Delegates came from the following countries to attend the 2007 Cambridge Seminar: Argentina, Austria, Canada, China, Colombia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Latvia, Libya, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and the USA. Read on to find out some of the delegates' thoughts on the event.
Alexandr Kirilenko works for the British Council in Donetsk, Ukraine, and attended the week-long event. Here he fondly remembers the writers, participants and social events (including the legendary final party) that made his journey so worthwhile:
"Before I left for the Cambridge Seminar, the director of my team said he’d be very surprised if I didn’t enjoy myself at the event. This sounded promising; having seen the well thought-out programme and the names of the guests who would attend, I knew he’d be right.
I can hardly recollect attending an event where I felt at home right from the start in the same way as I did at Cambridge. Overall, the participants were friendly and easy to get along with – they had come from all over the world yet we shared so much in our interests and outlook. Meeting the other participants was my personal highlight of the Seminar, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with them, whether it was on the river boat trip, walking tour, at the party or even the regular mealtimes. In future, whenever I open a book by one of the guest writers such as A. L. Kennedy or Michel Faber, I will think of the participants.
It is no surprise, then, that I jumped at the chance to write a piece about the event for Literature Matters. However, a feeling of regret soon overcame me. How is it possible to put your feelings about an English literature event like this into English words when your vocabulary is too poor to match the power of your sentiments? Is it at all feasible for a humble Ukrainian to render the richness of voices and cultures that were gathered together for this literary adventure within the walls of Downing College? I’m not sure I can answer these questions, but as I was considering what to write in this article it occurred to me that I could answer this: what great things would have been missed if the Seminar had never taken place?
The campus of Downing College wouldn’t have buzzed with the beauty of the written word or heated literary discussions during coffee breaks. Punters on the river Cam would never have passed a boat full of such elated individuals; we wouldn’t have been introduced to the vivid imagery of water in Kirsty Gunn's 'liquid' texts; the hidden cultural references in Martin Rowson’s spectacular Wasteland may have gone forever unnoticed by us; we would never have learned about the usefulness of a wastepaper basket if it weren’t for Simon Brett's hilarious performance; Michael Holroyd would have had an extra day to prepare for his appointment with the Queen; and Roger McGough would not have joined people from over 20 countries for a pint in the pub. And, of course, the final party would never have taken place. It would have been a shame not to have laughed our heads off at Damian Grant's account of the Seminar in pidgin English, or rocked to the rhythm of a Lithuanian dance (as taught by one of my fellow participants).
Thank you, Cambridge Seminar – unsurprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and look forward to seeing what you have to offer next time."
After the Cambridge Seminar delegates were asked to complete an anonymous evaluation questionnaire. From this we received an overwhelmingly positive response regarding all aspects of the week's proceedings. Here are just a few of the comments:
About the programme:
About the guest speakers:
About the performance sessions:
About fellow participants:
About the rest:
You can find out more about the experiences of participants and British Council staff at the 2007 Cambridge Seminar by reading the entries posted on enCompass Culture's July 2007 weblog archives.
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