Orsay in December, organised by our events head Vijay Phadke – yet another sell-out.

Our friends at the Oxford Society are hosting their New Year dinner on 11th January, to which our members are welcome, where Stefania Giannini – Sous-Directrice Générale for Education at UNESCO – will give here thoughts on “Generation AI” and the Cambridge Society of Belgium invites our members to their 30th Anniversary dinner on 9th February, with Baroness Hale, former President of the UK Supreme Court as Speaker.

We said goodbye to one member of the committee in 2023, with Maria Caro stepping down with our thanks and gratitude for all she has done for us since joining in 2021. In her place I am delighted to announce that that Nils Brockmann (Lucy Cavendish; 2021) was coopted onto the committee earlier this month. As we have seen, Nils has already hit the ground running. Sylvie Leger (Homerton; 1980) has also been providing counsel to committee meetings since the summer, and we hope that in the very near future we will be able to welcome her as a full committee member.

A number of new initiatives previewed last year are close to fruition. Victoria Campion is leading the re-launch of our College Representatives scheme, fostering stronger bilateral relations between the Society and individual colleges and helping to coordinate College-level as well as University-wide events. Victoria is also leading the launch of a new Mentorship scheme, matching experienced alumni in France with younger counterparts hoping to benefit from their advice and friendship. Both of these programs are slowly taking shape and we hope to see them come fully to life in 2024.

Finally, a note on the Trevor Brown Bursary. 2023 has been a year of reset, as we look to fill the enormous void left by Terry Quinn CBE FRS who has stood down as chair of the Bursary Committee. After a hiatus for 2023, we do hope to make several bursary awards in 2024, and your continued support is much appreciated by the Committee and by our recipients. More news on the Bursary and our plans will be shared in the coming weeks.

On behalf of the Society and the wider Committee, I wish you all the very best for the New Year, and a prosperous 2024.

Matthew Kay, President

Emmanuel 2006

Carols at the Travellers 2023

The Society hosted its annual Carol Singing event at The Travellers Club on Tuesday, 12th December 2023. Also invited were our friends from the Oxford Society, the English Speaking Union, PADFAS and, of course, any member of the Travellers itself who felt like singing!

It proved as popular as ever, with all 100 tickets sold out over a month in advance. Upon arrival guests were treated to some mulled wine and mince pies (imported from the UK by Tony Banton), to get their voices in shape for belting out our Christmas favourites!

As ever, a small but talented group of musicians, lead by Christopher Wells, accompanied the singing, which was lead by John Thompson, who as a young boy sang in the St. John’s College choir. At the interval, Edward Archer, who organises the event for us, gave the answers to this year’s quiz. Who knew that Oklahoma was the first US State to declare Christmas Day an official holiday? Certainly none of the Americans in the audience!

Overall, the quality of the singing was exceptionally good and everyone left surrounded by a warm hue of Christmas feeling!

The new Travellers’ President attended for the first time. He enjoyed it immensely (good for the future!), particularly as his son is currently a third year at Emmanuel College! The Emma choir will actually be visiting Paris at the end of March and is planning to hold a concert at The Travellers on Thursday, 21st March – details to follow in due course.

We are all very much looking forward to this year’s December carols. If you want to participate, though, please make sure you apply early as the tickets sell out very quickly!

Edward Archer

Annual Freshers Welcome Event 2023

We returned to our old haunt at the Frog Revolution at Bastille, also our current venue for Monthly Drinks, for the 2023 Freshers Welcome event. A record number of 34 new students, a mix of undergraduates and graduates, signed up and even with the usual crop of late cancellations, 29 actually attended – another record.

The Society is proud to offer this event to new students as an opportunity for them to meet others also going to Cambridge for the new term as well as exchanging with members on their own experience. We have found that many of the new students do not know any others going up to Cambridge – in these days of online interviews a small number have never even been to visit – and so they consider the opportunity to make some contacts to meet up with again when they arrive in Cambridge as being invaluable.

The evening is an informal mixer, with good “home brewed” beer at the Frog together with their copious bar snacks. Everyone had a great time and I am sure the objective of allowing the students to add to their address books was met.


If there is a downside it is that there were not quite as many Society members in attendance as we would have liked. It is a most enjoyable evening so we hope that you will look out for the announcement of the date of the 2024 event, which will be in mid-September, and sign up to come and join us.

Tony Banton

Treasurer, Cambridge Society of Paris

Tuesday 12th September 2023