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Summer Half 2018 Societies' Report

Eton’s society programme had another busy half of meetings during Summer 2018.

The Orwell Society hosted many commemorative events to celebrate the 101st anniversary of Blair KS joining Eton. In the Summer Half, the Society hosted the former Home Secretary the Rt Hon Alan Johnson, who delivered a well-attended presentation on “Eric Blair is dead but George Orwell lives on”. Mr Johnson’s talk was the delivered on a day – 3 May – replete with Orwell-themed events, including an “injustice commission” hosted in partnership with the Orwell Youth Prize, involving 130 students from Eton and its eight closest partner schools in the state sector, with the author’s son, Richard Blair, unveiling a new bust of Orwell by Martin Jennings.

In the area of social sciences, the Political Society welcomed former Prime Minister Sir John Major, who gave an address touching on his childhood and education, and the key events that shaped his approach to politics. Sir John went on to discuss the current domestic and global political climate, touching on the threats to global stability. He also discussed his interactions with major world historical figures, such as Helmut Kohl, Boris Yeltsin, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa. The Political Society also hosted Sir Noel Malcolm, Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, on the topic of “What’s wrong with Human Rights?” on 15 June.

The American Society also held politics-related meetings, hosting the president of the evangelical campaign group ‘Focus on the Family’ on the topic of “Religion and Politics in America” on 1 May and hosted the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom Woody Johnson on 4 June. Ambassador Johnson’s presentation explored the world of diplomacy from the perspective of a businessperson and reflected on his previous career as the owner of the NFL team the New York Jets. Moreover, the Feminism Society heard from French language assistant Adrien Foutelet on the topic of “What Sociology and Anthropology really say about gender” on 14 May, and held a joint meeting with the Theatre Society to hear from award-winning producer Kate Pakenham on “The privilege of purpose: a theatrical adventure in feminism and freedom” on 30 April.

The Education Society hosted educational entrepreneur Lucian Cosinschi, Director of Partnerships and Student Experience at the Minerva Project in Berlin, founder of Pomegranate Learning and co-founder of ‘ProjectVolunteering’. Cosinschi delivered an in-depth presentation entitled “Minerva at KGI: Higher education in the 21st century” on 9 May. The Fashion Society hosted an evening with men’s style guru Dylan Jones OBE, editor of the UK edition of GQ since 1999 and author of a 2017 biography of David Bowie.

The Environmental Society had a Summer Half rich in activism and environmental consciousness-raising. To mark World Oceans Day and in support of the charity Ocean Cleanup, the Society collaborated with the Fashion Society, selling T Shirts made from recycled ocean plastic waste on the Fourth of June. Also on the Fourth of June the Environmental Society presented the Eton Wildlife Conservation display in School Library, including a slideshow display of the 2017 and 2018 Eton College Natural Photography competition winners. The Africa Society heard from the Director of the Centre of African Studies at Cambridge University on the topic of “Africa’s image in the West” on 27 April, Dr Jeremy Weate on “Literature in Africa” (in conjunction with the Literary Society) and Herbert Wigwe, CEO of Access Bank Nigeria, who talked about the banking and financial sector in Africa on 11 June.

The newly-formed Cicero Society, focusing on boy-led rhetoric, held its inaugural meeting on 13 June. Vines OS (SPH) delivered a speech on “Forever Young”, Richardson Vassallo (NPTL) on “How Rome Fell”, Liu-Galvin MS (DWG) on “The Relevance of Classical Music Today” and Godsal ma (JMG) on “Inequality: How it Harms Everyone”. The Feminism Society also heard from boy presentations, topics including “innovative solutions to the pay gap”, as well as holding joint meetings with St Mary’s Ascot. Another inaugural meeting was held by the Architecture Society, who were privileged to hear from Lord Norman Foster, architect of the restored Reichstag building in Berlin, ‘The Gherkin’ in London and the HSBC Building in Hong Kong amongst many others, on 25 April.

The Parry Society once again heard from a wide range of hugely accomplished and pre-eminent musicians. Pianist, organist and conductor Richard Gowers OE presented on “How to respond to: ‘Will you accompany me?’” on 13 June and on 21 June the Society heard from acclaimed conductor, composer, producer and music executive Mike Sheppard on the topic of “A life in composition”. Earlier in the half, on 10 May, conductor and cellist Charles Medlam spoke on “The Bass Viol, My Bass Viol and the Simpson Bass Viol”. Also in May, the Broadcast Society welcomed well-known comedian Hugh Dennis who presented on “Seriously funny: a career in comedy broadcasting” on 2 May.

Theological matters were well-covered by the Simeon Society, meeting frequently with another half of thought-provoking talks on Christianity-related topics, such as by James Shone, founder of the charity ‘I can & I am’, on the topic of “Bouncing back” on 12 June, the Revd Mark Meynell on “Christ is ultimate” on 5 June, the Revd Rico Tice on “Why bother with the Christian faith?”, the Revd Jay Marriner’s “Good news at work” on 15 May and Linvoy Primus on “Faith and football” on 8 May. At the beginning of the half the Society heard from Hatty Haines and Lt Ed Martin. Prof Linda Woodhead MBE, specialising in the sociology of religion and widely known for initiating public discourse about faith, delivered the 2018 Bevir Lecture on 23 May.

The Wotton’s Society heard from accomplished speakers in the area of philosophy. Lord Carey of Clifton, former Archbishop of Canterbury, delivered a lecture on 17 May and Prof Gwen Griffith-Dickson, specialist in the philosophy and theology of different faiths, founder of the Lokahi Foundation and Visiting Professor at King’s College London, spoke to the Society on 26 April. The Society also heard from Dr Mike Rose on “Wittgenstein’s influence on the reading of poetry” and heard from Christian apologist Dr Joe Boot, of the Ezra Institute.

Future medics heard from Dr Stephen Dunn, Chief Executive of West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, on 25 April with a talk entitled “Life at the sharp end: leading a hospital in today’s NHS”. Potential engineers benefitted from presentations on careers in engineering, such as those by Philippa Oldham, Head of National Network Programmes at the Advanced Propulsion Centre, on 24 April, and Carl-Peter Foster on the topic of “Automotive engineering” on 1 May.

The History Society hosted Dr Graham Seel on 5 June, who spoke on “King John – an underrated king?” and from Prof Bernard Wasserstein of the University of Chicago on 30 April on the topic of “The end of the Palestine Mandate and the Arab Israeli Conflict”. Military matters were further explored in the Wellington Society’s meeting of 23 April, during which Suzanne Williams, a professional hostage negotiator and former International Senior Scotland Yard Detective, spoke on “Hostage negotiation and extortion”.

Overall, summer 2018 was another half of incredible opportunity and variety for Eton’s societies.