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Travel: Venice’s old masters

Regulars | November issue

In the Sixties, a Kent teacher set up one of the world’s finest cultural education experiences, a crash course in civilisation. He now runs it with his son. Charlotte Metcalf meets them

In late January, a group of some thirty-five young people from around the world will gather in Venice. It will be the fifty-third year of the residential John Hall Venice Course, offering daily lectures on everything from art and architecture to global politics and the Middle East.  The course has been described as ‘a crash course in world civilisation’. One parent has talked of sending off a grumpy, grunting adolescent and getting back a cultured, opinionated, articulate young man.  John Hall, who chucked in a career as a schoolteacher in Kent to found the course, is now eighty-five. Like his course, he is old but thriving. Charlie, John’s son (a fledgling oldie himself at fifty-seven) now mainly runs the course. John is still there for the duration, though he doesn’t do presentations any more because he forgets his words. ‘I have to use little triggers to remind me of the...

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