Badges, Pikachu and other Conference Musings

I am currently in what passes for a lull between the Guild of One-Name Studies’ Annual Conference and Who Do You Think You Are? Live, where I am being an ‘expert’, helping on stands and in the guise of Mistress Agnes, presenting. The best part of these events is of course meeting up with old friends, making new contacts and generally catching up on what is new in the genealogical world. All this comes hot on the heels of extended birthday celebrations, with 26 people staying and other day visitors. Wonderful of course and thank you everyone but hardly great preparation for a very hectic week.

First the Guild conference where somehow I ended up in an organising role, not sure how that happened! An initial problem was when the delegates’ badges mysteriously disappeared between the neighbouring county and my home, despite being posted, at huge expense, using guaranteed next day delivery. We set off for Birmingham minus the badges and our poor badge-making volunteer made a duplicate set and left home on an earlier train in order to get them to us on time. Once at the venue, it transpired that we were one of three conferences on site for the weekend. The Unitarian church were inconspicuous but it was immediately clear that we should be wearing furry ears or other outrageous garb in order to fit in with the UK Anime and Geek Culture Convention Kitacon Carnival (probably best not to ask) whose presence added a rather different dimension. Their event seemed to involve a great deal of posing for photographs and late night revelry. It is very hard to keep a straight face whilst speaking to Pikachou.

Having already replaced one of the speakers due to ill health, sadly another substitute was needed following a car accident. Trying to find alternatives for 25% of your conference speakers, especially when you have called in favours to create the programme in the first place, is not easy but wonderful people came forward and that was solved. So, grateful thanks to those who stepped in and best wishes to the incapacitated speakers. At 11pm on Friday night we ran the gauntlet of the audience escaping from an Adele concert and returned to the caravan. On returning to the venue at 7.30am the next day, we found that our registration desk, complete with conference packs and badges for our day delegates had disappeared into thin air. Frantic searching by the staff, including examining CCTV and raiding the bins failed to locate the material. In the end it took 24 hours to discover that the night staff had ‘helpfully’ donated our items to the Unitarians. You would have thought that the fact that the bags were emblazoned ‘Guild of One-Name Studies’ might have been sufficient clue as to which conference party the stuff belonged to but no.

The food was actually good but the first lunch, a buffet, was served without tables being made available. Buffet, in this instance, should not be translated as sausage rolls and sandwiches but a proper meal, with things like curry on offer. A tad tricky to consume whilst standing, especially for those with mobility problems. We solved this by moving to an adjoining room. In the end though, the two key conference elements, the presentations and the interaction with fellow delegates, scored highly, with several people saying it was one of the best programmes ever and there was a marked reluctance for people to leave the conference dinner table for over an hour after the meal had ended.

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