Page last updated at 11:28 GMT, Saturday, 22 August 2009 12:28 UK

Party puts conversation on menu

Theodore Zeldin
Professor Zeldin believes Londoners are wary of strangers

A philosopher is celebrating his 76th birthday by inviting members of the public to a central London park to talk to strangers.

Professor Theodore Zeldin believes people in London have got out of the habit of conversation.

His 'Feast of Strangers' at Regents Park's Treehouse Gallery will present each visitor with a menu of 25 topics, instead of food, from 1430 BST.

He said Londoners were wary of strangers yet "anxious to talk".

Prof Zeldin, author of An Intimate History of Humanity, has spent a lifetime studying friendships.

"When you get to the Tube you don't talk to anybody - indeed if you start to, it might be thought you are trying to do something improper," he said.

We do not know what goes on in other people's heads, and we never will - that is a great mystery of our time
Professor Theodore Zeldin

He is holding the event after celebrating his birthday in a similar way in 2007.

Prof Zeldin is most interested in conversations when we "discover what it is like to be somebody else, and what other people feel".

His suggested conversation topics include "what have you rebelled against in the past and what are you rebelling against now?" and "how have your opinions and behaviour changed on the way the two sexes treat one another?".

He added: "We do not know what goes on in other people's heads, and we never will - that is a great mystery of our time."

The event will take place in Regent's Park where all Londoners are welcome



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