‘Future Definite? – a Celebration of the work of Noël Coward’
St. Catherine’s College, Oxford - Friday 1st to Sunday 3rd September, 2006

“And that sweet city with her dreaming spires,
She needs not June for beauty’s heightening……

DO JOIN US next September in the beautiful, unique city of Oxford at a weekend for members to share their love of Noël Coward’s work and gain inspiration from the words of some of the most informative experts on Coward.  Other eminent speakers, whose own work may have been influenced by that of The Master, are also being invited.

The planned programme features contributions from our Vice President Stephen Fry, author Barry Day, Geoffrey Johnson (Coward's North American Representative for many years), dramatist Marcy Kahan, broadcaster Alan Farley and fellow author of the Noël Coward Music Index, musicologist Dominic Vlasto, and others. The weekend programme includes:
an evening of cabaret with a host of Coward songs and artists; Oxford through the eyes of Coward - a walking tour led by dramatist Marcy Kahan; and a rare chance to see some personal ciné footage, films of Coward's plays and stories adapted for television.
Alan Rickman
has agreed to run a master class for the full-time students attending the conference - commitments permitting.

This is the first time our Society has organised such an event, but before we came into being, in 1999, the centenary year, a conference was held at Birmingham University, which resulted in the publication, by Methuen, of ‘Look Back in Pleasure - Noël Coward Reconsidered’  (ISBN number  O 413 75500 2).  With the re-naming of The Noël Coward Theatre in the West End next year and the production of ‘Hay Fever’ starring Dame Judi Dench, this seems an appropriate moment to provide a forum for the Society to take a contemplative look at Coward’s phenomenal contribution.

We are hoping, in particular, that some of our members from the USA and around the world, will be tempted to make this conference the reason for a visit.   They would be given a particularly warm welcome by all the UK members, eighteen of whom will be in New York this December, for the flower-laying at the Gershwin Theatre.

This conference will be fun; we hope to make it an occasion that Noël himself would have enjoyed.   For instance, after tea and before cocktails on Saturday, there will be a
a guided literary walking tour of Oxford, followed by a black tie dinner, and cabaret. 
There will be a Parkinson type of chat show event, where members will be invited to reminisce about Coward.  This will be hosted by Alan Farley, our US West Coast representative,  who has presented a radio programme about Coward for many years in San Francisco.  We shall be showing you some of the Coward home movies and our Coward book shop will be on permanent display, with reduced NCS members’ prices.

We are inviting some students from colleges such RADA, the National Youth Theatre and LAMDA, to be our guests at the conference and to participate in a Masterclass session and play-readings.  In this way we hope that the future for Coward’s work will indeed be ‘definite’. 

There are other exciting sessions under discussion for the weekend, but before we can go any further with our plans we do need a commitment from our members.  Only with your in principle support, will we have the confidence to approach potential sponsors of the weekend for help with funding for the students, and for a modest honorarium for our outside guest speakers and their expenses. 

St. Catherine’s became a college in 1963.  It is now one of the largest colleges in Oxford and was built between 1960-64 on flat meadowland near the Cherwell, to the designs of Arne Jacobsen, the Danish architect deeply influenced by the masters of the ‘International Modern’ style, especially Mies van der Rohe.  Jacobsen also laid out the gardens and designed much of the furniture, including even the cutlery used at High Table.    When the students are away, this comparatively young college tries to supplement its income, by hosting conferences.  It is ideally suited to our purpose, as all the rooms have en suite facilities, the campus is large, with a water garden and a central circular lawn all adding to a feeling of space and freedom. Unusually, for Oxford – which still retains its medieval street pattern intact – there is parking space at St. Catherine’s.   Yet, it is just a five-minute walk to the High Street, or “High” - the heart of the city, where there are several historic hostelries for those liking a nighcap or two after dinner.

All sessions and activities and the use of the conference rooms are included in the cost for each member, for the weekend, and you will also be provided with:--

Friday:  afternoon tea,  dinner, overnight accommodation in a single room with en-suite facilities/tea and coffee making.
Saturday:  Full English breakfast, morning coffee,  lunch, afternoon tea, dinner (black tie, with cabaret), accommodation as above.
Sunday:  Full English breakfast, morning coffee, lunch.
(Lunches and dinners are waiter served.)

We anticipate that the total cost, per member, including everything listed above (but not including drinks, other than teas and coffees)  will be between £200 and £240.  We shall keep the figure as low as we can.   But we shall need to have some sponsorship in place.  This will not be forthcoming, unless you express your interest now. (Please see Marcy Kahan’s article for further enticement).  There will be one or two double rooms, with en suite, included in our allocation of 40 rooms and the cost for the additional person in a double room will be £120 approx, to include everything listed above.

We have reserved 50 en suite rooms, ten of these which have to be kept for speakers and students and so we are looking for 40 members to express their firm support at this stage.  
If you are interested, please be kind enough to complete the expression of interest form, included in the magazine and send it to Barbara Longford to arrive by Friday 28th October. 



The Society is delighted to announce that because of the overwhelmingly positive response from Members, our Conference is going ahead as planned. Full details were given in the October, 2005 edition of Home Chat and the expression of interest form was requested to arrive no later than 28th October. More than fifty members have signed up for the conference and the Conference Committee is working hard to ensure that this will be an unforgettable weekend. Members are travelling from the USA, Australia, Japan and Norway, not to mention Budleigh Salterton.

Please note the dates firmly in your diaries (check-in on the Friday will begin at 2.p.m. with the first session at 4.p.m.). Barbara Longford has all your expression of interest forms and those who have already responded will take priority. However, it will be possible to increase our numbers as the conference room has a larger capacity than was anticipated and additional residential rooms in college could be available.

More details and booking forms will appear in the April edition of Home Chat and members will be invited to send a deposit at that stage, to secure their bookings.

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