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
Paul Bignell is an Assistant News Editor at The Independent. He has previously been the acting News Editor of the i Paper, a home news reporter for The Independent for one year and a reporter for the Independent on Sunday for six years.
Sunday 01 June 2014
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.
* 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.
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