September 3, 2007, by Peter Kirwan

The British Shakespeare Association Conference

The what? Well, for the last six months I’ve been kept very busy co-organising the British Shakespeare Association’s 3rd conference, which was held at Warwick Uni this weekend. I’m somewhat knackered, but wanted to write a little bit about some of the stuff that came out of the conference, as it’s not entirely irrelevant to what happens on this blog!

Firstly, and most obviously, there was a panel discussion on ‘Blogging the Bard’, perhaps the first ever academic debate on blogging Shakespeare! The panel was convened by Andy Dickson of the Guardian and included myself, Natasha Tripney who writes the Interval Drinks blog and Pat Tatspaugh, who not only helped us with lots of the preparation for the conference and wrote a very helpful performance guide to The Winter’s Tale, but also took time out of her weekend to help me proofread my dissertation. What a legend!

We had a very interesting discussion, much of it concerned with the nature of theatre reviewing and the benefits and problems with blogging, some of which I covered in my last post. Andy and I recorded a podcast just afterwards which I’ll post up here when it comes up, as it should give a decent idea of what we spoke about. There were enough people to have a lively session and I got to speak to several people afterwards about what I’ve been writing, which was great as these conferences are all about meeting people when it comes down to it. It was nice to meet people who’ve been reading the blog as well- hi folks!

The highlight of the conference was undoubtedly Jonathan Bate and Stanley Wells going head-to-head in a debate about editing Shakespeare. Everyone was joking that it was going to be ‘The Big Fight’, but it was something of a surprise when it actually was, with various wags in the audience making catcalls! Best moment- Stanley Wells actually using the word “Cowardly” when describing Jonathan’s Folio-based approach. Miaow. I’m staying well out of it, but would like to note for the record that I do own both editions…..

Other than that it was lovely to meet so many people over the weekend, and being an organiser had its privileges, not least getting to chat to Simon Russell Beale and Oliver Ford Davies. Stanley Wells and Paul Edmondson were also wonderful dinner company (I’m not biased by Stanley buying our whole table wine, of course) and we also had the UK premiere of a new colour print of Asta Nielson’s wonderful film of Hamlet. I have to admit that by that time of night I was flagging, but lots of people turned up which was great!

I’m quite glad I won’t be organising any more big conferences for a while, as the workload has taken it out of me somewhat, but I had a great weekend regardless of various hiccups here and there. I have a day off tomorrow, having handed in my MA dissertation today (see next post!), and shall be seeing the RSC’s new Twelfth Night in the evening. Looking forward to it!

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