A small, unscheduled and fairly brief gathering of Esperanto-speakers occurred on the afternoon of Friday 19th July in the departure lounge at Luton Airport. "Fairly brief" in this case meant around two-and-a-half hours, which was how long their flight to Iceland had been delayed by an in-flight medical emergency earlier in the day.
The 98th World Congress of Esperanto [known in Esperanto as the Universala Kongreso or UK] which began in Reykjavik the following day was, in total contrast, well-attended, scrupulously planned and a full week in length. Enrolments totalled 1034, of whom 25 were listed in the Kongresa Libro [congress book] as resident in Britain. The same publication devoted 53 pages to tables and articles explaining in detail where and when meetings, discussions, lectures and entertainments would be taking place, who would be providing them and what intending participants might expect to see and hear. The first of these scheduled events was a meeting of the Committee of Universala Esperanto-Asocio (UEA) on Saturday 20th in the early afternoon, the last a formal Closing Ceremony a full week later.
While the local organizing committee and UEA staff-members, who had devoted more than a year of their time to organizing all this, deserved and received our congratulations and hearty thanks, there was one welcome feature of this year's UK for which they could hardly claim credit: the weather. Forecasts of cool temperatures and frequent rain had been unduly pessimistic, and even local residents seemed surprised by the dry, sunny and, by Icelandic standards, warm (20+°C) weather we enjoyed while in Reykjavik. Although much of this happened while participants were cocooned in the magnificent, modern and air-conditioned Harpa Conference Centre / concert hall, it was particularly appreciated on Wednesday, which in UKs is traditionally devoted to tourism. The professional guide (ably assisted by a volunteer interpreter) who took us to see volcanos, hot springs, geysers, a glacier and a tectonic rift, described the day as "Five Star", while making it clear that she was referring not to her own but to the weather's contribution in making our excursion so very pleasant and memorable.
It would not be possible to mention here, still less to describe, all 186 programme-items listed in this year's Kongresa Libro. Rather than indulge personal preferences I shall just mention, in no particular order, some contributions made by, and honours awarded, to Esperantists resident in Britain. Paul Gubbins (Lecture "How to review a music CD" / Author's Half-hour / Literary Academy of Esperanto); Ana Montesinos (session on Games that Educate); Francesco Maurelli (greeted the Congress in the name of Britain / meeting about Scottish/Celtic Congress / appointed member of the newly-founded Council of UEA); Lenio Marobin (staffed the Congress' amateur radio-station TF3ESP); Harry Barron (elected to the committee of LSG); Veronika Poór (arranged interviews for the website Muzaiko); Ed Robertson (meeting about Scottish/Celtic Congress); Elizabeth Stanley (sang in the International Choir); Grietje Buttinger (awarded UEA Diploma for providing accommodation to hundreds of Esperantists visiting London). If I've inadvertently omitted or misrepresented your own contribution or award, please accept my apologies, and do please submit a news report from your own perspective!
Congresses and Conventions typically have both a Theme and a Final Resolution, and this one was no exception. They were respectively "Islands without Isolation" (very apt for this venue) and ... no - that one is much too verbose to quote verbatim, so I'll summarise drastically: "Islands provide much biological and cultural diversity, both of which are currently endangered and worthy of preservation; Esperanto can play an important role in conserving them". Disagree with that if you dare!
Here are some photos of the event, taken by Bill Walker (who, unlike Terry, flew from Gatwick and only experienced a one-hour flight delay!):
Esperantists gathered for a group photo outside the Harpa Concert Hall, our venue.
The Esperanto flag was flying, inside and out.
Harpa's designers Olafur Eliasson and Henning Larsen Architects drew inspiration from Iceland's volcanic geology, as we saw for ourselves during excursions.
Iceland's president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson greeted the Esperantists during the opening ceremony. A tradition of that ceremony is that a representative of each participating country also gives a short greeting. Britain's Esperanto-Asocio de Britio (EAB) didn't organise a representative this year, so adopted-Scottish Esperantist Franceso Maurelli stepped in.
Other contributions to the congress by British Esperantists (including adopted British Esperantists and ex-pat British Esperantists) included the following:
During an "Author's half hour" session, Paul Gubbins presented his new anthology of Esperanto literature (with English translations) "Star in a Night Sky"; this was held in the on-site UEA bookshop where hundreds of Esperanto works were available.
Paul was also one of the experts on the open session of the Esperanto Academy, whose discussions this year included the best translation for the word "smartphone". And he was interviewed (by phone) about Esperanto and the congress for a broadcast on BBC Radio 5, on Esperanto Day, 26th July.
The "movement fair" is another tradition where national and specialist Esperanto groups present their activities to the world-wide Esperanto community. EAB didn't organise a presence here, either, but the Scottish Esperantists (helped here by Maire MacAoidh) represented their own activities. On behalf of the International Committee for Ethnic Freedoms, Scottish Esperantist Ed Robertson presented a history of Scotland leading up to the forthcoming referendum on Scottish Independence. Together with (adopted) Scottish Esperantists Maria Rosaria Spano amd Franceso Maurelli (dressed appropriately in tartan dress and kilt respectively), Ed also gave a presentation on the 109th Scottish and first all-Celtic congress in Pitlochry, Scotland (planned for 2014-Jun-06 to 11), which included samples of Scottish whiskey and shortbread.
(Ex-patriot) British Esperantists Geffrey Greatrex gave a lecture on the Romans, while Humphrey Tonkin kept up an amusing patter throughout the auction, selling Esperanto rarities to raise funds for Esperanto charities - including a 1906 copy of "Kuracado de la mallakso kaj de ĝiaj komplikoj" [Curing constipation and its complications].
British Esperantist Bill Walker found himself co-opted as a last-minute translator twice - first on an informal visit by Esperantists to Landakotskirkja, the Reykjavik Roman Catholic Cathedral...
... and then providing Esperanto translations for the professional guide on an excursion to the Hellisheiði geothermal power station (which supplies both hot water and electricity to Reykjavik) and the Hveragerdi hot springs (which provide heating for greenhouses growing vegetables, salad crops and even a banana tree!).
Here are pictures of just a few of the other events at the congress:
We enjoyed excursions (both planned and informal) around an unusually warm and sunny Reykjavik...
... including to Reykjavik's own Esperanto house ...
... as well as further afield to the stunning scenery of southern Iceland - pictured here the Geyser park ...
.... glaciers Eyjafjallajökull (the one which caused all that trouble in 2010) and Mýrdalsjökull ...
.... the Gullfoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls ...
.... the Skógafoss waterfall ...
... and the Þingvellir national park, site of the world's first parliament and where, on the day of our visit, the TV show "Game of Thrones" was being filmed.
Back in the Harpa concert hall itself, we enjoyed concerts and musical presentations (in Esperanto) - here by Ĵomart and Natasha, and Emanuele Rovere ...
... lectures, talks and presentations (in Esperanto) - here on the Northern Lights (by Amri Wandel, Israel), an outsider's perspective of living in Iceland (by Siru Laine, Finland), the history and music of the violin (by Hannes Larsson, Finland) ...
... a presentation (in Esperanto) of Karel Čapek's play Rossum's Universal Robots by the Czech theatre troupe Divadlo DOMA.
At the end of the congress, the Lernu.net project, which provides free Esperanto courses via the internet, was awarded the prestigious Deguĉhi prize. Also honoured was British Esperantist Grietje Buttinger who was awarded an honorary UEA diploma for her work over many years, providing hospitality in London to hundreds of visiting Esperantists. The final event in the congress was to hand over the Esperanto flag to the local congress committee in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the 2014 congress will take place.
Issues of the (Esperanto-language) daily congress bulletin/newspaper are available online:
Bulletins #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6.
This was the 98th World Esperanto Congress in a series which started in 1905 and has taken place each year, interrupted only by the two world wars. At these events, Esperantists participate in a rich programme of talks, lectures, concerts, plays and excursions, all conducted in Esperanto, and all without the need for translators or interpreters (apart from an occasional concession to the few visiting dignitaries and local professional guides who haven't mastered the language). For many Esperantists, the real highlight of the event is simply to meet face-to-face and chat directly with people from across the world, without having to learn their many national languages, and without imposing our own national language and culture on them.
Each year's congress is organised by Esperantists in the hosting country and the Universala Esperanto-Asocio [World-wide Esperanto Association]. Some previous congresses have taken place in Britain; in 1907 (Cambridge), 1926 (Edinburgh), 1930 (Oxford), 1938 (London), 1949 (Bournemouth), 1961 (Harrogate), 1971 (London) and 1989 (Brighton). Future congresses will be in (2014) Buenos Aires, Argentina and (2015) Lille, France (and as that will be the 100th UK, its plans include a celebratory trip to Boulogne where very first World Esperanto Congress took place).
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