As someone who has always cultivated his Jack the Ripper interest in the privacy of my own home, I suppose it can be said that I had a feeling of trepidation and a sense of insecurity as I attended my first ever Conference. Attended by other newcomers as well as a well-known community of Ripperologists, I booked the conference months in advance on a whim knowing that I could change my mind at any time. The conference was booked through http://www.ripperconference.com and cost a decent £50
Whilst I thought I would change my mind at some point, the recent additions of other similar-minded people on Facebook began to increase my excitement about the meeting as I discussed the matter with them. And I feel I made the right decision in attending, meeting these same people as well as learning much more specific issues around the case. As always, when I come to London I tend to mix visiting my university friend and the inevitable beers that follow with my urge to visit Jack the Ripper or Tudor related locations. Having woken up very hungover on the Saturday morning it was a struggle making it across London to the East End with the constant irritation and uncertainty that is the Tube. Finally reaching Aldgate East I made my way through the area with the help of Google Maps on my phone finally reaching the King’s Stores pub on Widegate Street just after ten. Thankfully the start time was put off until 10:30 allowing me to slide in quietly and take my seat at the back without attracting too much attention to my arrival. Having recognised a few faces from Facebook such as Jon Rees, Mike Covell, Trevor Bond and Kate Bradshaw, I nevertheless felt a bit self conscious and refrained from making a nuisance of myself by blurting out any comments I had. At least until later!
The introductions and welcomes were handled by Colin Cobb, a funny Northern Irish gentleman who quickly put everyone at ease from the start. John Bennett was the first speaker proper, delivering a very detailed presentation about the housing situation in the Whitechapel area of the late Victorian Era, relevant to the case with regards to how the victims lived. Entitled “The Doss Houses of the Rookery”, the 45-minute presentation was interesting and a statement he made about the possibility of part of these Doss Houses still surviving today led to a small jaunt later in the day to check it out in person.
With a coffee break that was much needed to combat the hangover I took the time introduce myself in more detail Jon, Mike and a few others whom I was coming across for the first time. The next presentation was from Gareth Williams who is also from South Wales, in nearby Neath. The talk was entitled “Severin Klosowski” and as the name suggests was focused on the man many feel is a worthy candidate as the possible perpetrator of the killings. A very detailed speech once again with evidence to back up the theories from census’ records and the like. I feel slightly more drawn to Klosowski more than other candidates for reasons unknown to myself so I found my self very into the talk. With a buffet break of fresh sandwiches and chips as well as the aforementioned jaunt into deepest Whitechapel to view a possible relic of Ripper-era Doss Houses over, the next speaker was Mike Covell who was presenting a talk on “the Hull Connection”, amazingly done from the top of his head rather than in written speech form.
As someone with no connections whatsoever to Hull or even a passing interest in that part of the world outside of what my beloved Swans do in the football up there, I was surprised at how into the topic I became, due in no part to Mike’s obvious passion for his hometown which is a trait I strongly recognise in myself to a point it almost becomes a character flaw in me. Whilst some links were rather tenuous, the most important ones had strong connections and is definitely something that Mike has worked hard on to expose. I should also thank Mike on behalf of everyone for giving us the informative talk in spite of terrible personal circumstances.
The final talk was also something I was looking forward to, knowing Trevor Bond’s background in raising funds for a memorial plaque for the subject of his talk, Frances Coles. With such a passion for this lady it was clear this would be an interesting talk and the West Ham fan didn’t let us down, mixing his speech with an inflextion of personality that came over well. Whether or not she was a victim of the Ripper is debatable but that is the reason we are all attending these seminars in the first place, to cultivate a greater understanding on the peripheral aspects to the case.
With the raffle done and the auction raising surprising amounts for Trevor’s appeal, it was time for yet more socialising with various people such as Mickey Mayhew, Adam Wood and other people as well as the aforementioned. The topics? Mainly football and alcohol. All in all a fantastic day that was not boring or dull in the slightest but informative, insightful and a great taster for future events that will be firmly added to my Blackberry Calender.
Special thanks to all who attended, spoke to me and especially to Adam Wood for organising the event in the first place. Also thanks to Suzi Hanney and Andrew Firth who’s photo’s I’ve secretly stolen! Until next year…