Setting fire to things is normally not encouraged during agent workshops.
But the English UK Fairs are a little bit different - so delegates at last month's event in Thailand got the chance to not only send tiny candlelit flower boats down a river, but also to light and fly lanterns into the moonlit sky as part of a local festival.
"It was an unforgettable experience," said one educator.
Taking part in this celebration was only one of the reasons that the Chiang Mai fair may rate as English UK's most successful yet.
Numbers are strictly limited at the English UK Fairs to ensure everyone can get to know each other, but demand for places was so high that, as an experiment, organisers created an extra six educator places. With 36 English UK members, 52 agencies and British Council overseas office representatives, and four exhibitors spending three days together in Chiang Mai's luxury Shangri-La Hotel, it was the largest-ever fair.
Other firsts included a delegation from Burma, including five agencies and a British Council representative, Myat Lay Tint.
"We think it's possibly the best one we've ever done," said Roz Rozidor, English UK international manager. She added: "We've had some amazing feedback so far, and the evening entertainment was just brilliant.
"Our fairs are famous for their intimate, friendly, feel and the relaxed atmosphere, and our evening entertainments in Chiang Mai really encouraged both of those. We were lucky to be in Thailand during the Loy Krathong festival where it is traditional to put lit candles on little decorated floats on the river, and also to fly lanterns in the sky. We all did both, and it was quite a sight to see all the lanterns with the English UK logo on float into the sky."
Other social events included an evening tour of Chiang Mai on cycle-powered tuktuks, a blessing from monks, and two fabulous dinners, one in the gardens of a traditional Thai building with music, dancers and a martial arts performance.
This was preceded by a cocktail reception in a market setting with stalls where local chefs prepared typical Northern Thai street food. John Duncan, principal of ELC Bristol, said: "It was amazing - the perfect workshop. We will be talking about it for a long time to come and I am not quite sure how any future event can ever live up to Chiang Mai 2013!"
Daytime sessions included the usual business meetings between agents and educators as well as a revamped seminar programme which featured short presentations from each of the English UK specialist and regional groups represented at the fair.
Stephen A'barrow, principal of Harrow House International College, added: "It was another superbly well-organised event: great fun and with great agents. If you can't do business here, you're in the wrong job."
Agents were equally pleased.
Rachel Mei, from Robert's School of Languages, said: "It has been another great experience to meet so many high-quality educators. The whole event was well-organised, everybody is friendly and definitely one of the best chances to meet educators."
Prin Chan, from SMH Education Services in Burma, said the event had become better and better as it went on. "Connecting online is good, but meeting in person is better for co-operating in the future for mutual benefit," he said. Tina Alibaya from Penprapa Advisory Study Abroad in Thailand was also delighted. "It was my first time... and I didn't expect it to be like this. I would say 'super, super, super excellent' and I am happy to join again in the future."
Chiang Mai Fair: facts and figures
- It was our largest ever fair, with 52 agencies and British Council overseas office representatives, 36 English UK members and 4 exhibitors.
- Agencies came from Burma (Myanmar), China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Mongolia, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. It was the first time agents from Burma have participated in an English UK Fair.
- Exhibitors were the British Council (UK), White House Education (EUK corporate member) and agents' associations from Thailand and Vietnam (TIECA and VIECA)
- British Council overseas offices represented were from Burma, China, Japan and Thailand
Click here to see an album of pictures from this fair in our image gallery.
The next English UK Fair for the region will be held in Kyoto from Tuesday 07 October to Friday 10 October 2014 at The Westin Miyako, Kyoto. The programme will include a gala dinner at the historic sake storehouse at Azekura. As places are limited, we encourage you to secure your place early in order to avoid disappointment. Click here for more information.
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