‘It was both very easy and very complicated …’ In two places at once – this is how you could define Aysegul Yesildaglar, Principal of Docklands Academy London. She seems to be everywhere at once, always available despite everything. During the interview in the hotel lounge she was as intense as if it was an interview with a Head of State – even though she was right in the midst of preparations for the gala evening into the bargain.
This is how she explained things: ‘Yes, there are around 600 participants this year in London, from 23 countries, with competitors from 19 countries. We have had the great advantage OF the support of ten coordinators for the ten competitions, as well as that of the staff of the Docklands Academy London’s partner restaurants.
The organisation was a real challenge for us. It was both easy and very complicated. But we tried to make easy something that wasn’t easy. In addition to the competitions, we organised six workshops and two masterclasses. Why? Because this Annual Conference mustn’t just be about winning medals but must also eventually lead to jobs! It is true that in a capital city like London it wasn’t easy to arrange the transport, given how far it is to Redbridge College, to the premises of Docklands Academy and to the six restaurants which belong to our sponsoring partners.
You know, I was previously Head of EU Coordination Department with a budget of a million euros to manage, so none of this worries me. Docklands Academy was founded in 2011 by Onder Sahan; I joined the Academy in 2013 and became its Principal in August 2014.
We didn’t have many sponsors, apart from the companies belonging to our Group, namely Hazev, Haz and Tas, where the evening meals were served. As for the final outcome, we’ll see, but I’m fairly confident…
‘We should think of English as our language of communication…’ An hour before the gala evening Ana Paula Pais, true to form, took a little time out to give me her impressions on the 29th Annual Conference in London.
‘It seems that both the students and the teachers are very pleased, in spite of the matter of transport, which is not very easy here. On the matter of a possible change in the location of the AEHT Head Office, the President explained that ‘it is not relevant for the moment – in 2017 there will be elections for National Representatives, followed by elections to the Presidium, in Ostend from November 12th to 18th. We’ll have a clearer idea then. But, she added, the question arose at a time a few months ago when it looked as if the AEHT might lose (part of) the grant from the Luxembourg government.’
I asked another question, about the matter of language, since the statutes specify that the official languages are English and French – the latter language being less and less used in the AEHT, not to say inexistent. Ana Paula pointed out that John Rees Smith had been asked to continue as interpreter, but had not been able to, and that Natalia Komanicka who had taken over from him had tragically died. ‘However’, she said, ‘we should think of English as our language of communication.’
As for the cost of the individual conference registration fee in London, Ana Paula Pais was very much aware that it was dear, but that the objective is to manage to lower the cost, especially for students. There is perhaps a connection to the loss in recent years of a certain number of member schools. However, she emphasised the fact that the AEHT has among its members a greater number of Professional Partners. ‘We must continue our efforts using well-organised national networks such as those in France, Italy and Spain,’ she concluded.