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13 May 2017

King's Phoenix Society Annual Dinner

The Phoenix Society, the school’s Upper Sixth scholars group, held its final meeting of the year last Friday evening, followed by the annual dinner.

During the year members of the society had presented talks on a wide range of topics and the final meeting was a chance for each to offer a summary of what they had said and to give an update on the latest developments in their subject. Speakers and topics included:

Grace Albery on How do babies learn to talk?; Lauren Messenger on How far can a person’s mental health be affected by living in an area of deprivation?; Amelia Banton on What is the future for Liberland?; Tessa Counsell on Villains in literature; India Greenland on What makes great literature?; Charlie Collins on How and Why Christianity became the religion of Western Europe; Will Cashmore on The fall and rise of religious extremism and also What has happened to politics?; Matt Thorne on How behaviour affects our lives and the economy; James Clark on Climate change; Sarah Hill on Positive discrimination; and Marcello Visco on Is it worth investing in the space programme?

At one of the meetings during the year the format had been more Question Time than lecture; a team of Freddie Cole, Tilly Everard, Matt Thorne and Grace Albery had fielded question on topics ranging from President Trump and the culling of badgers to the size of footballers’ pay.

After the final meeting the society members gathered in the Amphitheatre for a photograph before repairing to the Sixth Form Dining Room for the annual supper.

At the supper Matt Thorne offered a word of thanks to Mr Patrick Scanlan, who has run the society with distinction for over a decade and who will be retiring from teaching at the end of the term. A thank you gift of something suitably bubbly was presented to Mr Scanlan.

It is customary at the annual dinner for the Headmaster to offer words of encouragement and advice to the outgoing members of the Phoenix Society. Mr Biggs urged the scholars to seek out, value and follow people with genuine wisdom and experience, people who had deep knowledge and skills (including craftsmanship, which is a wisdom of its own), without ever losing their own sense of healthy scepticism and sound judgment. He also asked that they never become too narrow in their field of interests, but sustained the wide range of enthusiasm that had been evident in their talks during the year. An ability to hold a meaningful conversation with a dinner companion from any walk of life was a great skill and asset, one which was surely one of the aims of a good education. He thanked the members for leading the thinking the thinking life of the school with such flair and wished them well for the upcoming exams and all that lay ahead of them after school.

The next meeting of the Phoenix Society will be in a fortnight’s time with the new Lower Sixth members. They will have big shoes to fill.

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