Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Education

Volunteering at the Canterbury History Weekend: Tudors and Stuarts 2023


Volunteering at the Canterbury History Weekend: Tudors and Stuarts 2023

Student Perspectives

Eli Salter – 3rd Year Medieval and Early Modern History student

The end of April marked the eighth Canterbury Christ Church University History Weekend which was this year dedicated to the Tudors and Stuarts period. Here are my contributions to and reflections on the event as a 3rd year Medieval and Early Modern History student.

To sum it up, I’d say stressful but fun. Having volunteered for the event before, I knew how things would run and what my jobs would be, but even then, walking into Old Sessions House on the evening of the 28th I seemed to have forgotten everything I’d leant the previous year. Luckily, the jobs of a volunteer aren’t too difficult and after speaking to Shelia Sweetinburgh about the running of the event, muscle memory kicked in from last year’s conference and the difficulties that had come with streaming it live. Thankfully, we didn’t have to do that this year, so no fussing about with cameras or worrying about audio quality. Instead, I was asked to manage organising the other volunteers, making sure that speakers had everything they needed and that members of the public were in the correct lecture rooms. It was fun, people recognised me from previous conferences I had worked and asked how things were going as I checked tickets and directed people. There were new faces amongst those that I had seen before and even one very unexpected face – the Lord Mayor Canterbury – that had I thought about it at the time really wouldn’t have been that unexpected.  The Lord Mayor is a lovely woman.

Volunteers have the option to choose which lectures they’d like to sit in on. Some volunteers stayed in one room, others bounced between the rooms listening in on whichever talk took their fancy. I had been asked to stay in the larger lecture theatre and help with the roving mics during the questions at the end, so I settled in with a notebook and listened to each lecture in fascination. I’ve been asked several times by classmates and friends why I would volunteer for a three-day event just before exam season fully kicked in, and I have to say that for me the reason are the lectures given by eminent speakers. Being able to listen to such a wide variety of presentations and interact with the speakers on a one-on-one basis is invaluable for anyone studying or even just interested in history. Not to mention the free food…

Whilst the weekend focussed on Tudors and Stuarts, several speakers referenced modern events and themes that are still relevant today. I won’t detail each lecture I saw over the weekend, but I will mention a few that really caught my interest. Prof. Steven Gunn’s lecture on ‘Everyday life and accidental death in sixteenth-century Kent’ was (despite the topic!) joyful and filled with laughter. I kept asking guests to mind the stairs as they walked in, lest anyone had an accident going down the stairs to take their seats. Additionally, the lecture on ‘The first professional woman writer in English: Aphra Johnson (Behn) from Harbledown’, given by Prof. Elaine Hobby, was interesting and insightful, given I had never heard of Behn before the lecture and didn’t know much about women writers at the time. Finally, Dr Onyeke Nubia on ‘Understanding England’s Past’, was one of the last lectures at the weekend. It was fascinating, thought-provoking and made people think and address preconceived notions on race in the Tudor period and how individuals in the historic records can be traced forward to today.

All in all, I would highly recommend volunteering for events like the medieval weekend, not only for the academic benefits and the skills gained, but conferences allow students to interact with their lecturers and those in the discipline in ways that aren’t usually possible. Yes, they can be stressful, especially when you’re asked to take control of something and organise people, but on reflection, having had a month of exam stress, dissertations and overnight sessions at the library, I wouldn’t have missed those three days for the world. It’s a shame this is my last year at university. Here’s hoping I can come along as a member of the public next year, if Shelia doesn’t need a volunteer that is!

The youngest volunteer, JJ, age 16

Jason Mazzocchi – PhD in Early Modern History

The Canterbury History Weekend Tudors and Stuarts was simply a wonderful experience. I volunteered to be part of the Welcome Team which assisted event attendees and speakers over the three days. Working as a team of volunteers in the reception of Old Sessions House, we helped with the organization of the event and ensured that everyone was in the right place at the right time and answered attendees’ questions. Volunteering my time was rewarding as not only did I manage to spend time with fellow historians from the local community, but with History postgraduates from CCCU and the University of Kent. It was also a chance to listen to eminent historians from across the country and meet The Lord Mayor of Canterbury.

The Centre for Kent History and Heritage event provided attendees with a plethora of opportunities to discover micro histories of Early Modern Kent and beyond. In addition, the weekend connected partnerships with regional and local organisations, such as Kent Archaeology Society, Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library, and Canterbury Archaeological Trust, and provided points of contact for historians, the public, students, and staff alike.

The range of academic speakers left me enriched with ideas of the culture of everyday life and the lived experiences of the period. On the Friday evening the inaugural speaker Prof. Catherine Richardson presented a fascinating discussion of lived experience of the Early Modern household history. Throughout the weekend speakers covered a breadth of subjects on the themes of: Kings and Queens; War and Politics; the Church; Books and Manuscripts; and Social History to allow attendees to gain new interpretations and ideas on a range of early modern history.

The event was a community celebration of the historical and cultural City of Canterbury and the ancient county of Kent. Personally, being able to network with local historians, members of the Canterbury community and the academics and students from across the country was invaluable. The volunteering brought me pleasure in being a part of a team of providers who helped the community enjoy insights into the history of the Tudors and Stuarts. The University bookshop (staffed tirelessly by Craig the entire weekend) provided an excellent range of publications which speakers would sign for audience members, and a souvenir brochure was available for attendees. If you want to read further review of the Tudors and Stuarts 2023 do follow the following blog link to the Centre for Kent History and Heritage: Tudors and Stuarts 2023 – celebrating history! | Centre for Kent History and Heritage (canterbury.ac.uk)

Volunteering is a worthwhile opportunity to support the local community, and being a part of the Welcome Team played a role in celebrating Kent’s history and heritage was inspiring, and personally a worthwhile commitment.

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Comment on “Volunteering at the Canterbury History Weekend: Tudors and Stuarts 2023

  1. Two great reports from fantastic CCCU students. Their enthusiasm and support is a key part of the success of the Canterbury History Weekends. Thank you so much Eli and Jacob.

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