When I was told I had been selected for the Hal Dalwood Bursary for CIfA's annual conference in 2018, I was stunned, humbled and delighted at once. Certainly, I was not going to refuse the offer of free attendance to one of the most important archaeology conferences in the country!
I started out in archaeology at 16, volunteering on excavations and surveys across the UK, the Channels Islands, Italy and Tunisia. This led to employment with GSB Prospection and presently AOC Archaeology as a Project Supervisor in geophysics. I have also been excavating and completing other types of survey with AOC, so I am learning how these different areas work together. I first heard about the IfA (now CIfA) at University. After becoming a student member, I quickly joined the New Generation Special Interest Group (of which I’m now Secretary). The Group has a particularly important role in showing early career archaeologists and students the resources they can use to advance their own archaeological careers. I successfully applied for my Practitioner accreditation in 2015.
Despite this I struggled to find the funds necessary to go to Brighton for the conference. Therefore, I applied for the Hal Dalwood conference bursary. Now I must admit that I had unsuccessfully applied the previous year for CIfA 2017 in Newcastle, and got some useful feedback from CIfA, which helped refine my next application. The bursary itself is a huge help as it covers travel and accommodation, which wasn't cheap for me as I was travelling from Leeds by train. It also covers full attendance to the 3-day conference.
Ultimately the bursary meant I could focus on the sessions rather than what I would end up paying for the conference. As a result, on the first day of the conference I hit the ground running, immediately attending the session Growing your career from student to a post-excavation environmental specialist. We learned much by gaining an insight into other professional’s career paths and their thoughts on the subject!
As an accredited PCIfA member we are required to carry out 50 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) over two years. One of the most useful aspects of attending CIfA's conference is that you can add this towards your target of CPD hours, as you can log the sessions you attended at the back of the conference programme and tailor it to your own objectives. I logged 6 hours of CPD this year but within this I attended several sessions that are relevant to my career development. I refreshed my knowledge of archiving and data management in the ADS-run workshop (I deal with a lot of data in my role), I have learned a great deal about the legal framework surrounding non-designated buildings and why planning applications get rejected (who would have thought leopard print carpet can be listed!); and I went on a fieldtrip to Whitehawk causewayed enclosure on the racecourse itself, which not only enhanced my knowledge of the prehistoric archaeology of Southern Britain, but also the management of the monument within an urban setting over time. It is a great case study for how you can save a monument with sympathetic conservation, including using sheep to stop people from damaging the monument. I also saw how CIfA, Historic England and other major groups within the heritage sector are working together to improve our profession at every level, giving me confidence about where we are going as a sector.
It isn't just about updating your personal development plan though. From having attended several conferences I have a network of friends and contacts I regularly catch up with at CIfA and other conferences around the country, so I can find out about the latest developments in other parts of the country and get their views on the latest archaeological issues. Additionally, I also made some new contacts, which can only be a positive development in our careers. Needless to say, a lot of this networking was done during the evening meal and the social at The Brunswick!
The New Generation Committee also met at the conference and discussed the future plans of the Group, which promise to be exciting and progressive. We are always on the lookout for new members by the way!
Overall the conference was a great opportunity for the variety of reasons I’ve mentioned above, and the Hal Dalwood Bursary was a huge help as it meant I could spend time enjoying and concentrating on the sessions and not worrying about the cost: I cannot thank the trustees of the award enough for choosing me as the recipient of the Hal Dalwood Bursary.
There is other financial help available from CIfA for their conferences as well as the Hal Dalwood Bursary, and I highly recommend that early careers archaeologists apply for these in future to benefit from a similar experience to mine.