Previous Conferences

What it's really like

While our conferences have each had a main theme, they’ve all encompassed a wide variety of talks.

2008 The First Bristol Conference

The overall theme of our initial one-day conference was school stories, and it included talks on Victorian school stories, recent school stories and editing the Chalet School books. (The papers from this first conference were not printed.)

2010 The Second Bristol Conference

There was an emphasis on Guides because of the celebration of their Centenary, and talks included Pony Books, English language girls’ books in translation, Chalet School guides and camps, and Kitty Barne.

2012 The Third Bristol Conference

The main theme was careers, and talks included Ballet books, Joey Bettany’s character, Antonia Forest’s England, Noel Streatfeild’s middle children as well as Careers, Real and Fictional.

2014 The Fourth Bristol Conference

The main theme here was Locations, real and fictional, and topics included Malcolm Saville’s Shropshire, books set in Sussex, “Quests & Footsteps”, Musical performance in children’s books,  K M Peyton’s school stories,  Ransome & Beyond , European Schoolgirls in Children’s Literature during WWII , the 1914 Schoolgirl & Her Books,  Children’s Fiction of Dartmoor,  Real locations used in children’s fiction,  Ruritanian Landscapes,  and the Young Traveller series.

2016 The Fifth Bristol Conference

The main themes were Series Fiction and Hobbies. Talks included Edward Eager & Elfrida Vipont, the Series Fiction of Gene Kemp, The Penny series by Stephen Tring, The Bannermere Books of Geoffrey Trease, Amateur Dramatics at Home and at School, What were Schoolgirls Reading in 1916?, A Healthful Outdoor Hobby and Other Ideas from Girls’ AnnualsEJO Hobbies, and How Series Fiction Documents Societal Change.

2018 The Sixth Bristol Conference

The overall theme this year was War, in recognition of the Centenary of the end of World War I. Topics included the WWII stories of Noel Streatfeild, Passion vs Balance: The WWII Stories of Geoffrey Trease, The Twins Books of Lucy Fitch Perkins, Angela Brazil’s Wartime Books as Socio-historical Documents, Feisty Girls in C. Bernard Rutley, Authors’ experiences of Writing about War, Eric Linklater, War, and The Wind on the Moon, What were Schoolgirls reading in 1918?, the Anne Digby Mystery, What Can a Girl Do inWartime? The books of Rosemary Sutcliff, Wartime Aviatrixes, The Chalet School and Potter’s Wintertons series, and Entertaining Evacuees.

2022 The Seventh Bristol Conference

The main theme was Eccentrics, Misfits and Oddballs, and topics covered included Eccentric adults in children’s books, the books of Clare Mallory, “To eat or not to eat- where are the eating disorders hiding in 19th and 20th centuries girls’ fiction?”, What girls were reading in 1922, Encounters with Goblins, Prigs, Pedants and Princesses – the superiority complex in girls’ school stories, E.L. Konigsburg, Rita Coatts, The Girlsown Guide to Having It All, and Chalet School Misfits.

Find Out More

Get a feel for conferences past with these articles from previous delegates (see below). 

If you’d like to read our speaker’s talks, the Conference Papers from all of the Bristol Conferences so far are available to purchase.

Ros Bayley

Betula and Sally have really got the hang of this conference thing now! We met this time at Bristol University’s Wills Hall, so we were all together with residential blocks and conference rooms on our doorstep(s). Everything we needed was there and in easy reach.  Oh, and, of course, there’s a bar! So there’s a central meeting place where you can buy alcohol; just what every conference needs.

      The Staff were all helpful and friendly, (as were the delegates, obviously!) food and drink appeared every five minutes with no effort on our part – I love that when I’m on holiday, especially the cooked breakfast!

      Wills Hall has a lovely monastic cloistery feel about it, a special treat for us EJO fans. There are pleasant gardens to enjoy and if you are energetic the Downs are nearby. For the Harry Potter fans there was a Hogwarts-style refectory with long tables and benches, which was tragi-comic when we were all poshed up for the Saturday evening dinner and trying to climb onto the benches in our skirts without embarrassing ourselves!!

      The presentations were excellent, as always, and it was SO good to have many kindred spirits around you, some talking and amusing us from the front, others appreciative and chatty in the audience. If you wanted to join in, no-one was ignored or left out, if you just wanted to lie back and be entertained you were not bored for a minute. And if it all became too much you could retire to your room for a power nap and be back refreshed within minutes.

      The last event on Saturday was a concert by The Six in the chapel. It was wonderful, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one biting back tears listening to six angelic young lady voices singing a capella. Each song had some connection with our books.

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      Wills Hall has a sign up saying “Wills Hall, quiet please; talking here late at night disturbs the residents”. Somebody must have warned them we were coming; I think we probably talked ourselves hoarse. I met lots of new people and talked to lots of people whom I had previously admired from afar.

Kay Whalley

The Bristol Conference was wonderful, perfect and peerless. No detail left unorganised. The glorious honey-coloured buildings round the quadrangle – we’re in the old part, by choice, in spite of having 2 doors and 3 steps down to get to the loo in the middle of the night. These rooms have a certain rugged charm, solid oak everywhere, geared to men, we assume.

The Six concert on Saturday evening – what a pleasure to sit in the Chapel and listen to those pure voices. Ruth Gervis’ illustrations on the programme, rightly entitled “Children’s Books and a Spirit of Place” as we listen to Brittany, Greensleeves and Summer is Icumen in. The queue for their CD is long.  

The whole weekend was superb. Talking constantly to almost everybody one stood next to because, of course, we were all friends there, weren’t we? (Thank goodness everyone wears name badges!) The pleasure of listening to the very varied talks giving different perspectives and points of view on books we had read, we ought to read, and books we’ve read but just couldn’t remember. In between there’s tea, coffee, biscuits, superb food and plenty of it, an open bar (well, not before 10.00 a.m.) and books, all those books – children’s and adults’, and gorgeous crafts. How could one resist? And where else could you get a Prize Label translated from Welsh into English (thanks, Sera and Menna), and get details of flying to Vancouver via Reykjavik (thanks, Emma and Janice)? It’s impossible to thank Sally and Betula enough for the immense amount of work they’ve put into organising this Conference, but I will try.

Sally and Betula – thank you very much indeed!”