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Conference 2011
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Anthony Powell Society
is registered charity 1096873

Contact us at:
Tel: +44 (0)20 8864 4095
Registered Office:
76 Ennismore Avenue

Sixth Biennial Anthony Powell Conference

Friday 2 to Sunday 4 September 2011
Naval & Military Club, 4 St James's Square, London SW1, UK

Conference Report

by Elwin Taylor

After successful excursions to Bath and Washington, the Anthony Powell Conference returned to London in September for the first time since 2005. The venue was the Naval and Military Club in St James's Square, and was well chosen for the occasion. An advantage of the location was that almost everything, including a good deal of accommodation, was available on site, and this encouraged a high level of cohesion among the delegates. The opportunity to meet and mix so easily with other Powell enthusiasts was felt by many to be a big plus for the conference.

With 96 registered delegates the conference was well attended, and the two days of the programme covered a wide range of topics on the general theme of "Anthony Powell's Literary London". It was hardly to be expected that the keynote speakers would disappoint, and nor did they.

In a highly engaging talk Ferdinand Mount showed the influence of Powell on his own work as a novelist and memoirist, and it will be surprising if he has not already seen a dramatic spike in sales!

Simon Vance gave a fascinating account of his career as an audiobook narrator. It was clear that he is a Powell enthusiast and that his recording of Dance was something more than a professional engagement. As he demonstrated his method of recalling particular voices by visualizing an associated character model, it was unnerving to watch him seemingly mutate into Edward Fox as Uncle Giles.

Intelligence analyst Glenmore Trenear-Harvey explored the SOE background to The Military Philosophers. There were no objections from the audience as he widened the scope of his contextualization far into the secret world, although efforts to probe the shadows of his own résumé were skilfully rebuffed.

Fourteen other speakers made presentations, and it was a strength of the conference that it attracted the active participation of both academics and amateurs. As with the Society itself both groups were well represented, and neither to the disadvantage of the other. The overall standard of these contributions was impressive, and although space prevents greater details the full conference proceedings will be published in due course.

The formal presentations concluded with an entertaining enquiry into the planchette scene in The Acceptance World, organized by the American delegates. In a thought-provoking debate the possibility emerged of malicious manipulation by not one but two of Templer's guests.

Apart from the plenary sessions a number of social events were arranged. The Friday evening reception included a successful auction of Powelliana, which raised £931 towards the cost of the Anthony Powell commemorative plaque. And on the Saturday Stephen Holden led a pub-crawl through Fitzrovia with the authority that suggests a misspent youth!

The Sunday Bus Tour was so well planned by Keith Marshall that it overcame last minute road closures and diversions to take in all the important London locations associated with Powell's life and works. It then arrived at the right pub at the right time for the very enjoyable Sunday lunch that concluded the conference.

As always the society benefited from the organizing abilities of Keith and Noreen Marshall and their wholehearted commitment was vital to the conference's success.

Finally it was gratifying to see that the conference attracted delegates of all ages, confirming Powell's appeal to younger readers.

The Hon. Secretary comments ...

From the Society's point of view the conference was a tremendous success. We set ourselves a target of 70 paying delegates and significantly overachieved that, turning a predicted small deficit into a small surplus. And as Elwin has said, the charity auction during the conference reception raised a lion's part of the expected cost of erecting a commemorative plaque to AP in London. We also made some good friends for the society and gained a number of new members - to whom a warm welcome - along the way.

The feedback from delegates was almost universally positive and appreciative with all the speakers generally being well received. Yes, of course, there are things which didn't work - and the delegates made sure they told us! The Trustees have seen every comment made so rest assured we will be mindful of the feedback in arranging future events.

Lastly I must say a public thank you to everyone who came and whose participation made the conference such a tremendous weekend. And also a big thank you to all those who helped during the event.

Hon. Secretary, Keith Marshall, and Editor, Stephen Holden, conducting the charity auction in the sumptuous surroundings of the Naval & Military Club's King Harald V Room.
Photo Graham & Dorothy Davie

Ferdy Mount


Simon Vance
Conference keynote speakers (top to bottom): Ferdinand Mount, Glenmore Trenear-Harvey and Simon Vance

Naval & Military Club

Club Dining Room

Nancy Astor Blue Plaque

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