Reflections on the conference

Conference organiser and English postgraduate student Pam Lock reports on a successful conference she convened with Francesca MacKenney at Bristol last month.

On 22 February 2014, 25 academics and postgraduate students met at Clifton Hill House, University of Bristol, for a one-day interdisciplinary conference on 'Public Drinking in the Nineteenth Century'. The conference was sponsored by the Centre for Romantic and Victorian Studies as part of a series of events to mark its launch. The event was subsidised by funding from the English Department, the Graduate School for Arts and Humanities and the Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS). I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for their help and encouragement together with the hard work and unstinting support of my supervisor, Sam Matthews.

13 papers were delivered across the day by both established academics and postgraduate students. The delegates were made up of approximately 50:50 academics and postgraduates. The group included representatives from Cultural Studies, Drama, English Literature, Geographical Humanities, History and History of Art. Delegates attended from across the UK, and one of the speakers was from Canada (Brock University, Ontario), adding an international element to the day.

The papers were inspiring and varied (see Appendix 1 for details of the programme). The high proportion of delegates from research areas connected with nineteenth-century alcohol studies made the question and answer sessions particularly stimulating and intense. Several delegates tweeted throughout the day. There were several 'watchers' who were unable to attend commenting on the conference content from elsewhere in the UK via Twitter using the hashtag #uobrisdrinkconf. There was encouraging talk of other delegates organising related events on the back of the conference.

Funding from the English Department and Graduate School of Arts and Humanities included an allowance for two student travel bursaries. Phil Mellows, a freelance journalist and writer specialising in the UK pub industry and alcohol policy, attended the conference and the Alcohol and Drugs Historical Society has expressed interest in creating a special edition of their journal The Social History of Alcohol and Drugs: An Interdisciplinary Journal (SHAD) containing a selection of the papers from the conference. For more information on the Society and the Journal (http://alcoholanddrugshistorysociety.org/).

Lastly, we have had some great reactions by e-mail:

'Great venue; lovely area (I had an interesting half hour in the cemetery), just right number of people, good papers, nice opportunities for discussion.'
'It was a great conference, the best organized and friendliest I've been to for some time.'
'Thanks for organising such a great conference. I really enjoyed myself, and have returned to writing with a welcome shot of enthusiasm.'
'The conference was fantastic - every single paper was a treat. A really great achievement on your part, I have to say.'

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