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This year's congress differed slightly from the usual practice, in that (in the absence of a local Esperanto group) it was organised "at a distance" by Jean and David Bisset. Despite this novel arrangement, the well-organised event ran as smoothly as other British congresses, and the organisers are to be congratulated for mustering a stimulating and varied set of talks, lectures, presentations and entertainments. Pictured below are some of the presenters: David Bisset (on architect William Butterfield), Andrew Weir (on the Esperanto translations of Asterix), David Kelso (on Esperanto's role beyond being a language), Graham Blakey (on eminent Esperanto lexicographer Gaston Waringhein), Przemek Wierbowski (on the forthcoming World Esperanto Congress in Byalistok), Paul Gubbins (on Thomas Hardy and his local connections), Hugh Reid (on Esperanto's borrowings from other languages and culture) and John Wells (on international speech patterns)
The college chapel provided a very atmospheric venue for readings (in English and Esperanto translation) of George Herbert's poetry lead by Canon Judy Rees, for David Bisset's talk on William Butterfield, responsible for some of the college's architectural features, and for an ecumenical service lead by Geoff Wood and Martyn McClelland. Many participants used the college's dining room and so mealtimes also echoed to the sound of conversation in Esperanto. Derek Tatton organised Drondo (Discussion Circles) - pictured is one such circle being guided by Terry Page - giving Esperantists the chance to use their language on meatier topics than everyday conversation. Junularo Esperantista Brita (JEB), the organisation for young Esperanto-speakers in Britain, celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a cake and wine reception. The EAB annual general meeting presented the trustees' annual report and elected the management committee (i.e. trustees) for the forthcoming year. Throughout the congress, bookstalls did a brisk trade selling new and second-hand Esperanto publications.
One of the most lively, well-attended and "laugh-out-loud" events was Paul Gubbins' production of the play La sonĝo de la kursgvidanto from Marjorie Boulton's collection Virinoj ĉe la landlimo, published exactly fifty years ago. Not one but two film crews were present, filming part of the play and the audience's evident enjoyment; one from an independent company working on a proposed documentary about Esperanto and Esperantists, the other for the local Meridian TV evening news bulletin. Once again Paul Gubbins and cast presented a lively and engaging theatrical production in Esperanto, despite the logistical difficulties of having a cast from different parts of the United Kingdom who had had very little opportunity to rehearse together; at the end of the play, cast and author took a well deserved bow in front of an appreciative audience. A special commendation has to go to Sally Phillips, who played six different roles!
On the Monday, participants enjoyed an excursion to Salisbury's surroundings, visiting Bemerton Church, Sarum Ring and the Avebury Ring on a fine spring day.
The congress ended with the formal hand-over of the Esperanto flag from organiser Jean Bisset to the North Wales Esperanto federation, who are planning the 2010 British Esperanto Congress in Llandudno, North Wales, from May 14th to 16th, 2010.
Thank you to Sarum College for providing such a suitable venue for our gathering in Salisbury.
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