Midterm Conference 2016: Reviewed

by Maddy Thompson (Newcastle University), PGF Mid-Term Local Organising Committee

On 17-18 March Newcastle University hosted the annual RGS-IBG Postgraduate Forum Mid-Term Conference. The event welcomed over 110 geographers and like-minded postgraduates from 39 different institutions, from as far afield as New South Wales, Australia.

With 27 paper sessions, and 11 posters this is probably one of the largest postgraduate geography conferences ever held in the UK, and the largest convened by the Postgraduate Forum. Papers and posters covered diverse themes from all corners of geography, and it was great to get a glimpse of the new and innovative research which will be at the forefront of the discipline in the next few years. The sessions highlighted the inherently interdisciplinary nature of geography, whilst also emphasising the importance of geographers in helping to tackle the world’s problems from a spatial perspective.

We discussed the social impacts of the last World Cup; globalisation; austerity; migration and xenophobia; FGM; education; biosecurity; sustainability; energy conflicts and activism in the Global South; disasters and vulnerability; commuting and clean transport; climate change; food banks; adolescent drug use; apprenticeships; health care; financialisation processes; place branding; housing issues; public sector innovation; and gentrification.

We also learnt about advertising practices; tourist experiences; Cecil Rhodes’ visions of Empire; how to best maintain historical building stones; and even sustainable cheese! We had a jam-packed session on methodological approaches, as well as an interesting insight into the future of mobile digital mapping.

Masters student James Todd from Durham University won the poster competition with his fascinating poster entitled ‘Atmospheres of safety: ‘Safe spaces’ as experienced by trans youth’. This was followed by runner-up Cornelia von Diepen, a PhD candidate from the University of Portsmouth who is researching smoking behaviours of adolescents in Wales.

We listened to a thought-provoking keynote from Newcastle’s Professor Anoop Nayak who discussed his current research on race and ethnicity. Dr Erin McClymont came from Durham University to share her personal stories of career development, and offered a stark reminder on the need for a feminist sensibility as she discussed her recent work in securing Athena SWAN status. Finally, Professor Peter Hopkins (Newcastle University) offered insights into the publishing process in geography drawing on his experiences as Managing Editor of Gender, Place & Culture.

Training workshops aimed at developing postgraduate skills were delivered by Dr Alison William, Professor Peter Hopkins and Dr Robin Humphrey (all Newcastle University) and Professor Cheryl McEwan (Durham University).

The conference was also a great opportunity for networking, and social events were held in the Town Wall, the Copthorne Hotel, and less formally in the Northern Stage. One of the highlights of the conference was definitely seeing 50 geographers showing off their moves to the Macarena.

Overall, the event was a huge success and the feedback has been exceptionally positive. The organisers at Newcastle would like to thank everyone for coming and making this such a fantastic event. It was also a great experience to present and chair in such a friendly and relaxed atmosphere – it made me realise that although we only meet together twice a year in such large numbers, that there is a strong community of postgraduate geographers, and not just a network.

We also have a special section of our ‘PhD Life Blog’ dedicated to the conference. These can be read here.