Thursday, August 31st 2006 : "A different kind of conference"
I was invited to St Hilda's by Kate Charles. We were in a bar and it seemed a good idea. 'The theme's "All in the family". We thought it would suit you,' she said.
I didn't realise then that work was involved. This wasn't the sort of conference where you turn up, sit on a panel and plug your own books. The speakers give a paper relating to the theme, there is thoughtful and intelligent discussion. It is, after all, set in an Oxford college.
I was on last. The worst possible slot just after Sunday lunch. So all weekend I had time to worry and get nervous. And yet I still had a wonderful time. Despite the rain Oxford is a lovely city and St Hilda's sits right on the river - the Sunday morning activity is a strange punting challenge organised by Gillian Linscott.
I tried to decide why I found the conference so relaxing. It should have been intimidating. I dropped out of university after the first year and the place was full of seriously bright people. The smooth organisation helped. Coffee was always ready when it was supposed to be, there were friendly undergraduates to show us to our rooms. All this was down, I think, to the magnificent Eileen. But it was more than that. It's a small and very friendly conference. People go out of their way to be kind to newcomers.
I was seduced by it and I'll definitely go back.
Posted by Ann at 12:35 PM GMT