What it's really like
Get a feel for conferences past with these articles from previous delegates.
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.
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.
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!”