V. Living culture
Here is the leaflet showing the library in 1956, as well as part of the original record library (classical music, variety, talking books), kept in the basement of the MFO. Henri Fluchère placed the library at the heart of the MFO's activities and made it a key part of his communication strategy. Termly newsletters (from April 1947), lists of new acquisitions, free library card for all principals, French fellows and librarians in the city, posters in each college all bear witness to determined networking. From 17 books in 1946 the library had already expanded to 17,500 in 1962. Accessible to all, whether or not they were members of the university, the books could be borrowed for a fee initially set at 5 shillings. When the library moved to Westbury Lodge in 1963, nearly 900 readers were registered and 6,000 books were borrowed each year. Thanks to its cosy atmosphere around the fireplace at Woodstock Road, its rigorous acquisition policy and its efficient catalogue, this two-sided, "work and pleasure" library became a key part of the Oxonian landscape in barely ten years.
Between 1947 and 1962, the MFO's activity reports reveal that more than 80 French plays were performed in Oxford, in the original or in translation, directed by the Oxford University French Club (OUFC), the Oxford University Dramatic Society (OUDS), the Experimental Theatre Club (ETC), or the Playhouse theatre group, but also by invited French companies: the Comédiens Modernes de la Sorbonne, the Théophiliens, the Le Levain Company from Poitiers and the Compagnie Henri Doublier. Among the contemporary authors, Anouilh and Giraudoux were by far the most performed, followed by Ionesco, Sartre and Roussin. Among the classics, Molière was the most popular. As Henri Fluchère's career was turned towards theatre, whether as an academic, author, translator or stage director, it was he who envisioned the MFO's contribution to live performance in Oxford. The first photograph, dated mid-February 1948, is marked “Maurice”. This alludes to the origin of the francophone Mauritian students whom Fluchère recruited to help him stage his first plays. The names are pencilled at the back of the photograph: Alfred Koenig, Philippe Kervern, Albert Ménagé, Annie and Paul Vallet, J. Paul Hein and Robert d'Unienville. The picture was taken in front of the house occupied by Hein and Menagé, possibly in Observatory Street. Koenig performed in Le Mariage forcé, then in Antigone, with Ménagé, while Paul Hein acted as business manager. The other photographs were taken a dozen years later, during performances of L'École des Femmes (1960), Andromaque (1960) and Britannicus (1962) at the Playhouse and the French Institute in London. The actors are not identified.
Finally, we must mention the diversity of the MFO's cultural activities. François Bédarida's summaries speak for themselves: in four years, from January 1967 to January 1971, the MFO organised 159 activities, or contributed directly to them: conferences (47), seminars (33), film club (31 films), exhibitions (19), talks and round tables (11), concerts and recitals (11), theatrical events (7). However, even if we know the MFO today thanks to the great names that have been there, it was not, in its early days, in control of its programming. Its role was to welcome guests from the Oxford University French Club (OUFC) and from departments and colleges. Here is the cover of the 9th issue of a magazine called En Vedette, the predecessor of a short-lived La Chouette aveugle, with the OUFC logo, the red Gallic rooster. It was the OUFC's official publication, with a print run of 500 copies, "a living reflection of most of the club's activities". The magazine was mimeographed by the MFO staff. A page from the very first activity programme of the new MFO in 1967-1968 is then shown. These programmes, the forerunners of today's term cards, were introduced by François Bédarida in the late 1960s. They show the MFO's desire to free itself from the OUFC's programming. In particular, lectures by Yves Bonnefoy and Jacques Derrida are announced, as is the Jean Cocteau exhibition, the poster of which is still on display in the corridor of the MFO.