It is going to take me a little bit of time to process the MBS Conference of last week. I have never organized a wedding, but I am told that those involved in the planning are often ill-equipped to take stock of events. I suspect this might be the case.
I am clearly not alone in wondering what just happened. This blog post does not offer any commentary, reflection on the state of the field, discussion of the productive tensions that were on show about what it means to research, teach and talk about British Studies. Nor is it a review of specific papers, panels or ideas. We hope to do some of these things a bit later when everyone here has had a bit of a rest and a think. Actually this blog is a reiteration of our invitation for others join in and help us grapple with the end of the conference.
The scraps of Twitter conversations I have seen suggest that enthusiasms present at the conference are taking people off in all sorts of directions. Hosting another huge conference in a year’s time might be a little too much for us to take on, but 2017 could be possible if people are up for it. Taking the discussions out of Birmingham to other campuses, learning spaces, and public forums seems hugely exciting. We are happy to facilitate these where we can, would love to be involved, but we do not want to own these and, of course, we remain a centre with no budget.
The PGs involved from and beyond Birmingham, in particular, have been quite beautifully using the platform they have been given to re-imagine their role in conferences, the University and MBS. Good.
The Twitter record of the conference is amazing (#mbs2015), but difficult to preserve and capture. Thanks to Lauren Piko, who has been unbelievably charitable in ‘storifying’ conference panels, we have a record of parts of the event. Having conversations on Twitter brought energy, buzz and critical engagement (within character limitations), but leaving them there risks making things a touch fleeting and ephemeral, so we hoped to make some of these a bit more permanent through the blog. I do not think I am alone in seeing this as an opportunity to have an honest discussion on the field and the nature of academic work. Let’s try and make the most of it.
All academic work is a collective endeavour, all scholarship is collaborative. Because of this, our existing research networks and friendly and supportive academic communities will always remain vital, but it is important that we continue to keep these in dialogue with others.
In the first instance then, I want to reiterate our invitation to anyone who would like to write a blog in response to the conference to do so. If you write it, we will post it (some minor caveats aside!). We are happy to take individual or collective posts; feel free to be as creative as you like. If people would like to make other responses or have any questions, just get in touch. See our MBS Conference Blogging Info for more information.
And finally, I want to thank all of my colleagues at MBS Birmingham for being uniformly fantastic. I have asked a lot of favours over the past few weeks and everyone had been hugely helpful and supportive. The tasks they have taken on have been many and varied, but always massively appreciated. Volunteering to chair sessions with unfamiliar academics, running a hugely interesting postgraduate workshop which set the tone for proceedings, sticking conference programmes in packs, turning offices into storage huts, running microphones around big lecture halls, responding to keynote lectures, helping to kick out a University clearing meeting that had started in one of the seminar rooms, filming lectures, manning the reception desk when keynotes were happening, being good company over lunch and dinners, driving to a large wholesaler to pick up bulk quantities of water prior to events, driving to a local supermarket to pick up more quantities of water, phoning the caterers to half the coffee and increase the quantities of water…. Thank you all, you are all brilliant.
Although saying that, Daisy Payling is especially amazing.
Perhaps it is just because I have lived with the Conference for over a year, perhaps it was because one of my co-organizers was sleeping on the futon in my spare room meaning that all conversations turned to the conference over the three days, perhaps it is because its diffusion into social media meant the conference became a seemingly perpetual event, one I was literally carrying in my pocket on my phone, but one of the things that seems striking is so many of us seem to have really felt this event and how many have been able to articulate their feelings. I am not sure what this means yet, but perhaps you can all help us figure it out?