■ 23:24 (UTC±00:00), 02 DEC 2015 | GBR HARROW, GREATER LONDON
The one thing I shocked my students with in Beijing back in early 2014 was to move English lessons out of the classroom and into the nearby university gardens. For them, this was just too new to be true. For me, I drew my inspiration from my teachers back in the early 1990s, when we’d move the whole class outdoors in sunny skies, especially around summer.
The average academic talk is where you’ve students all facing one way, staring at a speaker, and then trying to make sense of this. Then you realise that when I do seminars and events, I wanted to make it the exact way both the speaker and attendees want it. We decided shifting tables so that most of us ended up looking at one other — much like a semi-roundtable — would be the best idea. And that’s exactly how the classroom was arranged for the first China Media Centre seminar, which took place today.
Vincent Ni, who’s now with the BBC World Service, came today as speaker to deliver an extremely insightful talk — insightful as it was also thought-provoking and very much what you expected from a distinguished journalist with a lot of experience. He has covered the elections in Myanmar / Burma, the Arab Spring, and much more. He has also worked previously in China-based media, moving recently onwards to media based in the UK.
I personally also had the pleasure to host him for lunch as well, where I got to know much more about this journalist with a lot of experience. The talk he gave today came not with a PowerPoint presentation, but came instead with nearly 2 full hours of lively debate and discussion between Vincent and other students and academics. We then moved on to the cafe in the Forum, where most of us continued the conversation.
For me personally, I had never really chaired an academic talk before, but thankfully I had been to enough of these so I got an idea of how it worked. What wasn’t quite expected was how early I’d be chairing them. This time last year, I was the speaker at the China Media Centre’s first academic seminar for 2014-2015, well-attended as it was. Having chaired my first such seminar, I’m more than ready to chair the next one — giving the overwhelming majority of time to the speaker and other attendees rather going on for too long with my 2p.
A personal thanks here to Vincent — we loved your talk and we thank you for coming on over and delighting and inspiring us all. ■ ■ ■