History > Success of the ACS

From the nucleus of ten or a dozen friends gathered round a luncheon table in the West End of London, the membership of the Society grew to over 200, resident throughout Britain and Ireland, and in other countries too - U.S.A., Canada, Australia, and of course in the Catalan Countries themselves.

Although the Society is basically educational in character, not all its members are from the academic sector. The fact that the Society brought together different groups and professions in a common interest has greatly contributed to the friendly and informal atmosphere of the annual meetings.

Once a year, usually in the autumn, the Anglo-Catalan Society holds a meeting, traditionally at a weekend. These meetings have taken place in different universities in Britain and Ireland - Belfast, Birmingham, Cambridge, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield, Southampton, Swansea - and frequently at Westfield College, London, where all the meetings between 1967 and 1974 were held. At the meetings papers were read on history and literature, both medieval and modern, language studies and many other aspects of Catalan culture, and many of the papers were published subsequently in academic journals. For many decades around three or four papers would be read at each meeting, but especially since the 1990s the conference has drawn greater numbers of speakers. This tradition began in 1956 when the Jocs Florals de la Llengua Catalana were held in Cambridge - the fact that the Jocs Florals were immediately followed by the second meeting of the Society gave an appropriately "university" feeling to the essentially cultural atmosphere of the festival. Six years later in 1962, when the Asociación Internacional de Hispanistas was founded at Oxford, the meeting was followed by the eighth meeting of the Anglo-Catalan Society. Later the Anglo-Catalan Society took a leading role in running the Third International Colloquium on Catalan Language and Literature, held in Cambridge in April 1973. As part of that Colloquium, which was also the constituent meeting of the Associació Internacional de Llengua i Literatura Catalanes (AILLC), the statutes of the new Association were approved.

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The year 1975 was a significant one for the Society; it marked its coming of age. The anniversary was celebrated with the first of its residential meetings, which lasted three days and took place at Mansfield College in the University of Oxford, the university which had hosted the first conference of the Anglo-Catalan Society many years earlier in 1955. That year's programme was the largest and most varied put on by the Society up to that time. In addition to the four papers there was a screening of some extremely interesting Catalan films, old and new, and a short but most entertaining piece of Catalan theatre.

Of course, the Annual Lunch, which every year is the focal point of the social side of the Society, was also a feature. In view of the success of this first residential meeting, we began to hold similar weekend conferences every two years, alternating with a shorter non-residential meeting in London in November. The 1980 Cambridge meeting was also an exceptional one, with six papers, a showing of Catalan documentary films, and a concert of Catalan music of the 15th and 16th centuries performed by a group of English university musicians. The society was also pleased to welcome to part of its proceedings some 150 members of Xarxa Cultural from Barcelona, who took advantage of a brief visit to London to come and meet the Society.

Not long after the demise of the Franco regime the Anglo-Catalan Society took a momentous decision - to bear the cultural standard of Catalonia to the very place where for forty years it had been forbidden, the official centre of Castilian culture in London, the Institute of Spain. Since most British Catalan scholars are also Hispanists, the new climate of freedom of that time brought us into professional contact as never before with the diplomatic representatives of Spanish culture in London. The proposal was well received, and from the outset the relationship between the Society and the Institute, established in 1978, was friendly and mutually beneficial. The Society was welcomed at Eaton Square and found there genuine interest and valuable support for its work; furthermore the half dozen meetings held at the Institute from 1978 received the fullest co-operation of the Directors who offered generous hospitality and complete freedom to the Society to put on its programme. In view of the success of this venture, and bearing in mind the Society's links with all the Catalan Countries, it was agreed that the meeting in November 1981 should be held at the French Institute in London, and that the subject of the meeting should be "La Catalunya Nord: actualitats culturals i polítiques". The representatives of French culture accepted our proposal to hold a meeting, the 27th of the Society, at their premises in London. We were received here also with kindness and goodwill.Promoting Catalan culture as a whole whenever we can, the Society aimed to bring aspects of Catalan culture beyond Catalonia itself into its programmes, and so, as well as French Catalonia, there have been meetings specifically on Valencian and Balearic themes. In 1985, as part of our activities for that year, the Anglo-Catalan Society worked closely with the Arts Council of Great Britain in putting together a public fine arts exhibition held at the Hayward Gallery, London, under the title "Homage to Barcelona" (later shown in Barcelona), and members promoted and ran two public concerts of Catalan music in prestigious London concert halls.Towards the end of the 1980s, because many Catalan members found meeting in September inconvenient, the Society took to holding its annual conference in November, when the London School of Economics became the main venue for a time. This was followed by a period of alternating London meetings with conferences in other parts of the UK, such as Liverpool in November 1992. However, the level of interest in hosting the conference in recent years has led us to break this rigid pattern, and in 2014 we will hold our very first meeting in the Republic of Ireland, at University College Cork.

Journal of Catalan Studies

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Annual Conferences, News & Events

LXIII Anglo-Catalan Society Annual Conference
University of Birmingham 10-12th November 2017