The stately British Embassy residence may have already celebrated its centenary with the birthday girl pretty close to a century herself but there was nothing retro about the Queen’s Birthday reception on Wednesday evening – instead of the traditional speech with a rundown on the year’s diplomatic activities, British Ambassador to Argentina Mark Kent plunged headfirst into the 21st century with an interactive quiz game, whereby guests answered seven questions on their mobile telephones with a digital platform processing the results which were instantly visible on screens in the residence and garden.
All linked to bilateral relations, the questions covered a broad range of areas from Prime Ministers’ visits and Argentine exports to environmental co-operation and even Harry Potter. The first prize was won by none other than the Times' Editor-in-Chief James Grainger (yours truly had a similar percentage of correct answers but technophobic self-exclusion from participation prevented a possible Times duo on the podium). Those competing were rewarded by the speed of their responses, with more points for the quickest correct answers.
The highlight but by no means all – two parallel exhibitions displayed the work of British photographer Scarlet Page (the daughter of guitarist Jimmy Page, of Led Zeppelin fame) and Argentine cartoonist Costhanzo’s drawings of such British icons as Sherlock Holmes, Queen and Monty Python. Videos screens showed all the visitors Kent refrained from listing – Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Philip Hammond (all for the G20), Princess Anne, the Lord Mayor of London and lesser-known officials more directly useful for the many areas of interaction also outlined. In the background both live (the Salvation Army band and Jenny Moule, a British singer resident in Buenos Aires) and disc jockey music. And all the while guests were munching tasty canapés or making the most of the gin bar or lighter beverages thanks to the 15 business sponsors (one of the seven quiz questions).
Over 800 guests filled the residence and gardens. The most prominent names from the national government were Human Rights Secretary Claudio Avruj and AntiCorruption Office head Laura Alonso while senior provincial government officials and parliamentarians were also present – however government and political figures were thinner on the ground than last year, perhaps due to the elections. But other walks of life – business, Kent’s fellow-diplomats, the academic and artistic worlds, sports, the press, NGOs and pillars of the British community – were amply present.