The SfEP conference: Some background
Page owner: Conference director
A major event in the Society's calendar, the SfEP annual conference is an opportunity for editors, proofreaders and others involved in publishing to learn new skills, brush up on existing knowledge and find out about developments in the industry. It provides a place for freelance and in-house colleagues to network and socialise, swapping experience and advice and, perhaps, laying the foundations for future creative partnerships.
The SfEP itself started at a conference: at the 1988 conference of the Society of Indexers, Norma Whitcombe, the SfEP's founder, asked for help in setting up a similar organisation for editors and proofreaders. The SfEP was formed later that year, the first conference was convened in 1990, and there has been a conference every year since.
The conference programme
Every year, delegates can choose from a range of workshops and seminars, as well as attending lectures, panel sessions and social events. Sessions cover specific editorial skills (such as editing fiction, proofreading e-books or the art of querying), career development and issues relating to working as a freelance (for example on finance, marketing or how to expand your business into new areas), technological developments and new publishing tools, and general interest topics (such as corpora and bookbinding). The programme aims to cater for all levels of experience, from those just starting out to experienced editors, and suggestions from members are welcomed.
The conference theme gives a focus to proceedings:
2005 One step beyond
2006 Meeting new challenges
2007 Learning is always in season
2008 20:20 vision: looking forward, looking back
2009 Editing in the 21st century
2010 Succeeding through innovation
2011 Skills, freelancing, Education, Practice
2012 The many faces of editing
2013 Editing at the crossroads
2014 Editing: fit for purpose
2015 Collaborate and innovate
2016 Let’s talk about text
2017 Context is key: why the answer to most questions is ‘It depends’
2018 Education, education, education
2019 In the beginning was the word
The Whitcombe lecture, on some aspect of language or publishing, is a highlight of the conference. Distinguished guest speakers have included:
2005 Clarissa Dickson Wright
2006 Ian Ritchie CBE
2007 Andrew Franklin, Profile Books
2008 Charlotte Brewer, Oxford University
2009 David Crystal OBE
2010 Trevor Dolby, Preface Publishing
2011 Angus Phillips, Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies, Oxford Brookes University
2012 Jessica Kingsley, Jessica Kingsley Publishing
2013 Carol Fisher Saller, the Subversive Copy Editor
2014 Robert McCrum, associate editor of the Observer
2015 John Thompson, Cambridge University
2016 Susan Greenberg, author of Editors Talk about Editing
2017 Oliver Kamm, Times leader writer and columnist, and author of Accidence Will Happen: The Non-pedantic Guide to English
2018 Lynne Murphy, professor of linguistics at the University of Sussex and author of The Prodigal Tongue: The Love–Hate Relationship between British and American English
2019 Chris Brookmyre, bestselling and prizewinning author of novels including Quite Ugly One Morning and A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away
The conference provides a valuable opportunity to network and socialise, to meet new people and catch up with old friends. Delegates can chat over coffee and meet our sponsors and exhibitors in the exhibitors' fair. First timers are invited to meet the SfEP Council over drinks and there is a drinks reception for everyone before the gala dinner.
The conference dinner
Our annual gala dinner features fine food, entertainment and the yearly outing of the SfEP's chamber choir, the Linnets. After-dinner speakers have included David Crystal OBE and language commentator Mark Forsyth; delegates have also enjoyed quizzes and ceilidhs.
More than 100 delegates attend every year, so we have a conference director and team dedicated solely to overseeing conference planning. The conference is held at a UK venue, usually in the first half of September. See what is being planned for next year's conference.