Skip to main content

IMC Memories: Simon Forde


To celebrate the 25th International Medieval Congress (IMC) this year, we have been speaking to some of our delegates, past and present. Dr Simon Forde is the founding Director of the IMC, and told us about the organisation of the first conference in 1993.

‘In 1992, Lesley Johnson, Wendy Childs, and I went together to Kalamazoo – I’ve been going every year since 1986, but it was the first time Lesley and Wendy had been. In those days, it was a bit of a pilgrimage for British scholars. On the way back from Manchester airport, somewhere on the M62, we started thinking: why can’t we do a conference like Kalamazoo over here? We spoke to colleagues from the Central European University, as well as contacts at Leeds and across Europe – there seemed to be support for such a venture.

The International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds.

The International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds.

For the first conference, we were aiming for something like 1000 people, as a rough number. We did it up at Bodington Hall, and had some help from the University Conference team. That first year, we had approximately 890 registrations, and everyone was pretty much staying at Bodington, or the conference centre across the road, Weetwood Hall, a former University hall of residence.

We had two postgraduates from Leeds at the time working as Congress Administrators – Keren Wick, who was just finishing her PhD, and Stephanie Dickinson, an MA student. Keren was involved in constructing the programme, and Stephanie was involved in organising all the exhibits and excursions, all the non-programme activities.

After that first year, Keren handed over to Axel [Müller, current IMC Director], and he was the Congress Administrator for the first few years. When I knew I was leaving, he took on more responsibility, and he’s done an absolutely fantastic job. The great thing is that he was there in the first year as one of the helpers, so he saw it and he knows exactly what we wanted to do in the beginning, and he hasn’t changed that. It’s amazing just to see that idea on the M62 has grown way beyond what any of us dreamed.’