Apologies for a late column this week (I’m sure none of you noticed, but editor Mark’s frowny emoticons have cast a black cloud over my week) – but I’ve been preoccupied with preparing for Annual Conference. Some years this simply means packing an emergency biscuit supply and all my red clothes in a bag, and selling a kidney to raise the train fare, but since eleven thousand members of the Labour Party will be rocking up to the best city in the UK this weekend – and a series of increasingly desperate tweets about accommodation suggest that at least half of them will be staying with me – I’ve had to stock up on teabags.
If you’re joining us and it’s your first Conference this year, I’m excited for you, and not just because you get to come to Manchester. Conference is one of the best opportunities we have to meet fellow party members from all over the country, exchange ideas, argue passionately about policies and learn about campaigns, organisations and issues you’d never heard of before. But if you’re unlucky it can also be a little stressful, lonely and – given the sheer amount of stuff going on – overwhelming. That’s why, as a representative of your host city, I’ve come up with a few tips to make your conference experience more enjoyable…
1. But first, allow me to plug my own event.
I’ve blogged here before about Labour Exchange, the site Matt Doughty and I have developed to help Labour members and supporters share their skills. We’ve just launched the new version of the site, so you can now sign up even if you’re not on Twitter. We’re holding an Introduction to Labour Exchange event on the Wednesday of Conference to encourage feedback on the site and get new members signed up – do drop in for a chat and a free cake! 3-5pm, Wednesday, upstairs in Brewdog Manchester on Peter Street. (Apologies but the upstairs is not wheelchair-accessible. If you’re not able to make this event for any reason but would like to know more about Labour Exchange, drop me a tweet or email and we’ll meet up for a chat.)
2. Get some campaigning done.
The worst thing about Conference is that it can seem – and often be – very inward-looking. Get some fresh air, meet some of the lovely people of Manchester – and help us win the Manchester Central by-election! There are two sessions planned:
Sunday 30th September – campaigning with Lucy Powell and Eddie Izzard, 10.30am-12.30pm
Tuesday 2nd October – post-leader’s-speech campaigning – 6pm.
Transport will be provided for both sessions: meet at the Lloyd Street entrance to Manchester Town Hall.
3. Know when all the best socials are. Here’s my completely subjective list…
Saturday – 7pm-11pm – as a fringe event for Labour Women’s Conference, there will be an evening of debate, music, cake and cocktails at Teacup in the Northern Quarter (55 Thomas Street, M4 1NA). It will include a panel debate on the role of music in bringing about political change, feminism in music, and other issues raised by the Pussy Riot trial. Entrance to the venue is free, but we are trying to raise funds for the Pussy Riot legal team so donations on the door will be welcomed. Free cake and a Pussy Riot cocktail will be given to the first dozen people who turn up wearing a balaclava!
Followed by LGBT Labour’s traditional start of conference party, 9pm til late in the Palace Hotel.
Sunday – Manc Night! 8pm til late. Music from legendary Hacienda DJ Dave Haslam, plus live bands, special guests and a unique Mancunian menu. Sam’s Chop House, Chapel Walks, M2 1HN. Tickets £15 and STRICTLY limited – e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm your place. All money raised will be split between Manchester Labour and Lucy Powell’s by-election campaign fund.
Monday – Karaoke with LabourList and the Socialist Societies (surely a band name waiting to happen). 8pm til late, Rain Bar (M1 5JG), entrance £10 (£5 concessions), and I am taking requests via Twitter as of now.
Wednesday (yes, I missed Tuesday. I have no idea if anything’s happening on Tuesday. By the Tuesday of Conference I tend to enjoy a nap) – #lab12tweetup! 7pm, Sandinista bar at 2 Old Bank Street Manchester, M2 7PF, Tom Watson on the decks again, more details here. Followed by Labour Students Disco at Alibi on Oxford Street, 9pm-3am, for anyone who doesn’t have a press pass…
4. …but don’t be afraid to explore.
Manchester is a wonderful city (I might have mentioned this before) and it’d be a tragedy to spend the best part of a week seeing nothing but the inside of conference venues. Peter Wheeler will no doubt be distributing his traditional pub guide, but this year we can also expect a junior version thanks to Wheeler the Second. Keep an eye out for a link on Twitter.
I hope everyone gets a lot out of Conference and have a good time in this amazing city. Drop me a tweet if there’s anything I can help with while you’re here. And don’t forget to bring a brolly.