Curiosity may have killed the proverbial cat, but for French lawyer Margaux Hammer, it was this hunger for knowledge that drove her to start the French Curiosity Club, where women come together every month to gather insights on a plethora of subjects from the women directly involved in them.
“The French Curiosity Club (FCC) is a community of international women gathered around curiosity. It was driven by the will to learn things and to get some insights about various domains, such as sports, science, arts, the economy, the army directly from the women surrounding us,” says Hammer in an interview to Firstpost. The idea was to slow down and take time to learn from all of them, because there is always a curiosity to know about those things that one is unaware of, she says. “We are convinced that being curious helps one to understand other people better, to find ingenious ideas for yourself and your business, and also leads you to meet new people, helps you dream and make those dreams come true,” Hammer says.
Established in 2015 in Paris, she conceptualised it while interning as a lawyer in Chicago in 2014. Over the course of three years, the French Curiosity Club has been set up in Lille (France) and London (UK), with the team now venturing out into Mumbai. The inaugural event was held on 6 June with a talk by Bollywood stunt performer Geeta Tandon. When asked what prompted her to launch the club in Mumbai out of all places in the world, Hammer says this city was an obvious choice. “Mumbai is a very dynamic, cosmopolitan and effervescent city, where everything is possible and many new projects are launched daily. It is full of incredible women who deserve to and should tell their story to inspire others to fulfill their own dreams,” she says.
The intention is to invite the local community to monthly “curiosity meetings” which do not follow the classic round-table conference format or resemble a “boring meet-up”. “We have a new venue for every month, with smart content which is divided into two parts, like in concerts: an introductory pitch followed by a talk of 35-40 minutes,” she explains. Apart from this, the Club also takes the opportunity to shed light on women’s projects related to fashion, food, drinks, and other subjects.
The reason behind such a specific format is to tailor a concept for women, by women — a sort of ‘girls night out’ albeit different from what women are generally used to. “The meetings take place after a busy day at work. Nobody wants to attend a boring conference or meet-up with any added value at that time of the day,” says Hammer about the mood of the meetings. She adds that it is easier to make both personal and professional connections in a relaxed atmosphere.
Hammer also believes that the French Curiosity Club is the place where women will get the energy and inspiration to just go out and try. “We wanted to be inspired — at least once a month — and give our community the energy shot they need to lead their own projects. To do this, we introduce them to a different woman role model every month,” she says, adding that there was a need to reinvent the women community by creating something that is only positive-driven and “very enthusiastic, cool and young”.
In the past, the French Curiosity Club has hosted a variety of speakers from all across the world: an oenologist, the founders of an Israeli-Palestinian art festival, a globe-trotter, a criminal lawyer, a screenwriter, musicians, a wedding dress designer, a nun, a comedian, a whale researcher, two war reporters, an opera star, a pornographic movie producer, a politician, a member of the French army, a specialist in 3D printings, among others.
Any woman can be invited to speak at the meets, as long as she is passionate about what she does and knows how to talk about it. “When we search for speakers, we emphasise on their personality and on authenticity,” says Hammer, “It might be someone we heard about from our community or someone we saw in the newspapers and then connected with them through social media. There isn't just one way to make our choice, but the watchword for every FCC team in the world is: Be daring.”
So what made them choose a woman stunt performer for the first Mumbai meet? “Geeta Tandon is a famous Bollywood stunt performer, but what does one know about being a stunt performer? That is exactly what the FCC is about: Curiosity,” shares Hammer, adding that Tandon has been raised in a challenging environment where she had to fend for herself and her children. “She is an inspiration — an exceptional woman — so we thought our audience would love to hear her story and feel empowered. Apart from this, Mumbai is the city of Bollywood, so it does make a lot of sense,” feels Hammer.
However, she remains tight-lipped about the other speakers chosen for the city in the upcoming months. “Our FCC events are all about curiosity and also a little bit about surprise too. All that we can say is that we are spoilt for choice!” she says.
The response to the French Curiosity Club across other cities has been quite positive, shares Hammer. “After the first talk led by Marjolaine Chatin, an oenologist, all the women who attended the event seemed really enthusiastic. So we just thought: let's continue. Our community always tells us that it’s really cool for them to be able to meet women who they would have probably never met without the French Curiosity Club,” she says.
At present, the Club is working as an association with around 20 people across the world, including Mumbai, who are all volunteers at this stage.
While the French Curiosity Club is for women and by women, are men allowed to be a part of it? Hammer says the Club holds a mixed event for men and women once a year, to celebrate its formation. “There is sincerely nothing against men and we like them very much at the French Curiosity Club. We think that women and men already spend time separately sometimes — and we don't see why it should be a problem. We are different and we both enjoy our time separately,” feels Hammer.
On a concluding note, Hammer says she plans to establish the French Curiosity Club in 10 more cities by 2019. “Our challenge today is to expand the community and always listen to them to re-adjust our format. We plan to open in 10 more cities by the end of 2019 and our goal is to become, in the next few years, the main international community for curious women all around the world,” she says as she signs off.
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Updated Date: Jun 06, 2018 21:30:43 IST