Found myself at the Battle of Ideas Institute of Ideas conference over the weekend. I have argued before that party political conferences seem increasingly out of step with modern times – a lock in for a big chunk of the week of preaching to the converted with set piece stagey bits and the main point of interest being new ideas generated at fringe meetings away from the cameras and the social/ networking type aspect. Those of us still with actual jobs to do can’t get away for their entire duration anyway.
The Institute of Ideas managed however to command an impressive turnout – they reckon some 2,000 over the 2 days – of people presumably attending voluntarily on a wet weekend. Despite their self style radical humanist/ libertarian bent there were some lefties there on the Saturday (possibly squishing in the AM before attending the march?) I bumped into ex Tribune editor Mark Seddon who was speaking on the Arab spring and heard David Lammy Tottenham MP on last year’s riots as well as sessions on social media, Europe, the music industry and racism in football. Phew!
With intense back-to-back sessions and no lunch break programmed networking was potentially limited, a little like party conferences although due to their corporate nature you can usually snaffle a vol-au-vent or two over a fringe meeting thanks to their sponsors. So a slightly exhausting experience even if it was all sedentary but a good one nonetheless with lots of food for thought in any case.
NB Two future dates for people who like these things/ are not too conferenced out in which I’ll be speaking myself: this Saturday at Goldsmiths College, University of London am doing on keynote at a day conference on popular music and on the 31st am speaking at a symposium on suburbia at the CPRE. Both are free as far as I know so sign up if you fancy it.