The 26th Harlaxton Medieval Symposium
‘Ritual and Space’
20-23 July, 2009
Convened by Frances Andrews
The 2009 Harlaxton Medieval Symposium considered Ritual and Space. The theme provoked, as ever, a number of lively multi-disciplinary approaches. Papers ranged in date from the ninth to the late fifteenth centuries; subjects from holy fire and marks to ward off the Evil Eye to polyphonic music, by way of battles and a tournament. Locations moved over Europe and from the Near East to Durham and Exeter. The whole had been coordinated and was tactfully but purposefully moved along by this year’s convenor, Dr Frances Andrews.
Though other conferences have interesting papers, excellent leadership, good organisation and an excursion (though not with such packed lunches?), Harlaxton always has a special atmosphere. This is attributable in no small part to the liveliness of the young scholars and enthusiasts whom the Symposium always attracts and encourages. Then there is the setting; the mad, multi-turreted architecture of the Manor itself, its gilded interior with Titans and blackamoors, and grounds with foxes (real) and lions (stone) – where else is ‘coffee and tea served in the Gold Room’?
Each year some things are the same – the friendly staff, the essential bookstalls, the conference dinner in the Great Hall – but there is always something new. This year, the latest volume of the Records of Early English Drama, for Lincolnshire, was launched with a reception in the Chapter House of Lincoln Cathedral. There was an evening concert of fourteenth century music, given by the early music ensemble, Le Basile. And, to conclude proceedings, a lively roundtable at which (after cooperative re-positioning of all the chairs in the Long Gallery) almost everyone spoke.
This, the twenty sixth Symposium, was again four days filled with learning, discussion, and questions. Relaxation too; in the evenings, the bar is open, the billiard room is available – and where else this year was croquet played with (‘due to circumstances beyond the organisers’ control’) one ball and three mallets…?