[Part 2 - Part 1 here]
Talks and lectures weren’t the only things on offer at the Summer School – there was plenty to explore and discover outside of the lectures: guided tours of towns, visits to country houses... we even held a pub quiz!
Our days started with three or four thought-provoking talks about the area we were in – pleasantly punctuated by regular tea and biscuits – followed by a walking tour of the points of interest by a local expert, and more talks focused on these places. Dinner was provided, with a wide variety of foods on offer (and second helpings were encouraged!). The Summer School also hosted two different poetry readings from local artists.
Florence Court, Fermanagh, was one place that made itself a talking point simply by having the most extravagant façade – as our guide Alistair Rowan pointed out, it was as though the mansion’s architects had taken a catalogue of all the most popular 18th century window designs and pointed to several at random when designing it.
This trend continues indoors, where the stucco detailing can’t decide whether it wants to emulate Baroque or Rococo from room to room. Still, eclectic design choices aside, Florence Court was rather beautiful. The rooms inside are furnished to their original styles, with family portraits and heirlooms calling back to Florence Court’s former owners, the Earls of Enniskillen.
We were also fortunate enough to visit the See House in Kilmore – a former bishop’s palace, now slowly slipping into disrepair. The house and its outbuildings are extensive, with plenty of space, should it be restored to a new use. Various ideas were proposed for the building, including an artists’ village in the outbuildings, or a hotel.
I suppose these spontaneous discussions were what really stood out about this Summer School – it wasn’t simply a lecture-based conference event. The people I was surrounded with were infectiously enthusiastic about the heritage around them. Everyone had a story to tell, could see the beauty in these often-forgotten towns and buildings, and it was amazing to share this experience with so many like-minded people.
‘Conservation Without Frontiers’ 2019 was an inspiration and a resounding success. I hope to continue to be inspired by what I learned and discovered on this trip for a long time to come.