Towards the end of summer 2023, I came to historic Cumberland Lodge which lies in the midst of Windsor Great Park. It was my first Fellows’ meeting, and on a beautiful sunny afternoon the fine architecture of the 17th century former royal residence was both a stunning and welcoming sight.
We arrived as individuals, but soon came together as a co-operative, collective group of Fellows, sharing a unique experience that will remain with us long into the future. Bea, the Programme Officer, gave us all a fabulous, touching welcome, and Ed, the Chief Executive, provided a fascinating induction for everyone about the fellowships, the history of the Lodge, and the important mission of Cumberland Lodge today. Peter Symonds’ Lodge tour was truly amazing. He recounted stories, both past and present, of Cumberland Lodge while we stood in the very dining room among paintings that were part of the tales – a truly memorable afternoon.
Later that day, Melissa, the Programme Director, outlined the key features of our Fellowship. As a group we were delighted to hear details of the mentoring programme that aims to empower Fellows and nurture our potential to become leaders and change-makers. For a perfect end to a great day we had team-building activities and games. Increasingly, we knew each other better and better as we co-operated to stop eggs from being broken from a 10-metre drop! We had truly come together as a group – dedicated, collaborative and happy.
On the second day, we developed our first-year professional skills with training in public speaking, digital facilitation, and writing for Cumberland Lodge. The collective, cooperative ethos of the first day was carried over and deepened as we exchanged ideas on webinars and podcasts in the context of Cumberland Lodge’s mission. Later that afternoon, we had two fascinating sessions: firstly on Ethics and the Future of Democracy with Melissa, and then our guest speaker, Kurt Barling, reflected on Amy Buller’s masterpiece, Darkness over Germany. Both sessions showed what is needed to effect positive social change, and reinforced the importance of Cumberland Lodge as an inclusive, reflective environment, respectful of difference – a fantastic living example of collaborative learning.
Walking in the Great Park on a sunny Sunday morning is a privilege and soothing to the human spirit. As new Fellows, we walked and talked and shared the happiness and challenges of life as a PhD student. Time in the tranquil Royal Chapel is truly special, and provided the perfect end to our first retreat.
The September Fellows’ Retreat 2023 was an amazing introduction to the unique method that has evolved at Cumberland Lodge to foster individuals committed to promoting more peaceful, open, and inclusive societies. Being a Fellow is a life-changing experience – it is also great fun and gives us the courage, support, and confidence to face the challenges that lie ahead.