This lunchtime I had the pleasure and privilege of welcoming British author Helen Walsh to the Committee for our first literary lunch of the season. The idea is simple. Our Committee is a body that brings together representatives of Europe’s civil society organisations and, in so doing, embodies Europe’s cultural diversity. One of the primary vectors for that diversity is language, of which literature is a high form. At the same time, the Committee serves as a bridge between the EU and civil society, and we therefore like to welcome people from all walks of life onto our premises when we can (the recent Open Doors Day was an excellent example of this). Last but not least, in this, the year of combatting poverty and social exclusion, our Committee’s members are deeply concerned about the socio-economic crisis Europe is going through and, above all, about the consequences of this for our societies, particularly for the most vulnerable (the Biennial Conference in Florence one month ago addressed precisely this theme). Working together with EUNIC (European Union National Institutes of Culture), we have therefore organised a series of literary lunches in which we invite authors who, through their work, have addressed the theme of poverty and social exclusion, to present readings from their works, in their mother tongue. We got off to a perfect start today. The weather was obliging and we were able to hold the event on a terrace and we had a lot of guests. Above all, thanks to our cooperation with the British Council, we had in Helen Walsh an eloquent analyst of racism and prejudice in post-industrial sink estates. Her latest novel, Once Upon a Time in England, from which she read extracts, is as she explained based on the real life experience of her Malaysian mother and English father surviving in a Warrington estate where poverty and racial prejudice were never far away.