Europa Nostra UK's AGM and Conference in Oxford, September 2018
The Europa Nostra 2018 AGM and Conference took place in Oxford over three full days in September. The event was kindly sponsored by The Leventis Foundation. The AGM and Conference were hosted in St Edmund Hall the history of which dates back to the 13th Century although it has only been a college of the University of Oxford in the strict sense since 1957 when it received a Royal Charter. Many of the delegates had the opportunity of staying in rooms in the College.
At the conclusion of the AGM thanks were given to Dr Peter Collins for his efforts in arranging the event and to his years of service as Chairman and previously Treasurer of ENUK. Dr Collins retired in September 2018 as Chairman of ENUK. He is a fellow of St Edmund Hall and also served inter alia as Dean and Senior Tutor. Delegates and their guests were treated to the splendour during meals and receptions of various rooms in the College to include the Old Dining Hall, the Doctorow Hall, the Senior Common Room and the Main Dining Room.
On the morning of the first day Dr Collins led a walking tour of some of the major buildings in Oxford. Duke Humphrey’s Library in the Bodleian and the Ashmoleoan Museum have both won Europa Nostra Awards. In the Bodleian Library we had the great privilege of being led by Virginia Llado-Busain the Head of Conservation Care at the Bodleian Libraries. On arrival we were shown the Sheldon Tapestry Maps of Oxfordshire and Warwickshire. We visited other parts of the Library and were given access to the Conservators room and given a rare opportunity to see the Conservators in action and to speak with them. We were allowed onto the roof terrace which provides a splendid view of Oxford and its major buildings.
The afternoon events were the AGM followed by the Duncan-Sandys Lecture. This annual lecture commemorates Lord Duncan-Sandys who was for many years President of Europa Nostra and led the organisation actively during its early and formative years. The lecture was given by Dame Fiona Reynolds, Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge and formerly Director-General of the National Trust. Her excellent and very well received lecture was titled “The Fight for Beauty”.
On the second day there was a full day Conference with its title “European Historic Universities as World Heritage Sites”. The purpose of this conference was to initiate a pan-European dialogue to strengthen the cultural heritage aspects of European historic universities through a joint initiative. The challenges facing such a grouping were to be investigated in the conference. Speakers included Debbie Dance, Director of Oxford Preservation Trust since 1999,Virginia Llado-Buisan from the Bodleian, Bob Price, an Oxford City Councillor, Professor Mike Robinson, Professor of Cultural Heritage at the University of Birmingham and Director of the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, Professor Christopher Young who has worked with the World Heritage Convention for many years and Mark Cannata, an EN member and an Architect and Conservation Architect currently based in Italy. The Conference proved to be a most stimulating and informative event.
The following day delegates and their guests enjoyed a visit to World Heritage site Blenheim Palace. On arrival Blenheim Palace CEO Dominic Hare gave a presentation. He confirmed that the core purpose, and the reason for Blenheim Palace existing today is to be the lifeblood of the local economy, to enhance the lives of the people of Oxfordshire, to share the magnificent Palace and to conserve and protect it for future generations. World Heritage Site status was given in 1987. The vision of Blenheim Palace as a World Heritage site is to understand, protect and enhance the outstanding universal value of the site in a sustainable way, as a great work of art, and a site of cultural and ecological significance. The vision is also to protect the use and enjoyment of Blenheim Palace and Park as the ancestral home of the Duke of Marlborough and his successors, and to retain a high-quality visitor experience for future generations.
Our party enjoyed a guided tour of the house led by one of the senior guides and lunch in the Orangerie. Roy Cox, Estate Director and member of the senior management team led a tour of the parkland and woodland areas and provided us with much information. Roy is responsible for all things in the park, gardens, woodland and farms. Alas Virginia Llado-Buisan (also an expert rower), who accompanied us at Blenheim, was unable to fulfil a longstanding ambition of rowing on the Palace’s lake, as conservation/remedial work was being carried out.
Following our return to Oxford many delegates, guests and family members attended Trinity College Chapel for a Memorial Service for Angus Fowler (3 May 1946 – 10 December 2017). Angus had been a longstanding member and supporter of Europa Nostra. His achievements in the field of cultural heritage were manifold. The Service was led by the Revd. Canon Dr Emma Percy, Chaplain of Trinity College and tributes were paid by Dr Peter Collins and Dr Malcolm Vale a relative of Angus. Whilst being born in the UK Angus had lived in Germany for more than 40 years.