The referendum, rock & roll and relativity – NWR Conference 2016

The conference this year was full of interest, lively conversation and fun! Fortunately, my journey to Brighton was considerably less traumatic than some, due to ongoing industrial action and flash flooding in London.

Friday morning began at The Keep – the centre for the collections of the East Sussex Records Office and the University. This fascinating tour introduced us to some intriguing women who took part in the Mass Observation programme in the 1930s and 40s and has prompted me to begin researching my own family tree. Records detailing the style and colour of ‘day dresses’ worn by women at tea dances, as well as transcripts of overheard conversations between couples had me spellbound. It was absolutely fascinating!

The afternoon brought me back to the University and a tour of the architectural features of Sir Basil Spence’s 1960s brutalist vision – once hated, but now listed by English Heritage as the first 60s buildings to be granted protected status. We visited the striking ‘Meeting House’ with its bold stained glass and circular footprint, now used as a chapel for all denominations and a quiet space for students and staff. Then we visited Falmer House, at present undergoing major restoration work which is proving to be a real headache as it is now Grade I listed. Spence’s ideas were quite innovative at the time, as he wanted to see a social space for learning rather than just an academic environment full of libraries. It was a very engaging walk and talk.

Boogieing the night away

Conference dinner on Friday night was great. I got to meet up with some old friends and made a new one on the dance floor. It’s not often that I can say that at an NWR event! The Ladies That Boogie entertained us royally with their polished renditions of classic and contemporary songs and the floor was full at the end of their set, not just lively-minded but lively-bodied too!

Gripping talk from Chief Constable Pinkney

Olivia Pinkney, the new Chief Constable of Hampshire Constabulary kicked off the conference on Saturday with quite a hard-hitting talk about her perception of policing in the 21st century and how protecting the most vulnerable and reducing offending has to be the focus of forces in the future. I was struck by her humanity and passion for the job and was left hoping that all members of police forces across the country would take heed of what she is saying.

Crime novels and policing

Peter James, author and raconteur, encouraged us to look at policing in quite a different way and inspired me to try another of his crime novels. How many ways can someone die?

Honing into stillness

After lunch, I’d chosen the mindfulness workshop from the very diverse list of topics provided for us by the conference committee. Sandra showed us that a couple of very simple techniques have the power to change your health and wellbeing in profound ways and we all came away feeling a little bit calmer and more in control. 

A musical treat to end the day

And the pièce de résistance was Relative Motion’s musical production The Theory of Relativity! Wow! What a fantastic ending to a really enjoyable day. They had us crying with their melancholy songs, nodding at their astute observations and laughing at their witty observations on life. A standing ovation was well deserved; thanks, guys. 

It was such a busy, full-on day that three of us had to find a bottle of Prosecco and some olives to wind down at the end of conference. Brighton has some smashing restaurants and bars and we had a most enjoyable evening just soaking up the atmosphere and pretending to be footloose and fancy-free again! Brighton, we’ll be back!

Thanks to all the committee, your hard work was appreciated by at least one delegate. And I enjoyed it so much,  I’ve already booked accommodation for next year!

Linden Quinlan | NWR Pickering and District

Be sure to read Relatively Speaking conference round-up and see the conference in pictures.