A meeting of minds

It must be admitted that conferences can often be rather dry and stilted affairs - but a highlight for me in July was the conference on St Benet’s Abbey (held at the Julian Centre at the University of East Anglia) which wasn't like that at all. 
There were a number of factors which made the conference special. Firstly it felt like the final piece of the jigsaw in the Conservation, Access and Community project, because it provided a platform to bring together all the current research, theories and ideas about the Abbey, much of which was either stimulated by the project, or brought to our attention through the project.
Secondly, it was a great example of local organisations working collaboratively. Tony Bradstreet of NAHRG (Norfolk Archaeological & Historical Research Group) organised the conference extremely efficiently, with funding and in-kind support from the Norfolk Archaeological Trust and the Centre of East Anglian Studies.
Thirdly, the event was made really engaging by the interaction and sharing of knowledge between the speakers; and between the speakers and the very well-informed audience – cross-referencing of information on phasing of the site, layout and iconography all came up, as well as ideas for future research. In this sense it was a true ‘confer-ence’ where participants had discussions and exchanged opinions.
Fourthly, it was encouraging to see the event so well attended – around 80 people. Both Dr Charles Rozier (Department of History, Durham University) and Dr Julian Luxford (School of Art History, University of St Andrews) were impressed by the local interest in history and archaeology demonstrated by the number of attendees and by the audience contribution to discussions.
And, perhaps there should also be a ‘fifthly’ about the food, which was very nice and definitely above average for this kind of event!
I'm looking forward to future collaborations...
News in brief
  • Sunday 7th August: The Friends of St Benet’s Abbey Mississippi Riverboat trip to the Abbey. A few tickets left for this trip on the occasion of the annual open-air service. To purchase tickets at £10.00 each, please email tfosba@gmail.com or ring 01692 631254
  • Wed 17th August ‘Reawakening the Ludham Dragon’ St Benet’s Abbey 10.00 – 15.00. Withy Arts will be on site finishing a temporary installation of a willow dragon sculpture made by the Barrington Farm artists. Visitors will have the opportunity to help finish the sculpture by making willow ‘scales’. See https://withyarts.org/blog/ for more information on the project.
  • Saturday September 10th: Burgh Castle Roman Fort: Life outside the walls Heritage Open Day 11.00-16.00: Roman cavalry horses, storytelling, live archaeological test-pits, guided tours, exhibitions and refreshments organised by the Trust in partnership with Historic England, Time & Tide Museum, Burgh Castle Parish Council and Parochial Church Council and ‘Life outside the walls’ volunteers. Free entry. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
  • Sunday September 11th: Caistor Roman Town guided tours for Heritage Open Days led by members of Caistor Roman Project. 11.00; 14.00 and 15.00. No pre-booking required. Meet in the shelter by the car park. 
  • Sunday 11th September. St Benet’s Abbey: Extra guided tours throughout the day for Heritage Open Days. No pre-booking required. Meet by the gatehouse/windmill
  • 2016-17 NNAS lecture programme now published – see http://www.nnas.info/lectures for details