It’s always tricky to try and summarize a conference experience in one post, so this post like so many other of my past conference posts is not going to try to do that. Instead I want to take a few minutes to share what was for me the most important part of #altc22 – the #femedtechquilt.
The #alt22 conference was my first “proper” f2f conference since lock down. I was simultaneously excited and a bit anxious about it. All the preparation, traveling and packing which seemed so mundane in the “before times” took much longer. However being back in person with some of my favourite people was well worth it.
What added to the #joy and sense of place and community was undoubtedly the first public outing and joining of the #femedtechquilt. You can find our more about the origins for the quilt here, it did seem to me (and others) that the more that 2 year wait to see it IRL brought even more resonance and power to the underlying principles of the quilt and its physical presence.
The quilt represents so many people, so many issues. Of course the quilt is a community created object, but its driving force has been Frances Bell, who has spent so much time planning, co-ordinating, stitching, quilting and writing about the quilt.
Frances situated the quilt outside the main lecture theatre used in the conference. It was at once a grounding and centering force. Arousing curiosity, attracting attention, allowing participation, creating conversations and ideas for the future. In quite a magical way, the presence of the quilt provided a way to bind many of us together by providing a safe, open, space to have long overdue catch ups, to share experiences and allow time for reflection and just “being”.
It was wonderful to see Frances explain the history of the quilt to those who didn’t know about it, to help those who had contributed to it find their square, and support and encourage people to make a contribution to squares to be added to the quilt. One priceless moment for me was when Marion Manton (who had organised a quilting circle to contribute squares to the quilt as well as supply lots of fabric for quilting) saw the quilt for the first time. A wave of unrequited joy washed over everyone nearby.
I felt hugely privileged to be able to help drape the completed quilt for delegates to see. I didn’t contribute to the quilt. I had planned to, but at that point in 2019 I had a creative crisis and wasn’t able to do anything remotely creative. However I have promoted and shared what I can about it. And now, I have also sewn a button onto a square!
On the final day of the conference I really missed the physical presence of the quilt. However, I know this first outing of the quilt won’t be its last. So I just wanted to thank everyone who contributed to the quilt, it really is a symbol of hope, of justice and the power of openness.
And of course congratulations to the ALT team, the Trustees, the conference committee and all the presenters and delegates for bringing #ALTC so successfully back to its physical space as well as supporting its digital spaces.