I just spent three days at Ditchley, a mansion outside Oxford built in the 1720s, for a series of roundtables (Aspen with accents) about democracy and changing media. I’ll follow this with a series of posts about the discussion, which occurred under the Chatham House Rule (note the singular as there’s only one: I may recount the substance but without attribution). The group included media executives, academics, and government and NGO people. (Disclosure: I paid for my transportation personally; the Ditchley Foundation and the BBC World Service Trust as a sponsor were hosts for accommodation and meals in the mansion.)
Ditchley is amazing. As an American with short-term cultural memory, I couldn’t help looking at it as if it were a Williamsburg recreation or Disneyworld attraction but, of course, it’s the real thing, handed down in one family until the last century, then bought by another, who donated it to the foundation so that these discussions could occur. It is filled with lush wood, ornate molded and painted ceilings, antlers from the previous house (dated 1608), paintings of lords and ladies, a buzzer board so the servants in the day could serve the score of bedrooms, and pictures of Winston Churchill visiting (he was born next door — which is to say the other mansion about 10 miles away).
Before you get too jealous, the bathroom was down the hall and the wi-fi was in the basement. But the wine was good and the discussion was great.
I’m posting this because Ditchley and what followed inspired a lot of thinking – it was a good meeting – and then I always come away from talking with my London media cousins with new ideas and perspectives. So rather than explaining what the hell a ditchley is each time, here’s that one post.