I’ve been feeling rather nostalgic this week, for a number of reasons. On Tuesday, I met INTO Chairman, Fiona Reynolds, at the National Trust HQ in Swindon for an INTO brainstorming session. It felt like a (lovely) step back in time!
I count myself lucky to have worked with Fiona for most of my career with the National Trusts. She has always been supportive and I really enjoyed the speech-writing I did for her in the early 2000s … Another reason for feeling nostalgic as I’ve been working on her World Heritage Day lecture this week too.
Fiona left the National Trust in 2012 but if any of you have read her book, ‘The Fight for Beauty‘, you’ll see how her work has consistently been linked with the story of conservation.
Her first job was as Secretary to the Council for National Parks where she was instantly thrown into the drama of saving Exmoor from intensified farming in the 1980s. She has always been a high profile campaigner. And our meeting on Tuesday reminded me how eloquent, focussed and smart Fiona is. We are so lucky to have her as our Chair!
The golden thread running through my career has been languages. My first job out of university, with a degree in German and Russian, was as ‘Course Development Manager’ for Language Clubs International (LCI). To start with, it was maternity leave cover but I ended up in the role for around three years. I remember spending much of my first day in the pub as it was Beaujolais Nouveau Day. The perfect start for someone so recently a student! And it really was my dream job encompassing languages, travel and creative design.
LCI was the international arm of ‘Le Club Francais’, established in the 1980s by a linguist keen for her children to learn French. Linda Ellis started a language club with her young daughter and a few friends in her sitting room in Southampton. It proved so successful, she began to set up after school clubs to help other children acquire French in a natural and spontaneous way. She then expanded the business, signing up franchise holders all over the country – and eventually the world. I joined the company just as the team were developing a German language course. I even had to draw a German Club mascot as part of my interview!
This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about those years. Firstly, I have started at my children’s schools as a volunteer ‘French teacher’. Mostly just singing songs and playing games, so drawing on those earlier experiences. I have also, since then, lived in France for several years, even sending my own children to French school. So I do have some material to work with, although a bit rusty!
Like Linda, I am also really keen for children to speak more languages. I’ll let you know how things progress … !
Secondly, I have been working on a new education resource for INTO. Fiona’s forthcoming World Heritage Day lecture focuses on intangible heritage and the threat it’s under. She will discuss what INTO organisations are doing to combat that danger. And in conclusion highlight the importance of engaging young people in its protection. I think this quote from Fiona’s book is just as relevant to this fight:
“We live in a world where the drive for economic growth is crowding out everything that can’t be given a monetary value. We’re stuck on a treadmill where only material things in life gain traction and it’s getting harder to find space for the things that really matter but money can’t buy, including our future.”
We are designing an education resource in response to the threats to intangible heritage which aims to grow young people’s appreciation for their traditions and living culture.
‘Trust Kids!’ is inspired by the heritage education work of INTO member organisations in India, Indonesia and Uganda, amongst others. Moreover, it will provide a checklist of activities such as researching your family tree, mapping your local heritage or learning a traditional dance or game.
Next week, we will continue to finesse the list, finalise its design and prepare some notes on how to use the resource. Can you see why I’m feeling nostalgic? 25 years ago, I was doing this kind of thing for language teachers! Again, feeling a bit rusty but very excited about the whole project and looking forward to launching it on 18 April. (Being INTO Secretary-General is another dream job!)
In other news, it’s the first weekend of the Easter holidays here and it’s been wall-to-wall sunshine. Our children have spent most of it up trees, on bikes or digging in the dirt. Trust Kids …
Thanks for reading!