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Eton Societies Weeks 4 and 5

Week 4

Caledonian: Practice with Wycombe Abbey (Eton)

*History: Birley Prize Presentations(The Medici; The Aztecs; Henry IV)

*Middle Eastern: Sir Geoffrey Adams (OE) of the FCO on
Britain’s in the Middle East

Classical: Dr Bob Cowan, Balliol College

*Simeon: Mr Mark Edwards on Hebrews 1:1-3

*Medical: The Richardson Family (OEs)
(‘Mad, bad and dangerous to know’)

*Entrepreneurship: Mr Chris Coleridge (OE) on founding V-Water

*Geography Society: The Power of the Vine

Week 5

Simeon: The Hon Mr Justice Cooke on divine justice

*Debating: ‘This House would vote for David Cameron’

Keynes: Mr Pierre Lagrange, co-founder of GLG Partners

Film: The Magnificent Ambersons

Events for which reports have been provided are marked by an asterisk.

Geography Society: The Power of the Vine

Professor Tim Unwin, a part-time professor at Royal Holloway and an external examiner to the Institute of Master of Wine, came to talk about the historical significance of wine, and how it has affected our culture today.

He recounted chronologically how the wine culture has developed over the last 8000 years. The earliest production of wine occurred in about 6-5000 BC in Georgian Caucasus. In Mesopotamia the wine was developed into the famous sign of fertility that it is today. Here the Greek god Bacchus (god of fertility) was first worshipped to praise wine, and famous stories such as the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ put a strong emphasis on the growing of vines.

He then explained how the Mediterranean was the ecological home of wine (of course with the famous vintage of 121 BC); it is where the modern wines were developed and bred, and it is where our modern wine culture hails from. He confronted the idea of a rivalry (in drinks) between the northern European beer, and the Mediterranean wine, elaborating on their social differences, and how wine seems to have been lost between the 10th and 17th Century, particularly due to the use of wooden barrels instead of sealable amphorae.

He finished off with wine’s cultural situation and significance today. Why it is a rich man’s drink, and how the wine trade was one of the dominating commodity trades for many centuries; he also explained why the wine trade is collapsing today; the market for high quality wines is folding, because socially wine is no longer the luxury it used to be.

Henry Sherman (MNF)

The History Society:
Birley Prize Presentations (Medici; Aztecs; Henry IV)

The History Society began its 2009-10 programme with a two, perhaps three,-for-the -price of-one event, presentations three topics which also served as the Reading Over for the Birley Prize, essays completed in the summer by Oxbridge candidates.

Harry Osborne (ASR) gave a paper on the Medici and their use of artistic commissions for political purposes; Charlie Northcott (RDO-C) asked why the Aztecs lost to the conquistadors, and Bobby Leigh Pemberton (JDN) discussed whether it was fair to label Henry IV, as does K.B.MacFarlane, a 'shameless usurper' in his overthrow of Richard II in 1399. Each talk was accompanied by some colourful slides; Harry Osborne's were of course integral to his talk as we saw the Gozzoli Medici chapel, the David (a statue which cleverly undermined the independence of the Florentine Republic) and the Medici motifs of the fortress built outside Florence not to defend but to intimidate it. Charlie Northcott's were perhaps a little more decorative and with him it was the striking claims he made - if it was their cavalry, cannon and armour which spelled victory for the Spanish, it is odd that they had but 16 horses, their guns rarely worked in the humid air and they abandoned their plate armour for the Aztecs own cotton clothing within a few weeks. Bobby Leigh Pemberton used slides merely to show the stone relief of Henry IV - the best image we have of him - but his considerable powers of delivery to impress upon us the feelings of wounded honour which accounted form, and in his view justified, Henry's act of usurpation. The vivid scene was painted of Henry entering London in armour, acclaimed by the citizenry and, so clad on his first return to England after a year in exile, kneeling within sight of the newly finished tomb of his father John of Gaunt (whose burial he had been refused permission to attend, and whose lands he had forfeited) to receive the crown.

This was a treat of an evening and immsensely heartening to see History pursued by the three essayists with such vigour and such enjoyment. For the record, Northcott and Leigh-Pemberton were awarded the prize jointly; Osborne Highly Commended.


The Middle Eastern Society: Sir Geoffrey Adams (OE) (FCO)

Sir Geoffrey is currently Director of the Middle East and North Africa desk at the FCO. Prior to that, he was Ambassador to Iran. From his confidence and enthusiasm, you could tell that Sir Geoffrey was an experienced public speaker. He was also thoroughly at home in the venue, the Marten Library, having been greeted on arrival with the sight of his name (as Adams KS) on the roll of winners for the Rosebery Prize.

His speech, though focusing on Iran, broached a wide sphere of interest in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia, North Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq, and of course the Israel-Palestine conflict. On the subject of Iran, Sir Geoffrey spoke about the political turmoil of this summer and the possibility of future stability in the country. He also outlined what it was like to work in the diplomatic service having had thirty years of experience there.
The questions were slow in starting but eventually became a relentless tide. One asked about the crisis of oil, another about the possibility of another war kicking off. Sir Geoffrey replied, for the most part, diplomatically and dutifully.
The turn out was spectacular – around 50 people – and questions continued until proceedings were forced to come to a close.

Nick Buchan (TEJN)

Simeon Society: Mr Mark Edwards (The Dragon School)

This week on Tuesday, Mr Mark Edwards, Head of Classics at the Dragon, spoke in Upper School on knowing what God is like, from Hebrews 1:1-3. He spoke engagingly about how the Old Testament prophets continually pointed towards the coming of the Messiah, and how Jesus came both as the fulfilment of the prophecy and to be the representation of God’s being in the world. The meeting was well attended, helped along by a significant number of F Block Old Draconians.

Daniel Wright (WFM)

Medical Society: Prof Ricky Richardson (OE), Dr Sacha Richardson (OE) and Mr Hugo Richardson (OE) – ‘Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know’

The Medical Society was privileged to host a panel of three Old Etonians all from the same family. 
Professor Ricky Richardson gave a fascinating talk on rare (‘bad’) tropical diseases, captivating the large audience with graphic and vivid images. As an experienced paediatrician, he was able to describe in detail some extraordinary cases encountered whilst working abroad in Africa and elsewhere.

He was followed by Dr Sacha Richardson who gave a very informative talk on the ‘mad’ life of a junior doctor. He started with the application process, giving sound advice on the way, before covering the ups and downs of a career in medicine, and what to expect as a doctor of the future.

Finally, Mr Hugo Richardson gave a practical and highly entertaining talk on life as a young vet. Currently working at London Zoo, he discussed the exciting variety of (‘dangerous to know’) animals one can meet as a vet and explained the need for vets to be ‘masters of all trades’.

The talks were interspersed with some very amusing anecdotes.  The trio finished by taking questions.  All in all, it was a truly memorable night from the Richardson trio.

Yeachan Park MS (GRP)

Entrepreneurship Society: Mr Chris Coleridge (OE) (V-Water)
The market space for enhanced water is getting crowded! Sales of ‘smoothies’ are down by more than fifty per cent this year but the volume of enhanced water bottles being bought is proving more resilient to the recession. And the growing amount of shelf space in the supermarket aisles given over to the likes of Firefly, Vitamin-Water, Just-Juice, Vitsmart and V-Water is testimony to the high margins these products generate. Chris Coleridge, co-Founder of V-Water gave a relaxed, entertaining and thoughtful presentation on the growth of his business to the Eton College Entrepreneurship Society on Thursday night. A large audience - fortified by a generous sample of the six flavoured drinks on offer - grilled Mr Coleridge on his business after he had taken time out to explode five myths about start-ups.

So what are these myths?

(1) You need years of experience - not so - if you don’t have it hire it
(2) You need tons of £££  - in fact when raising funds, ask politely but use it wisely
(3) You need to be a born entrepreneur - in fact there’s no such thing
(4) It takes years to start a business from scratch - another falsehood, the most successful start ups move at the speed of light and test their product in the market with tremendous rapidity
(5) You need an amazing idea - nonsense! Instead, you need an idea that keeps you going (especially during the difficult times)
There were a huge number of questions from the floor covering some of these issues:

Prestige pricing - premium drinks priced appropriately offer a high margin for investors and generate the profit needed to spend on marketing

Market tests - V-Water focused on testing consumer reaction to their product in a small number of geographical locations - flooding them with free samples and getting really useful feedback

Product range - if V-Water expanded their range of flavours would they sell less in total? Consumers like choice - but not too much. The range of products can be greater in the USA because US households have much bigger fridges and freezers!

Barriers to entry - there are natural entry barriers, but not high enough to prevent plenty of businesses trying to make a profit in this space. It is a surprise that the likes of Volvic and Highland Spring have yet to make a bid to win some of the market for enhanced waters. Perhaps they are worried about repeating the Dasani mistake of a few years ago?

Making an exit - Chris Coleridge’s business has now been bought out by PepsiCo (V-Water still has to fight for space within Pepsi fridges in retail stores!) - and Mr Coleridge emphasised the importance of finding the right moment to exit and sell out, partly to reward the early investors but also to avoid becoming too emotionally tied to your start-up brand.

This was a super meeting - our next high profile businessman is Will King, Founder and CEO of King of Shaves who speaks on Thursday 5th November.


Debating Society: ‘This House Would Vote For David Cameron’

There was once again a capacity crowd in the Marten Library. The evening ‘warmed up’ with a round of impromptu speeches from a number of brave volunteers from the floor. Participants had to pick a topic and then were allowed two minutes to prepare a full speech, with a message, lasting at least three minutes. Alex Harries (ASR) impressed with a measured critique of footballers’ salaries, but it was Brendan Hanrahan (MAG) who won the round, with a well received proposal that technology companies stop thinking about making things smaller and consider the benefits of making them bigger.

Then followed the main event, discussing the motion that ‘This House Would Vote For David Cameron’. Keshav Dimri KS was in the chair and Freddie Brodermann (WFM) kept time. Proposing the motion, Vincent Garton KS gave an earnest, rhetorically polished speech, presenting David Cameron as the only viable political leader for Britain. He was backed up by the ever-lively Freddie Wagner (PB), who argued that there was a lack of plausible alternatives. Opposing the motion, Ed Wingfield (JDN) presented Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats as a much sounder choice for forming the next government, while David Leigh (CJD) highlighted several aspects of David Cameron’s politics and personal background which made him unsuitable as our next prime minister. 

It was a tightly argued affair, including several excellent contributions from the floor, indicating that standards of debating continue to improve. The motion was narrowly carried.



DATE POSTED: 13 October 2009

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