Paty presenting our joint paper on the landscape context of the Pillar of Eliseg in our ‘Mobility, Monumentality and Memory in Past Societies’ session

I’ve just returned from the 2015 Theoretical Archaeology Group Annual Conference at the University of Bradford. The theme of the conference was ‘Diversity’ and this was reflected in the keynote presentation and rich range of sessions. My congratulations to Dr Karina Croucher as lead organiser and to her superb team of staff and students that made the conference a palpable success. Thanks also to Dr Jill Thompson who put so much help into assisting one of my students with her mobility issues.

Substandard curry

What I got up to?

I had a busy time at the Bradford TAG, where I:

  • co-organised a session on Mobility, Monumentality and Memory in Past Societies in which I was co-author of 2 papers.
  • attended 3 other sessions
  • enjoyed the wine reception where I got to talk to some great people and scheme some schemes,
  • stayed to the very end of the TAG party and played pool for much of the evening;
  • one seriously substandard curry, one fabulous balti, one superb lunchtime burger and plenty of coffee and biscuits
  • I also attended the TAG National Committee meeting where I put forward a proposal to host the TAG conference in the future at Chester.

Each of these stages involved plenty of rich and varied debate, conversations and banter with both familiar faces and new acquaintances. So it was a busy 3 days!

Confessions of a TAG-hag

Bradford 2015 was my 17th TAG in 22 years. TAG is always fun and always frustrating, and thus very addictive. My first-ever TAG experience was travelling from Sheffield by student minibus as an undergraduate and I haven’t stopped since. At each one I have attended, I have presented 1 or 2 papers. I have organised sessions at many, plus I was co-organiser of the entire 2006 TAG conference.

Many of my presentations, I have subsequently written up as book chapters or journal articles. I therefore regard TAG as an important academic venue for open debate and research dissemination with a varied audience of postgraduates, professionals and academics from the UK and farther afield.

So if you regard TAG as one pre-Christmas party without intellectual content,  you really didn’t pay attention or you have never been to TAG.

Therefore, I find TAG more than just a venue for presenting completed research, but an invaluable venue for presenting new (i.e. half-baked) ideas. Here is the full list if anyone is interested:

  1. 1994 – Bradford
  2. 1995 – Reading
  3. 1996 – Liverpool
  4. 1997 – Bournemouth
  5. 1998 – Birmingham
  6. 2000 – Oxford
  7. 2001 – Dublin
  8. 2002 – Manchester
  9. 2004 – Glasgow Tartan TAG
  10. 2005 – Sheffield
  11. 2006 – Exeter
  12. 2008 – Southampton
  13. 2009 – Durham
  14. 2010 – Bristol
  15. 2013 – Bournemouth TAG-on-Sea
  16. 2014 – Manchester
  17. 2015 – Bradford

Put another way, I’ve only missed the 1999 Cardiff, 2003 Lampeter, 2007 York and 2011 Birmingham and 2012 Liverpool TAG conferences since 1994, although I did present in absentia at Liverpool.

Team Chester

What made the TAG 2015 Bradford conference different for me was that, for the first time, I felt I was leading a big team from Chester. This included:

  • I drove a minibus of students to the conference as part of a prominent away team;
  • I co-organised a session with my colleague Dr Patricia Murrieta-Flores, and MA student Aurea Izquierdo Zamora on Mobility, Monumentality and Memory in Past Societies;
  • As well as Paty, Aurea and myself presenting papers. other Cestrians presenting included my recently passed PhD student, Dr Rachel Swallow, was also present, as was Dr Nick Overton.
  • I was particularly proud of my level 5 and 6 students for their attendance and contributions, especially two of my level 6 students who decided to contribute to the ‘A Motion for Debate’ session about whether archaeological resources are finite or renewable. They both went up to the front and stood at the podium and presented their views, unscripted, to the assembled audience. I was very impressed and surprised.

    Chester student Rebekah presenting to experts in archaeology and heritage: a proud moment for me!
Rachel presenting to the ‘A Motion for Debate’ session

So in summary, a great TAG. I might give the next one or two a skip, but then again, they are kind of addictive…