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Published: August 5th 2019
The train from Bristol to Eastbourne entailed travelling first to London Paddington station then taking the Tube to London Victoria for a train to Eastbourne so it was nowhere near as uncomplicated as I would have liked it to be since I had a largish suitcase plus a backpack to cart around. Luckily my suitcase was carried up and down stairs for me by kind obliging people who offered to help. But I got there in the end which was the main thing. The last part, walking from Eastbourne station to the View Hotel which is opposite the seafront was the easiest part of the journey although I was quite warm by the time I got there. So it was quite a relief to finally get into my room and unpack. Having been led to believe that I'd be sharing a room it was a pleasant surprise to discover that I had a room to myself; sheer decadence!!
Every part of the fantastic Dickens Fellowship Conference took place at the View Hotel, Eastbourne which made it very easy. Advertised as a mini-conference, the theme was "Charles Dickens: The Legacy of the Man and his Works" and it was
where I reconnected with many old friends and enjoyed making new ones.
The conference began, on Friday 26 July, with a Civic Reception followed by films and slides showcasing the 100 years of Dickens Fellowship in Eastbourne which included many cuttings from the local press and was presented by Maggie de Vos who had organised the conference. Well done Maggie; a job well done!
Saturday's proceedings began with the AGM which was followed by four interesting talks, one of which was given by Keiki Kiriyama from Kyoto University, Japan. So, like me, she'd travelled from afar for the event although there were delegates from all over the UK, the USA, Italy and The Netherlands; a total of 85 attendees in all. Then Saturday night was the Gala Dinner which was a fan-bloody-tastic affair! Delicious food, splendid socialising followed by dancing. Definitely a night to remember!!
Sunday saw us enjoying another four talks including a great one by our 'own' Sandra Faulkner who spoke on "Dickens and the Women in his Life". We were then all taken by coach to the village of Westham for Evensong celebrated in the village church which
is reputed to be the first church the Normans built in 1080. The church bells were rung from 3-4pm and a chorus from Pevensey, Westham and other local churches joined us to sing some of the hymns known to Charles Dickens; the service led by the Reverend France's Baldwin. Close by was Pevensay Castle which we had time for a wander past. Back at the View Hotel we we enjoyed 'Sunday night at the Movies' presented by Michael Eaton; a showing of some incredible old films which took a little while to get going.
Ian Dickens, Charles Dickens great-great-great-grandson became the new President for the next two years taking over from Professor John Bowen who I met in Carrara, Italy two years ago when he took on the mantle of President. To add to the occasion Eastbourne turned out four beautiful days for us to enjoy. So it was a really great conference which was well worth attending.
The Dickens Fellowship wasn't the only organisation in Eastbourne. British Cycling took over Eastbourne's Grand Parade which was blocked to traffic so that they could run races over the weekend with some of the cyclists also
staying at the View Hotel.
Breakfast on Monday morning was where we said our goodbyes to most delegates. After which Sandra and John Faulkner joined me to walk to the end of Eastbourne Pier before it was time to catch the train back to London Victoria. Sandra and John then went back to Putney from Victoria while I headed to Paddington and the Shakespeare Hotel where I was to spend the night before flying first thing in the morning to Copenhagen. As an avid reader of Enid Blyton in my youth I was thrilled to see that the "Famous Five" are now at Paddington Station advertising the Great Western Railways! With half a day in London I took the time to visit the Museum of London for the few hours I had in the UK capital before it was early to bed as I was to catch the 5.10am Heathrow Express the next day.
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