Être au courant d’Au Courant

By Sue Farmery

To mark one year of Lucile and I taking over as co-editors of Au Courant, I wanted to take this opportunity to look back at the fascinating history of our FrenchNet newsletter over the years. Many thanks to Laura Bennett, Mike Hanson, Philippa Hammond and David Tash for providing information. Any errors or omissions are my own!

I’m not sure when the very first FrenchNet newsletter was published, but the earliest issue I could get my hands on was from July 1989. Owned by David Tash, it was produced as a photocopied booklet with folded A4 sheets and sent to members by post.

The name Au Courant, as we now know it, was adopted in November 2001 by the then editor Jenet Peers. This year also saw the first puzzle, put together by Rae Walter, with the winners receiving a copy of a French-themed book sent out for free by Oxford University Press. Thanks to Rae’s continued efforts and OUP’s ongoing sponsorship, this popular puzzle remained a regular feature for nearly 20 years.

Mike Hanson, editor from 2004-2006, remembers how Au Courant was created in Microsoft Publisher and (like most newsletters at the time) still issued in hard copy only, hence the need for a newsletter “mailing officer” as well as an editor.

2006 saw the advent of Au Courant in electronic format, when it began to be delivered directly to members’ email inboxes. Philippa Hammond, who took up the baton from 2008-2011, recalls that whilst the newsletter was primarily published as a PDF and distributed via email, there was at least one member to whom she still sent it by post! At that time, Au Courant was published twice a year. The December 2009 edition included an article written by David Tash on the history of the newsletter (great minds think alike!). It contained several extracts from past issues, showing how cuttings sent in by members were then pasted (in the traditional sense!) to produce essentially a collage newsletter.

Laura Bennet took over the reins in 2016. During her time as editor, she would upload the newsletter to the Files area of the network’s Yahoo group where it was shared via a Dropbox link. Au Courant was now published four times a year – and the OUP-sponsored puzzle was still going strong! A new feature, Cinérama, was introduced, where members shared a review of a French-language film they had particularly enjoyed.

When Hannah Lawrence became editor in June 2020 she brought with her skills and knowledge from her background in marketing and copywriting. She updated the format to the newsletter you now receive via the Mailchimp platform, and increased the frequency to bi-monthly

And then lastly, in 2022, Lucile and I joined forces as co-editors – the first time the newsletter has had both an English and a French editor simultaneously. Working collaboratively as co-editors of Au Courant is very rewarding. The experience really is a collaboration in the true sense of the word, as the newsletter would not exist were it not for FrenchNet members. It therefore seems fitting to take this opportunity to say a big thank you/un grand merci to everyone who has contributed over the last 30 years! Who knows how Au Courant will develop over the next 30-odd years?