RENDEZVOUS IN OSTEND IN 2017!
This 29th edition of the AEHT Annual Conference, held in London from October 23rd to 28th 2016, ran in accordance with the traditional recipe for such Conferences: competitions, meetings of the Presidium, of the Executive Board and of the General Assembly; workshops and master classes, a touch of tourism – all taking place in a megalopolis of almost twelve million inhabitants, counting the urban area, and furthermore the capital of a country which has just voted to exit the European Union.
Docklands Academy and its modestly-sized team, organisers of the event, went to very great lengths in order to adhere as closely as possible to the guidelines for the Conference. The Academy Director Aysegul Yesildaglar kept an eye on everything, together with her inner circle, ten or so managers. Running such an event was a real challenge, given that the Docklands Academy, which has been an AEHT member only since 2013, does not have the same sized team as the usual organising school, and is totally immersed in a Turkish environment through its partners in the group, namely the restaurants, cafés and bars of the Tas, Haz and Hazef brands.
Obviously, since the organisers lacked the infrastructures provided by a school, they had to operate as best they could from their base at the Guoman Tower Hotel, appropriately named since it is located at a stone’s throw from the famous Tower of London fortress with its white tower (hence the hotel’s name ‘Tower’) and the magnificent Tower Bridge nearby – it was in this hotel that the 600-odd participants were accommodated.
For this reason the competitions were held at Redbridge College, located a good hour’s journey away from the hotel by underground and bus and on foot; and we have to say that this didn’t make things easy either for the judges or the students. There was a similar situation for the dinners in the evening: these were served, in accordance with a precise timetable, in six of the group’s restaurants which were also scattered across London.
But on balance everything went off smoothly in general, with one or two entirely understandable snags here and there.
The gala dinner served on October 27th in one of the hotel’s function rooms provided as usual the setting for a good-humoured gathering of the conference delegates, with the traditional presentation of gifts to the organisers and to the head judges, with the speeches and the award of the gold, silver and bronze medals to the competition winners, and with the same collective outpouring of joy as is usual at these events.
In my view there was a certain lack of solemnity when the AEHT flag was ceremonially handed from Aysegul Yesildaglar, principal of Docklands Academy, to Sanne Huygens, director of GO !TA Campus Wemmel and co-organiser of the 2017 Annual
Conference in Ostend. It is not a rag that is being handed over, but the symbol of the AEHT and of its values. And if a few strains of the Belgian national anthem were intoned, we sorely missed the European anthem, even if this was a country heading determinedly for Brexit!
So farewell until we meet again in Ostend in November 2017.