By Vincent Obia
The last time we had an in-person PGR Studio conference was 2019. Ever since then, we have had online conferences, which though useful, were not as fun as seeing people face-to-face. Once restrictions were lifted, we knew this was our chance to organise an event that would give PGRs the chance to share their research in a supportive environment.
Then came May, and no one had taken the initiative. It was clear to me that if we were to hold the conference in July – the usual month for it – we were late to the game. I sent out a call to see who would be willing to join the conference organising team. A few PGRs responded – Yasmin, Hannah, Jacob, Yaohan, and Aidan. We were later joined by faculty member Sian Hindle, who guided us through the process. We now had a steering group for the conference.
Meetings came and went. We settled on 28 October 2022 as the conference date; a venue had to be booked; catering had to be provided for; communications had to be sorted; and potential IT issues had to be taken care of. There was a conference programme to design, a keynote speaker to invite, panel chairs to assign, abstracts to sift through, and exhibitions to accommodate.
At some point, I almost wished we had gone with an online conference, where our major problems would be limited to Zoom technicalities. Indeed, there are things involved in organising an in-person conference I never anticipated. Think of catering for instance. We had to consider what food to order and make provision for halal and vegan options. Should we pay for bottled water and how would that affect our overall budget? In the end, we asked participants to bring their own bottles and use the water fountain by the corridor.
Still, it was all worth it. The exhilaration of meeting and engaging with people face-to-face like we used to was great. We were finally able to share our work in-person and receive feedback from people without having to tell them to unmute themselves or endure the background distractions of virtual meetings. This was important for us. We needed to reconnect and bond like normal people, and organising the conference to make this possible was a goal that we proudly achieved.
So, all was set for the day. The venue was Curzon 501-3. There were early morning showers. But we had prepared for months and were ready to go.
We had a total of 14 presentations (find the conference schedule here), which collectively offered a sample of PGR scholarship from across a wide array of disciplines. This was our aim from the start: we wanted to be able to accommodate the broad spectrum of work in ADM and beyond. This was why, for the first time in the history of the PGR Studio conference, we threw the doors open to participation from colleagues outside ADM. We were glad that a few people responded from HELS and BLSS, and indeed from abroad. It demonstrates the potential that we have to build communities across borders as we break cultural and institutional barriers.
See pictures from the conference: