Launch of ‘A History of the London French: liberty, equality, opportunity’

The book was launched on 2nd July 2013 to an audience of over 100 people in The Cinema, University of Westminster, 309 Regent St., London W1, with the participation of twelve of our nineteen contributors to the book. It was exciting for us to see the book being so well received by representatives of the French Embassy and Consulate in London, the Alliance Fran├žaise, the London constituency office of the French MP for Northern Europe, the Franco-British Council, French journalists, business people and the wide range of French professional associations and cultural organisations established in London, such as the Rimbaud-Verlaine Foundation, to name but one.

We also welcomed many other French citizens of London and other Londoners interested in our work, several of whom contribute in various ways to the life of the British capital with French-linked projects such as the popular Bankside Bastille Day Festival, and the recent Spitalfields Festival in honour of the Huguenots. There were also representatives of French charities, churches and the French Hospital, together with colleagues from the Museum of London, the British Library and French Radio London who have all directly supported the project in various ways and – of course – fellow academics with shared research interests.

The event took place in a hall associated with a specific French contribution to London in a year in which Westminster as an institution celebrates its 175th anniversary. The room in which we came together to celebrate the book was a theatre purpose-built for the ‘optical exhibitions’, including the magic lantern shows for which the Royal Polytechnic Institute originally became famous. On 20th February 1896 the Lumiere brothers premiered to the press the first moving film, and the following day gave the first cinema show to a paying audience in Britain in that same hall. It was, therefore, an appropriate venue to toast the social, cultural, political and economic presence of the French in London from the 17th century to the present day.