Professional Development

for English Teachers

Reflections on an afterparty with a difference

It was the 30th face to face P.A.R.K conference, a special number to celebrate, I’m now celebrating my 35th year of friendships in Moravia savouring the past and looking forward to the future but bowled over by the “Backwards” experience on Saturday afternoon.

Just after 9 in the morning Roman Kožnar, the founder and owner of P.A.R.K  read us out some funny feedback from previous years where people had complained that the venue should be nearer the metro, the nearest metro is about 180 kilometres away in Prague, and somebody who would have liked to see a bit more of one of the presenters.

Tram 4 from the railway station changing on to the 39 trolley bus really wasn’t a problem to negotiate…and it’s nice to be high up on the hill in that lovely school.

David Koster told us that this was actually the 33rd P.A.R.K conference, and not the 30th, if we included the 3 online conferences during the pandemic.

And then Sarah Mercer told us part of well-being is when we savour moments in the past, present or the future and that it is good for learning and practising tenses too.

And it was at the afterparty that we certainly savoured moments from the past and made them very present, something very different from nostalgia but something that was definitely good for our well-being.

After a full day of workshops and talks, some lovely food and meeting people who we hadn’t seen for a while, David did the raffle together with Iain Saunders and Dave Spencer, lucky people won lucky things and then we sang happy birthday to Ru Rahman who turned 50 on the very day of P.A.R.K 30.  It’s nice to remember students’ birthdays in our classrooms and their name days too.


David encouraged everybody to come to the afterparty even if they hadn’t signed up for it so that they could be part of something which turned out to be very special. It moved me in ways that moved me to write this today.

After David Spencer’s wonderful closing plenary about our superpowers as teachers he told us something about his own Liverpool roots.

“I was baptized at St Peters Church Woolton, just where John and Paul met. Incidentally it’s also where there’s a grave for Eleanor Rigby though Paul denies knowing that! My mum lives two mins from John’s house on Menlove Avenue and three minutes from Strawberry Field. And my school was two minutes from Penny Lane.”

I myself had the same headteacher in Wolverhampton as John Lennon had in Liverpool, He moved from Quarry Bank Grammar School, where John went to school between 1952 and 1957,  to Wolverhampton Grammar school in 1956. He was my headmaster from 1968 to 1973. On one of John Lennon’s reports he wrote this.

He has too many of the wrong ambitions and his energy is too often misplaced”


He was only really interested in you if were academic and then got into Oxford and Cambridge. I don’t even remember talking to him when I was at my school.

So we left the big plenary hall in the school and went to the room downstairs that had been transformed into a concert hall with lots of nice food and drink. The strawberries were delicious. We waited in anticipation for the concert to begin, which began with “Twist and Shout”. As a British citizen but no longer a European citizen,  it was nice to see the Czech flag hanging next to the 12 golden European stars against the blue background.

Ru, the birthday boy, had this to say about what happened next.

“I thought the Backwards were brilliant. They nailed every single song they did. I'm a huge Beatles fan, so when I heard they'd booked the best Beatle tribute act in Brno for the 30th Conference, I was beyond thrilled.

They got every nuance right and they selected not only the familiar hits but some of my favourite deep cuts. A great set and so wonderful to see everyone hit the dance floor and shake it up.

The theme of the 30th Conference was very much a tribute to teachers and the job we do. From the opening plenary to the closing plenary, I felt that spending my 50th in the company of my teaching family celebrating what I've been doing since 2010 was the only way I could have spent such a momentous day.

The Beatles' music remains the foundation of pop/rock music. They produced the most joyous and freeing music. During communism I know that ordinary Czechoslovaks were exchanging tape recordings in secret gatherings, one of the ways in which generations felt the illicit thrills of freedom. Before the likes of Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground, the Beatles were already making in-roads into the hearts and minds of those trapped under Soviet-communism.

And the Beatles' songs are great cultural artefacts, a great entry into British and American culture and from a language point of view they are great for song activities in the classroom. A great end to the 30th Conference and a great way to spend my 50th birthday”.

And Karla Mikešová, who I have known for 13 years now , danced  to many of the songs and these were some of her reflections.

“The Beatles mean a lot to me and I'm a big fan of them. I listened to their music when I was a child as my mum liked the Beatles.  They were a symbol of freedom and hope for the people in Czechoslovakia. Living by the border with Poland it had always been easier to get records from abroad.

And the Beatles songs were my first English listening material, students learnt vocabulary and pronunciation from the songs and I still use the Beatles songs in my lessons (with young students 11-12 years old).

My classmates from my Gymnázium in Těšín played the Beatles songs and the Beatles are still a strong bond for us. Liverpool was an interesting and inspiring place. On the 'border' with the Atlantic Ocean, Ireland and New York... there were  so much influences... and in a way I experienced similar influences in Těšín, a town on the border, not a typical Czech town at all.

And the music makes people happy as it did at the afterparty. All generations, people from different places enjoyed the tunes, the lyrics and the energy of the songs. I am sure everyone had their own beautiful memories from the past, connected with the Beatles songs. Super job done by Roman and David! And the Slovak musicians are also great!”

Anna Haverová from Slovakia, who had already seen “The Backwards” before, had similar reflections.

"The Beatles accompanied all my teenage years and also the times at university.We used to listen to their music on a tape recorder over and over trying to understand what they are singing about and learn some English...I also remember watching films HELP and YELLOW SUBMARINE in our small local cinema.What an experience!!! My generation remembers their music very well as it was an important part of our young lives!” Anna is the same age as me, 66.

And as they sang the last song, Hey Jude, the face of Marta Kubišova on an LP which I have here in Budapest in my collection forced itself into my head, Wordsworth might have written, “She flashed upon that inward eye”, and all the memories of me watching her singing the national anthem on the balcony of Svobodné Slovo on November 23rd 1989 in Prague came flooding back to me.

That cold November night after getting the train from Olomouc and immediately walking out of Hlávni Nádraži hearing all the crowds in Václavské Námēstí. It was a magical moment when I finally felt, after a tense week, that Soviet tanks were not going to intervene again.  Two days before Marta had sung “Modlitba pro Martu” for the first time in public since the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia on August 21st 1968. Hey Jude was the first song on side 1 of that 1990 album “Songy a Balady”

Hej Jude, co dá ti pláč,
oči pálí a slzy zebou.
Víc nemá, jen malý poslední dar,
znáš písniček pár, ty půjdou s tebou.

Hej Jude, že má tě rád,
to se v písních tak snadno zpívá.
Na rubu všech písní, kde končí rým,
tam prý leží stín, který nám zbývá.

Svět je krásnej, svět je zlej,
hej Jude, věř v něj,
do vínku nám dal víc ran a boulí.
A do těch ran ti sype sůl a láme hůl,
tak vládne nám svět,
tak s námi koulí.
Ne, ne, ne, ne, ne, ne, ne, ne, ne!

Sarah Mercer was right, we need to savour memories more for our own well-being as well as getting students to do the same to learn English. And the “Backwards” certainly helped us to do that late Saturday afternoon March 23rd in Brno. And looking forwards too………to the next P.A.R.K conference in March or April 2025.

What an afterparty! I can’t remember an end of conference event like it, and I’ve been to a few over the years. THANK YOU! It was good to be a part of it and thanks for inviting me again. As I was on the train back to Budapest I wrote this to Karla.

What a celebratory end to the conference Karla...the Beatles are one of England's national treasurse and a source of inspiration, fun, hope and happiness to a generation of teachers of English in Central Europe who were brought up on their songs and who inspired people to learn English and for those old enough to know pre-1989 Czechoslovakia, they represented a kind of freedom too, I think. It was a fantastic choice to celebrate P,A.R.K's 30th conference. I'd like to write something for Roman and David about it and it would be good to include the voices of some of the teachers who were there for the after party including your own.

My friend Rajendra Chitnis who teaches Czech at Oxford University now and whose father and my father were best friends at Birmingham University between 1960 and 1963 wrote this. Co-incidentally we both worked at the Fast Track teacher training college in Olomouc between 1994 and 1996.

We always hear about the universality of the Beatles: the variety in their music, the experiences they sing about (not just love, but family/community, ageing, loneliness/solitude, dreams etc etc), the idea that four very ordinary men could become something so extraordinary and yet remain mostly quite ordinary, down to earth.

I think their popularity in the Eastern bloc reflects that. The idea of a common human experience beyond political division. And I wonder whether your teachers are expressing a nostalgia for that sense of a shared human experience, those melodic English voices penetrating the Iron Curtain, which they can just about remember and/or relate to.

I agree with Rajendra, I think in these populist times that we live in today what the Beatles represent can give us hope and happiness and joy and as teachers in English classes teaching young people by bringing Beatles songs into the classroom can be much more than teaching listening comprehension and pronunciation. It can also be a vision of a society with humanistic values which I am sure Václav Havel would have been writing about and talking about if he was still alive today.



All my loving with love from me, M.A.R.K. to P.A.R.K.


PS And back in Spain now, Dave Spencer reflected on his “Backwards” experience. He also noticed them doing “the classic mock Scouse accent between songs at the start. ”

“The whole of this conference felt like a trip down memory lane for me, not having been to the PARK Conference for eight whole years. Webinars and online conferences are a great thing, but there’s nothing like seeing teachers all together, smiling, laughing, sharing experiences and ideas…. and singing and dancing to The Beatles! Finishing the conference with The Beatles tribute band was a masterstroke, the ultimate trip down memory lane for everyone, the closest thing to be back at the Cavern Club in my native Liverpool! And now I’m sure everyone is already waiting for the next PARK Conference. Long may they continue!”

 Dave Spencer, Monday 25th March 2024. The night of the full worm moon.


The Beatles Revival Band V Anglickom Liverpoole sme mali tú česť dostať sa do legendárneho Cavern clubu nielen ako hostia, ale aj ako kapela, ktorá tam hrala. Vystupovali sme na tom istom mieste a na tom istom pódiu, kde začínali aj The Beatles. Televízny štáb tam nakrútil aj veľa zaujímavých reakcií ľudí v publiku. Pozrite si to a zažite spolu s nami tú úžasnú atmosféru...

Mark Andrews

Mark Andrews is a freelance teacher trainer. He has been working Central Europe for 40 years.

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