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Conversation Menu Social Evening

4th February 2020 @ 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

Part of the Cafe Philo debating meetup the Conversation Menu Social Evening is back in Westgate Street by popular demand…

Background: Theodore Zeldin, is an Oxford philosopher and conversationalist credited with the idea of “conversation menus (https://www.oxfordmuse.com/?q=conversation-dinners)” as a way of bringing people together and discussing something substantial in a relaxed atmosphere. Zeldin believes that better human relations can be built through conversations where one person is genuinely interested in getting to know how other people see the world and in exchanging ideas about what is most important to others as well as to themselves. This is not the “art of conversation”, it’s more than that, as the idea is that the discussion is less superficial and more meaningful.

Even though Zeldin saw his conversation menu being used by people seated in pairs, the idea has gained traction and been modified to suit the needs and circumstances of different groups and occasions.

Here’s our version of it: tried and tested.

Guests will be seated together in small groups of 4 or 5 people. Ideally as well as being with other people you may know, you will be with people you have either never met, or have only interacted with vaguely. Each group will be given a Conversation Menu that looks like a restaurant menu, with four courses (a starter, main course, dessert, and ending with coffee and liqueurs), but instead of descriptions of food dishes, each heading contains topics to talk about. Together in your groups you’ll chose which topic from the menu to discuss for the first course. When you have finished discussing it (for 20-25 minutes), that course has come to an end and you’ll swap groups and start the next course. Again, together you’ll choose a topic from the menu and discuss that until the end of the course. This happens for the remaining two courses.

The questions will be discovered by the guests on the menu on the day. The seriousness or frivolity of the questions will match the menu course it relates to, i.e. something a little more substantial for the main course and a little lighter for afters. The questions will also follow Zeldin’s approach, and that of Café Philo, in that they are thought provoking and will challenge us with new thoughts to make the conversation memorable.

There will be time to chat socially before and after the “meal” of conversations, but please try to arrive on time so that we can get started on the “meal” as soon as possible.

NOTE: We’re only providing conversation topics – food for thought, but not to eat. The Grapes ask for a donation on the night for the use of the room to go to their chosen charity Young Minds.


4th February 2020
7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
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