An update on our recent events by the Norfolk Cambridge Society

An update on our recent events by the Norfolk Cambridge Society

  • Lecture

2019 Norfolk Cambridge Society Lectures

Four extremely successful public lectures were held during 2019, drawing a cumulative total audience of nearly 700 people. Approximately 15% were sixth form students from across the county. The lectures held were

on Thursday 17 January, our second lecture was delivered by Professor David Runciman, Head of the Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge on Young Versus Old - A Democratic Time Bomb

on Tuesday 30 April, our third lecture was delivered by Professor Charles ffrench-Constant, Professor of Medical Neurology, University of Edinburgh, on Regenerative Medicine - Can we Help the Brain Repair Itself?

on Tuesday, 11 June, our fourth lecture was delivered by Professor Cathie Carmichael, Professor of European History, University of East Anglia, on Reflections on the Causes and Consequences of Genocide - Lessons from the Balkans and Elsewhere, and

on Thursday 26 September, our fifth lecture was delivered by Professor Andy Parker, Head of Department, Cavendish Laboratory, on Higgs Bosons, Black Holes and the Structure of Space: News from the Frontiers of Physics and the Large Hadron Collider

Feedback from all of the lectures has been overwhelmingly positive with many in the audiences subsequently commenting that they had never attended a better lecture on any subject. We are enormously grateful to Professors Runciman, ffrench-Constant, Carmichael and Parker for continuing the high standard set by our inaugural lecturer, Professor Christopher Andrew, and for giving their time and wisdom so generously. 

The objectives of the lecture series are to

celebrate the rigorous pursuit and dissemination of truth by leading academics and other great minds

provide a regular meeting place for Cambridge alumni and others of like mind, living in Norfolk.

We already have a full programme of lectures for 2020, which has been circulated to all members of the Society. To attend any of these, please email

2019 Welcome Party (formerly Freshers' Party)

Thirteen sixth formers attended the annual Welcome Party for Freshers at the Great Hospital on 19 September. The party was organised by Andrew Barnes and HH Alasdair Darroch and judging by the hubbub of conversation throughout, it was a highly successful event.

NCS Philosophy Group Meetings

This new group was set up in July 2019 under the chairmanship of Geoffrey Smart. It is a monthly opportunity for alumni and guests, who enjoy discussing some of the more complex issues faced by society, to do so in a convivial atmosphere over a glass of wine, or soft drink, in Norwich School Chapel. The meetings take place on the second Thursday of each month from 6pm to 7.30pm. The group is open to all Oxbridge alumni and their guests. If you wish to attend future meetings, please email Geoffrey Smart.

The first meeting took place on Thursday 11 July and was attended by nineteen people. The format was a debate on the motion "This House does not Believe in Free Will". Geoffrey opened in support of the motion (although much of his argument centred on his technical definition of Free Will!) and Tim Cawkwell and Jane Polden respectively spoke against and for the motion. In spite of only one person speaking against the motion, it was soundly defeated, with final votes cast being 4 for, 13 against and 2 undecided.

Since then, three more meetings have been held. Between ten and twenty people attended on each occasion. These have been gentle discussions, rather than debates:-

on 15 August on the subject was "Does a sense of identity limit or empower us?”, which was led by Ed Cairns. The pre-reading was Francis Fukuyama's excellent article, The New Tribalism and the Crisis of Democracy

on 12 September, the subject was “Should politicians lead or follow the people?”, led by Geoffrey Smart. The pre-reading was Edmund Burke's 1774 Speech to the Electors of Bristol, and

on 10 October, the subject was "Are there limits to the concept of objective truth?", which was again led by Geoffrey Smart. Instead of pre-reading, he suggested attendees watch beforehand either a 20-minute interview with American philosopher, Richard Rorty, on “Democracy and Philosophy” or Rorty's excellent half-hour lecture, "Philosophy and Taking Time Seriously", both of which are on Youtube.

Inaugural Norfolk Oxbridge Varsity Golf Match

Throughout history, the 1st November has carried great significance. It was the date (in 1009) that Berber forces, led by Sulayman ibn al-Hakam, defeated the Umayyad caliph Muhammad II of Córdoba in the battle of Alcolea. It was on 1st November 1512 that the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo, was exhibited to the public for the first time. And it was on 1st November 1604 that The Tempest was performed for the first time, at Whitehall Palace in London. (I might also have mentioned that it was on 1st November 1993 that the Maastricht Treaty took effect, formally establishing the European Union. However in the current circumstances I thought it not politic to do so.)

Now another great historic 1st November event has been added to the annals of human history, the first-ever Norfolk Oxbridge Varsity Golf Match, played at Sheringham Golf Club. Stunningly, Cambridge won the match by approximately 90 Stableford points to nil. This must surely be one of the greatest defeats ever inflicted on the Other Place. True, no Oxford golfers turned up for the match but that is a mere detail. The three Cambridge men who did, Phil Hawes, Tim Chaloner and Geoff Smart, supported valiantly by an Old Wellingtonian and Sussex man, John Wollocombe (whose score in accordance with the rules was not added to the Cambridge tally), kept their heads and did what was necessary... just get round the course. Although not by any means at their best, they played sufficiently well to defeat the army of Norfolk-based Oxford golfers not there on the day. Why was their total score only approximately recorded? Well with no Oxford golfers present, it was decided to play a four-ball match play, won three and one by Tim and John. Unfortunately in the ensuing euphoria, Stableford scores were not accurately recorded for the last two holes.

It is hoped Oxford will wish for revenge in 2020 and that that wish will translate into at least one Oxford golfer having the courage to turn up for a match against the mighty Cambridge team. This account of the inaugural match is designed to help bring such an event about!