2009: Plymouth

Date: Saturday, 7 March 2009
Hosted by and located at: University of Plymouth’s School of Geography
A note from the organiser, Sally Murrall (Univ Plymouth)
What a great day! All in all, I think the whole event was very successful (although I would say that!). We had over 90 delegates from over 20 different universities, including international delegates from the USA, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Ireland and Italy.
There was a really lovely atmosphere generally, and people seemed genuinely happy to be there. In the exhibition hall there was a permanent hum, which I interpreted as people making new friends and having good conversations.
The real purpose of the event was to provide postgraduates with the experience of presenting their work in a relaxed atmosphere, to give them confidence to go on to more formal academic conferences. I received a lot of feedback. I was delighted at the number of people who were in fact first-time presenters, and they all had had a very positive experience. The feedback from the chairs was that the standard of presentations was extremely high and the diversity of research topics was incredible. The posters were also very good, clearly evident from the amount of activity which seemed to be going on around them.
Prof James Sidaway (Human Geography at Plymouth) kicked off the day with a funny and informative plenary on ‘getting published’. (His most memorable piece of advice – ‘love your editors’ – got quite a laugh, given that he’s an editor himself). In the second plenary, Dr Catherine Souch (RGS-IBG) explained the workings of the RGS-IBG, the specific opportunities it provides for researchers and, of course, the benefits of membership. (She did rather sweetly apologise for the shameless plug….but it’s okay, Catherine. At £27 for postgraduate student membership, it’s a bargain!)
Before lunch we held the Annual General Meeting and we were delighted with its outcome. There was considerable interest in all of the committee posts and there are no less than five competing hosts for next year’s midterm conference (don’t forget to take part in the on-line vote!).
At the end the day, to give everyone’s brain a rest, we experimented with some PhD-relevant workshops which, from what I gather, went really well – I certainly enjoyed mine. Throughout the event, everything ran relatively smoothly, apart from one of the presentation sessions which was so popular that 50 people crammed into a space for 30. The effects were quite amusing – people sharing chairs, sitting under desks and standing at all angles. The room was so packed that we couldn’t even open the door to ask them if they would like to change to another room. Thankfully everyone seemed well humoured about the whole thing. We also so had a small technical failure, yet some nimble minded presenters carried on regardless – the lack of PowerPoint was not going to stop them!
I won’t go into the events at the conference meal too much… Suffice to say there were plenty of lubricated conversations at the bar and unusual shapes being thrown on the dance floor! In summary, I met some lovely and brilliant people, and I am inspired that so many are at work in our discipline. Geography’s future is bright! And finally, a big thank you to everyone who attended. It really was the people who made the conference so special. Good luck in the future!
Best wishes, Sally Murrall, Lead Organiser of the 2009 PGF Midterm Conference