Visit to Fontevraud

Mme Yolande Powell

A total of fifty three members and guests enjoyed lunch together at the restaurant “Le Plantagenet” at the Hostellerie de la Croix Blanche in Fontevraud, Saturday 26thMay. Unusually, on this occasion, we were joined for lunch by the hotel owners, Michel and Mieke Chabenat, and their son and daughter, Sven and Laure.

Laure is 16 years old. She is a student at the Lycée Saint Louis in Saumur, and was this year’s winner of the National Public Speaking Competition held here in the Loire Valley. Her prize was to represent France in the ESU 2018 International Public Speaking Competition in London 14 - 18 May.

The candidates at the IPSC 2018 had a very special itinerary this year as their stay in London coincided with the celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the ESU. As part of the festivities, they were invited to a reception where they had the honour of being presented to HRH the Princess Royal.

At coffee time, after a gourmet lunch Laure spoke to us about her experience in London and delivered her speech from the prepared speech heats of the competition, the theme for which was “Great artists have no country”. Her five minute talk was entitled “Let’s think out of the Box - out of the Frame”. Laure chose to speak on the inspiration of artists and of the impact their art has on us. Although sometimes it cannot be translated into words, their work enriches our world. She finished with the message that we should all be more like artists: inspired, open-minded, brave and adventurous, in order to create the world we want to live in. All of our members present were amazed by the content of Laure’s speech and the quality of her delivery.

It was a joy to hear of Laure’s exciting and stimulating week at Dartmouth House when she joined fifty other candidates from all over the world for the competition. She spoke to us of her new friends “that may become lifelong friends from all parts of the world”.

Her time in London was not only spent preparing for the different rounds of the competition; she also enjoyed a totally new existence, taking in the atmosphere, talking and exchanging experiences and national customs with the other interesting candidates. An added highlight was her presentation to the Princess Royal by Lord Paul Boateng, the ESU Chairman, which was a special treat amidst the pressure of the competition. And all of this took place just a very few days before the royal wedding of Prince Harry to Megan Markle. 

As a token of our thanks Laure was given a poster from the Globe Theatre listing many of Shakespeare’s expressions that are still in use in the English language 400 years later.

Laure is just 16 years old. It is really satisfying to learn that the efforts of the ESU Loire Valley and our partners the Bibliothèque Anglophone and the Maison de l’Europe in Angers, have enabled her ability to be recognized. I only wish all our ESU branches could have had the opportunity to meet her and listen to her. They would quickly realize how important their efforts could have been, and can be in the future, by aiding in the promotion of this competition.  Enabling other young people to prepare for competitions like this will undoubtedly benefit them throughout their future life - be they finalists or not.

The experience that such a training can provide is useful to all students but especially to students with another mother language. Laure’s mother tongue is French. Her second language is Dutch. Yet she delivered her speech and spoke to us using excellent English. She is a pride to her family, her lycée, her English teachers, and to all those that were involved in coaching her and helping her prepare to represent France and the Loire Valley at the International Public Speaking Competition 2018. BRAVO to Patricia Curd and Lucia Dumont who with passion and dedication have worked consistently to make this event part of the yearly calendar of the ESU LOIRE VALLEY.