Meeting of the International Council

Patricia Curd

The visit to Lisbon began on Wednesday 27th September. Delegates and guests were welcomed by their hosts, the members of ESU Portugal and their Chairman, Walter Best, for an evening reception and dinner at the “Circulo Eça de Queiroz”, an exclusive private intellectual and social club.

The following morning the delegates started work whilst guests were free to visit the city and surrounding areas.

The International Council Meeting took place over two days, Thursday 28th and Friday 29th September. It was held in the Chancellor’s Office in the grand buildings of the University of Lisbon. Delegates from 22 countries were welcomed by this year’s ICM Chairman, Paul Beresford-Hill, MBE, Chairman of the English Speaking Union of the United States. The delegates representing France were Lucia Dumont, out-going President of the International Council and Vice-President of ESU France, and Patricia Curd, Chairman of the Loire Valley branch of ESU France. Following the opening speeches, one delegate from each country was asked to present a short report outlining any major events or challenges of the last year.

The main focus of the meeting was on education. Presentations were made by Carol Losos of ESU US and Duncan Partridge of ESU UK, describing programmes being run both sides of the Atlantic. A number of short films were shown showing the work of the ESU in their two countries. Of particular interest were programmes designed for teachers to inspire and energize their classroom delivery. Delegates then discussed how they might engage with the programmes they had seen in action.

The busy day was followed by a reception at the British Embassy where delegates and guests were able to enjoy the evening sun on the terrace. We were given a warm welcome by the Ambassador, Her Excellency Kirsty Hayes, before leaving for dinner at Estufa Real inside the tropical gardens in Belém.

It was back to work the following morning when the meeting resumed once again at the University. Group sessions were held to discuss the place of English and oracy in member countries. It was most interesting to hear of the different education systems around the world and to learn how ESU branches meet the challenges they face.

After an excellent buffet lunch, delegates were told of the recent discovery of the ESU International Council’s consultative status as a Non-Governmental Organisation within the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. The Chairman spoke of the possibilities for using this to take forward Evelyn Wrench’s founding vision for dialogue in the English language and the development of civil society.

In 2018 the ESU will celebrate its centenary. The celebrations and the ICM will take place in London, 14th – 18th May, at the same time as the IPSC. In 2020 ESU US will host the meeting to coincide with their centenary celebrations. Bids were received from ESU India, ESU Pakistan and ESU France to host the ICM in 2019.

Margaryta Danilko from ESU Ukraine was elected President of the International Council with the full support of all delegates. In her acceptance speech, Margaryta looked forward to working with all colleagues to take forward the ESU’s vital work.

At the close of the meeting, buses were ready to take us to Cascais, a seaside resort, where we had free time to enjoy the shops and a relaxing drink in one of the bars overlooking the beach, before being driven to “O Piparo”, a restaurant on the beach at nearby Estoril.

Saturday was reserved as a cultural activity day. In the morning we were taken by bus to the Palácio São Bento, the Portuguese Parliament Building. We were welcomed by our guide, Pedro Delgado Alves, an MP, a member of ESU Portugal and an alumnus of the ESU. For the next two hours we toured the historic rooms and corridors and before leaving were each presented with a copy of an illustrated book about the 16th century monastery that was gradually transformed into the seat of the Portuguese Parliament.

The farewell lunch was held at the “Casa do Leão”, a restaurant within the walls of St. George’s Castle with superb panoramic views of the city of Lisbon. Nobody wanted to leave. A long time was spent saying goodbye to all our friends, both old and new, before setting off in small groups to wander among the archaeological ruins of the Castle and later to visit the Cathedral and to window shop in the little streets surrounding it.

Lisbon is a truly lovely city and the ICM 2017 a truly wonderful experience, encompassing the ideals of the ESU: developing friendships, exchanging views and encouraging understanding between member nations. It was sad to say goodbye but already international delegates will be looking forward to reconvening in London in May 2018.

I would like to extend my warmest thanks to Walter Best, President of ESU Portugal and to all his team for hosting a memorable ICM 2017, to Jane Easton and the staff at Dartmouth House for their hard work behind the scenes and to Paul Beresford-Hill for chairing the meeting so warmly and efficiently.