Last weekend, on July 1st and 2nd, I attended my first ever Great Writing conference at the Imperial College in London. This was the 20th anniversary of this event, and I found out about it late last year, so I am a tad behind. But better late than never.
The fact that it was in London was a massive plus point for me. Conferences, especially due to hotel bills, can become very expensive. Especially as I don’t have a university behind me, footing the bill. So it was great to just attend the full conference, but still, be able to go home in the evenings without much hassle.
So about the conference:
In a nutshell, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Arrived at 8:30 am on Saturday morning to register, and then after the 9 am introduction, the conference was in full flow, with multiple streams of panels running at the same time. As is always the case with these events, it’s difficult to choose because there is so much interesting material.
It’s also about people. Sometimes you go to panels because you are familiar with someone’s work, or they are your friends or good acquaintance. Sometimes you just happen to get chatting to people at the conference and go to their sessions to support, as well as learn more about them.
My panel selections were a combination of all of the above.
On Saturday, I attended panels that included topics as wide-ranging as a permaculture travel memoir, finding an authentic voice, writing and performing identity, transmedia storytelling, a paper on the interplay of text and images in a contemporary essay, as well as exploration of real-world choices in the movie Arrival.
I chaired a session of three panels, which were:
The Teacher-Effect: Poets who took, borrowed and stole from teachers of influence by Jen Webb
Articulate Walls: Writer’s Block and the Academic Creative Practitioner by Marshall Moore
Teaching the Wisdom of Uncertainty by Karen Stevens.
My three presenters were from different countries, bringing in different perspectives. That’s one of the most fascinating things about an international conference, that you do get a true mix of people, and a range of perspectives. There were people there from the UK, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Northern Ireland…and these are just the people I spoke to. But even that covers the considerable geographical ground.
On Sunday, I took advantage of living in London and made my leisurely way, joining from 10:30 onward. One of the first sessions of panels I attended was one that created a bit of a discussion, because it included a paper on Writing about Sex, by Malachi O’ Doherty, a journalist and a writer from Belfast.
After lunch, I presented my paper, “Miss You’ve A White Name” which was well received, and also got me into some wonderful discussions, including an issue of cultural appropriation and I ended up making new acquaintances.
After more chats, and more thoughtful presentations, and closing brief by Professor Graeme Harper who organises the conference, the 20th Great Writing Conference officially came to an end. Some people would stay on to go to the pub. I chose to make my way home, talking to one of the other attendees at the conference, as we made our way to the tube station by walking through the gorgeous Kensington Palace Gardens on a beautiful, sunny day in London.
It was the perfect end to what had been a quite stimulating weekend.
I am already looking forward to attending the Great Writing Conference next year.