Four members of the Scottish Esperanto Association made the journey to Stoke from Scotland; but as SEA membership is not confined to Scotland at least 10 SEA members actually participated; and the Congress certainly merited participation. The Esperanto Association of Britain is going through a time of acute transition since its move from London; but there are definite signs of hope in the current situation.
Why have a Congress in Stoke-on-Trent, a city which is experiencing the pain of industrial change and is not a conventional tourist destination? The reason, of course, is that the new HQ of EAB is now found at Wedgwood Memorial College, a Mecca for Esperantists during more than forty years. When Stoke was chosen it was reckoned that the HQ would be built and fully operational. Well contractual complexities resulted in unexpected delays, and it seemed a few months ago that there would be no new HQ to see; but the building rose like a phoenix and a large proportion of the 85 or so participants had the chance of seeing a building within a week of final completion, and of listening to Dr. Derek Tatton explaining what was there and what would soon be there with his customary vision and enthusiasm. And the sun shone brightly!
The AGM included some vigorous debate about electoral procedures for office bearers. Why not? These matters are important. But members also responded positively to a comprehensive summary by David Kelso, Director of development, concerning what had been achieved during the past year and the vision of the Association for the future. Four new members were voted on to the Management Committee; some well known personages decided to stand down. But the new committee has a potentially good combination of those involved in the move from London and those who share with them the vision (that word again!) of what can be achieved in a new setting with an intimate relationship with adult education. It was a pleasure to all that our job-sharing administrators, Viv and Lydia, were in attendance and demonstrated their charm and competence.
The Congress presented many opportunities for discussion and debate: many ideas were tossed about; and hopefully office bearers and ordinary trustees took note. As always there was a comprehensive programme of lectures: cultural, informative, polemical, linguistic, international and of local interest. The entertainment was varied, and gastronomy played an important role. There were some representatives from abroad which helped to ensure that Esperanto was used almost universally in informal encounters. IT? Yes we had a cybercafe; and IT was utilised in several lectures. New friends were made; old friendships consolidated. Important decisions were made in unconventional places. There was buzz and quiet optimism.
Particular thanks are due to Terry Page, the Organiser; he personified good humoured dedication and hard work. Without him there would have been no Congress; and that is an indisputable fact!
Next year the Scottish Esperanto Association and the Esperanto Association of Britain are having a joint Congress in Glasgow. Hopefully the momentum will be maintained! Note the dates: 23rd to 26th May 2003.
We are on the move once again!
David W. Bisset
The place: Stoke-on-Trent Town Hall. The time: this year's May-Day holiday weekend. The aim: to assess how present-day educational and communications technology can be used both to make Esperanto better known and more widely spoken, and to promote it as the solution of first choice for tackling Europe's and the World's language problems.
An ambitious programme! Delegates to such a Congress need, of course, no reminding of Esperanto's unique ability to demolish barriers to communication, but even a sceptic could hardly fail to have been impressed by the multinational version of "Any Questions?" on Friday evening. For a whole hour the panel - Croatian, Danish, Italian and English - answered a variety of queries put to them by their audience, and not one felt the least need to ask for the help of an interpreter.
Where communications technology is concerned, delegates' backgrounds were more varied. For some, the "Web Cafe" that operated throughout the weekend was their opportunity for a very first "hands-on" computer experience. For others it was a chance to use interactive software to brush up their language skills, or to familiarise themselves with the numerous Esperanto Webster and Internet discussion groups. These topics, and others relating to technology-based methods of language-learning, were also explored in lectures and seminars.
Despite this apparent preoccupation with electronic hardware, time was nevertheless found in the programme for many other topics and activities: tourism, the use of Esperanto in commerce, recent developments in Africa, the link between language and music, reminiscences of a Stoke-on-Trent childhood, the specialist vocabulary of the potter. There were trips to Barlaston to view EAB's recently completed national headquarters, a keynote speech by its Director of Development, an evening of music, drama, poetry and dance, a guided ramble along the Churnet valley - and, of course, the national association's Annual General Meeting, which is fully reported elsewhere.
In all, a very busy but also enjoyable weekend, and one which indicated some of the new paths waiting to be more fully explored during the coming phase of Esperanto's evolution in Britain, Europe and the World
Visna Brankovic from Trieste has agreed to has agreed to be the overseas Guest Speaker at the British Congress in Stoke-on-Trent.
Italian? Well not exactly: she come from Istria just across the border: an area well known to British holiday makers; and she is going to be lecturing about that fascinating peninsula.
Visna is in charge of an enterprising publishing house, Orbis Pictus; well more than a publishing house for it also deals with Esperanto conferences, Esperanto book supply and Esperanto courses. She will also be speaking about this interesting firm.
Bookings are now arriving for The British Congress at Stoke-on-Trent; but if (like me until very recently!) You have still not returned your booking form, please do so as early receipt of data helps Organiser Terry Page in his detailed planning.
The Congress will be of great importance for Esperanto in the UK as the hard graft and initiatives of the past few years are beginning to bear fruit. David Kelso, our charismatic Director, is now turning his attention to his main remit: DEVELOPMENT! He will be giving a keynote presentation and will be hoping for stimulating reaction. The radical changes in EAB in recent years have enjoyed the democratic support of the membership; but everyone has been frustrated at slowness of progress. Now matters are accelerating incredibly as you will hear!
Terry has a fine line-up of speakers including Ian Fantom, Editor of NetNews; Dr. Paul Gubbins of Wedgwood Summer School fame and a brilliant orator; and Martin Howard, who will lecture concerning ceramic terminology in Esperanto.
There will also be a guest speaker from outside the UK; see the special article to learn more about her!
Lost your booking form? Never had one: Email Terry Page at: terry-page @ supanet.com and ask for the version in Esperanto or English,
David W. Bisset
It is only fitting that the City of Stoke-on-Trent should be the chosen location for the next British Esperanto Congress; the new Esperanto HQ is technically within the city boundary and during the negotiations with the City concerning relocation at Wedgwood Memorial College many personal contacts have been made with council staff.
The venue for the Congress (3-5 May 2002) will be the magnificent Town Hall, a venue which has proved very acceptable previously.
Stoke is, of course, a pottery manufacturing city of world renown; and possesses a host of museums and factory collections dealing with ceramics. The City Museum has perhaps the most outstanding collection; and provides much information concerning Josiah Wedgwood, an extraordinary man whose name now is linked with the Esperanto world.
Stoke has firm links with Esperanto: Horace Barks, Wedgwood College, the Verda Stelo pub; and it is also the home town of Marjorie Boulton. Quite a list!
The Congress programme is at present being put together by Terry Page. It promises to be stimulating and varied with an international flavour. The AGM will be the vehicle for further information concerning the new HQ, and the innovative ideas of David Kelso, Director of Development.
Please give early attention to your travel and accommodation arrangements as the Congress takes place during a holiday weekend.
All Congresses are important; but this Congress will take place at a key moment in the history of the Esperanto Association of Britain; it deserves red letters in your diary!
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