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Over 2600 Esperantists travelled to Lille this summer to take part in the hundredth Univerala Kongreso (world congress) of Esperanto, celebrating this significant anniversary of international Esperanto gatherings that have taken place around the world every year (except for interruptions during the first and second world wars). The first congress was in Boulogne in 1905, so we returned to Northern France - this time to the nearby city of Lille - for this jubilee congress. Lille's situation on the Eurostar line was extremely convenient for the fifty or so British Esperantists who took part, some travelling via the Eurostar service under a group booking arranged by Viv in the EAB office.
The congress venue; posters and flags advertising the congress in Lille
[the full poster - link]
Inside the venue - the opening and closing ceremonies
The anniversary of the first congress formed a significant part of this year's programme, with daily execursions to Bologne and special celebrations there, including a formal reception by the mayor who announced the establishment of a new Esperanto cultural centre there. However, there were many other excursions on offer, exploring and celebrating the cultural highlights of Lille and the surrounding region. Here are pictures from just three of those:
We explore the sights of Lille, including (pictured here) the Chamber of Commerce; the town hall; the Place de General de Gaulle; the Porte de Paris
On a visit to Lille's Palais des Beaux Arts (art museum) we enjoy an enlightening introduction to some of its treasures, including works by Hieronymus Bosch, Breguel, Rubens, Goya, Delacroix and Monet
Those of us with an interest in the industrial history of the region visit a coal mine museum and re-creation, at Lewarde
On a trip to the nearby town of Amiens, we recreate a 1910 excursion to Jules Verne's monument there, and visit the house where he lived (now a museum);
(Jules Verne was a supporter of Esperanto and honorary president of the local Amiens Esperanto group, founded in 1903)
We enjoy a guided tour of Amiens led by Esperanto-speaking locals, followed by an enjoyable meal of local cuisine in a lively restaurant
At the end of our excursion to Amiens we return to the Notre Dame Cathedral for a spectacular light-show, showing how its sculptures would have appeared (painted) in the middle-ages
Within the congress itself, a packed programme of talks and lectures covered a wide range of topics, from local culture and history to scientific lectures. The sound of music was never far away, with performances to suit all tastes. Esperanto authors gave readings at the bookshop, including the British Esperanto-poet Marjorie Bolton, who enjoyed sharing reminiscences with her many friends and readers.
Lectures by (clockwise from top-left corner) Amri Wandel on Einstein's theory of relativity; (some sessions were too popular!) ; Jose Teles Pontes on molecular signals in insects; Frederico Gobbo on artificial intelligence; Jean-Pierre Ducloyer on the Breton region; Amri Wandel on black holes; Giuliano Turone on Dante; Orlando E Raola on chirality of molecules; Probal Dasgupta on intercultural dialogue.
A well-attended concert by folk group Kajto, who also led a a packed series of workshops; an evening of French popular and regional music; a jazz concert by the Toulouse-based group "Vojaĝo"
The charity auction, skilfully (and, as always, amusingly) led by Humprey Tonkin; the book service (with an innovative "books on request" shuttle service of stock from UEA's headquarters in Rotterdam); the "movement fair" where local and national Esperanto groups present their activities
Issues of the (Esperanto-language) daily congress bulletin/newspaper "Belfrido" are available online, from the bitoteko library
This was the 100th 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). The 2016 Universala Kongreso will be in Nitra, Solvakia, from 23-30 July 2016, and the 2017 congress will be in Seoul, South Korea.
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