ALUMNI GATHERING 2019: 'Listening to our Time, Speaking to the Stars'

7-11 August 2019

Welcome to our programme page for 'Listening To The Stars, Speaking To Our Time'.

Our Alumni Gathering is now taking shape with generous contributions from former students and staff weaving together to create a rich, collaborative programme.   

  Wed 7th Aug Thu 8th Aug Fri 9th Aug Sat 10th Aug Sun 11th Aug
9.00         Singing (Naamah Pinkerfeld) / Meditative alignment (Ashley Ramsden)
09:30  Sharing of initiatives  Sharing of initiatives: Present & Future Of Emerson - Steve Briault  Sharing of initiatives  Sharing of initiatives
10:30 Tea Break   
11:00  Dialogue groups  Dialogue groups  Dialogue groups  Closing plenum – Sharing the fruits of the Gathering and looking ahead

 13.15 - Ursula Koepf Memorial Event

14:00   Arrivals & Registration  Workshops  Workshops  Workshops  Departures
15:30  Tea Break     
16:00 – 17:30   Arrivals & Registration  Workshops  Workshops
Supper 6pm
18:15  Supper  
19:30  Welcome & opening session
'Listening to our Time, Speaking to the Stars' Intro of theme – James Dyson
 'Sharing Some Questions' - Panel discussion on the theme introduced by Jonathan Stedall  19.00 Pericles theatre performance - 'The Little Mermaid'

 20.30 - 'Realigning law with a higher moral code: our Earthly responsibility' with Jojo Mehta

 Social evening   Hosted by Paul Matthews  



  • Gathering Opening - Our Welcome & Opening Session will begin at 19.30pm on Wed 7th August with Introduction to the Theme.
  • Morning Opening Sessions - We will begin each morning with half an hour of singing/ meditative alignment followed by the sharing of initiatives from Alumni from all over the world.
  • Dialogue Groups - We will work in smaller groups to explore the theme and how we relate to it, through facilitiated dialogue.
  • Afternoon Activities - All participants are invited to choose from a rich array of workshops.
  • Evening Events - In the evenings there will be a series of events which all participants are warmly invited to join.
    • Wed 7th - Introduction to the Theme 'Listening to our Time, Speaking to the Stars' - James Dyson. 
    • Thurs 8th - Panel Discussion - Jonathan Stedall, Christopher Schaefer, Paulamaria Blaxland de Lange, Lindsey Ternent and Kira Orsak
    • Fri 9th - Pericles Theatre Performance - The Little Mermaid | 'Realigning law with a higher moral code: our Earthly responsibility' talk by Jojo Mehta
    • Sat 10th - Social Evening
  • Gathering Closing - On Sunday morning we will all enjoy a sharing of the fruits of the Workshops and Dialogue groups before the Closing Plenum.



Wednesday evening

  • Welcome and Introduction - Steve Briault and Linda Churnside
  • Music - a violin piece by Ivilisse Esguerra

PRESENTATION: Dr James Dyson - Listening to our Time, Speaking to the Stars

Taking inspiration from Rudolf Steiner's verse “The stars once spoke to us”, Dr. James Dyson will examine how the overarching theme of this gathering relates to the evolution of Emerson College from its founding impulse to the current moment and beyond. In Michael Spence’s words from The Story of Emerson College, "Emerson was really a working together - a sum total of all the life's paths, the working of Karma and the fulfilling of pre-birth impulses and intentions of so many people, both staff and students, work and form”.

Dr James Dyson was the co-founder of Park Attwood Clinic in 1979, where he worked for 25 years. Since then, James’s already long-standing commitments in the field of adult education increased, initially in the areas of mental health, child development and general medicine. He has contributed over many years to Biographical Counselling Trainings, and to programmes in anthroposophic psychology in the USA. He has also been a Faculty Member of the Medical Section Seminar in Mental Health (UK) since 1990 and the British Postgraduate Anthroposophic Doctors’ Training since 2005. He is also Chair of Trustees at Emerson College.

Thursday Evening

  • Eurythmy -  a performance by Ivilisse Esguerra

with Christopher Schaefer, Paulamaria Blaxland de Lange, Lindsey Ternent and Kira Orsak

Jonathan Stedall introduces a panel of guest speakers for an exploration of the future possibilities for Rudolf Steiner's legacy. The panel will examine the present day phenomena we see in culture and counterculture where people no longer see themselves as defined by religion, science or philosophy; and explore questions around the future role of anthroposophy in relation to the growing surge of interest in all things “spiritual”. Does the current form of anthroposophy have a role to play for future generations? What essence of Rudolf Steiner's work could and should reach into the future?  How can we share this essence with those seeking spiritual development free from definition?

Jonathan Stedall was a student in the Foundation Year at Emerson College in 1966/7.

He worked as a documentary film producer at the BBC for over forty years, collaborating with a wide range of writers and presenters including John Betjeman, Laurens van der Post, Theodore Roszak, E.F.Schumacher, Cecil Collins, Mark Tully, Alan Bennett and Ben Okri. He also made biographical films on Gandhi, Tolstoy and Jung.

Jonathan has had a long connection with Camphill – his documentary ‘In Need of Special Care’, filmed at the Camphill School in Aberdeen in 1967, won a British Film Academy Award ; and in 1989 he made ‘Candle on the Hill’ – a trilogy of films to celebrate Camphill’s 50th anniversary -  and wrote and directed the two-part documentary ‘The Challenge of Rudolf Steiner’.

Friday Evening

PERFORMANCE: 'The Little Mermaid' by the Pericles Theatre Company

Founded by Emerson alumni, Pericles Theatre Company creates theatre projects with adults with learning disabilities. Participants are involved in all aspects of the production from designing and making costumes, masks, props and set through to acting on stage, stage management, fundraising and production. We believe that we all deserve to shine in what we do and to be valued and respected members of our community.

TALK: Jojo Mehta - 'Realigning law with a higher moral code: our Earthly responsibility'

We are beginning to realise that nature requires legal recognition if we are to defend the web of life of which we are part.  But to truly protect the Earth requires more than just rights for nature.  We must align human law with a higher moral principle - first do no harm - and that means fundamentally changing the rules of the game.  Jojo Mehta explains the power and achievability of a law of ecocide to do exactly that.

Saturday Evening

SOCIAL EVENING: Co-ordinated by Paul Matthews

Dancing with Claire and Andy Duncan, music, and whatever people would like to bring. Bring your instruments if you would like to play.



Organisational and Individual Metamorphosis: 
The work of Social Therapy as Developing Tool for an Understanding of our Time -  with Paulamaria Blaxland De Lange

The work of Social Therapy and Therapeutic Education asks something from us: for in this work we are the medicine. The more a medicine has gone through a rarifying process, the more potent it becomes. And so it is that the more we have been- and are- able to develop ourselves, the more we can be present for the other in the moment of need.

The atmosphere, environment and outer forms - in so far as we are able to be creative with them even in the smallest way - can enhance or endanger this development.

Where do new ideas really come from? Understanding how creativity works - with Fiona Campbell

Are we really as creative as we think we are or have the potential to be?

Join Fiona Campbell for an experiential workshop designed to strengthen our capacity for dynamic, fluid thinking, explore what it means to be human and be truly creative in the generative sense. In our innermost being, we are creative in the generative sense, but our modern lifestyle inhibits the unfolding of these forces, dulls our perceptions and hardens our thinking. Consequently, we are not as creative as we could and should be.

To unlock these vital forces and overcome our habitual ways of seeing and thinking, the workshop combines experiential drawing techniques with Zajonc’s contemplative practice and Goethean phenomenology. Fiona’s work is grounded in her PhD research on cognitive processing and her professional arts practice,

Fiona Campbell, BA Hons (Macq), MA (UTS), PhD (UTS)
Visual artist, interdisciplinary researcher and lecturer from Australia; teaches higher order thinking skills, visual arts, history of consciousness, research methods and information science.

Five years in the 1970s - with Wendy Cook

Introduction to Musical Eurythmy Therapy - Avril Jennifer Drew

“All Eurythmy has a healing element” said Rudolf Steiner in Eurythmy as Visible Music. “ For example, that this exercise (the relationship of the seventh to the key note) will have a curative, re-vitalizing effect.”

Avril Jennifer Drew has been practising Eurythmy Therapy for over 30 years and since 2009 has deepened her work by using the Musical Eurythmy exercises which she offers through this workshop.

‘These I experience as a step towards a Medicine in the sense of the Old Mysteries. In the simplest exercise, for beat and pitch or the movements for the major or minor key-note, rhythms or intervals, all these movements form a basis for healing the body’s organs. For instance, I will introduce an exercise with rhythms which help circulation. All these exercises have an enlivening effect and help me through my day.’

No previous experience is necessary, only an inner openness for something new.

Creativity and Technology  - Stephan Duve

Stephan Duve leads us to explore the dilemmas that face humanity in reconciling creativity and technology in this heartfelt session with brains and screwdrivers.

‘We created technology. Together we can recreate the freedom that was supposed to be part of the deal.’

In this workshop we will have the opportunity look into these amazing systems and objects of daily use.

Eurythmy as a Foundation for Working Together - Ivilisse Esguerra

Through eurythmy, we learn to move, carrying both the consciousness of the whole and our own part within it. This deep listening creates the possibility for true conversation with our fellow human beings and with the spiritual world.

In this workshop we will experience this by working with the IAO meditation, celtic weaving forms, and an artistic experience of the verse, “The Stars Once Spoke to Us.”

To Dosoudi (That which is given)
Storytelling - Stella Kassimati

Workshop 1: Too much of a good thing can be wonderful. Have you ever desired something and got it? Join Greek storyteller Stella Kassimati on an exploration of the timeless secrets and wisdom of the ancient Greek myths. See how the lessons they offer are as relevant today as they ever were.

Workshop 2: Have you ever spoken your mind and then felt the wrath of heaven descend upon you? Actions have consequences, which can leave us feeling we are punished, or even cursed. Join storyteller Stella Kassimati to explore, through Greek myths, how a curse can be transformed into a blessing.

You are welcome to join Stella for either or both her workshops. No previous knowledge of storytelling or of Greek Myths is required.

Stella Kassimati is an experienced workshop leader and storyteller. She teaches around the world in both Greek and English, including at Emerson College and Schumacher College, UK. Stella loves Greek myths and offers workshops on how relevant they are to us today. She has a deep passion for biographical storytelling and for enabling adults to craft and publicly perform their own or family tales with the goal of reconnecting with what it is to be human, increasing empathy and creating community. She loves teaching the craft of the storyteller because it gives people a voice and empowers them to bring more of themselves into the world and make a difference.

Stella is the founding director of Friends of Amari, an international association developing a Storytelling Centre in Amari, Crete, Greece

Workshop 1 - The Moon and Bio-Dynamic Farming - Nicholas Kollerstrom

Vegetable crop yield really is linked to the 'four ethers' or elements and we very much remember Maria Thun in this regard. The Bio-Dynamic gardening Calendar developed in the 20th century and is not a re-vamp of old traditions.The author has produced England's moon-gardening calendar for thirty-five years, and it all started at Tablehurst farm! He will reflect on this topic; one which is good, beautiful and true, and also useful! How many things can you say that for?

Workshop 2 - Metals and Planets Nicholas Kollerstrom
The ancient alchemical belief that traditional metals were somehow in tune with the visible planets was re-activated in the 20th century by Rudolf Steiner and Elizabeth Kolisko. The author spent years checking out the experimental evidence - starting when he was at Emerson College in 1970 - and this workshop and book is the end result. It's a Hermetic subject because it describes a link between Heaven and Earth. It may be of interest to artists, astrologers and school chemistry teachers.

Man is a bridge between the past, the present and the being of the future - Mary-Anne Paterson

In this 'Inner Portrait' workshop we will connect with our soul qualities and explore the past, present and future through the painting of our own inner portraits.

Theatre Of Awakening - Agata Krajewska & Phil Barber

Workshop 1: Embodied Stories with Agata Krajewska 

Workshop 2: Your Story, Your Myth with Phil Barber

‘We are all ‘story carriers’ and our personal stories have a way of opening our hearts and feeding us vital information. When we care for our stories they feed us confidence, guidance and wisdom.’

Theatre of Awakening is a blend of self-discovery and creativity, where performances are created from personal stories and inner experiences.

In these workshops we will work with presence, embodiment, improvisation, inquiry, telling and personal reflection. We give equal attention to the aesthetic and transformational aspects of the creative process, drawing on the power of embodied presence. By working in this way we free up our self-images and beliefs, realizing our potential and the gifts we have to bring. As we explore together, we come across parallels, mutual recognitions and emergent collective narratives.

No previous performance experience necessary.

Standing by Words - Paul Matthews

Writing Group - Drawing upon the work of Wendell Berry, Buddha’s “Path of Right Speech” and Rudolf Steiner’s insights into the life of Language.

Astronomy Workshop - with John Meeks

Astronomy workshop with star observation in the evenings, weather permitting!

The Zodiac and the 12 World-views:  The main Polarity of Material and Spiritual Outlooks - with Graham Rickett

Explore the polarities of the materialistic and the spiritual with Graham Rickett.

Graham has been studying the relation between the Constellations and the basic world-views, as described by Rudolf Steiner in 1914. In this workshop, he will first sketch out the overall picture to introduce the theme and then focus particularly on the materialistic (Cancer) and spiritual (Capricorn) polarity.

Participants are then invited to reflect together upon and discuss short quotes from various authors, and also work with a selection of poetic and dramatic texts that illustrate the contrasting world-views.

Let the Colour Sing:  a three-part workshop with paint and pastel - with Margaret Shillan

Part 1. Looking out, working with nature. Impressionism

Part 2. Looking in,working with imagination. Expressionism.

Part 3. Social painting in pairs and groups

Flowers of Earth and Cosmos - with Kira Orsak

Join Kira Orsak for a journey of creative discovery into the relationships between the Flowers of Earth and The Cosmos.

This workshop provides a practical exploration of flower geometry using the traditional tools of compasses and straight-edge. Drawing inspiration from the abundance of flowers on Emerson’s grounds, we will look at the relations of flower forms found on Earth with their celestial counterparts.

‘Awakening at Midlife’: discovering new meaning and purpose at 35 and beyond - with George Perry

A key turning point in life takes place in our late 30s and early 40s. Many people face profound questions that challenge existentially their place in the world: who am I beyond the many roles I have adopted in life. Who am I if I strip these masks away?

At the same time this challenge can present important opportunities for real self-development, of coming to who we truly are. We could even say that this midlife crisis is a kind of initiation process.

We will focus particularly on the time 35 to 49.  What are the gifts and challenges? What questions rise up and live during this period? How does our individual growth and development impact on questions of vocation; on our personal relationships; and on our sense of self?  

Witnessing Our Times: How did We Get Here and Where are We Going? - with Chris Schaefer

Chris Schaefer leads a conversation to reflect on the times we live in; looking at what it is that has led us here and exploring how we can re-image our world to create future possibilities.

This workshop arises out of the themes that Chris explores in his recently published book:
“Facing Ourselves and Re-Imagining America : Looking for Hope in Difficult Times”

I Give You My Word - Women’s letters as life support, 1973-1987 - with Signe Schaefer, Margli Matthews and guests

Join Signe, Margli and guests as they reflect upon the issues women were dealing with in the 20th century.

In this workshop we will explore what life was like for women in these times through readings and discussions and look at the difference between the challenges women were facing then and what women have to deal with now.

Helping Water Support Life - with Ian Trousdell

Reporting on the growth of John Wilkes' worldwide Flowform initiative:

Workshop 1 Flowform International Ltd's business activities in many regions including recent developments in China

Workshop 2 Foundation for Water at Emerson College - scientific research into Figure8 flow. improving water's quantum coherence and chemistry

Colour light and darkness - with Jonathan Soper

Michael Wilson inspired many of us with his colour theory demonstrations, from Goethe, Newton, Land and others. He showed us beautiful prismatic light phenomena, coloured shadows, and colour mixing.

Jonathan will remind us with some similar light, colour and shadow phenomena demonstrations.

"Pixton - an old friend begins an exciting new phase of life" - with Max Comfort, Eva Davies and Jeremy Smith
Pixton is the instantly recognisable image of the College that thousands of alumni fondly carry within them - the place where you went for a cup of tea or a meal, or fell in love, or where you would hang out with your fellow students - a repository of treasured memories for many people over many years. But after all its service to the Emerson community for more than half a century, the Grade II-listed house is now in need of rejuvenation and very expensive to keep going in its present form.
The College, together with the Anthroposophical Society in Sussex and local charity St Anthony's Trust, have a vision for a new future for Pixton:  we want to convert the house into a co-housing project that will offer older people attractive small flats for independent living and which will also provide access to the cultural facilities and beautiful grounds of the college. The aim is not only to meet the need for more humane and holistic care for the elderly, but also to create an exemplar project through providing a new community-wide anthroposophical care model within our local area – so although the project begins at Pixton, the intention is that it will link eventually with training, home care and hospice provision within the wider Forest Row community. 
Three members of the project steering group will be present during this session, ready to answer your questions and tell you more about what we are calling the Pixton Third Age Project. 

Kissing Joy As It Flies – Entwining Goethe’s Delicate Empiricism and Eurythmy as Social Process - with Liz Smith

Join Liz Smith for a unique, experiential workshop; entwining Goethe’s Delicate Empiricism and Eurythmy as Social Process.

‘Through immersing ourselves in movement, nature and each other’s stories we will challenge our habitual ways of seeing and practice a more fluid, accurate and participatory perception of our relationship to the world – and perhaps even glimpse the elusive living whole.’

Shared comfort zone - with Lut Vinck

‘Reading is like enjoying our own private comfort zone. We are alone with the story, the characters and the setting. We dive into the style and the images. We create our own world, think our own ideas, feel safe in our comfortable private rhythm.’

What if we shared this?

This workshop invites us to see what happens if we read together, share our thoughts and feelings, and express what words do with our lives, what we recognize, what we realize, what we learn.

“Ovid tells the story of two immortals who came to Earth in disguise to cleanse the sickened world. No one would let them in but one old couple, Baucis and Philemon. And their reward for opening their door to strangers was to live on after death as trees—an oak and a linden—huge and gracious and intertwined. What we care for, we will grow to resemble. And what we resemble will hold us, when we are ourselves no longer. . . .”

We will explore extracts from a variety of books including Richard Power’s inspiring ‘The Overstory’ from which the above extract is taken. Please bring a few of your favourite fiction books in English, or at least a few extracts you would like to share.

Let’s read and share and laugh and feel a great sense of trust.


Renewal Through Art

With Mary-Anne Paterson

For any Teachers and Alumni who would like to stay on after the gathering to enjoy painting, drawing, writing and creative renewal, Mary-Anne Paterson (artist, art therapist, social arts practitioner, teacher and international lecturer) will be leading a 'Renewal Through Art' course from 19.30 on Monday 12th to 12.30 on Wednesday 14th August. Re-discover your inner qualities, work with colour theory and paint your inner portrait and relax in the inspirational tranquil setting of Emerson College.  Click here to find out more >