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Loitering in Leeds
  1. C O’Mahony
  1. Countess of Chester Hospital, Chester CH2 1UL, UK; colm.omahonycoch.nhs.uk

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    “Is thee going in or staying out love?” “I’m not sure myself yet,” says I—surprised to be asked to make a decision so early on in the day. “Well, no loitering here love, let thee make thy mind up.” All I wanted to do was hover undecidedly at the back of the vast ornate lecture hall in Leeds Town Hall. I was only mildly interested in the topic about to be addressed and I needed thirty seconds or so to decide if the speaker had that certain ephemeral quality that makes the talk worth listening to. However, the calendar girls posted around the entrances were having none of it. Once the talk commenced the doors were bolted shut and that was it.

    On the face of it, that might seem like a good idea for conference organisers but, in reality, imprisoning an audience isn’t conducive to attentive listening. Look at the example of our European colleagues. At the last EADV in Prague, and indeed at the EADV Spring meeting, the audience could best be described as fluid. With parallel sessions happening all over the place, people would dip in and out of various symposia and workshops, maximising their time at the conference and also allowing some time for recovery and discourse with colleagues in the corridors and coffee areas. Easy access at the back and sensible seating layout meant that all seats were accessible without abseilling over the inevitable lone delegate sitting at the end of the row!

    So what’s the idea of a conference anyway? To educate and impart knowledge? Maybe—but for the likes of me working at the coal face in a district general hospital, the main purpose of attending a conference is to restore morale. I need my spirits uplifted and my enthusiasm rekindled. I get this by meeting colleagues and friends that I know are doing the same type of work as me, and we can all have a collective moan about how undervalued we are, and we feel all the better for this catharsis. The MSSVD Spring Conference does bring together a great number of like minded people, and most of the excitement and benefit of the conference comes not in the darkened lecture theatre, but in the corridors, pubs, and hotels of the conference venue. It is therefore critical that a good deal of time at a conference is set aside for networking, as opposed to formal structured lecturing. Some programmes are so full that a conference might just as well have been held in a motel off the M6, as opposed to a beautiful city like Leeds, for all you get to see of it.

    So roll on the beautiful Roman city of Bath and the first BASHH/ASTDA conference in May 2004. Let’s have late starts and early finishes, short sessions (parallel), and long breaks. Julius Caesar said “veni, vidi, vici,” so let’s hope there’s plenty of “vidi” time for the legions who descend on the Spring MM1V.

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