The origins of this conference stem back to the winter of 2010. We were all in the very early stages of our PhD – still a little wide-eyed and surprised to find ourselves here – and still a little uncertain whether or not we actually belonged. Our reading group had been meeting weekly for a few months. We talked about gender theory and feminist research methods. We talked about how our activism feminism did or didn’t fit with our work. We talked about hierarchies and wanting to do things our own way. We talked about finding our own voice. We laughed a LOT. We had some worry-filled conversations too. Sometimes we just shook our heads and nodded in solidarity – knowing that what someone else said was ‘so true’ – more true that we could have imagined. It was a surprise sometimes to find the experiences had such overlaps – that much of what we experienced was a variation on a theme. And if it wasn’t, it was so wonderful to have a space to share the diversity of our experiences without pretense – with the knowledge that you would be helped, respected and strengthened by the exchange.
It’s this kind of space that I hope we re-create. Having been along to the York Carnival and the Nottingham Symposium, it seems like there are a lot of us out there seeking that kind of open space. A space to share and to question – to learn and engage – to face conflict and find comfort and respect in the midst of that exchange. For me, the conference is a way to create new communities in which to have these conversations. The balance between workshops and presentations means that there are different spaces for people to engage with one another and different ways for our ideas to grow and develop. The art space we’re hoping to create should offer a space to think differently about research. I’ve found it incredibly useful to remember my creative self in my work – to accept that I have an impulse to visually map or sketch my thoughts – to accept that there are lots and lots of different ways of going about this work. I hope it will be a place for us to think about those different approaches – to share our stories – to learn from one another – and maybe even create some new ways of doings things together.