Calendar Customs at the Earth(ly) Matters 2020 online conference.

Moving a conference online is no mean feat: will the technology work? Will everyone feel engaged when they can’t make direct eye contact or network over finger food? How will Chairs and Speakers enliven the stilted atmosphere of the online world?

With Earth(ly) Matters 2020, Sheffield Hallam’s Humanities and Social Sciences Society have made it look fiendishly easy. Using the three thematic strands of the conference to organise presentations, Roots, Rebellions and Resolutions, Earth(ly) Matters was split over three Fridays in August to prevent Zoom fatigue and to enable attendance from anyone, anywhere.

The conference explored ‘what matters on Earth and how Earth matters’, taking Amitav Ghosh’s claim, that the current environmental crisis is ‘also a crisis of culture, and thus of imagination’, as provocation. What role, speakers were asked, can the humanities and social sciences play at a time of climate breakdown and a catastrophic decline in wildlife?

On Friday 7 August, under the banner of ‘Roots’, I was fortunate to be able to present my work on calendar customs and their link to the natural environment, exploring whether those involved in such calendar customs could become climate activists on a hyperlocal level. Presenters submitted a ‘verbal’ element (a written paper) and a ‘visual’ element ­(a recorded presentation with visual stimuli) for publication on the conference website to enable engagement beyond the ten-minute live talk on conference day.

Inspiring change remained at the heart of the day: how our work, actions, thoughts and ideas can contribute to a world where change is underway, and change is desperately needed. But there was also fun to be had. Once the conference came to a close, delegates were invited to try bingo – with a difference. Using the Zoom breakout room facility, we learnt more about the lives and research interests of our fellow delegates by collecting information on bingo cards. Finding someone that shares your preferred type of cooked potato has never been so urgent…

Sophie Parkes

You can visit the Earth(ly) Matters conference website HERE and view Sophie’s presentation of her paper Cheese-rolling, Pace-egging, Soul-caking: Can Calendar Customs Engender Stewardship of our Natural Environment below. Sophie would welcome any feedback you might have – contact her at:

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