Report on the Programme 2022 – 2023


Our series of lectures started in September 2022 at the Guildford and Godalming rugby club Pavilion. We were able to start the year’s programme with a hybrid conference with the lecturer in the Pavilion and on-line participants at home. Our programme consisted of ten monthly lectures where members were able to meet together in the Pavilion or to choose to participate by Zoom, if they were unable to come to the hall. As usual, our lecturers offered a wide range of topics. All lectures were well-attended and appreciated by our members.

Brian Stimpson started off our programme in September with a talk on the subject of “Le Flaneur parisien”.

We were very lucky to have Dr Karen Serres as our second lecturer, who gave a talk on “Les Autoportraits de Vincent van Gogh”. This talk followed a very successful exhibition at the Courtauld gallery in London, where Dr Serres is Curator.

Annie Kean stepped in very kindly in November to replace Emilie Capulet who had lost her voice. Her topic “L’Education des femmes en France” was very interesting and we followed the evolution of education for girls over the previous two centuries.

Peter Prowse provided a musical evening “L’Age d’Or de la Chanson” in the run up to Christmas. This session was very much appreciated by members especially the audience participation where everyone was able to add their voice to the songs.

Emile Capulet recovered her voice but was unable to come to the Pavilion to give her talk. She appeared only on screen to deliver her subject “Proust et la Musique”. Members who attended the talk at the Pavilion were disappointed that Emilie only appeared on screen and not in person.

Fabienne Manele talked about “Le Chemin des Cathares”, a fascinating account of the history of these very advanced inhabitants living in the south of France and constructing their incredible castles on the hilltops across the region of Languedoc. Fabienne is a professional lecturer who is used to audiences of native French speakers and at times her delivery was a little too fast.

Dawn Marley returned as a speaker after many years absence and gave a talk on “Les langues regionals et minorities des France”. Dawn is Associate Professor in French at the University of Surrey and our members were very appreciative of her talk.

Christine Nivet was unable to give her talk in April and it had to be rescheduled in May. Christine lived for many years in Chicago and presented the third part of her talk on “La Peinture francaise au Musee de Chicago”. Christine is extremely knowledgeable on this topic and, once again, we were dazzled by the wealth of French paintings in this museum. Christine delivered her talk via Zoom and was not present at the Pavilion.

Cedric Cabanne gave a talk on “La famille de Napoleon”. Everyone knows about Napoleon and Josephine but a lot less about their immediate family. Cedric introduced us to other relatives who were powerful in their own right and influenced the history of the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe. Cedric was unable to be present at the Pavilion.

Thierry Viennois concluded our programme by talking about the history of a train now used for tourists in his native area of France, “Le petit train des Mineurs de la Mure”. Thierry presented the history of this train which now serves to transport tourists in this beautiful area of Isere. Thierry is always a very popular speaker at our group and delivers his talks with clarity and humour. In addition he was present with our group in the Pavilion.