A report of Leeds International Medieval Congress, 2011:
I write this from London, where I have tiny yet cosy little room perched on the Strand. Just a stone’s throw from my building is the Waterloo Bridge with a magnificent view of the Thames, London Eye, and Houses of Parliament.
Arrived in the afternoon, heartened by how familiar the conference site was since I had been last year. I met up with Rebecca and we went out for a very nice dinner with our supervisor, the panelists, and moderators of the sessions Rebecca and I organised for the congress.
I presented my paper, ‘Fool’s Gold? The Permanence of Fairy Wealth and Fairy Mistresses’, as one of the first papers of the first sessions of the day. Our first session suffered from having an early time slot. It had an audience of only seven, but I was very pleased to see that the audience tripled for our second session. At lunch I happened to sit next to one of the members of the planning committee for the congress. While the others were ordering food he and I chatted about how to improve the first-time congress experience for postgraduates attending the congress. Though I didn’t mind that the audience for my paper was small, I was cheered that he had noticed my paper topic in the programme and asked how it went. He also said it had been very sensible of me to attend the congress the year before I was planning to present. More sessions in the afternoon: I attended sessions on medievalism and film and on medieval armour. The latter serendipitously discussed falchions, mentioning Sir Gowther. Afterward I went back to my room for a light dinner and knit while listening to the Six O’Clock News and Comedy time on Radio 4. Then a reception hosted by my university’s medieval institute, during which I surprised myself by staying past the scheduled two hours, and was shown off by both of my supervisors. It’s quite nice to be told that your supervisors are rather proud of you.
Day Two of sessions, and by lunchtime I was definitely getting tired. Even so, I surprised myself again by starting up conversations with the person I sat across from at breakfast (something I did the day before, also) and chatting with various people between sessions on falconry in French romances, women in Medieval Ireland, and the Bible and Middle English Romance. I rested a bit in the afternoon before going to an Important Meeting, which went very well. I chose to skip the apparently epic Leeds IMC dance because I chose not to be traumatised. Also, I was tired.
My final day at the conference. I had originally intended to visit the Royal Armouries Museum before catching my train to London in the afternoon, but I convinced a conference friend to skive off the morning sessions to go see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 instead. Unfortunately, it was not until we arrived at the theatre and picked up our tickets that we realised it was not, in fact, Friday, 15th of July. Disappointed, and bemused, we refunded our tickets and went to the Royal Armouries Museum after all. We were only interested in the medieval gallery and the gift shop, where I purchased a miniature knight on a magnificent black charger. Natalie kindly dropped me off at the rail station and I continued my travels. When I arrived in London, my first thought after getting settled in my room was dinner, specifically dinner at Wagamama’s. One must always go to Wagamama’s when one can. Oh yes.
Overall, it was a very good congress. I am elated that it was incredibly not like last year. I actually slept, meaning I didn’t have a migraine for four days. I was (am) confident in both my topic and myself and I initiated most of the conversations I had with people. Both my supervisors were there and were both verbally and visibly pleased with me. I made some very important contacts. This is what Leeds IMC is about — and I actually had fun, too. I might even come back next year.
Even though I am in London for both work and pleasure, I am on holiday and I am going to have fun. I have ten days to play in London. Yeah!