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Conference Breaks Records 2020's "Virtual" Churchill Conference Reaches 62 Nations

The 37th International Churchill Conference took place online October 23rd and 24th. More than 3,000 people registered to attend with each conference session averaging more than 2,000 viewers watching live. All sessions of the conference were recorded and can be viewed on the International Churchill Society’s YouTube channel.

Allen Packwood, Director of the Churchill Archives Centre, hosted the conference from the library of Churchill College, Cambridge. The first session consisted of a discussion between former prime minister Sir John Major, who joined Allen in the library, and former foreign secretary Lord Hague, who appeared onscreen from his home in Wales.

The next session focused on Churchill the artist. Chartwell House and Collections Manager Katherine Carter provided a tour of the newly renovated and re-opened studio at Churchill’s beloved country home. Barry Phipps, Director of Art History at Churchill College, then had a discussion with artist Paul Rafferty, who has just published the book Winston Churchill: Painting on the French Riviera. Rafferty over several years painstakingly identified the locations in the south of France where Churchill painted many of his best landscapes. There were also brief presentations by Edwina Sandys about her grandfather’s painting and President George W. Bush about how he was inspired by Churchill’s example to take up oil painting himself.

The first day concluded with a roundtable discussion moderated by broadcaster and author Jonathan Dimbleby. The panelists included Lord Boateng, newly appointed Chair of the Churchill Archives Trust; Andrew Roberts, best-selling author of Churchill, Walking with Destiny; Rear Admiral Dr. Chris Parry, Senior Associate Fellow, Royal United Services Institute; and Dr Karin von Hippel, Director General, Royal United Services Institute.

To watch the complete video of the first day, please CLICK HERE.

The second day of the conference began at the National Churchill Leadership Center in Washington, D.C. Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, who is Vice-Chair of the ICS Operating Committee, interviewed current US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien. During the conversation, O’Brien demonstrated his own deep knowledge of all things Churchill and discussed how the example of Churchill’s legacy still serves in international diplomacy today. He particularly noted how the Five-Eyes intelligence sharing program between the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand is an example of cooperation within the Anglo-sphere of which Churchill would have approved.

“Working with Winston” was the theme of the next session. Author Cita Stelzer discussed her book about the secretaries who supported Churchill throughout his career. Two of these women, Nonie Chapman and Jane Williams, then provided their personal recollections. They were followed by Churchill’s granddaughter Emma Soames.

From Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, Tim Riley, director of America’s National Churchill Museum, interviewed author Catherine Katz and her mentor Professor David Reynolds. From her home in Chicago, Katz discussed her new book The Daughters of Yalta while Reynolds spoke from Cambridge about his work on the Kremlin Letters, which gathers the correspondence between Churchill and Roosevelt with Stalin.

The conference ended with a keynote speech by the political novelist Michael Dobbs. Lord Dobbs, as he is now, came back to the theme of the conference “Churchill in Adversity” and related it to the 2017 film Darkest Hour for which Gary Oldman received the Academy Award for his portrayal of Winston Churchill. Dobbs recalled the completely fictional scene in which Churchill is inspired by meeting with a random group of people while traveling on the Underground—a form of transportation Churchill never used. “But the scene captures a truth,” Dobbs observed, and that is that Churchill did draw his strength from the British people as he led the nation through its greatest hour of adversity.

Churchill’s granddaughter Celia Sandys, who is Honorary President of ICS–UK, delivered the closing remarks to a conference that was seen live by people in sixty-two nations around the world. One of those watching was Zac Du Boulay, a joint-first prize winner of this year’s Inspire Like Churchill competition. Zac’s headmaster organised for Zac to watch the conference live at school with his teachers and friends. Zac’s video and those of the other winners were all played during the conference in the breaks between sessions.

To watch the complete video of the second day, please CLICK HERE.

The 2020 International Churchill Conference was born in adversity, but it has set a template that ICS will be using in the future to fulfill its mission. Through online events such as this, the society can reach a global audience of all ages as it works to educate people about the continuing relevance of the life and legacy of Winston Churchill.

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The International Churchill Society (ICS), founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill's death, is the world’s preeminent member organisation dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.

At a time when leadership is challenged at every turn, that legacy looms larger and remains more relevant than ever.