Inside a mirrored room within the depths of the Dominion Theatre in London, over 200 people gathered to attend the Boring 2010 conference. Paper bags containing the following items were awaiting all the attendees –
The 21 presentations of Boring 2010 were as follows…
James Ward (@iamjamesward) – In Search of the Ultimate Tie
James Ward was the person responsible for organising and promoting Boring 2010. After collecting submissions following an open call and alongside interviews for the Independent and 3am Magazine, James also had a large fan base on Twitter through which to promote his conference.
All tickets to Boring 2010 had been sold well in advance.
After playing some calming, relaxing and slow music for a few minutes, James opened proceedings at 11am and then gave the first lecture entitled; In Search of the Ultimate Tie. He showed the audience excel spread sheets and colourful pie charts of the colours, patterns, widths and thicknesses of ties from his collection. He described the most common tie from his entire collection which also happened to be the same tie he was wearing at Boring 2010.
It certainly sounds boring – but James’ engaging and disarming approach combined with a rather unique way of using statistics made it something of a great stand-up routine. The audience constantly tittered throughout his short presentation.
Mark Hadfield (@markhadfield) – Around The World in 20 Beers
Although he had made suggestions on his website that he might be talking about the things one thinks are interesting on holiday – but aren’t, Mark instead explained that he didn’t want to do a presentation today as he’d spent too much time doing that as a part of his day job. Instead he played a short film that promoted his project – 20 Beers Around The World.
After buying 20 beers from around the world via Beers of Europe, Mark decided that he would seek someone from each beers’ country of origin to drink the beer with. He suggested that beer is a lovely social drink that can break down many boundaries, thinking the project would be a nice thing to do – ‘Meet some new people, learn some new things. Why not, eh? The blog is all about that.’ An inspiring presentation – if made somewhat more attractive by the fact that the project requires beer.
Geoff Lloyd (@GeoffLloyd) – My Relationships With Bus Routes
There was a certain innocence around this presentation from a Prime Time DJ at Absolute Radio.
Geoff talked about how he used to love sitting upstairs at the front of a double-decker bus because he felt like he was driving it and how a sense of fidelity made him feel bad about going on anything but his regular bus. He even passed his phone around the audience at one point so everyone could have a look at a picture that he was talking about.
He was so obviously excited about the subject that he was talking about – but tried desperately to remain calm and boring. He couldn’t keep it supressed and his energy escaped into his presentation and into the audience.
Jake Eliot (@Jster) – Tedious Espionage: Why The Best Cold War Spies Were Boring?
Talking about tedious espionage, he classified spy fiction as dad fiction saying that spying is normality taken to the extremes, putting the highlight on the boring and tedious bureaucracy. He considered whether James Bond would prefer a car that turns into a boat or an up-to-date bus time table. Proposals were made that the best spies are boring nerds. Jake was so energetic and good at being convincing that he could probably sell ice to Inuits!
Ed Ross (@wowser) – Milks: a Taste Test
The real milk taster pictured above actually defines himself (via Twitter) as Britain’s leading owl. He also draws an excellent picture.
With the same gravity as a bomb-disposal expert and using fragile wine glasses, he reviewed 5 different types of milk and which breakfast product they would be best suited to. Particular complements were given to the Marks & Spencer Organic milk, which coated the wine glass nicely at the edges – a good sign according to Wowser. He suggested that the cream in the milk would bring out the flavour of Cornflakes. The audience responded with plenty of snorting style laughing.
Lee Rourke (@LeeRourke) – The Canal
Lee is the author of ‘The Canal’ (Melville House) and ‘Everyday'(Social Disease).
Describing ‘The Canal’ as a book about boredom, the main character is reported to have embraced boredom before getting distracted by a woman. He read excerpts from this book for his presentation at Boring 2010.
From a section at the back of the book, Lee described 2 brothers playing the traditional computer game – Ping Pong. He described the game, the characters and the situation in great detail – for several minutes. It would be difficult for most people to describe a single event in so much detail and still be engaging – but Lee succeeded, casting a rather calming and hypnotic effect over the audience.
Lewis Dryburgh (@thesouthpole) – Car Park Roofs
Lewis’ online bio lists him as thinking about things too much and enjoying reading, writing and public speaking (mainly done indoors). He is also known for writing friendly messages and leaving them in public for strangers to find.
In his lecture he proposed that everyone should visit ‘high-rise civic spaces and have fun on them. They may be full of cars on a Saturday afternoon, but insisted that car park roofs are a prime piece of real estate that are only used just over 10% of the time. Lewis admitted that parks come a close second – but they are full of faeces and cap park roofs can offer fantastic views.
If the visitor really enjoyed their visit the he suggested the purchase of a souvenir of a parking ticket. Lewis suggested that animals, suicide and security guards were the three enemies of car park roofs – his reasons why were absolutely hilarious. A fantastic lecture about car park roofs!
Naomi Alderman (@amorningperson) – The 39 Forms of Work: Or What It’s Like to Do Almost Nothing Interesting for 25 Hours a week Throughout Your Childhood
Naomi’s bio states that she is a London based writer based of novels, short stories, journalism and online games. She wrote the award-winning novel ‘Disobedience’ and was lead writer on alternate reality game Perplex City and another as a part of the We Tell Stories project.
Naomi grew up as an Orthodox Jew and listed the wide range of activities that she wasn’t allowed to do on the Sabbath (sunset Friday – sunset Saturday) in order to comply with the instruction of not working. There are a surprising number of activities that are considered to be work!
An entertaining and enlightening talk provided by a very funny writer.
Owen Billinghurst (@oye_billy) – Sellotaping A Keyboard
Owen’s Twitter tag line reads ¡Yo soy un disco quebrado! While his blog bio reads ‘Hello I am called Billy. I live in West London. This is my third blog.’
He has written an excellent article about his experience presenting at Boring 2010 on his website.
His presentation was the last one of the morning session and involved strapping down increasing numbers of keys on his keyboard, insisting that the resulting sound is actually nice. The majority of the audience were constantly grinning through this piece.
Among the paper bags received by the audience at the start of the day were, among other gifts, 4 pieces of a jigsaw. A table was set up at the side of the room with encouragement from James Ward to complete the jigsaw over the lunch hour.
If anyone left the theatre during the conference, they were faced with this terrifying hulk.
William Barrett (@mount_st_nobody) – Like Listening To Paint Dry / It Must Be Somewhere, It Always Is: Collected Desks, November 2010 – December 2010
William orated a poem that he had written about the names of different colours of paints – as inspired by paint charts. Apparently boring – but some of the names were almost unbelievable and hilarious. The poem was delivered in a fantastic style. He also discussed the implications of names such as Bongo Jazz for paints.
He had also acquired a collection of photos of peoples desks – there was as much amusing variety here as in the names of the paint colours.
Holly Gramazio (@severalbees) – Each Turn Is Divided Into Seven Different Phases
Her presentation examined the story, set up and rules of and common themes across many different games. An exception to the norm appeared to be a game called Rithmomachia – which Holly appeared to be very fond of.
Greg Stekelman (@themanwhofell) – Personal Reflections On The English Breakfast
Greg has designed his homepage to suggest that he is reluctantly embracing the adult world and that the site isn’t so much a website as a museum. A recent example of his work can be seen as the graphic Tales of London.
The visual support for his presentation produced hilarious results, vying for attention against his verbal illustrations of what he had for breakfast as a child such as non-stirred oats. He then went on to describe an English breakfast – discussing which are the best components and how chips are essential (to mop up stodge). He also discussed the influence of class / religion on a breakfast menu and racist regional variations in what people have for breakfast.
Dave Joyner (@davejoyner) – Barry: Where Trains Went to Die (And Whence Some Were Saved)
Dave hushed the still active after lunch-crowd by calmly mentioning that it was the audience’s time that was being wasted. He also promoted and called for submissions for a festival named Ignite.
He said that the idea is simple: presenters are required to stick to a rigid format of 20 slides, each of which changes automatically after 15 seconds, ensuring that each presentation is exactly 5 minutes long. The format forces presenters to think long and hard about every slide.
Presentation topics at Ignite are reported to be diverse, and range from technology, travel, personal hobbies and passions and the arts. The only rule is that speakers cannot promote their own business ventures.
Dave then went onto talk about a steam train scrapyard in Barry (South Wales), which has received trains since 1958. The majority of the trains were rescued by preservationists and the yard has been closed for 20 years.
Rhodri Marsden (@rhodri) – The Draw In Test Match Cricket
Rhodri has been doing stuff for money since 1992. He is the technology columnist for The Independent, and has written a wide range of articles for The Observer, the Radio Times, The Guardian, Olive, Zeppotron and many others.
His record of events at Boring 2010 can be found here. He talked about test-match cricket comparing the 5 day cricket game to the 60 minutes of a football game. He suggested that the longer time frame of a cricket game enabled the spectators to take a dip in approach – running off to the toilet, for a burger or for both.
He talked about a game in 1939 which only ended because one of the teams had to sail back to their own country.
Peter has, at the time of writing recorded 2267 sneezes in just 1249 days. He notes the location, strength and what he was doing at the time of the sneeze.
For example, the 2257th sneeze occurred on the 2nd December 2010 at 8:00am. Peter was in the TV / living room experiencing a moderate sneeze. He was being handed a cornflake. He was looking at a quiche on the 42nd sneeze.
There are literally thousands of such amusing and mildly alarming entries on his website.
Robin Ince (@robinince) – Boring Books
Robin describes himself on Twitter as a comedian and writer and that sort of thing. He hopes one day to do a UK tour playing only libraries, those are his heady dreams. He is a writer and curator of many fantastic shows and is currently involved in a BBC radio show known as The Monkey Cage with Professor Brian Cox.
As the title of his presentation suggests, Robin was going to talk about boring books but decided to review the Saturday edition of The Guardian newspaper instead among other things.
He read out Tim Dowling’s column and commented on how a piece on Alzheimer’s was featured next to a piece about Danni Minogue in the newspaper’s magazine. He commented on how a hole in his tooth tastes of battery acid every time he licks it. Robin also mentioned that Terry Major Ball went to New York for four days, but says he could have stayed there for a week.
Aris Tsontzos (@arissays) – A very Brief History Of The Weather
Aris describes himself as writer, gamer, graduate, media enthusiast, and general all-around geek. He is currently working on a novel about a very clever monkey, who lives at Homebase, and goes on all sorts of adventures, such as crashing weddings, and infiltrating zoos. He’s also social media savvy. Expect big things.
Aris talked about definitions of weather and the different ways the word can be used. For example, it is possible to go through, over, under the weather. He talked about the evolution of predicting weather through the ages and also challenged the audience to complete old wives tales such as ‘Red Sky at Night’ (Shepard’s Delight) and ‘Seagull, seagull sit on the sand’ (It’s never good weather when they’re one land).
Charlotte Young (@charlotteyoung) – Always Look For An Original Idea or How To Be An Artist
Her own description of herself in third person is as follows: “Charlotte Young’s work infiltrates familiar power structures and institutions to create new or alternative narratives using installation, performance, video and comedy. Her work has been described as ‘Very, very funny…Truly original’ (British Theatre Review), ‘pure nonsense’ and ‘head-fucking’ (Artvehicle).
Charlotte’s presentation consisted of talking about Antony Gormley, suggesting he was smug, boring and vacuous. She then detailed his work every year since 1981 – explaining her feelings. The picture above was taken while seeking reasons as to why Gormley makes his figures.
His blog contains articles on the everyday, the banal and other important matters. For Boring 2010, he talked about roads. He describes himself as a writer and academic, based at Liverpool John Moores University. He has written five books, the most recent of which are Queuing for Beginners (2007), a cultural history of daily habits since the war, inspired in part by the Mass-Observation surveys of the 1930s and 1940s, and On Roads: A Hidden History (2009).
Joe said that the boring and banal doesn’t have a history because everyday because common activities don’t register with most people and that people value their individuality more. He goes onto to suggest that things that are boring today will be fascinating to people in the future.
Using motorways as an illustration, Joe talks about how they were viewed in the 1950s – with the novelty factor people travelled along them for fun and the Service Station was the place to be. In 1958 – the year that the M45 was opened, 74 motorists were recorded travelling in the wrong direction, 12 reversing, 47 stopping on the hard shoulder for no good reason, 41 parking on the motorway, 40 pedestrians, 13 cyclists and 184 learners drivers were also recorded on the motorway in its first year.
Joe also mentioned a stretch of the M25 where incidences of Swans landing on the motorway (because they think the motorway is a river) are as common as road accidents.
Dave talked about his which which collects user reviews of sweets, biscuits, cakes, crisps, cereals, puddings, ice creams, drinks, alcohol, fast and/or hot food.
The site has been running for about 8 years and each post – or sighting – has an average of 125 comments. It is obviously a very important resource for a lot of people.
He also talked about how shop keepers can sometimes display the promotional posters that are meant for the retailers, containing information that the consumers shouldn’t or doesn’t want to know about.
Some of the lame product names Dave talked about included Pooh Sticks and Bob The Builders Cheesy Toolbag. He also covered the problems encountered when food names are translated.
He has a regular ‘snack spot’ on the Shift, Run, Stop podcast.
Martin White (@martylog) – Ending With A Song
The musician Martin White ended the Boring 2010 conference with his song ‘4 minutes and 33 seconds’ – in reference to John Cage’s identically titled, but completely silent song.
He had invited members of the audience to play with him. After making an appeal on Twitter, a number of people were invited and requested to bring down their string, brass, wind and percussion instruments. The resulting mini-orchestra sounded great!
A whole day and 21 presentations later – I couldn’t see any attendees that were bored.
95% of the audience had remained right until the end of the day.
During discussions in the pub afterwards many attendees expressed to wanting to attend a Boring 2011.
A fantastic day out! Here’s to Boring 2011!