Boring Conference 2014: Yawning? Well, you’re supposed to be

The annual conference celebrating life’s seemingly tedious things is in danger of becoming interesting

For a series of talks which is billed on celebrating the marginal and downright uninteresting, the fourth annual Boring Conference 2014 appears to be in danger of being quite successful.

The central London annual get-together has had to relocate to a larger venue because of its popularity. There’s even talk of taking it abroad. It’s had famous speakers – many widely considered to be really quite interesting such as the writer Jon Ronson and the documentary-maker Adam Curtice.

An excitable young man in a red hat barely manages to suppress his excitement at a line-up featuring eight hours of talks on subjects ranging from ice-cream vans to eggs.

A quick recap of previous years’ highlights is provided, such as a man who records precisely where, when and how many times he sneezes. Other topics have included seminars on yellow lines, domestic inkjet printers from 1999, sounds produced by vending machines and toast … the list goes on.

The Boring Conference’s founder, James Ward, 33, began after the rival Interesting Conference was forced to cancel at the last minute. Despite the irony exuding from the young comedy crowd that spent £20 to be there, Mr Ward proclaims he will convince us there “is beauty in these things”. 

The task given to those who had chosen to take the 10-minute challenge is to simply take a boring subject and make it interesting. Valerie Jamieson, a former particle physicist who is now features editor at New Scientist, examines those clichés considered the epitome of dullness, such as how dull is ditch water? And watching grass grow or paint dry? It turns out that all these things, when the science is offered, could be considered quite fascinating. That’s quite fascinating.

Mr Ward’s own topic is on the late 1980s and 90s game show You Bet! – which is taken from the German game show Wetten, dass...? The German version, he tells the audience, included features such as a blindfolded farmer who could tell one of his cows from another just by the way they chewed apples.

What, you may ask, is the point in all this? James Maidment, 36, from London, said: “Because of the internet, there is now a community for everyone with marginal interests out there. But it is also about making fun of that and being creative with it.”

It’s a fine line between being interesting and being, well, boring. One perplexing explanation about calendars by a Wolverhampton dentist produced a few yawns. But another tale from Ali Coote about the time she worked for a small ice-cream-van firm proved (quite) fascinating. I mean, who knew there are only 5,000 ice-cream vans in the UK?

Mr Ward says the conference wouldn’t have been possible without the internet. “It wouldn’t have existed if Twitter didn’t exist. I think it would have been very hard to find people without the internet or Twitter who had an interest in, say, eggs. Whereas now you just type #eggs and a conversation has started.”

If you got to the end of this, maybe Boring Conference 2015 is for you.

Boring facts

* Modern, state-of-the-art ice-cream vans can cost up to £70,000.


* Vetiver grass can grow up to four metres.


* Stay-green grass stays green, even throughout droughts.


* Paint continues to harden a week after it has dried.


* Ditch water is actually teeming with life called zooplankton.


* The translation of the title of the 1980 comedy film Airplane! in German is “The incredible journey on a crazy aeroplane”

* In 1991, the popular game show You Bet! hosted by Matthew Kelly was moved from Saturday nights to Friday nights. In 1994 it was moved back to Saturday nights.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Manufacturing Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a rare opportunity for ...

Recruitment Genius: Conveyancing Fee Earner / Technical Support

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced Fee Earner/Techn...

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This law firm is seeking a happy, helpful and ...

The Jenrick Group: Production Supervisor

£26000 - £29000 per annum + Holidays & Pension: The Jenrick Group: Production ...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'