What started as a joke turned into a sell out conference. My time at Boring Conference 2012, organised to celebrate the dullest subjects in the world turned out to be 'interesting'.
Well what is boring, anyway? Something fascinating to one person is magical to the next. An individual’s passion for almonds, for example, is another’s worst nightmare. ‘Why are you still talking about almonds?’ the lesser interested human would say, as the first categorises types, uses and shows a current, half-eaten pack with all the vigour one nutty bag could possibly deserve.
It’s probably fair to say that a significant portion of the population would have gotten bored at Boring 2012. Or at least found a number of the talks somewhat dull. But mundane can be a beautiful thing to many – proven not least by the 500 attendees at York Hall on Sunday. And by the many more who displayed their anguish on Twitter at not having booked a ticket sooner.
A collection of thoughts and processes lined the stage at the conference. From explanations of why certain Tumblr blogs had come about, to five very calorie-high U.S breakfasts, to pictures of yellows lines and the detailed story about how they first collided with our roads.
At conferences, I’m usually the guy standing by the buffet; yet at Boring 2012 found myself captivated by fridges. Am I insane, or simply unimpressed by the salad bar? It cannot be the later. Do I really find sensation in YouTube videos of a pair of delightful hands showing me how to fold a towel? Am I really transfixed by IBM till snaps? Yes, yes I am.
As worrying as this is, I find solitude in the fact I am not alone. In fact, many people share these interests and although it is easy to denounce them as ‘boring,’ to some such discussion is the perfect way to spend a Sunday.
It’s unclear to me as to whether this is the impression Boring 2012 was supposed to give. Its founder, James Ward, (a Sabotage Times writer) started the event as a joke. He found, as one often does that the joke went further than previously anticipated. Maybe to some the event is simply another alternative East End frivolity, something different in a world of creativity and leopard-print shoes? To others, it may well be a genuinely interesting collection of facts and information – anoraks in their most natural form. To the rest, Boring 2012 is perhaps just be a humorous way to spend an otherwise inescapably indifferent Sunday, where many of the things discussed would have been partaken anyway. I mean, come on, who doesn’t like a bit of ASMR? It’s a real thing!
Although under one umbrella, the talks, unsurprisingly, took varying forms. Many appeared to be a true passion to the speaker; a real enthusiasm and interest. Something out of the ordinary that others would find potentially tedious. The intricacies of toast, for example. Turns out it’s remarkable. Some seemed to be conversation points that may well crop up in many pubs around the country, but that wouldn’t usually be touched on in such detail. The Antiques Road Trip for instance: does it command an entire lecture? Usually, no. But when James Brown (Sabotage Times Editor in Chief) is at the helm, things change, however bewildering certain aspects may be. Others were simply musings on life – a way of making use of all that free time.
There was one, overarching theme that was recurrent in every talk, however. It was that they all gave us a glimpse of the inner workings of the human mind. A poignant snapshot of personal confinement. An insight into how we tick and what we really do when we’re alone.
Emily Webber told us how she liked to document shop fronts around London. From the newsagents she bought penny sweets from when a child, to the Chinese takeaway that closed down because of a drive-by shooting. These photographs, as painful as it is to say, evoked emotion and really did mean something. To put it simply, what appears undoubtedly humdrum on the surface is actually rather enthralling. All you need is a story, however melancholy it might be.
Likewise, James W. Smith’s talk on his commute to the office by way of feet sounds positively ridiculous a topic to discuss for over 10 minutes. Why on earth would 500 people want to listen to a man recount his daily journey to work? Certainly when an intrinsic part of it was his practice in retaining his saliva in his mouth. Not swallowing for over an hour. Indeed, it all sounds a little bit like an oddball pornography programme on Channel Five.
But no, while the speakers themselves may well have slightly fetish-style tendencies to things as trivial as vampire numbers and Lego, there was nothing untoward about these pastimes. Merely a strong connection to thought and life. Yes, walking to work can be one of the most boring things in the world – but not when you give it worth. Not when you dig a little deeper. For when you do, it’s all suddenly very interesting indeed.