Pembroke Street talks to Cal Hewitt, first year Pembroke NatSci and revitaliser, if not founder, of Pembroke’s PoohSoc
Hi Cal! For readers that don’t already know, how would you describe Poohsoc briefly?
PoohSoc is a group of individuals who are all passionate about Winnie the Pooh and the works of A.A. Milne. We meet together every once in a while for a little elevenses, to eat some honey directly from the pot, for tea and biscuits, and to have readings from the works and sing hums. It’s a very eclectic mix of people, we tend to do different things every time, for example we play Poohsticks now and then, although generally our tea parties are our main mode of meeting, but I suppose there’s not one single thing we do all the time.
How many people does this slightly more modest turnout involve?
It’s probably, just at the day to day meetings, between five and ten. Although we have had one or two which have drawn a larger crowd, so the maximum is closer towards thirty, but generally between five or ten on average.
Who makes up the membership of PoohSoc? Is it more of a Pembroke thing or a Cambridge wide society?
The membership is predominantly Pembroke, at the moment we have one recurring member who is from another college, but we have had a couple come from different places, especially at our first meeting which proved a very small scale viral sensation- we had people turn up from all over the place! Since then it’s mostly been a slightly more modest turnout, mainly from Pembroke.
So, you didn’t create PoohSoc, you merely revived it. How did you find out that there had previously been a PoohSoc at Pembroke?
I think personally the first word I heard of it was from Pembroke College’s website, it was one of the main things they were using to try and entice people to applying to that college over all the others, and I guess you’ve got to come up with some funky things to beat all the competition... But generally it seemed to be something that was very known about when I arrived, and there were certainly a few conversations about it at the beginning of they year, so people had found out somehow, but I’m not exactly sure how! Perhaps in the older years there was a bit of crossing over, so between those college parents and the people who were running it originally, but I’m not exactly sure how everyone came to know about it. But it certainly was still a bit of a presence in the college and there was a general feeling of tragedy that it had gone dormant.
How much do you know about the old PoohSoc? Was it run similarly to its modern incarnation?
We know very little, or certainly much less than we’d like to, but what we do know is from fragments of their website that’s still available on the internet archives. We know that they did some similar things- there are mentions of meetings with tea, and playing Poohsticks in the cam, but in general, no we know very little. So if any of our readers could put us in touch with someone, we’d be very thankful.
We know you’re a fan now, but when did you personally start liking Winnie the Pooh?
I don’t think I can put a specific age on it, but certainly as a child. I must say the very first Winnie the Pooh I liked was the Disney version, and I suppose as President of the society I’m a little bit ashamed of that as I think the official position is that it’s something of a bastardisation of A. A. Milne’s work. It was certainly a nice way in, and then I began reading the books as a child, and yes, I’ve always had a certain fondness for it but I don’t think I can put an age on exactly when I started loving it, but certainly quite young.
When I saw the first Facebook post for PoohSoc, it was written by you and signed off something like current dictator or unelected President... Has PoohSoc now made a successful transition to democracy?
We absolutely have! I’ve got in front of me the scribbles from a very brief meeting- they
had elections, they now have a bustling committee, and I was finally duly elected as
President in a democratic sense! Elections will continue every year, but I have some kind of mandate for the moment. Hannah’s [Hannah Arnaud, first year English] our Vice-President, and there’s a number of other positions: we have a treasurer and a hums officer, and Kieran has appointed himself to the post of Tigger (of course with a mandate). I’m not entirely sure what the position of Tigger entails but I’m sure he’s doing a very good job of it.
So what’s a Hums officer?
So that’s Sam MacDonald, who lives just across from me, he’s a music student and as I’m sure you know the books are full with little hums: short pieces of poetry that Pooh comes up with off the top of his head. They come to him rather spontaneously but the books very much suggest that they are hummed to some kind of tune rather than simply said aloud, so Sam’s main role is to try and discover, through very close analysis of the books, the tunes that Pooh did in fact sing these hums to- he’s been doing a lot of work on it!
And what are your hopes for the future of PoohSoc?
I’ve certainly got great aspirations for it! I think it will be very exciting come the summer because people will be more inclined to come out and spend a bit more time picnicking than they would over the last term, weather wise, but we certainly want to have some kind of event in May Week, maybe a May Week Winnie the Pooh party? But it’s still incredibly speculative for the minute..
There are a number of sites of Pooh interest around Cambridge and beyond Cambridge that we’d like to run expeditions to at some point in the future, for example Trinity College library have copies of a number of the manuscripts. It’ll be very interesting to get in touch with the library and go and see those, so perhaps getting out a little bit more, some exhibitions maybe...
And finally, how can people interested in joining PoohSoc get in touch?
Well, we did have a Facebook page but that didn’t really work, but there should be a group on Facebook fairly soon... But the most reliable way is to get touch with any of us in Pembroke if you see us around! We’re always happy to welcome new members!