The world's most boring conference

By Jonathan Brown

A talk on the evolution of the electric hand dryer will no doubt capture the attention of those attending London's second annual Boring conference. Photo / Thinkstock
A talk on the evolution of the electric hand dryer will no doubt capture the attention of those attending London's second annual Boring conference. Photo / Thinkstock

The organiser of this year's Boring conference - a London gathering dedicated to the delights of the mundane, obvious and overlooked - has a problem. He is worried it is in danger of being too interesting.

Such was the success of the inaugural event last year that the series of talks has attracted a line up of speakers including author Jon Ronson and documentary maker Adam Curtis who, it is feared, could have the undesired effect of entertaining the sell-out audience.

This might seem unlikely considering some of the subjects on offer today. These include a morning discussion on the evolution of the electric hand dryer by a man who has installed a Dyson Airblade in his home, and an exposition on the history of Budgens supermarkets.

But the prospects for this year's get-together are already being talked down - or up, depending on your perspective - to prevent disappointment.

In a sign of the level of expectation, a Canadian documentary team has already been despatched to record proceedings.

Canada is said to be a hotbed of activism in the emerging global boring movement.

However, James Ward, who founded 2010's Boring conference initially as a joke on Twitter following the cancellation of a rival "Interesting" conference, believes there is still scope for failure.

"I'm hoping that because I am putting it together things won't work, I will forget things or someone will pull out," said the 30-year-old who works for a DVD distributor.

Nearly two dozen speakers will be given 10 minutes to discuss a subject they find personally fascinating.

Four hundred tickets have already been sold - twice as many as last year and Mr Ward said he had plans to take the event international, possibly launching in Berlin next year.

The irony is that boring stuff is not actually boring at all, said Mr Ward who is delivering an introductory lecture on the first 10 years of Which? magazines.

As with his other interests in stationery, he believes there is a nostalgic thirst for the workaday among the predominantly 20-30-year-old crowd the event appears to attract.

"That is the paradox. At the heart of the boring thing is what people consider to be interesting in the newspapers and in the media is actually quite boring.

"What we are talking about is the stuff people take for granted, which is considered trivial mundane. Because it is so familiar when you look at it in detail it is incredibly interesting," he said.

A glance down the list of topics is certainly enough to get the pulse racing and delight sponsors Hi-Cone, the packaging firm that makes the plastic strips that hold cans together.

Before lunch, conference goers will be able to hear about toilets and hand dryers. Later, the action hots up with a seminar on the square root of two and a talk on civil aircraft. The tricky final session reaches a dizzying finale with discussions on health and safety, vending machines and concrete overpasses.

The Independent's Rhodri Marsden, who will be discussing his inability to make social small talk, said anyone expecting to be bored would be let down.

"It's a bit of a misnomer. I went along last year and no one knew what to expect," he said.

"People are intrigued by the idea of stepping back and considering stuff that we wouldn't normally ponder."

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