NATE's Annual, National Conference: Memories of Fun, Folk and Wonderful Workshops

By Millum, Trevor | NATE Classroom, Summer 2010 | Go to article overview

NATE's Annual, National Conference: Memories of Fun, Folk and Wonderful Workshops


Millum, Trevor, NATE Classroom


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My memories of NATE Conference go back a long way! Many of our younger members won't remember that for many years the annual conference was organised by different NATE branches. (Current regional co-ordinators may gasp and lie down for a while.) As a result, conferences were held all over the country from Newcastle down to Brighton, run by teams of local volunteers.

My becoming Director in 1995 coincided with a change of policy and I found myself conference organiser in chief. Cheers! In an increasingly pressurised teaching environment, branches were finding it harder and harder to organise something as big as the conference and, having put one on, tended to become dormant for a while from exhaustion. Like volcanoes.

So the annual conference became centrally organised and it was me, together with the office team, who took it on. That role is now ably continued by Ian McNeilly and Gary Snapper plus the indefatigable NATE office staff. (I'm not sure if that's quite accurate: I have seen them quite fatigued at times and had to revive them with gins and tonic.)

The first venue we used was Swanwick at a conference centre not very near to anywhere except Swanwick. The advantage was that we lost very few delegates to the bright lights on Saturday night. (In Manchester it was a different matter.) The disadvantages were some rather basic sleeping accommodation in one of the blocks and a dining regime reminiscent of boarding school. But we had fun. Some of the fun was, for me, obligatory. When the evening disco or band struck up I was expected to take the dance floor--along with the always-ready-to-rock NATE staff. I note that the current Director has not accepted this aspect of the job description, which I think is a shame.

The things I recall about Manchester's state of the art building is the massive pendulum (a la Foucault) swinging in the atrium and the warren of meeting rooms where I always seemed to stride down the wrong corridor, especially when in a hurry to unlock a door, deliver some felt tips or carry out a delegate overcome with intellectual delight.

I'm tempted to recite a list of wonderful speakers met and listened to at conferences over the last ten years but I'll restrict myself to a few names. One year we had Estelle Morris giving a government update, shortly afterwards followed by a keynote from Roy Hattersley who took a robustly nonparty line. We decided it would be better if they didn't meet and lured Roy to another room with a glass of red wine to avoid any embarrassments in the foyer.

All the children's laureates have spoken at Conference as well as the Poet Laureate. I remember Michael Morpurgo fondly; he arrived the day before and joined in all the activities, including some vigorous ceilidh dancing and then gave a closing address which moved us effortlessly from laughter to tears. Michael Rosen has also been a stalwart, combining energetic good humour with trenchant views on the most recent government pronouncements. …

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