As I rest my weary traveller’s legs, it is with great pleasure that I can finally sit still and reflect on my experiences of what has been an interesting, fruitful and thoroughly enjoyable RGS-IBG Postgraduate Forum Mid-Term Conference in the stunning surroundings of Royal Holloway University.
Three sweltering days packed to the rafters with networking events, workshops, presentations and posters as well as great food and stimulating company. The conference provided a welcomed opportunity for postgraduate students to present and discuss new ideas in a relaxed, friendly environment.
With sessions covering topics including embodiment and politics; identity and the city; climate, politics and the environment; cultural multiplicities; therapeutic and precarious landscapes; more-than human geographies; innovative methods and geopolitics, and with international scholars from the Republic of Ireland, Russia, France, Italy and Singapore – the event provided a fertile atmosphere in which to learn about the growing diversity of approaches within and beyond our discipline.
Innovative workshops designed to enhance the skills of postgraduate students along with thought-provoking keynote speakers punctuated the three days. Professor David Gilbert from Royal Holloway spoke about suburban imaginations, arguing that we need different models and different ways of thinking. Journeying through the history of suburbia, Gilbert asked maybe we need to stop romanticising the urban? Professor Kavita Datta provided particularly useful information on academic publishing. Journeying through the importance and the title, key words and abstract when submitting papers, Datta explained how this enhances the discoverability of an article and impact factor of the journal. An insight into the processes through which editors are appointed were also discussed and the often hidden, backstage practices that keep academia afloat were shared.
I presented my own research on more-than representational theories and geographies of ageing in the session ‘Identity and the City’ chaired by Professor Phil Crang. Drawing on ethnographic research with older people in Manchester, UK, in my presentation, I foregrounded the more-than representational facets of the ageing process to offer a way of disrupting reductive narratives of ageing. I provided a broadly cultural, more-than representational frame through which to consider ageing research and argued that space must be created to foreground those less-tangible, ordinary aspects of experience which are often overlooked. Thought provoking questions were asked about intergenerational relationality and how my own positionality in the research process might affect research outcomes. I was asked to explain belonging, place and attachment from a more-than representational perspective, all useful points of view and perspectives to consider and which provided the opportunity for me to practice my delivery techniques and considerations of how I might adapt and tweak my presentation for the approaching RGS-IBG conference in Cardiff.
With cosy nooks, homely dining area and a beautiful beer garden, The Barley Mow pub on Endlefield Green hosted our conference meal. Warm, welcoming and well-deserved, the food was delicious and provided the idyll back-drop for further insightful conversations to unfold. Such a gathering of passionate geographers inevitably fuelled an energetic atmosphere for exciting discussion brimming with genuine enthusiasm for the discipline. Everyone got to know each other a little more through the discovery of aligned interests and experiences, in a relaxed, informal way.
A glass of wine in one hand, and a fork full of delicious flounder in the other, I spoke with one researcher based at Durham University, whose supervisors happened to be Ben Anderson and Paul Harrison, two scholars which I frequently reference in my work. I spoke to another researcher from the University of Bristol, the so-called ‘birth place’ of non-representational theories, who has since put me into contact with the ‘Historical and Cultural Research Group’ there.
I can’t leave this post without writing about the host University itself. Set in 135 acres of stunning parkland, Royal Holloway has to be one of the most beautiful university campuses in the UK. The exquisite grounds consist of the stunning founders building, surrounded by perfectly striped lawns, neat flower beds speckled with bluebells, daffodils and tulips and ancient wooded areas home to scampering squirrels and air filled with birdsong. One day, as I was walking to get a drink, I noticed a small building in a wooded area, the sign on the door read ‘examination in progress’ – could there be a more tranquil environment to study!?
With temperatures reaching a sweltering 28 degrees on the third day, I took the time after the conference to explore the area and visited the nearby Virginia Water and Windsor Gardens. Royal Holloway was a superb host to the event, a genuinely friendly place with a strong sense of community and authenticity.
Thanks to the organising committee and to the participatory geographies research group for awarding me with the bursary which allowed me to attend such a fantastic, well organised and informative event. Thank you and see you all next year!
Amy Barron, The University of Manchester