‘Students for sale’ conference: A chance to connect in person, and more

Not sure whether to come along to our ‘Students for Sale: Tools for Resistance’ conference on Saturday 15 October? Lynne Walsh explains what you’d be missing…

A break from Zoom-land

We’ve lived in Zoom-land for so long now that the thought of a real, in-person event might seem an effort.

After all, in the last couple of years many of us have ‘attended’ a lot of conferences, seminars and meetings without moving from the sofa. We’ve dipped in and out of presentations – I’ve switched off audio and video, and done my fair share of ironing during a few cyberspace conferences. There’s no transport involved, no fussing about coffee at the venue [my own kitchen serves quality stuff], and no fear of missing anything – I can simply record speakers on my phone.

But the lure of a real event – a happening, as our older sisters would say – is so much greater. Seeing people arrive, recognise friends, greet one another, and introduce old acquaintances to new ones: that cannot happen in the same way on a remote computer screen.

This was brought home to NMN in the thank you messages received after their Nottingham event in June. Here’s one example:

“Thank you SO much for Saturday – you organised a fabulous event, which has definitely made many women feel somewhat relieved to have the opportunity for open conversations. I really appreciated it and also hearing from the various speakers, particularly Fiona [Broadfoot] and Kathleen [Richardson]. Thanks for being so accommodating and welcoming. Thanks also for your work in the struggle for women’s rights.”

Fiona and Kathleen will both also be speaking at ‘Students for Sale’.

The Full Monty

We know how important body language is, and it’s simply not the same online. Zoom sessions don’t allow us many pauses – and little silences are an important part of human interaction; they give emotional rhythms to our communications.

Meeting online can be tiring; the technology makes other cognitive demands of us. With fewer non-verbal cues, we have to concentrate on words. Half the time, we’re trying to connect emotionally via only verbal signals. That means we’re not using the skills acquired over a lifetime!

A real event, with powerful speakers, and a passionate audience, is very appealing at the moment.

Historic venue

Red Lion Square garden
The public garden in Red Lion Square

Organised by Nordic Model Now, the ‘Students for Sale’ conference is being held in Conway Hall, which is located in Red Lion Square in central London. There’s a lovely public garden and a café in the square, providing an oasis if you need a quiet moment.

Conway Hall has a long history of hosting radical, socialist, and feminist events. It’s where the first Feminism in London conferences were held – long before FiL morphed into FiLiA – as was the brilliant Women of Colour Against the Sex Trade event.

Further back in history, Conway Hall was associated with the women’s suffrage movement and key suffragettes.

The audience at Feminism in London 2009.
Feminism in London 2009

Brilliant programme

The programme is shaping up to be an exceptional event. Fiona Broadfoot will kick it off in the morning. I’ve seen her speak a few times. She is a force of nature, burning with the injustice she sees and has lived through. The testimony of a survivor is powerful even online – but I want to be there, in the space, with her. Because this is not speech-making, it’s not empty rhetoric. This is personal testimony, bearing witness – and there is nothing that replicates that experience.

Chelsea Geddes is coming all the way from New Zealand especially to speak at the conference. As a teenager, she was sold the idea that “sex work” was a great job and an easy way to make money. She found out the hard way that it was neither. She ended up spending years trapped in the legal brothels under New Zealand’s fully decriminalised system, which is often held up as the model that all countries should be following. I can’t wait to hear what she has to say.

Robert Jensen is an American professor of journalism and media ethics, and author of many books, including The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men and Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity. He will be applying his uniquely compassionate and brilliant analysis to the current trend of students and young people being sold to the pimps – individual and corporate.

The programme is packed with many more high-quality speakers, but there will also be time for discussion and questions. Importantly, there’s also an hour-long lunch break, perfect for packed lunches, or heading off to a nearby café.

There’ll be some music – though we have promised the Red Lion Square neighbours that there’ll be no howling at the moon. There’ll be time for socialising – we’ve booked space for this in a nearby venue at the end of the day.

There will certainly be plotting and planning to put this bad world to rights.

There will be activism, campaigning and sisterhood.

That’s enough to get me off the sofa to this event – part superb conference, part tribal gathering – in the name of one of the greatest challenges of our era.

We need to mobilise, and Zoom-land cannot contain us.

Get tickets and find out more

Tickets are only £5 (concessions are £3).

For tickets and more information, see: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/students-for-sale-tools-for-resistance-tickets-321173457457

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