Five Tips for… Organising a Conference

OneOne. Create a timetable

One of the best things we did in the lead up to the conference was create a to-do list and a timetable for completion. This really helped us to stay on track, and made sure we didn’t forget anything. There are a lot of things to keep in mind when organising a conference and having a well-planned schedule allowed us to stay on track making the whole process a little smoother.

Delegates at the NEBARSS conference

TwoTwo. Don’t worry if something goes wrong
No matter how organised you think you are, there will always be something you haven’t thought about. But it is Ok. Our delegates were a particularly amenable group, but really anyone will appreciate that there are little details that may go wrong (like the microphone in our case!) and that it is not the end of the world.

ThreeThree. Acquire some free pens: freebies mean everything!

Of course, they don’t, not really, but everyone appreciates a good

the NEBARSS conference pack
the NEBARSS conference pack

selection of items in their conference packs. It is also a very good way of making contacts within larger organisations and businesses, local or national. It is a good way of obtaining financial support for your conference. The earlier you start this process, the better. You are far more likely to get support if you ask in advance. Organisations often have deadlines for funding, so do your research. Some publishing companies are also really keen to hear what universities are up to. In fact, on account of this our conference report is being printed in ‘Past’, the Prehistoric Society magazine.

FourFour. Enjoy the day!

Even though there was a lot of work leading up to the day, and a lot of running around and frantic organising on the day itself, it pays off! Every one of our delegates came up to us at the end of the conference and thanked us for the day for organising it so well. This was of course so thoughtful, but well-received and valuable feedback which made it all worth it!

FiveFive. Don’t buy too many biscuits!

Incredulously, there is such a thing as too many biscuits! Don’t panic though, they are a welcome, if fleeting, addition to the office… That is until everyone blames you for tempting them.


Just a Minute with… Lauren Emslie

me1Lauren Emslie, 2nd year PhD student in classics, studying religion and theology in the late Roman republic. She is also currently chair of the PGF and organising AMPAH 2016.

She has a self-defined “slight social-media aversion” (although likes meeting people in person!), so it took a while, but we finally got her to sit down and answer a few questions for us…

1. How did you come to be interested in your current area of research? 

From a young age I was fascinated by ‘the Romans’. When I came to university I started learning Latin and from there fell in love with ancient literature.

2. What advice would you have for current UG or early stage PG students?

Keep reading!

3. Can you describe your research in three words?

Religion, Gods, and Cicero

4. What book are you currently reading?

The Secret History, by Donna Tartt

5. What is the most important life skill you learnt whilst being a PGR student?

When to use a backpack for your books.

6.  Do you have favourite hidden gems of Newcastle?

It may not be so secret, but the view down the river from the Free Trade Inn on any day is one of my favourites.

7. What is your favourite movie quote?

“For a special agent, you’re not having a very special day, are you?” (Waverly, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015))

Thanks Lauren – see you around here soon!

And on that bombshell…

by Andrew Marriott (2nd year Archaeology PhD).

It’s difficult to proceed down PhD’s journey (what else is life these days?) without being reminded that the 21st-century scholar must make an impact. With my research, the North East’s First World War Trench Art, I should have something of a head-start. After all, there can be few events that have so profoundly affected the region, while the war’s centenary has placed events such as Ypres, Gallipoli and the Somme high in the public consciousness. Exploring one aspect of that conflict’s material culture (items used in the prosecution of war and now transformed into artistic souvenirs or agents of commemoration), is stimulating some novel investigative

A shell case in the Durham Light Infantry Museum. The cross and eagle had been incorrectly assessed as German. The piece was most likely owned by a British padre.
A shell case in the Durham Light Infantry Museum. The cross and eagle had been incorrectly assessed as German. The piece was most likely owned by a British padre.

approaches. My research is the first to be conducted through the interrogation of a detailed database of trench art which I am currently constructing. I am also applying an adapted form of an artefact-centred interview, a technique pioneered by Dr Jane Webster, Newcastle University. As I embark on my second year I thought I might share some issues around the idea of research impact.

Tilting at windmills or slaying dragons? The deeper we engage in scholarship the more we are entitled, indeed we have a duty, to challenge received wisdom in our particular academic discipline. Conflict studies in general, and the First World War in particular, is a land of windmills and dragons. In getting to grips with the context of my thesis, I am becoming increasingly aware of changing social agendas and the relativist interpretations of the Great War and its outcomes. Archaeologists love context. For a pot sherd recovered from a stratigraphic layer in a trench, context can be simple to establish. It’s a matter of understanding deposition processes and dating cues. However, my ‘trench’ is the war itself. Its context spans a century populated by academics, politicians, social scientists, poets and artists, all offering their own interpretations of war, its morals and dynamics. I see some of the war’s critique, especially that from the 1960’s, including Alan Clarke’s ‘Lions led by donkeys’, as a windmill and possibly no longer even deserving of a tilt. But what of the works of Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Robert Graves, or more precisely, interpretations of their writing and how they have been deployed by those with a particular academic or cultural agenda? As I scan the horizon of my work I’m aware that I will need to navigate windmills and be wary of dragons. Why not find impact by slaying the more villainous?

Research suggests that these shell cases are associated with the engagement or marriage of a soldier on the Western Front and his fiancé who worked in a munitions factory in the North of England.
Research suggests that these shell cases are associated with the engagement or marriage of a soldier on the Western Front and his fiancé who worked in a munitions factory in the North of England.

Who wants impact anyway? It is a sad indictment of our times that our society is often careless of its heritage. I am working with a range of museums, libraries, local authorities, charities and community groups, indeed the Beamish Museum is a strategic partner. These bodies are essential in allowing me to establish a critical mass regarding my research data. They will also be important in disseminating my findings, allowing them to be of wider scholarly and social benefit. And yet, even now, one of my key sources, the Durham Light Infantry Museum, is threatened with closure. They need our impact if they are to survive.

And, as a counter to second-year stasis, I am very fortunate in the motivation I can gain from social engagement during research. As well as developing outreach activities, I have already been able, through examination of family-owned pieces of trench art, to establish more secure narratives concerning ancestors who fought in the war and, in one case, resolve for his descendant, the fate and final resting place of one veteran.

As we approach the century of the Battle of the Somme, I already sense a degree of First World War fatigue in some media and public organisations. As the subject’s novelty loses some traction, I see an opportunity to establish a more long-term and academically-founded interest in the material culture of the war and how successive generations approach it through its artefacts.

If you are aware of any trench art in the region that retains a family biography, I would be delighted to hear from you. Details can be found here.

Events Newsletter, week 16.11.15

Here is this week’s newsletter.  If you would like to promote an event, please get in touch

Research Seminars

Roman Archaeology Research Seminar
Tuesday 17th November, 6-7:30pm, Armstrong Building, Room 1.06
Nick Hodgson (Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums): ‘WallQuest Community Archaeology and the discovery of the fort baths at Wallsend (Segedunum)’

Classics and Ancient History:
Wednesday 18th November, 5-7pm, Armstrong Building, Room 2.50
Edward Harris (Durham University): ‘Trials in Thucydides and Xenophon’

Wednesday 18th November, 5-7pm, Armstrong Building, Room 1.04
Katrina Navickas (University of Hertfordshire): ‘Protest and the Politics of Space and Place, 1789-1848’

Further School Events

Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Research Student Symposium
20th and 21st November
Keynote lecture by Dr Chris Fowler 20th November, 5:30-7pm, Armstrong Building, Room 1.06 ‘The powers that be’ and powerful events: ontologies in Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Britain and Ireland
Student Symposium on 21st November, 9am – 4:30pm, Armstrong Building, Room 1.06
If you would like to attend either the keynote lecture or the actual symposium please get in touch the with the organisers Lucy Cummings and Mareike Ahlers at
Please find futher information at

Newcastle Early Modern Forum Symposium
Wednesday 18th November, 6pm, Percy Building
Italian Exchanges: Venice and Rome in Renaissance English writing and its perception
Caitlin Phillips (Durham University): ‘Protest, Magic and the Reformation’
Amy Shields (Newcastle University): ‘Why Venice? Plato Redivivus and the Role of the Noble Venetian’
Megan Holman (Northumbria University): ‘Men may construct things after their fashion: Reading Graphic Novel Shakespeare’

Newcastle University Public Lectures

Wednesday 18th November, 5:30 – 7pm, Curtis Auditorium, Herschel Building
Celebrating Student Research Scholarships and Expeditions 2015

Thursday 19th November, 5:30-6:45pm, Curtis Auditorium, Herschel Building
Amanda Vickery (Professor in Early Modern History, Queen Mary University): Mutton dressed as lamb (British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Patron’s Lecture)

Northern Bridge Autumn School – October 2015

A number of our AHRC funded PhD students attended the Northern Bridge Autumn School, hosted by Queens University Belfast.

We set off from Newcastle Airport with the weather forecast to rain, rain, rain, with a little more rain scheduled for Belfast for the next few days. We were pleasantly surprised to land in a slightly grey but DRY Belfast. We had time to wander around the city of Belfast, to see some of the street art, the infamous ’Big Fish’, the Ulster Museum and we even squeezed in a visit to Maggie May’s Café, which was as nice as people had reported, and so we pass on the recommendation (see photo below)!

Belfast side streets & artwork (left & top right); Maggie May's milkshake & ice cream sundae after a trip to the Ulster Museum! (bottom right)
Belfast side streets & artwork (left & top right); Maggie May’s milkshake & ice cream sundae after a trip to the Ulster Museum! (bottom right)

The main aim of the Wednesday timetable was to give this year’s newly funded students a chance to talk and get to know each other, and to hear about their research topics; whilst for the 2014/2015 group it was a chance to catch up with each other’s progress and adventures since the Newcastle event in June 2015.

While the new starters were perfecting their ‘elevator pitch’ (ie. Sell yourself to a prospective boss in the time it takes you to climb 7 floors in a lift!), we spent time reflecting on the advantages of being part of the Northern Bridge partnership. We also highlighted areas in which more could have been made as a new starter, and this was the spark for the afternoon session, which we were to run for the new cohort. This ‘Peer Feedback’ session also included a pitching session for possible training events to be run and organised through Northern Bridge by us, the students. The focus of the afternoon was careers and employability; we heard from a Northern Bridge student who had undertaken a placement that had benefitted her research and provided a possible career path post-PhD. It certainly gave us some food for thought!

The day was concluded with a drinks reception in the wonderful Great Hall of Queen’s University followed by a meal at an Italian restaurant (also followed by a visit to the nearby pubs and bars for some!).

The Great Hall, Queen’s University, Belfast.
The Great Hall, Queen’s University, Belfast.

Thursday’s sessions included thematic-based interdisciplinary group networking, followed by a Keynote lecture by Professor Richard Clay (Newcastle University) titled “from coins to Internet in 45 minutes(ish)”. Professor Clay outlined some interesting ideas about the use of marks, graffiti and prints to change perception and re-code public space using examples through history—from early coinage to modern-day street art.

The closing session focussed on ways of disseminating research via the media, discussing ‘being Mary Beard’ – an academic who regularly presents her research interest to the public through documentaries, radio programmes, and her blog, alongside her academic publications. This session also brought up very current issues regarding gender and the representation of academics (women academics, in particular) within the media. It was a short but thought provoking session which raised questions about women in academia and in the media, and how we can move to change these stereotypes. This is obviously an issue which is currently being scrutinised and addressed by academia and the wider public alike.

The autumn conference was a great introduction for the new starters, and provided some food for thought for those of us in stage 2 of our PhD projects – How will we disseminate our work? What road will be taken, an academic or non-academic path? What makes my CV stand out from all the others?

Time to start planning!


Events Newsletter, week 9.11.15

This week’s newsletter, once again!  If you would like to promote an event, please get in touch

Research Seminars

Archaeology Research Seminar
Tuesday 12th November, 6-7pm, Armstrong Building, Room 1.05
Paddy Gleeson (Newcastle): ‘Building kingdoms and ruling landscapes: practices of kingship in the Atlantic World’.

Further School Events

Field trip organised by Dr Susanna Phillippo (please get in touch with her if you are interested)
Sunday 15th November: Hadrian‘s Wall trip (Walltown crags, Thirlwall castle, Greenhead)
• Walltown crags, Thirlwall castle, Green head
• An introduction to the Wall: a circular walk along the highest and one of the most dramatic stretches of the Wall, perched on Walltown Crags, with impressive views (weather permitting!) to Scotland and the Pennines.
• Walk from Greenhead village to ruins of Thirlwall Castle (with its legends of buried treasure and a magical dwarf!) ad past site of the Roman fort of Carvoran/Magnis.
• Visit to Roman Army Museum (also a wet weather alternative!)

Newcastle University Public Lectures

10th October, 5:30-6:45, Herschel Building, Curtis Auditorium
Eric Cross (Dean of Cultural Affairs, Newcastle University):  ‘One hundred years of Bach performances’.


Just a Minute with… Lucy Cummings

LucyLucy Cummings, our very own Seminar Series Co-Ordinator, is a 2nd year archaeology PhD student studying the henge monuments of the British Isles. Newcastle University ‘lifer’ so far – BA, MA and now PhD here in the department. Currently organising the 2nd NEBARSS conference (  Occasionally uses twitter, follow her if you don’t mind archaeology/football related tweets.

1. How did you come to be interested in your current area of research? 

In archaeology: from an open-day session ran by Dr Mark Jackson, which changed my mind from applying for a chemistry degree to archaeology!

In henges/Later Neolithic: From first year UG lectures on monumental space and enclosure of ‘special’ places in the landscape – especially when the functional use was so up in the air! It was very intriguing, and a theme through quite a few of my UG and MA pieces of work, which has now led to my current PhD topic.

2. What is the worst advice you have even been given?

‘Lose your accent to do well’ –Everyone likes the Yorkshire accent – who wouldn’t?

3. What has been the highlight of your week?

Actually ticking something off of my ever-growing ‘To Do’ list!

4. What is the most important life skill you learnt whilst being a PGR student?

That things are never as bad as they seem after a decent sleep!

5. What do you enjoy most about being part of the History, Classics and Archaeolgy department at Newcastle?

I’ve been here from UG to PGR so I definitely love it here! Everyone is friendly and encouraging, and it is a great department to be in as a student. It’s always good when you can have a laugh with your lecturers!

6.  What did you want to be as a child? 

A vet, and then a CSI officer – until I realised I don’t like blood/needles/wounds of any kind.

8. What is your favourite place on earth? 

The Lake District is a favourite area of mine, for the walking, the scenery and also the wild animal park!

Also, skiing (anywhere) – being at the top of a snowy mountain gives you stunning views and is a great way of relaxing and clearing the mind.

9. What’s next for Lucy?

I will be co-hosting a conference here at Newcastle at the end of the month (and giving my first conference paper- scary!), then after that it will be a couple of months of focused reading and data collection to get ahead in my research.

Thanks Lucy! Good luck with the conference!