Perhaps the highlight of the teachers' group, led by Hilary Chapman, was the specimen lesson in which Baard Hekland, visiting from Norway, was able to demonstrate the utility of Esperanto as international language. Certainly participants in the teachers' group came away with a firmer grasp of the structure and characteristics of Esperanto. Meanwhile the somewhat smaller painting group - comprising just Joyce Bunting and June Miles - nevertheless earned the admiration of other 'festivalers' for the quality of their work.
The largest of the three groups devoted itself to that most neglected of Esperanto arts, the theatre. Participants looked at four plays, including an adaptation by William Simcock of a short story by Julian Modest, and took part in a practical session conducted by Colin Simmonds. The 'distra vespero' - always tricky to arrange during a brief weekend event - was also of note, especially the melodeon-playing of Peter Bolwell.
A feature of the weekend, shared at Wedgwood Memorial College with two other groups (young mums and a clutch of language teachers), was the opportunity to spread the word about Esperanto. The mums prided themselves on their ability to greet the Esperantists with 'Saluton', while a lusty rendition of 'Happy Birthday' in the international language left the mums in no doubt that Zamenhof's creation is alive and well. Even the language teachers had their ears bent about the virtues of Esperanto. This is the beauty of shared gatherings: the chance to do a spot of involuntary advertising for Esperanto.
The date is already fixed for the next 'Ni Festivalu' in Barlaston - the penultimate weekend in January 2002. It would be lovely if the painters, players and pedagogues were joined by other groups (however small). This, after all, is the object of the 'festival' weekend: to bring together as many different interests and people who, during the daytime sessions, do 'their own thing', but who eat, drink and enjoy a 'distra vespero' together.
And if that isn't enough to get people to sign up for the next 'festival' weekend, then suffice it to say the gardens and trees at Barlaston look delightful with a dusting of snow. Just the thing to inspire a painting or play - or perhaps a pedagogic poem.
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