Conferences are great crack. As a writer working alone, they give me an excuse to break out of my four walls and re-acquaint myself with my fellow human beings. I also get grub, swag and a legitimate excuse to party. But I don’t just attend conferences for the crack. I attend them to remind myself that the work I’m doing is worthwhile and to connect with forces bigger than myself.
Last week, I attended the Creative Connections conference in Galway, a known party town (though an early start prevented me from availing much of that). This conference was organised by Arts and Disability Ireland, the main advocacy organisation for artists with a disability in Ireland, and for arts organisations that work with artists who have a disability. The conference aimed to bring these people together and explore ideas. As a visually impaired writer, I reckoned the conference would be a good fit.
Aside from being a stimulating, efficiently run conference, I found it beneficial in three important ways.
The conference gave me a chance to listen to speakers who were leaders in their field, including bloggers, curators, comedians and policy makers. Among the delegates, there was also plenty of talent. Being on my own meant I had no choice but to march up and start conversations with people and that’s exactly what I did. I made particular connections with Mary Hartney of Spoken Dance, an integrated dance company, and Louise Footte, organiser of the Perceptions exhibit in Cork.
Access to Information
Though I have been giving creative writing classes for a few years, it’s been on an ad-hoc basis, and the best way to take my practise to a new level is to collaborate on a project with a bigger organisation. I wanted to find out what kind of projects other people did and how they approached them. As yet, I have a little bit of work to do to figure out how I can fit with a bigger organisation’s plans, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.
It’s easy to get jaded when you’re looking at those four walls. Conferences give you an extra bit of jizz, connecting you with why you want to do this work in the first place. From listening to the speakers, I noted down a few ideas that I can develop. For example, there aren’t that many specific disability projects in the area where I live, but I do know people who work with people with disabilities in the area, so I can connect with them. Also, there is scope for greater involvement of people with disabilities in literature. The idea of people with disabilities publishing their own work, as I did, is a very gratifying thought.
Do you go to conferences? How do you feel they benefit you in your work?