In the serene embrace of a 17th-century listed building nestled within the enchanting grounds of Windsor Great Park, I had the privilege of attending the Cumberland Lodge Fellows’ Retreat, which was nothing short of extraordinary. The retreat brought together a group of PhD researchers from various disciplines, weaving together moments of fun, excellent food, challenging conversations, and profound connections.
Each year, the Cumberland Lodge Fellowship is awarded to ten dedicated Doctoral Students, providing them with an opportunity to distinguish themselves by enhancing their understanding of critical collective matters through a cross-sector approach. It also helps them cultivate essential skills in public outreach, networking, communication, and interdisciplinary collaboration. A unique educational charity and conference centre, Cumberland Lodge was founded in 1947 with the aim of fostering open and constructive dialogue, promoting ethical leadership, and encouraging interdisciplinary discourse among individuals and organisations working towards the betterment of society. Its mission is to provide a neutral and inclusive space where people from various sectors, including academia, government, civil society, and the arts, can come together to discuss important societal issues and exchange ideas.
Located amidst the lush greenery of a royal estate, the venue exuded an air of timeless elegance. The tranquil surroundings provided the perfect backdrop for a weekend of introspection and intellectual exchange. From physics to psychology, each of my fellow Fellows brought their unique perspective and expertise to the table. This diversity enriched our discussions and opened up new avenues of thought and collaboration that I might not have otherwise explored. We engaged in stimulating discussions on topics ranging from the ethics of democracy to the societal impact of our work. These conversations pushed me out of my comfort zone at times and encouraged me to consider perspectives different from my own.
Two of the highlights for me were a captivating talk and an immersive tour, both of which delved into the rich and charitable history of the Lodge. We were led on a journey through time, uncovering the secrets and stories hidden within the walls of the centuries-old building. As we wandered through the meticulously preserved rooms, we learned about the Lodge’s royal connections, its architectural significance, and the prominent figures who had walked its halls. These experiences not only deepened my appreciation for the building itself but also added value to the discussions which we were to have, reminding me of the enduring legacy of knowledge and enquiry that we were there to carry forward.
Despite the weighty academic backgrounds, the retreat was far from dull. Laughter and camaraderie filled the air as we engaged in team-building activities, games, and a little light karaoke. These blithe moments fostered a sense of belonging and friendship amongst us, extending beyond the confines of our respective fields. We bonded further over hearty breakfasts and delicious multi-course meals, sharing personal stories and recommendations for the best places to visit in our respective cities.
The deep and meaningful connections forged during those few days were a key takeaway for me. Finding common ground in our passion for research and the pursuit of knowledge was the unifying thread that seemed to lace together our shared values and shared commitment to making a positive impact on the world through our work. These connections will without doubt transcend the boundaries of our disciplines and promise lasting collaborations and friendships.
The retreat truly showcased the power of bringing together individuals from diverse backgrounds to create a space where difficult conversations and genuine connections can thrive. As I left the retreat, I carried with me not only cherished memories but also a renewed sense of purpose alongside a network of like-minded colleagues, who will undoubtedly continue to inspire and support me on both my fellowship and academic journey. I very much look forward to my return later in the year.