With our annual
Conference fast approaching we’ve invited Jan Jones along to tell us about the
hard work that goes on behind the scenes that makes our weekend so enjoyable.
Welcome Jan. How do you source venues and
how far ahead do you have to book?
We like to venue hop around the country to keep travelling distances
fair for our different regional members. We start by identifying a couple of regions
that we’d like to look at next, then we go to the Academic Venue Show in May to
talk to the University Conference departments in the relevant areas. If we find
any places suitable to our requirements, we go on a site visit to see what they
are like in the flesh (so to speak). It would be impossible to commit to a site
without actually having been there – sometimes several times – to walk the
routes, check out the facilities, meet the conference liaison team, taste the
food etc. We do the best we can to keep the conference affordable for our
members, many of whom do not make a vast amount from their writing. I wouldn’t
dream of asking them to commit a substantial sum of money to a venue where I
hadn’t personally checked that everything was as good as it could be.

How many helpers do you have leading up
to the event?
Previously, Roger Sanderson and I have done everything. We still visit
the venues, liaise with the conference departments there and look after the
delegate management. Jenny Barden now organises the programme and coordinates
the whole conference and Elaine Everest will deal with the industry

Do speakers volunteer or do you have to
approach them?
A mixture of both. In general they volunteer. Often they are asked.

We’ve had some fab goody bags in the past. How do
you source the content?

We don’t! Apart from asking any publishers taking part in the conference
if they have any books to spare, we put out a general call – and are then
inundated with material. A very satisfactory arrangement. I bring the items up
in my car and then the Friday morning of the conference is spent dragooning
everyone within range into a vast assembly line filling the bags.

Are you any good at delegating or do
you take too much upon yourself?
I’m hopeless. Jenny Barden is far better.

Food is an important part of any conference. How do
you deal with that aspect? We loved the choice for the Gala Dinner last year.
We try the food on the site visits, discuss menus with the conference
department (if possible – sometimes the only options are “chef’s
choice”), and choose the gala dinner menu from what is offered to us.

After initial planning when does it become a full
on job?
It is an ongoing process – sometimes an hour or two a day, sometimes an
intense burst of activity for a week or two. It gets very fraught at the end of
May when the conference packs are being assembled, and then afterwards when
people’s choices of sessions come in. Certainly in the two or three weeks
before the conference itself I don’t get any writing of my own done.

Do you book a holiday after the conference to
No. I write.

If anyone wishes to volunteer either before the
event or during the weekend of the conference can they contact you?
Yes, please!

Where are we in 2015?
Next year’s conference takes place at Queen Mary, University of London,
on the Mile End Road in London. It is a compact site alongside the Regent’s
Canal, two stops down the Central Line from Liverpool Street Station. The dates
are 10th-12th July 2015.
Thank you, Jan.

Find details
on how to book your place on this year’s conference at Harper Adams
University, Newport, Shropshire. 11th – 13th July.
This was brought to you by the blogging team of Elaine Everest and
Natalie Kleinman. If you would like to contribute an article to this blog
contact us on elaineeverest@aol.com
  1. Author
    Laura E. James 4 years ago

    What a fab insight into the weekends. Thank you, Jan and everyone on the organising committee for what is a highlight of my year. Looking forward to seeing you all soon. x

  2. Author
    Georgia Hill 4 years ago

    Reading this makes you realize just how much work goes into organizing the conference. It's one of the high-lghts of my year too. To everyone who is involved in making it happen every year – huge thanks!

    See everyone in July!

  3. Author
    Jan Jones 4 years ago

    It's a pleasure! Looking forward to seeing everyone at Harper Adams in July!

  4. Author
    Lyn McCulloch 4 years ago

    Oooh, London again next year. Maybe I'll make it. It's been a while and I really miss it. Such a wonderful weekend. xx

  5. Author
    Jan Jones 4 years ago

    That would be lovely, Lyn!

  6. Author
    Michael Weathers 3 years ago

    I also found this kind of venue in conference venues Mercure Perth and it was really great to held a big meeting on this kind of place.

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