A very overdue post, this one, finishing my conference season trilogy! This post is a little different, as I was very fortunate to not only participate in the conference, but to co-organise it too. This was my first attempt at organising a conference, and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone starting out on the academic road.
The Conference: “Femmes Créa(c)tives: The Life and Work of Francophone Women in the Arts and Media,” 13-14 June 2016, University of Exeter, UK. Organised by yours truly (!) along with my wonderful colleague, also a PhD student at Exeter. The conference started as a very low-key idea that gradually became larger until it was actually reality, and we were very fortunate to be able to organise such a successful event. The conference aimed to bring together scholars from a variety of disciplines to explore and celebrate the role of women in the arts and media from around the French-speaking world.
The Challenges: There are far too many to list here! Obviously the challenges that come from organising an event are different from those that come from participating in one, and I think the main challenges are always caused by other people! You can be as organised as you like, but in the end you can never be prepared for everything. Budgets constantly change, funding options vary, logistics and room bookings are always tricky (especially in a University!), and after all the organising you can’t guarantee even how many people are going to come. One of the most difficult thing for this conference was the size: it was quite a small, intimate event, but included some very well-established academics from all over the world, which made for animated, passionate discussion, as well as extra pressure, both for presenters and for us as organisers. Plus money-matters, of course. The conference was now over three months ago and we are still waiting for some financial elements to be finalised!
My Paper: I should start by saying that I was not, originally, supposed to be giving a paper at this conference; as organisers, we thought that we should probably not give ourselves too much to do in one go. However, as always, things change: attendees’ plans change, people get ill, get pulled into last-minute departmental panels, decide to go elsewhere, I could go on forever. We were particularly unlucky, with around half of our original attendees dropping out before the conference, and so we had to step up and present in order to avoid not filling the panels…! Therefore it was ever-so-slightly rushed and last minute. However, I did an adapted version of a paper I delivered last year, so it wasn’t too bad. My paper was entitled “Shine Bright Like a Diamond: Rihanna and the Transnational Experience of Girlhood in Sciamma’s Bande de filles (2014),” and discussed how artists included on soundtracks (in this case, Rihanna) can trigger memories or associations in a film spectator, thus inflecting meaning onto a film scene.
Responses: Again I had some good responses to my paper, with some nice comments and some suggestions for improvement, but we also had an incredible amount of good feedback about the organisation of the conference too. It really was so amazing to have well-established academics from Europe, America, Australia, and the UK praising our skills, especially as we had not done this before.
What I Learned: That advertising a conference is hard, even when you mass-post to lots of lists and websites; that sometimes, even when your budget and your receipts suggest that you have underspent by £60, you can actually have overspent by £100; that the Exeter Humanities Grad School team is incredible and offers the most amazing support; that saving a good amount of money for the wine reception is a very good idea; and that it will be a long time before I ever organise my own conference again.