Meet the team behind record-breaking event

When it comes to records, the International Medieval Congress (IMC) can lay claim to more than its fair share!

Some of the dedicated team behind the IMC (pictured clockwise from top left) Marta Cobb, Hector Roddan, Fiona Livermore and Dr Axel Müller

Meet the team behind record-breaking event. May 2023

Not only is it the biggest on-campus event held each year at Leeds, it’s also the largest academic gathering in humanities in Europe.

Plans are already in full swing for this year’s eagerly anticipated instalment, with colleagues from across campus welcome to attend the wide-ranging public events, performances and workshop programme taking place from 3-6 July. 

The event, which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary, is organised by a small team of dedicated colleagues, who work throughout the year on practical, logistical and academic aspects of this incredible undertaking that sees about 2,500 visitors flock to campus each summer.

We caught up with some of the team to find out more about what it takes to prepare for an event of this scale, and to discover what they’re each most looking forward to at this year’s IMC.

Seeing campus in new ways

Marta Cobb coordinates the academic programme and some of the ‘fun stuff’, including the IMC’s many concerts, performances and hands-on workshops in everything from combat to bookbinding and embroidery!

She said: “The IMC helps people see campus in new ways as we take over spaces for sessions rooms, workshops and outdoor performances of medieval drama and combat.

“My highlight this year will be seeing Yorkshire-born author, Nicola Griffith, who’s giving a public talk about her medieval-inspired books – ‘Hild’, ‘Spear’ and her newest work ‘Menewood’.”

The talk will be followed by a book signing.

Sharing their passion

Fiona Livermore, Congress Manager since 2018, is looking forward to “seeing colleagues from all over the world come together, sharing their love and passion for their subject as a community”. 

She added: “Because the IMC takes place in Leeds every year, and has done for 30 years, our community of delegates has a real attachment and fondness for Leeds, which really shows as colleagues reunite on campus, as well as welcoming those who are here for the first time.”

Fiona’s role as ‘resident problem solver’, as well as being in charge of the team and the logistical and practical arrangements, will see her “zooming around campus making sure that everything is running smoothly”, so that everyone can get the best out of their time in Leeds.

Fiona is especially pleased to invite colleagues working on campus to attend Making Leeds Medieval, which takes place in the precinct/University Square from 10.30am to 6pm on 6 July. 

She explained: “This is where we bring medieval colour to campus with combat and sword fighting, living history displays, birds of prey and, of course, our fantastic historically-inspired artisan craft fair traders. It’s open to the public, free to attend and lots of fun!” 

The full programme will be published during June via the IMC website

Adam Cook works with Fiona and Marta on bringing the practical and academic aspects of the IMC together. Alongside his role at the IMC, Adam is currently completing a PhD at the University of Hull. 

He said: “I’m really looking forward to the panel I co-organised on medieval Yorkshire, and of course catching up with all the medievalists I met at last year’s Congress!”

Extraordinary transformation

Completing the IMC team are Sharna Connolly, Polina Orlova and Hector Roddan, who together form the front-of-house friendly face of the IMC! They will be found on the information desk in the Refectory foyer throughout the event.

Sharna, a recent Leeds graduate in English Language and Literature, said: “As a fairly recent Leeds alumna, I’m particularly passionate about the value IMC brings to campus and the community as a whole through the events programme.

“From the open mic night at the Emmanuel Centre to our popular medieval music performances and workshops, the IMC shows off the many great buildings and spaces across campus and raises the profile of the University internationally. 

“We also collaborate with a range of businesses and groups local to Leeds. These include Anachronalia, makers of beautiful handmade books; the dramatic group The Lords of Misrule from the University of York; and even our own University of Leeds Medieval Society, which is hosting a (medieval) pub quiz and storytelling circle this year, bringing a bit of Yorkshire to our fairs, markets and events programme.”

Polina, the newest member of the IMC team, recently graduated from a degree in Art History at Leeds.

She said: “I’m excited for the Medieval Craft Fair – it’s full of all sorts of impressive and unique objects, including hand-crafted jewellery and medieval ceramics, as well as demonstrations of all sorts of fun medieval skills and trades!”

Hector, who has been with the IMC since 2019, looks after the customer-facing side of the Congress, as well as various technical and database aspects behind the scenes. 

He said: “The transformation of campus during July is always extraordinary – in particular, our main Bookfair, which sees publishers from around the globe bring their latest titles to the Parkinson Court.” 

The Bookfair, like many aspects of the public programme, is open to all and runs from 9am on 3 July to 1pm on 6 July.

Fantastic experience

While colleagues must register if they want to attend academic sessions, the public programme – including all the events, fairs, performances and workshops detailed above – can be accessed by the wider University community and general public.

Congress Director Dr Axel Müller, who has worked on the IMC since its inception, said: “The IMC is a truly fantastic experience for everyone on campus, whether you’re interested in medieval studies or not.

“In particular, our thought-provoking programme of keynote lectures this year bring cross-disciplinary perspectives on networks and entanglements, and will bring brilliant scholars from around the world to Leeds to present their research.

“The ideas discussed at the IMC have a wide reach within and beyond medieval studies, and myself and the IMC team hope colleagues from across campus find something to enjoy this July.”

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