How St John’s College and Conference Cambridge host successful international events

It could only have been part of the plans by Bill Brogan (Conference and Catering Manager, St John’s College) and Kelly Vickers (Manager Conference Cambridge); the forty senior international and tourism related Cambridgeshire delegates arrived at St John’s College on a gloriously balmy May 8th evening to learn the three key elements of successfully hosting an international event at the college: venue, delegates and hosting

1. The venue.
Set in Cambridge’s old city centre and gently extending through fields and gardens across the river, the St John’s College provided a spread of architectural delights and surprises for the delegates as they toured the grounds; from the familiar facades and bridge to the Pythagoras building and the new library. The accommodation in a serene setting was complemented by the variety of rooms in different architectural styles, capable of seating small and larger groups.

2. Delegates
Careful planning had generated a panel of internationally active Cambridge members including Professor Alan Barrel (Judge Institute), Chris Parkhouse (Deyton Bell), Thak Patel (Think India) and Richard Wishart (Delivery Management). Walter Herriot (St Johns innovation Centre) as Question Master, led the panel to discuss topics as far ranging as longstanding links between Australia and Cambridge through the papers of Field Marshall Slim through to how Cambridge was perceived abroad from the cultural, educational to hi-tech facets. The audience too participated actively and a common theme of “blowing Cambridge’s Trumpet” as a prime international location emerged.

3. Hosting
The culmination of the evening followed the drinks reception when we retired to the 450 year old Wordsworth room, described by William Wordsworth in his evocative autobiographical poem now known as “The Prelude” (extract from Book III, Residence in Cambridge):

The Evangelist St. John my patron was:
Three Gothic courts are his, and in the first
Was my abiding-place, a nook obscure;
Right underneath, the College kitchens made
A humming sound, less tuneable than bees,
But hardly less industrious; with shrill notes
Of sharp command and scolding intermixed.
Near me hung Trinity's loquacious clock,
Who never let the quarters, night or day,
Slip by him unproclaimed, and told the hours
Twice over with a male and female voice.
Her pealing organ was my neighbour too;
And from my pillow, looking forth by light
Of moon or favouring stars, I could behold
The antechapel where the statue stood
Of Newton with his prism and silent face,
The marble index of a mind for ever
Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone.

Now, the panelled room with its portraits provided a splendid backdrop to an exquisite international dinner, starting with Scallops Togarashi, via Gressingham Duck Supreme to Azuki Bean Mousse Cakes with Sesame See Ice Cream and accompanied by wines from India to Portugal. The private environment encouraged a relaxed discussion between neighbouring dinner guests to round off a memorable evening.


The combination of different experiences, delighting the eye, the intellect and the palate had been indelibly and positively imprinted on the delegates. When the question arises on future visits to distant lands, on where to host an international event, St John’s College will immediately spring to mind.