The Confederation of Scandinavian Societies turns 60

In Liverpool, on 8 October 1950, representatives of seven Anglo-Scandinavian societies from various parts of England met and agreed to work together. Sixty years later COSCAN, the offspring of that gestation, is celebrating a remarkable history and developing a new approach to the challenges of the 21st century.

The initial expansion was rapid. By 1963 the “Conference of Scandinavian Societies” had grown to include 22 societies from most corners of Britain and even Ireland.  Over the years they were joined by groups from Eastbourne to Inverness, from Belfast to Norwich, from universities where Scandinavian studies then featured on the curriculum. The Conference became a Confederation in 1968, and adopted its first constitution in 1970. Conferences were held at intervals of not more than 18 months at different places around the country, with a chairman (usually from the society organising the conference) who then served as president of the confederation until the next conference.

The focus of COSCAN and its member societies was essentially practical. The secretary fielded enquiries about Scandinavia from a wide range of individuals and organisations. Conferences discussed matters such as the availability of Scandinavian periodicals, ways of putting visitors from abroad in touch with appropriate local societies, and the creation of a common list of speakers on which individual societies could draw. In each area societies were urged to serve as focal points for the provision of support, social contact and good local advice. Two or more societies might join up to go on expeditions or attend study groups at a local university. A conference report in 1980 asserts that there was “plenty of gratifying evidence that COSCAN was to some quite notable extent revitalising societies and providing access to additional activities”. The five Nordic embassies in London were certainly impressed, and used the regular COSCAN newsletter as a vehicle for publicising forthcoming events and circulating information.

Times have changed and our structure is a little different - look at our website, and please do get in touch. The almost unlimited availability of information and home entertainment on the internet has brought a reduction in the appetite for joining local societies. But we all still need friends with a shared Scandinavian interest or heritage, evenings out and trips abroad, even guidance on how to find a way through the intricacies of British and Scandinavian bureaucracy - and not everybody can navigate the internet with ease. Sixty years on there is still a place for COSCAN. In 2010, as we celebrate our anniversary, we shall be looking forward as well as back.

Source: Mark Elliott (President of COSCAN)   |   Share on your network   |   print