Yawn Again? Is this year's Boring conference too interesting?

The 2010 Boring conference was such a hit that this year tickets sold out. Trouble is, attendees say it's now too interesting

Jonathan Brown
Saturday 19 November 2011 01:00

The organiser of this year's Boring conference – a London gathering dedicated to the delights of the mundane, obvious and overlooked – has a problem. He is worried it is in danger of being too interesting.

Such was the success of the inaugural event last year that the series of talks has attracted a line up of speakers including author Jon Ronson and documentary maker Adam Curtis who, it is feared, could have the undesired effect of entertaining the sell-out audience.

This might seem unlikely considering some of the subjects on offer today. These include a morning discussion on the evolution of the electric hand dryer by a man who has installed a Dyson Airblade in his home, and an exposition on the history of Budgens supermarkets.

But the prospects for this year's get-together are already being talked down – or up, depending on your perspective – to prevent disappointment.

In a sign of the level of expectation, a Canadian documentary team has already been despatched to record proceedings. Canada is said to be a hotbed of activism in the emerging global boring movement.

However, James Ward, who founded 2010's Boring conference initially as a joke on Twitter following the cancellation of a rival "Interesting" conference, believes there is still scope for failure.

"I'm hoping that because I am putting it together things won't work, I will forget things or someone will pull out," said the 30-year-old who works for a DVD distributor.

Nearly two dozen speakers will be given 10 minutes to discuss a subject they find personally fascinating.

Four hundred tickets have already been sold – twice as many as last year and Mr Ward said he had plans to take the event international, possibly launching in Berlin next year.

The irony is that boring stuff is not actually boring at all, said Mr Ward who is delivering an introductory lecture on the first 10 years of Which? magazines.

As with his other interests in stationery, he believes there is a nostalgic thirst for the workaday among the predominantly 20-30-year-old crowd the event appears to attract. "That is the paradox. At the heart of the boring thing is what people consider to be interesting in the newspapers and in the media is actually quite boring.

"What we are talking about is the stuff people take for granted, which is considered trivial mundane. Because it is so familiar when you look at it in detail it is incredibly interesting," he said.

A glance down the list of topics is certainly enough to get the pulse racing and delight sponsors Hi-Cone, the packaging firm that makes the plastic strips that hold cans together.

Before lunch, conference goers will be able to hear about toilets and hand dryers. Later, the action hots up with a seminar on the square root of two and a talk on civil aircraft. The tricky final session reaches a dizzying finale with discussions on health and safety, vending machines and concrete overpasses.

The Independent's Rhodri Marsden, who will be discussing his inability to make social small talk, said anyone expecting to be bored would be let down. "It's a bit of a misnomer. I went along last year and no one knew what to expect," he said. "People are intrigued by the idea of stepping back and considering stuff that we wouldn't normally ponder."

Dull Debate: Has the schedule become too sexy?


Cataloguing ties

It might seem arcane, but building an index of cravats and ties remains a sartorial skill. Conference-goers learnt that logging should be based on colour, material and fabric.


Milk matters

Everyone knows semi-skimmed is better for you than full fat but how do various types rate? Pitting "skinny" milk against UHT, audiences lapped up this taste test.


Plug-in laptop

Thanks to the BlackBerry, laptop and mobile phone, everyone is "always on". But how much does it cost to re-juice those electronic devices in municipal buildings? The answer: not much.


Beauty of car park roofs

Inside they are depressingly, gear-crunchingly narrow and harrowingly expensive. But once you reach the top of an NCP building you're rewarded with a bird's-eye view.


2010 Verdict (out of 5) - 4


The first 10 years of Which? Magazine (1957-67)

With accounts including the best way to use a fridge, this decade of early consumer writing takes us back to a lost age.


The life and times of Budgens supermarkets

Little did John Budgen know, back in 1872, that he was founding a supermarket dynasty not to rival Tesco or Sainsbury's.


The advance of the hand-drier

Electric driers had advanced little from George Clemens's first patented invention in 1948. But 45 years later Mitsubishi devised the Jet Towel and revolutionised the world of hand sanitation.


Locations from About a Boy

Hugh Grant starred in the high-grossing 2002 adaptation of Nick Hornby's paean to irresponsibility. Locations include Oseney Crescent, Kentish Town, Hanway Place, Fitzrovia and the London IMAX.


2011 Verdict - 4

Result: Snore Bore

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