It’s autumn so I’m at CHAT. This year we’re in Orkney and the theme is Rurality. As CHAT Chair, Sefryn Penrose, reminded us yesterday, the rural is about seasonality. But our rhythms are not rural, despite our location. On Twitter, #CHAT2016 documents the papers and artworks and conversations and friendships. It speaks of the seasonality of the conference and the particular engagements with place and time enacted by gatherings of archaeologists, heritage professionals and artists as they descend on this idea of north.
We’re hosted beautifully by the University of the Highlands and Islands. It’s no easy task to run a conference but they are a basic unit of measurement of the academic year and the responsibility is shared. Dan Lee, Antonia Thomas, Jane Downes and the whole Orcadian team hold this hospitality with grace and warmth. We tour the island visiting stone circles, click mills, farm museums, military installations, art centres and wave research sites. We search for fabled seaweed-fed lamb but make do with chilli. We drink and dance and clown around. The CHAT community intersects with Human Seasons and is another one of my families, this one begun in 2003. But the conference often clashes with my teaching these days so I’m particularly happy to be here this year.
Today is the final day. Where yesterday we began to unpick the rural, today we range over haunted militarised landscapes and engage sensuously with their spaces and texts and materials. And we end with sore heads but a magical future of ebban an’ flowan and an understanding of Orkney as the centre of the universe.