CERN's 60th anniversary celebrations: "Cook"ed to perfection

On 29 September, CERN celebrated its 60th anniversary with a gala celebration. Hundreds of CERN staff members and users, dignitaries from CERN Member States and representatives of international organisations filled the marquee for a ceremony featuring speeches as well as music from the EU Youth Orchestra. CERN Recruitment Unit section leader Anna Cook was called in at the last minute to host the ceremony.


Anna had just got back from a run on her day off when she got the call. On the line CERN60 project leader Sascha Schmeling, Globe manager Bernard Pellequer and video editor Jacques Fichet had a problem. French-Swiss journalist Darius Rochebin, who had been pegged to host CERN's 60th anniversary ceremony, had been forced to cancel at the last minute, just three days before the event.

Would Anna host the celebration – a ceremony to be attended by hundreds and broadcast around the world for all to see? After asking whether it was a joke, she said: “OK, I’m on my way”. So Anna suddenly became the master of ceremonies: she would introduce the speakers (dignitaries from CERN Member States), the explanatory videos and the entertainment, making her the public face of CERN on its birthday. This wasn’t Anna’s first time presenting – she presented the What’s New @CERN videos a few years ago – but it was certainly the first of its kind. “We had just two dress rehearsals – one on Sunday and one on Monday morning,” Cook explains. “I was so scared of going wrong – of mispronouncing a dignitary’s name or omitting part of the script. But it was an adrenaline rush!”

The whole 60th anniversary team played a part in helping Anna to succeed. Scripting the ceremony was a group effort involving members of the Communication Group, the Protocol Office and, of course, the Director-General. Anna had support on the day from Eva Tolosa, who cued her entrances through a hidden earpiece, and two discrete prompters that helped her to remember the script when she was on stage. Anna presented with friendly professionalism – a picture of controlled calm despite last-minute changes, such as one national minister deciding just two hours before the ceremony not to speak. “Knowing I had friends and colleagues in the room, and that if I tripped up they wouldn't hold it against me, really helped me to get rid of the nerves,” says Cook. “Afterwards I felt elated, really happy, because I'm really passionate – we all are – about this Organization, and that's why I said yes to presenting.”

A final surprise was the chance to meet maestro Vladimir Ashkenazy, who conducted the EU Youth Orchestra at the end of the ceremony. “I grew up with his music,” said Cook. “My parents had Ashkenazy CDs and would play classical music every Sunday morning.”

The day after the ceremony, Anna was back to her day-to-day work in the Human Resources Department. Ready for the next call?

by CERN Bulletin