Cambridge Society of Paris News Bulletin 9

A glorious launch to the Cambridge Cutting Edge Lectures

Today, Thursday 7th March, the first of the Cambridge Cutting Edge Lectures was held, at the prestigious Institut Pasteur in Paris. 

With an audience of well over 200, the large amphitheatre at the Institut Pasteur was full to overflowing. Not surprising given the immense good fortune of having a Nobel Prize winner, President of the Royal Society, Venki Ramakrishnan as our first speaker. 

Venki’s career has been dedicated to the discovery of the form and function of ribosomes, the million atom molecules that provide the interface between DNA based genes and the proteins forming every cell in every form of life on earth. 

His talk, describing his struggle in the race to decipher the secrets of the ribosome was not only a voyage at the pinnacle of modern science, but also a very human saga showing how modern science really works. The competition, the ambition, the goals, and integrity. The anxiety and need for self-belief, with occasional strokes of extraordinary good fortune, or the reverse. 

We were hugely privileged to be given these insights by one of the greatest living scientists, and all this from the little acorn, the conversation over lunch between myself and Moez Draief, that first gave birth to the Cambridge Cutting Edge Lectures.  

We could not have hoped for a better launch and immense thanks are due to Venki Ramakrishnan for accepting our invitation, to Terry Quinn for having proffered the invitation, and the Institut Pasteur for their wonderful amphitheatre and for hosting us in such splendid style. 

The next Cambridge Cutting Edge Lecture will be delivered by Professor Sir Roger Penrose on Thursday 24th October and, before that, on Thursday 16th May we have the start of the Glory Days of Paris series, commencing with The Pilgrims of Babylon, the revolutionary Artists of Montmartre. 

With very best wishes, 

Andrew Lyndon-Skeggs 

President, Cambridge Society of Paris 

Thursday 7th March 2019

Cambridge Society of Paris News Bulletin 8

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,

Andrew Lyndon-Skeggs

President, Cambridge Society of Paris.

Wednesday 27th February 2019.

Cambridge Society of Paris News Bulletin 7

A new and exciting year

 Like the remark before the disastrous wedding speech in Four Weddings and a Funeral “There is something for everyone.”

Lectures, Welcome Party, Book launch, Dinners, Debate, Berlin Cabaret, Sport, Carols, Château Visit, Music, Garden Party, Photographic Exhibition, Paris Walks, and a mysterious Escape!

The full details will follow; this is just an appetizer for the events being planned by the Cambridge Society of Paris for the months to come.

First, in order of timing, four events in rapid succession during the remaining two weeks of this month: Lecture by George Yipp (Magdalene) Thursday 13th September; Welcome Party, Tuesday 18th September; Sebastian Faulks Embassy Book Launch, Monday 24th September; Lecture on Soren Kierkgaard (fore-runner to Jean Paul Sartre), Wednesday 26th September.

We organise the Welcome Party to congratulate students from Paris about to start their studies at Cambridge. It is for new students and all members of the Cambridge Society of Paris. Fascinating for each to meet and for the new students to hear alumni memories of Cambridge. You are highly encouraged to attend.

And what a wonderful bonus, given by the Embassy and Sebastian Faulks, fifty places for members of the Cambridge Society of Paris to attend the launch of Sebastian Faulks’s latest book, Paris Echo, at the Embassy, the evening of Monday 24th September. “Paris as you have never seen it before, every building holds an echo of an unacknowledged past, the shadows of Vichy and Algeria.” This event is a stunner and the (free) tickets will go very fast indeed.

The new Cambridge year brings the start of our two ambitious and important projects: “The Cambridge Cutting Edge Lectures” and “Glory Days of Paris.” The first will be ongoing, two lectures a year, in conjunction with heavyweight Paris based scientific institutions. The second, a cycle of five lectures on the art, literature, jazz, philosophy, and intellectual hedonism of Les Années Folles, an epoque when Paris was at the centre of the artistic world. For the moment, we are keeping the details tantalisingly secret… except just to say that the first two speakers for the Cutting Edge Lectures are the President of the Royal Society and Professor Sir Roger Penrose. Can’t do better than that!

As a glorious counterpoint, on 23rd or 24th November, by way of our Christmas Party, Berlin Cabaret. Exotic, original, opera operetta and Kurt Weil as never before, a stunning dinner performance by the bewigged, bejewelled and bewitching Claudia Roick and Nicole Tschaikin.

Edward Archer is kindly organising his much-loved Christmas Carols at the Hôtel Paiva, and the Corpus Christi choir will be performing for us in the Spring.

With new committee member David Sayers, we are working on the scope for a photographic exhibition and talk by the wonderfully eccentric American photographer of the world’s celebrities (including Bianca Jagger on horseback), Rose Hartman.

One of the great successes last year was the guided visit to Christies organised by Valérie Didier and I am delighted to say that this has been offered again for the current year.

George Young will, we hope, conduct stage two of his walk around the Marais and, in addition, we are planning one or two guided walks around Paris showing Paris as you have never seen it before.

But this is not all, we have some further gems that we hope to reveal ere long, as well as traditional highlights including the Annual Dinner and the Embassy Garden Party.

Finally, as a complete departure, fun for all, young and old, the new craze sweeping Paris and Barcelona: enter into a hidden room in a curious domain. A mystery starts to unfold. You are trapped. You can only escape by using your wits, your skill, your ingenuity. Teams of up to five. I have tried it… amazing!

Our membership has doubled over the past eighteen months. Very good indeed, and I hope that there are events here that will appeal to all. I look forward enormously to meeting you at as many events as you can manage.

With very best wishes,

Andrew Lyndon-Skeggs

President, Cambridge Society of Paris

12th September 2018