The Oxford Symposium is the original conference for people with a broad interest in food. Held at St Catz in Oxford.
Getting There & FAQs
Getting to St Catz
Several companies run regular and convenient bus service to Oxford. Oxford Tube, running from London (but not the airports) is currently the cheapest, with discounted fares for students, young adults (up to 26 years) and seniors (over 60 years).
The Oxford Bus Company and National Express both run services from Heathrow’s Central Bus Terminal or Gatwick’s North Terminal. While more expensive than the Oxford Tube, they are convenient for international arrivals.
The stop closest to St Catz is High Street/Queen’s Lane, and this map will guide you on foot. If you prefer to taxi with luggage, go to the final stop at Gloucester Green.
Another option is by train, with frequent trains from and to London Paddington which take about an hour. Do buy your ticket in advance to get a better deal.
Most people arrive on Friday afternoon, Symposiasts are encouraged to arrive on the Thursday to enjoy the Ashmolean. The Symposium continues throughout Sunday afternoon and Symposiasts may wish to stay in Oxford until Monday to ensure that they attend all Symposium activities.
The Symposium offers activities during the few hours immediately before the official start of the Symposium. A Wiki-Edit-a-thon, held at St Catz, provides guidance in the ways of creating and editing Wikipedia entries.
Accommodations, Meals, and Dress
If you’re staying in college, you will already have your accommodation booked for you. Please note that check out time from St Catz is 1000 ON SUNDAY MORNING and you have to return the room key to reception by that time; there is a luggage room to the left of the Porter’s desk where you can deposit your luggage on Sunday morning.
As a registered symposiast, you have already purchased meals. Appropriate beverages are included in the dining room, with wine, beer or other similar provided at lunch and dinner. Meals are designed to educate and highlight the Symposium topic, as well as being enjoyable, sustaining, and fostering conviviality. Jake Tilson’s gorgeous menus – don’t throw yours away; they are a collector’s item – will tell you all about the guest-chefs and sponsors whose generous supplies of wine and special ingredients allows St. Catz’ talented and tolerant Head Chef Tim Kelsey and his team to keep within the college’s necessarily modest budget.
The informality of communal dining tables allows symposiasts to sit wherever they choose, providing an opportunity to make new friends and revisit old friendships. Other opportunities to exchange news and views present themselves during the morning and afternoon coffee breaks, pre-dinner drinks and post-dinner rest and relaxation in the bar-area. The college asks us to leave the dining room promptly and leave bottles and glasses behind. At other times, refreshments can be purchased from the bar in the JCR.
There’s no dress-code: just wear what makes you feel comfortable. There’s a chance – by no means a requirement – to dress up a little for our Friday and Saturday dinners. Weather, as all UK residents know, is unpredictable and St Catz is not air-conditioned should a heat wave strike. There’s a hundred-yard walk between the Lecture Hall building and the rest of the college, including the dining room and JCR where evening entertainments and socialising takes place, so an umbrella comes in handy if it rains.
The book-room (Room A – opposite the lecture hall) is open throughout most of the day for browsing and buying, apart from mealtimes.
Getting Help at the Symposium
Symposium trustees and administrators will be wearing red name badges and are ready to help you or to direct you to the appropriate person for further information. The staff at the Porter’s Lodge at St Catz can also help with some issues, such as calling taxis, lending adaptor plugs, etc.
There is no walk-in-clinic in the city of Oxford, so the John Radcliffe Hospital is the only option for someone falling ill. The hospital provides A&E for emergencies. Address is John Radcliffe Hospital, Headley Way, Oxford OX3 9DU. Telephone: 01865 741166. You can also find assistance on-line here. Neither the College nor the Symposium administrators can take any responsibility for illness or accident on Campus.
Free computers are available adjacent to the JCR (Junior Common Room); you can also request a password for wireless access on your own devices from the Registrar when you pick up your registration packet.
Paper Presentations, Recordings, and Symposium Etiquette
Papers will be presented in the order listed on the program, with questions to follow immediately after each talk. Time limits must be followed scrupulously to allow full discussion for each presenter, and please do be prompt to sessions to allow us to stay on schedule.
All presentations in the main lecture hall will be audio recorded for subsequent posting, and speakers who use illustrations will be asked to provide PowerPoints for integration into mp4s. You can experience previous years’ sessions through the Audio and Video links on the Symposium website.
If a room is overcrowded (this can happen if a subject or presenter is unexpectedly popular), please use your discretion: all the papers are on-line and you can always buttonhole the presenter later.
The Symposium topic is determined three years in advance. Should you have topics that you would like to propose, please note them on the slip of paper in your welcome pack and hand them to any of the trustees, identified by their red badges. Then make your voice and vote count during the last session.
Finally, please join our lively discussion-group on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram to keep yourself up-to-date with the community between-times. Many of the ideas that dictate how the Symposium develops derive from our on-line discussions.
The schedule of sessions and events will be sent out before the event. We encourage you to browse some of these offerings in advance.
What is not on the schedule is the socializing that takes place in and around the JCR and bar at St Catz. Please feel free to introduce yourself – we are a friendly group and welcome newcomers – and participate in after-dinner entertainments, or simply wander round and join in informal discussions, one of the most important activities of the weekend.
P.S. As you probably already know, no academic qualifications are required either for paper-presenters or attendees. Places are allotted on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration opens in mid-December and early booking is advisable. We have maintained the same fees for five years now. We keep our weekend and day-packages priced as low as possible, student-places are subsidised to allow new voices to be heard, and our fabulous meals and wines are the result of generous sponsorship and therefore are not reflected in the price of attendance.
Supporting the Symposium:
the Trust, The Friends and
The American Friends of the Oxford Symposium
The Oxford Symposium Trust is a UK charity organized to further the weekend Symposium and its proceedings, both publications and recordings. Symposium fees cover the costs of the Symposium, but they do not allow us to engage us in all of the activities that we would like, including offering further subsidies to allow student attendance.
While Symposium fees are designed to cover the costs of the Symposium weekend, we are a not-for-profit organisation and need support to allow us to cover the costs involved – among previous projects – in uploading past proceedings to the web for free downloading. We hope to be able to continue to record discussion-forums throughout the weekend (The Julia Child Foundation funded the purchase of our equipment), offer subsidised places to students, student-presenters and expand our reach through awards such as our highly successful Young Chef’s grants.
Helping to support the Trust are two fund-raising entities, the Friends and the American Friends. Through these
1. the award-winning published proceedings have been digitized (subject to a three-year holdback) to enable universal, free access to the papers
2. the OFS Rising Scholar Award (formerly Cherwell Studentship) has been funded through 2018
3. the Young Chef Grants have brought four budding chef-scholars to the Symposium
4. monetary prizes are given to student papers, including an award for the best student oral presentation and a non-student first-time presenter
5. a podcast has been started: Ox Tales which captures some of the stories told at the Symposium
6. a selection of sessions has been audio/video-recorded
The Symposium needs outside support to be able to continue these worthwhile activities, as well as to offer subsidized places to students.
Donations to the Friends may be eligible for Gift Aid (UK taxpayers); those to the American Friends, a 501(c) (3) organization, to a tax deduction (U.S. taxpayers). You will receive a solicitation in your Symposium packets; if you can afford to support either of these entities, your contributions will be greatly accepted and put to good use.