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University of Leeds turns medieval for four days each summer

For the past 22 years, The University of Leeds has turned medieval for four days each summer as it hosts the International Medieval Congress – the largest academic conference of its kind in Europe.
And for the University’s conference and events team, MEETinLEEDS that means looking after more than 2,400 delegates from 50 different countries, many of them staying on the campus and most of them eating there too.

Work on planning the logistics of the conference starts not long after the previous one has finished, working closely with the academic Medieval Studies team who are based at the University. MEETinLEEDS’ Event Manager Anthony Lowe said: “The Congress is huge and each year it gets bigger and even better but this requires a lot of planning as well as lateral thinking to come up with new ideas to make sure all the delegates have a great experience.”  

It is a full-managed conference which means that, in partnership with the academic Medieval Studies team , MEETinLEEDS looks after everything from inviting and registering the delegates to organising refreshments, rooms and equipment for more than 1800 meetings, lectures and events.  

The IMC makes the most of the University’s fabulous open spaces and communal areas on campus. Antony Lowe said: “We’re so lucky to have a campus which is part of the city but has its own green spaces and courtyards, including a vegetable garden, and with a summer conference like this we can maximise these great facilities. We even host an open air medieval village on the last day complete with a falconry display, re-enactment demonstrations, medieval dining and recipes and arts and crafts stalls.”  

Although the talk may be of all things medieval, many of the delegates stay in the University’s newest and ultra-modern facility, Storm Jameson Court which has been accredited a 4-star grading for campus accommodation from VisitEngland.  

It has 460 stunning en-suite superior single bedrooms, with a modern 24-hour reception area, wifi and a nearby state-of-the art gym and pool available to all guests. And there are also stylish lounge areas with comfortable seating and plasma screens for relaxing in between lectures and events.  

MEETinLEEDS serves around 3,000 meals a day in its refectory which is turned into a dining room for delegates.  

“With more than 1,800 different talks and events taking place during the Congress, including some open to the general public, in various venues across the campus we have a well-oiled machine making sure we have drinks, snacks and light meals easily accessible to delegates as well as providing meals in the refectory. We also work hard to react to weather conditions, making sure we have plenty of water when the sun shines.”  

All dietary requirements are catered for.  Anthony Lowe said: “We pride ourselves on offering a range of meals from vegan and gluten-free to organic and Fairtrade food. And we take great pleasure in being able to cater for everyone, whatever they need. There’s even a special Congress Ale which is always very popular.”  

MEETinLEEDS also ensures that the campus is fully decked with Congress banners greeting delegates as they arrive at the University’s iconic Parkinson Building for registration.  

Anthony continued: “Across the four days of the Congress, delegates can attend everything from an intimate meeting to a lecture for more than 500 people, as well as browse at the medieval book fair. We use a wide-range of facilities to accommodate them from the lecture theatres and meeting rooms to the prestigious University House.  

“The trick is in making sure we have the right venue for the right event and after years of running the Congress not only do we feel we get this right, the delegate feedback tells us that we do which is so satisfying. It may be a military operation, but when we are out in the sunshine watching delegates enjoying the events, it’s all worthwhile. Roll on IMC 2016 (4-7 July 2016).”

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