Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship

2008 conference

"Everyone Sang"

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Alice Burley tells delegates
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about the Diffusionists

The 2008 annual conference was held at St Hilda's College Oxford, on Saturday 6th September.  The theme of the conference was "Everyone Sang".

In 1916 Siegfried Sassoon arrived in Oxford to recuperate from wounds received on the Western Front.  He was soon introduced to Lady Ottoline Morrell, whose home at Garsington Manor, just outside the city, had become a haven for writers and artists unwilling or unable to serve in the war.  Through the Morrells, Sassoon met Bertrand Russell and others who would encourage him in his own anti-war protest of 1918. He also made the acquaintance of kindred spirits such as W B Yeats and John Masefield.

It was at Garsington that Sassoon later heard the news of the Armistice.  After the war, he decided to return to Oxford, this time as a student.  He went as far as renting rooms in Merton Street, but there is no record of  his being associated with any college or doing any actual studying!  He spent much of his time with his friends, including Masefield, Robert Graves and Robert Bridges, all of whom lived at Boar's Hill.

Highlights of the weekend included: fascinating facts, colourful pictures, humorous anecdotes, unexpected discoveries, emotional memories, glorious food, lots of laughter, a very rare book and a world premiere!

We met: distraught kitchen staff, confused porters, forgetful waitresses, noisy builders, one anxious driver and one rather cross householder.

There was lots of sharing: of experiences, wisdom, e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, recommended book titles, shopping tips and bottles of wine.

Despite a few glitches, everyone said they had enjoyed themselves.  Most people made new friends.  Several people snapped up bargains.  And three people pushed a minibus.

Stuart Lee introduces the Oxford
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World War I Poetry Digital Archive

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Click here to see more photos of the conference