Conference Report, Derry 2013
Magee Campus, University of Ulster, 9-11 January, 2013
151 people registered via Eventbrite, most giving papers. 72 of these delegates also paid to attend the Gala dinner. A further 20 University of Ulster staff and students attended the conference who were helping with the conference. 6 UU people attended who were not helpers.
The programme and schedule with details and of all the speakers, times, locations and composition of panels is available online (http://www.arts.ulster.ac.uk/meccsa2013/). Because the hard copies of these had to be printed before Christmas there were several last minute changes which went up online after going to press, and which were printed out as Errata in the conference packs. Hopefully this was helpful.
We were pleased with the diversity of the topics, which did eventually come together in reasonably coherent subject panels, and we were also pleased with the international flavour of some of the contributions. The Space and Place theme was dealt with in a variety of imaginative ways, and there was a particularly strong series of panels about virtual space and online creativity, journalism and political activism.
Panels and plenaries
There were 7 panel strands (up from the originally planned 6 due to popular demand) and 5 panel timeslots throughout the three days. There were 7 plenary sessions, which included both single keynote speakers (John Hill, Bruce Brown) and plenary panels with more than one speaker. The keynotes also provided excellent diversity of content, we thought. At the organisations’ request, we fitted in special presentations from the BUFVC in the Research and Pedagogy plenary, and from the Carnegie Trust, prior to the Journalism plenary.
Events and screenings
Because the conference was part of the City of Culture programme, and received a great deal of practical and moral support from the Derry Visitor and Convention Bureau, we wanted to ensure that delegates had an opportunity to see some of the city. Hence we left time in the programme for people to sign up for tours of the walls, and visits to the museums. A majority of delegates did take advantage of this. A number of delegates wanted to show screenings of practice work – and we made sure that screening slots for material (which was of varied timings), were not scheduled against panels. We also provided options for multiple showings – the Nerve Centre arts complex in the city obligingly scheduled a number of screenings during the three days. For future reference, it would help conference planners if producers of practice work could provide advance flyers and/or posters for publicity purposes. Despite requests, we did not receive this, apart from one flyer from Brian Winston. We think we could have used the City of Culture publicity mechanisms to advertise screenings in the city and in the local media, with advance notice, but we did not have the information from producers to do this. So attendance at screenings was less than it could have been. This is a lesson for future organisers.
Venue, website and University support
The Venue, the Magee campus of the University, is not our own campus, and we want to place on record our appreciation of the support we got from the admin, catering, security and technical staff of this campus, and from the Provost Professor Deirdre Heenan. The University did not charge us for the use of the (very nice, we think) rooms in the Martha Magee building. We were also pleased that our Chancellor, James Nesbitt, was able to attend the reception at the Playhouse on the first night, and to participate in the discussion panel on regional film and TV. We had to pay to hire the Playhouse for the venue: the food and drink were paid for by the City Council.
Our conference website, http://www.arts.ulster.ac.uk/meccsa2013/ – designed by Adrian Hickey and Alan Hook, and managed by Rowan Morrey – was a major support in the successful administration and publicising of the conference – thanks to Einar Thorsen too, for backup on this. We owe considerable gratitude to Adrian and Rowan for their attendance throughout, and for their helpful and patient support of delegates through the three days. Adrian and Rowan also arranged to live-stream a number of the sessions and these can be seen at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/centre-for-media-research. The Facebook and Twitter pages facilitated the ‘buzz’ of interactivity that accompanied the event, and this continued for several following days. See http://www.arts.ulster.ac.uk/meccsa2013/tweets.php. Images and photographs can be seen at http://www.arts.ulster.ac.uk/meccsa2013/flickr.php
Our part-time freelance administrator, Zoe Reid, also gave valuable support. She was aided by a very patient and competent team of undergraduate and postgraduate students, who gave guidance to delegates and provided technical support in every room. We had a technical run through the day before the conference with these students and we would definitely recommend this dry run as a way of minimising headaches on the first day.
Derry City support
Finally, as mentioned, we had support from the Derry Visitor and Convention Bureau, especially Aoife Thomas, from the beginning of the planning process in summer 2011. They arranged for the City Council to host the reception in the Playhouse and helped with transport and hotel accommodation arrangements throughout. Our thanks to them too.
We used Eventbrite to handle all registrations and payments. This worked well, whilst also costing a percentage of the income in handling fees. Another slight challenge was the fact that the person paying for registration (e.g. School Administrators) was not always the same person who was giving a paper. Thus the record of names registered was not the same as the names who’d submitted abstracts. This required a fair bit of cross-checking to avoid inaccuracies in the programme schedule.