Review of Newcastle Conference 2015

By Sarah, part of the Conference committee 

Preparing and planning

Three woman and a guide dog outside the entrance to The County Hotel

Venue scouting in Newcastle

Organising for a conference is a bit like making a large purchase. You do your research, ask people who can help and enlist the help of a friend or two, Once you have your new pride and joy you treat it gently before it becomes part of the furniture and you can look back on a satisfying purchase that suits all the people who will use it.

In the early stages, we were uncertain about the number of delegates who would come if we held the conference in the north east of England. When registration closed we were delighted to have exceeded our minimum financial target number of 50 adult delegates.

Conference Eve

When the organising team and the trustees arrived in Newcastle the day before the conference we had a preparation meeting to brief everyone on the logistics of the day.

We also had a rehearsal of our presentations, to check everyone knew when and where they needed to be. The chance to practice with a group certainly ironed out a few wrinkles for me.

Afterwards, we went to the County Hotel venue. The main room was almost set up ready for the following day, which gave us a chance to check a few practical things. We had a few queries, all of which the County Hotel staff were able to resolve for us. There was also some preliminary technical work to be done for the audio-visual side of the day.

We had left London early that morning so I was quite tired. Given the necessary early start the next day to make sure everything was ready in time for the arrival of delegates plus a full day of activity, I decided to have a quiet evening. However this involved practising my presentation one more time and double checking that I was familiar with my slides. I didn’t stay up late, to try and be fresh for the following day, but I know that there was certainly at least one other member of the conference team who burnt the midnight oil that night to make sure that the slides for all presenters were ready for the big day.

Conference day

26 September dawned. After a sustaining breakfast, we headed to the conference suite to check everything was in place. After being involved with organising and attending three conferences, I finally bought an ANUK t-shirt. (I made time to do so this year, as once things get started it’s pretty much non-stop).

Sarah in front of projection welcoming everyone to Conference

Once delegates started to arrive we all took our places to carry out our various roles.

We had one moment of concern, when we thought we were going to have to shuffle our agenda, One speaker only arrived as their slot loomed..

There were several sessions during the day of some very interesting scientific presentations. Even as an aniridic you think you’ve learned a lot about your condition over the years, but even now I pick up on new information.

Man pointing at projection showing a large eye

Martin Collinson presenting

One of the sessions in the morning was our AGM. ANUK agreed to move forward with the proposal to put the charity onto a more formal regulated footing.

Delegates sat around a table

We had a split session in the afternoon with one stream looking at education and the other about sport and leisure. Both of these sessions produced some lively debate and enabled us all to share and gain from the experiences of others.

A panel of speaker with an audience asking questions

After the conference, we invited everyone to the hotel bar to renew old friendships and build on the acquaintances that had been made during the day.

Looking back

The good feeling among those who organised the event was reflected in the feedback from our delegates. 67% of those who responded to our survey were very satisfied with our conference.

All sessions of the conference were well received, though ’Aniridia Check Your Knowledge’ rated the highest. Most delegates who responded felt that the length of the conference and the social activity were about right.

Man and woman speaking into a microphone, seated in front of a laptop and a projector

James and Jenny presenting ‘Aniridia: Check Your Knowledge’

What was the most beneficial aspect?

In our survey we asked what delegates had found to be most beneficial about the conference, here are a selection of some of the responses that we had:

“The opportunity to share experiences.”


“Finding out more about aniridia and meeting lots of people.”


“Everything, and I would like to be a member please? Thanks to all for a wonderful day!”


“Meeting other people with aniridia, especially the trustees who have achieved so much with their lives. It gives hope and inspiration to people with young children with aniridia that they will be able to achieve and succeed in life, just as much as their sighted peers.”

We also received this feedback on the conference in general.

“You’ll find a very welcoming atmosphere and people who are happy to help and share with others.”

Thanks and see you soon

We were very pleased with how this year’s conference went, both in terms of the service we had from the County Hotel, who did everything they could to make it a success, to the number of delegates that came.

The Trustees would like to thank everyone (speakers, delegates and volunteers) for making the event a success and we look forward to seeing you at future events.

View more photos of Conference 2015 on Flickr

Delegates looking at exhibition stall and talking with each other

About Aniridia Network

A charity support group for people with the genetic visual impairment aniridia and their families in the UK and Ireland. Our vision is that people with/associated with aniridia are hopeful, confident, supported and well informed regarding aniridia. Founded in 2000. First registered as a charity in 2011 and fully in 2018.
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