The Conference T-shirt + some brooches made by Adam.
It’s been more than two weeks since the ‘Viking World: Diversity and Change’ conference ended and it’s still not all out of my system. That’s how wonderful a job Professor Judith Jesch and Associate Professor Christina Lee did. This was the first ever (almost) week-long conference I ever attended and I must say, it was quite the experience. As soon as I heard about it, back in February or March, I asked Dr. Lee if there was any possibility of helping out in exchange for attending the conference. As a Viking & Anglo-Saxon Studies MA-student, I realised that this was huge opportunity for me, as it would hopefully help me make connections and learn new elements about my field of studies. As it turned out, I got way more than I expected, with new friends made and new areas of research to explore.
Our week started off with preparing the venue for the 110+ people that would be flooding in from Sunday onwards. We had to set up tables for different people selling their products. Adam Parsons from Blueaxe Reproductions would be there selling all kinds of Viking and Anglo-Saxon jewellery replicas, drinking horns, wooden swords and shields, and he was available for all kinds of practical questions. Dr. Dayanna Knight, former student of the University of Nottingham and designer of the logo for the conference would be selling original paintings and prints of her work, as well as promoting her new project, a historically accurate Viking themed colouring book. Then there was a table with books sold by our own CSVA, sold by me, and a table with books provided by the VSNR which could be ordered. Blackwell’s also made an appearance with books by a couple of writers who would visit the conference, and the Institute for Place-Name Studies had their own sales-table as well.
The conference officially started on Monday and guest started to trickle in from about half eight onwards. Coffee and tea were ready and at 9 the first papers of the day started. The programme was very varied and wide-ranging. Topics ranged from in-depth discussion of a singular word found in a poem to the purpose of sitting and standing in sagas, and from slaves found in Viking graves to the manufacturing of tar. The speakers were possibly even more diverse than the topics, with visitors from all continents. After each session coffee and tea was ready and questions were asked in abundance. At the end of the day there was a Writer’s Round Table, with James Aitcheson, Justin Hill, Helen Hollick and Victoria Whitworth ready to answer all the questions we had about writing and researching historical (Viking) novels. During dinner the match between Iceland and England was projected on a big screen, and many of the delegates cheered their respective teams on.
Tuesday was fairly similar to Monday, with lovely and interesting papers, and a broad spectrum of topics. In the evening, shortly after dinner (an excellent carvery), Sarah Weldon told us all about her Oceans Project and the ‘Great British Viking Quest’. It involved the explanation of new technology and how it could be used to make lessons at school more interesting and interactive.
Wednesday was a short day for most of the volunteers and part of the delegates. The day started off with new papers, but around lunch a big group of delegates left the conference for a trip to Lincoln. Even though it was a very rainy day, the trip was highly successful, ending with a dinner at Lincoln Cathedral.
Thursday included papers on evidence of the Vikings traveling even further than formerly assumed and made us realise that we need to broaden our horizons. The day ended with a splendid BBQ in Lancaster Hall, and the many different conversations being held proved that everyone was enjoying themselves immensely. And of course the match between Portugal and Poland had to be watched.
Friday deserves some special attention, because it ended with a bang. After a long day of yet another stream of very interesting papers, it was time for the conference dinner. The Senate Chamber was decked out with round tables, the table cloths covered in sparkly stars, and flags representing all the countries of the delegates, as well as mini flags on the tables, decorated the room. Dinner was absolutely fantastic, the catering did such a wonderful job (not only that evening, the whole week was amazing). Laughter filled the room as people were obviously enjoying themselves, and some tears were shed when the appropriate people were called to the front for a thank-you. After the lovely food we were directed upstairs, to the Great Hall, where a Ceilidh band was ready to provide us with live music all evening. All the guest were led into dance and instructed on how to properly swing or promenade.
Saturday, the last day of the conference, was attended by fewer people than the rest of the week, because many delegates had already had to leave. This did not, however, make the day less interesting or informative. The last delegates to read their papers did so with as much energy as the first ones on Monday, and the day ended with many people being thanked for their hard work, their interesting research, and their ability to make the last day as successful as the first.
As for me, I had one of the best weeks I have had since moving to Nottingham. I quite possibly learned more in this week than I could have ever learned on my own in a year and I would like to thank everyone helping out to make this week so perfect. And of course my special thanks go out to Judith and Christina, who did a wonderful, amazing job of organising the conference, with the help of Rebecca Peck and Tracy-Ann Stead. Lastly, I want to thank my fellow volunteers, Grace Fairbairn, Lexie O’Neill, Jake McGrath, Cal Holderness and Briony Newbold, who stood by me through all this. I don’t think anyone could have predicted the massive success of this amazing conference.
Knut and Emma, made by our author
Dieuwke la Roi is a Masters student studying MA Vikings and Anglo-Saxon Studies at the University of Nottingham.