Friday, 18 March 2011

3rd Annual AHS convention - Day 1

Saturday 12th to Sunday 13th of March was the 3rd annual convention of the National Fedration of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies’ (confusingly, also AHS for short).

 It was strange but reaffirming to back at Conway Hall, home of the long-standing bastions of free-thought, the South Place Ethical Society. Arriving there with a couple of our society’s members was special because it meant that I’d started and kept the Aston Humanists running for more than two years. I was at the press launch of the AHS when it was just a small clutch of societies, to see how big it has become since (it’s more than doubled from an initial 14 to at least 32 societies), is testament to all the hard work of the AHS founders, committee members and the support of the British Humanist Association.

Walking around the stands before the talks kicked off was a great opportunity to put faces to Twitter names and flesh out relationships that had previously only existed via Facebook. It was also a good chance to pick up some free literature, talk to the NSS about their campaigns, and of course, amass a collection of cool badges.

Thanks to the very brilliant Pod Delusion you can  hear all the talks from the Speaker’s Day, which included Humanist MP Lord Warner, Gerard Philips from the National Secular Society, Chief Exec of the BHA Andrew Copson, the brilliant blogger and journalist Johann Hari, distinguished philosopher AC Grayling and a trademark scatological rant, sprinkled with morality, profanity and scientific deference, from Robin Ince.

I urge you to listen to the talks as they are all fascinating and full of thought-provoking ideas, calls to action and not a small amount of humour;  I heard someone in the audience say that the talks were rousing and I’m very much inclined to agree.

In the break, two of the Aston Humanists got to speak to Johann.Nick Martin got a chance to talk to him about his experience of the Dalai Lama's homophobia and here's Sandra Nimako-Boatey very excitedly getting his autograph. (I apologize for the skewiff photograph, but blogger just doesn't want to play ball with pictures for some reason.)

You can also see some some of the photos (the right way up) from the speakers day on the AHS facebook album.

The afternoon of talks ended on a real high, with a fantastic performance by the BHA Choir.  Their set was peppered with excellent versions of well known songs of an atheist bent, including Monty Python’s hilarious Every Sperm is Sacred, but  I was blown away by their performance of The Flaming Lip’s Do You Realize? I was (and still a little bit am) obsessed with the album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (and frontman Wayne Coyne) and must have heard that song millions of times; whilst I appreciated it’s profundity at the time, I never really got just how humanist the song was.

The trip to the pub after the event was a chance to catch up with some familiar faces and make new friends. Andrew Copson joined us for a drink and delighted us with stories of his time as a student, including an occasion when he woke up with a mouse in his mouth! As well as being one of the most personable people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, the man’s dedication to the cause knows no bounds: he’s arranged his civil partnership ceremony forward to a day before the official census so that his marriage can be recorded, and will then head straight from the ceremony to March for the Alternative, the huge protest planned against student fees and government spending cuts!

The price of a London pint precluded any excessive drinking, but the fun company meant that I still didn’t collapse into my hostel bed until nearly 1am; exhausted but with my head buzzing with excitement.

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