Steven Fawkes, Chair of ALLNE, writes

Back in the 1990s , long before lockdown and online and Brexit, ALL’s sister charity was the Festival of Languages  (and Young Linguists Award)  which did what that title suggests; there was a biennial national Festival, held at the University of Warwick, and in the intervening years regional Festivals run by local volunteer committees. I was a member of the North-East committee and, over about a decade, we held Festivals in Durham, Newcastle, Sunderland and in Northumberland. (There were other great Festivals around the country – the Linguists’ Live Aid!) )

To give a flavour – there would be buses – many buses – discharging primary and secondary pupils from schools throughout the region; they would have prepared performances in the languages they were learning, some in groups, some solo, some with music, some with props and drama; there were also meetings for their teachers, a publisher’s exhibition and displays of work; activities and workshops; refreshments and lunch, and other performers by invitation. (Who could forget the Geordie Greeks?)

Selected school performances would be invited to proceed to the national Festival, and even to an International Festival in the Netherlands on one memorable occasion. Much enjoyment and purposeful memorising of language were experienced by all!

Sadly the sponsors of the national charity gradually withdrew and the movement, as a national project, consequently folded.

So, what a surprise that in the year when nobody can do anything, we have a new re-visioning of the Festival experience online, courtesy of International Newcastle and a group of willing partners in the North-East (including ALLNE), trying to buoy up the spirits of language teachers, learners and multilingual communities in the region.

There will be no buses! But there will be a range of live events online, recorded events to drop into when people feel like it, language tasters, talks and shows over the Festival week and even longer.

The organisers are hopeful that people will find time to join in, in this pilot year, in activities which are designed to be easy to set up, that other suggestions of activities will come forward, and that this will be the start of a new life for the Festival concept. Get in touch if you are inspired to try something similar!


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