SCOS 2008 Pre-conference Fringe Event

Sailing to Byzantium: A SCOS Floating Symposium


Trips on water are not unusual features of SCOS conferences.  You may recall the ferry events of the Athens and Turku Conferences and the punting at Cambridge.  John Bergin (Wolverhampton), Artemis Stamboulis (Birmingham) and Conference Organiser Damian O’Doherty have had a meeting of minds and agree that the installation of a water feature to this year’s programme, albeit as an optional extra, would be welcomed by many delegates.

SCOS 2008 invites you to join SCOS 2008 delegates (to this year’s conference), and others, on a voyage from Liverpool, Europe's City of Culture 2008, to Manchester, the host city of SCOS 2008, by way of the rivers Mersey and Irwell and The Manchester Ship Canal on Tuesday July 1st. 

As we sail towards Manchester from Liverpool, we will witness, in addition to the region's stunning scenery, works of architecture and engineering which were key to the development of Manchester and England's northwest.

We would like to take as inspiration for our theme on this voyage Yeats's poem Sailing to Byzantium published about 30 years after the opening of the ship canal in 1894.  Foster (2003) tells us that for Yeats, "the ancient Byzantines …. were directly connected to unworldly realities… (Yeats) had written that early Byzantium brought 'religious, aesthetic and practical life' together, specifically instancing mosaic-workers and goldsmiths as expressing 'the vision of a whole people' and 'unity of creative being".  Foster continues; "There are echoes of Blake and Shelley in the 'flight from nature' … to perfection.   However the poem's preoccupation is not so much with a heavenly city on earth as with the question …: is artistic absorption in the act of creation the reflection of a true reality?  The poet's creative soul will in fact at the end be located in the eternal artifice of a mechanical bird." (Foster, R.F. (2003) W.B.Yeats: A Life II: The Arch-Poet 1915-1939. Oxford: University Press: 328)

In addition to themes of immortality and artifice, there are themes of age, ageing and wisdom in the poem which we would also liked to see aired, perhaps from seniors views of youthful conference participants and participation and vice versa. We would also encourage interdisciplinary dialogue.

However, at this stage we are not inviting papers or presentations.  This is an informal symposium.  If you come along for the trip, perhaps having spent time in Liverpool, perhaps with accompanying but non-conference participating partners, you are welcome – whether you participate or not! Let us not forget what ‘symposium’ means!

Details of Manchester Ship Canal Cruises operated by Mersey Ferries can be found via the following link

The cruise starts from Liverpool Pier Head on July 1st at 9.30am with a trip on the famous ‘Ferry across The Mersey’, to connect with the main cruise ferry which departs from The Wirral at 10.30am. The cost of the cruise is £33.00 and does not include refreshments or snacks.  These are available for purchase on-board.  You are welcome to bring your own food/refreshments with you. We are assured that there is space for luggage stowage etc.  The cruise duration is 6 hours arriving in Manchester (Salford Quays) at 16.30, just in time to grab a cab and register at SCOS 2008 at Hulme Hall prior to the conference reception.

BOOKING YOUR TICKET: If you are interested in joining us book your ticket directly with Mersey Ferries.  At the time of preparing this, 125 tickets remain unsold for the cruise but these are expected to sell out by Mid-June.  In terms of organising our presence on board, it would be helpful if you confirmed that you are joining the cruise by emailing John Bergin at, who is also the person to contact for further enquiries.