…three days in Brighton at the CIfA 2018 conference!

Having never managed to attend a CIfA conference, despite working in archaeology since 2007, I eagerly accepted Wessex’s offer to send me to this year’s gathering on the south coast; held from the 25−27 April 2018 in a slightly rainy and windswept Brighton. 

The theme for this year’s conference was ‘Pulling together: collaboration, synthesis and innovation’, a topic close to my heart, having flitted between the commercial, academic and community sectors across my career. Sessions were divided across four broad themes (Innovation, Collaboration, Synthesis, CPD), with graphics displays, excursions and social events also on offer, as well as opportunities to catch up with former colleagues and friends within the profession. 

The conference was held at Brighton Racecourse, a somewhat maze-like venue, perched on top of Race Hill with spectacular views across the city down to the seafront. Arriving just before lunch on the Thursday, I was in time to join the first Synthesis session, ‘Collaborative Approaches to Managing Cultural Heritage in Challenging Landscapes’, which proved to be an interesting double session with contributions from representatives Historic England, the MOD, Forestry Commission and various Park Authorities. Papers covered a number of case studies demonstrating collaboration between the archaeological and, principally, environmental sectors, illustrating best practice and highlighting where the industry could improve in future. A focus was very much on balancing multiple priorities whilst ensuring ongoing protection for heritage within a diverse range of landscapes, which ranged from Salisbury Plain to Easter Island!

Thursday was taken up with CPD, including a fantastic session on the role of buildings archaeology as an effective tool within the planning application process hosted by Suzanne Lilley from CBA and Esther Robinson Wild from the CIFA Buildings Archaeology Group. The afternoon saw an introduction to the Equality Act 2010, provided by Prospect, followed by examples of best practice relating to equality and diversity across a variety of workplaces. 

Friday morning, I had time to indulge my love of community and outreach work, and attended the final ‘Synthesis’ session entitled ‘Heritage and Community Engagement in Action’. Speakers outlined community engagement projects from across the UK and the Republic of Congo (!) illustrating the successful delivery of heritage related projects to a wide variety of stakeholders from a diverse range of social and economic backgrounds. I particularly enjoyed the collaborative work of Worcester City Council with local NHS services, to provide access to the city’s photography archive for use by local dementia patients. The overarching theme of this session was that funding for public engagement remains a barrier to delivering the level of services we aspire to provide, however it was heartening to see the time, effort and dedication by many of those involved, to ensure a public interested is sustained in the work we do. 

Outside of the conference, Brighton did not disappoint at a brilliant city for food and social events. Conference drinks were held at Al Fresco, with views across the seafront, and, as a vegan, the selection of restaurants on offer was particularly excellent! 

On reflection, I feel that my three days at CIfA Conference 2018 were most definitely time well spent. It was great to be able to discuss difficult issues facing our profession with others dealing with the same challenges, whilst also continuing my CPD and developing new contacts. Roll on 2019…

By Ruth Humphreys, Senior Heritage Consultant