HA Conference 2015!

Last updated: Jan 30th, 2019

The Historical Association’s Annual Conference is always a highlight of the year for our team, but this year’s event at the Bristol Royal Marriot Hotel was something really special. This year three members of our team were in attendance; Tour Consultant Emma was attending for her sixth time and was looking forward to catching up with clients and old friends, whilst for Marketing Manager Nicky Astle, this was her first venture into the HA’s two day event. Speaking to Nicky following the event, it was apparent that she had found the whole experience a real eye-opener.

“To see so many teachers and history enthusiasts together in one place was remarkable. Even more spectacular was being able to witness their shared vision – to keep the subject of history alive and relevant both in schools as well as in terms of the general public’s engagement with it. Couple this with the fact that we were surrounded by record delegate numbers, a fascinating menu of speaker sessions and a stunning central backdrop at the Bristol Royal Marriott Hotel, we knew very early on that this was an event that would be remembered for all the right reasons.”

Without a doubt, the highlight of the weekend for most was having the opportunity to meet with Betty Vine, one of the Enigma code breakers. For Emma and Nicky just hearing her relay the nature of her enrolment and her subsequent commitment to the Official Secrets Act was an honour indeed, but to then be rewarded with photos and signed copies of her book meant the storytelling would continue for some weeks hence!

The Turing Bombe Rebuild Project

“Our encounter with Betty was nothing short of inspiring,” said Nicky. “She is a truly amazing woman, and a great reminder to us all of the importance of sharing the details of such historical events and personal experiences. It makes our understanding so much greater in terms of the context of today.  It is only through Betty’s continuing work in this area, ensuring her story is amplified to a much wider audience, that we can truly begin to understand the significance of such events and the effect it has had on us today.”

Emma and Nicky attended the conference with Paula Kitching, Rayburn Tours’ History Tours Development Manager, who was also attending in her capacity as the HA’s media representative. As well as presenting her own general interest session on the history of MI5 and MI6, Paula was excited to talk to delegates at the Rayburn Tours stand about our new history tour guides. Together with Paula, Rayburn Tours has worked hard to recruit and train a team of historians and ex-service personnel to lead and enrich our tours, and Paula was bowled over by the positive feedback from the teachers she spoke to.

“Teachers really want this. Our guides have the knowledge of the subject and destination to confidently lead the tours, and this gives teachers the confidence to take their students out of the classroom.”

Paula was also really excited to talk to a teacher of partially sighted children who was previously unsure of how she could make a battlefields tour happen for her students. She was encouraged by Rayburn Tours’ commitment to tailoring every tour to each group’s specific needs, as well as our understanding of the additional challenges of touring with SEN classes. “We already work with SEN schools and are dedicated to working in partnership with their teachers to ensure that each tour meets the educational and social needs of the students. We believe that there should be no barriers to enriching a child’s education outside of the classroom, and environments such as this conference are invaluable when it comes to having these important conversations with teachers.”


As well as engaging with the teachers, historians and amateur enthusiasts at the conference, Emma and Nicky also seized the opportunity to attend some of the fascinating speaker sessions on offer. Emma was particularly inspired by Saturday’s keynote speech by Lucy Worsley about how to build an anniversary event, and how the public respond to such historical anniversary events.

“Anniversaries are important to Rayburn Tours as they significantly raise interest in particular events. It was fascinating to hear a historian’s perspective on the recent phenomenon of promoting anniversaries and I will take the key points from Lucy’s speech back to the office with me.”

All in all, it was a very successful event. There is no doubt that the Historical Association’s Annual Conference has grown massively over the last few years and next year’s conference in Harrogate is expected to be even bigger. We are certainly looking forward to being a part of it!