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  • Dot Roberts

The Cardiff Translation Unconference was an Unmitigated Success!

The Unconference attendees and facilitators sat on the steps in front of the venue
The Unconference attendees and facilitators

Honestly, the Unconference was an absolute dream. Let me tell you all about it:

What is an unconference?

The Cardiff Translation Unconference was a “bottom-up, participatory, peer-to-peer event for translators to network and share knowledge in an informal setting”.* I’d actually never been to a translation conference before, but wow, this was exactly how I would want it to be.

Prior to the unconference, we all had to fill in a form with a few topics we’d be interested in discussing. This was so that everyone had a chance to speak about something and join in the conversation, rather than individual people giving presentations as you might see in a typical conference. The unconference also had a focus on sustainability, which I loved. They encouraged us to travel as sustainably as possible and gave us a list of things to bring along.


My trip to Cardiff

I headed down to Cardiff on Thursday and spent the afternoon with Kelsey. We discovered the castle, and the rugby stadium, and wandered through the streets.

Me and Kelsey posing as a dragon in front of an actual dragon in Cardiff castle grounds
Our entry for the 'best I’m in Cardiff snap' competition

I want to give a special mention to a vintage shop we found called Sobeys Vintage Clothing. They had the most amazing clothes and the friendliest staff, and I came away with a super cute denim jacket. Kelsey and I then popped into NQ64 for some drinks, a bit of Dance Dance Revolution, and some Mario Kart. After that, we headed to Tiny Rebel, where we met a friend of Kelsey’s and her gorgeous dog, Toast. I then went to Kindle for dinner – the first official off-unconference activity. I met up with Vicky, one of the unconference facilitators, along with six other unconference attendees. We enjoyed a wonderful meal of sustainable fire food.

Unconference attendees at dinner
Dinner at Kindle

I then headed back to my hotel in Newport, where I shared a tiny (but practical) room with Marjolein.

Unconference Day!

Marjolein and I started our day with a hearty McDonald’s breakfast of crunchy hash browns. Once we got to the unconference venue, a beautiful Victorian mansion called Insole Court, we were greeted by lots of friendly faces, many of which we recognised. Since the unconference had a focus on sustainability, we brought our own lanyards, mugs, water bottles, note pads, and pens, so there were no unnecessary extras to pick up at the start. We got our Wi-Fi codes and sat down, ready to vote for the topics we wanted to discuss.

The unconference began with a short introduction from the wonderful facilitators: Juliet, Alex, Jason, Vicky, and Lloyd. Alex then started us off with an ice breaker. She divided the room into two groups, and our first task was to arrange ourselves in alphabetical order according to our first names. Our second task was to arrange ourselves in order of who travelled the smallest to biggest distance to get to Cardiff, but without speaking English. This took a little longer than the first task, but we seemed to manage it and quickly got to know each other. For our final task, Alex whispered a phrase to someone from each group, and the message got passed down the line. Both groups got it correct at the end: “The Cardiff Translation Unconference was an unmitigated success”. And it sure was.

Session One

After voting for our favourites, the three topics chosen for the first session were rates and pay, finding the right clients, and source vs target language. I joined in the chat about finding clients, and it was interesting to hear everyone’s methods and the different types of clients that people preferred to work with.

In between each session we had a short break, where we were offered tea, coffee, biscuits, and delicious Welsh treats.

Session Two

The topics for session two were mentoring and outreach, networking and collaboration, and MT and PEMT.

Photo of me wearing a daisy crown in front of the Unconference venue
You can tell I'm in my element!

I joined the discussion about mentoring, and we chatted about the kind of mentoring we can offer, and how it can benefit both new and experienced translators. It was especially interesting to hear Fiona’s experience with the mentoring sessions she’s started offering recently.

We then had a break for lunch. We each received a lunchbox full of vegan treats – sandwiches, small pasties, Welsh cakes, and even a chocolate muffin, all provided by the wonderful local catering company, Earthly. It was at this point that we chose to sit outside on the grass and enjoy the sunshine. I accidentally fell down a hill, of course, but overcame my embarrassment and made myself a daisy chain crown, which I then wore for the rest of the day.

Session Three

After lunch, we had another three sessions: marketing and making a business plan, time management, and personal branding. Personal branding was a topic that Fiona, Kelsey, and I had submitted so we led this session together. We chose to sit outside on the grass, and we had an interesting chat about what our personal brands are, how we create them, and how they benefit us.

Session Four

The final session of the day was my favourite. The discussion topics were inclusive writing, getting away from the source, and mental health. I joined in with the mental health session, and everyone was super open and honest, sharing our personal experiences with mental health and our work, and things that we do to improve our mental health.

Unconference attendees sat in a circle on the grass
The mental health discussion

Unconference Day Evening

After the final session, the facilitators did a closing speech in the gardens, and we thanked them all for the amazing event.

Many of us then headed to a local pub for pizza and drinks. After the unmitigated success of the unconference, it was a great chance to relax and get to know each other even better. And the pizza was delicious.

My Birthday!

The day after the unconference just so happened to be my birthday. After waking up in the cosy hotel room with Marjolein, I opened some gifts from her, and from the conference facilitators – they gave me the cutest birthday card in Welsh with a party dragon on the front. We then went for breakfast at a cute little vegan and vegetarian café called Crumbs, where I shared some chocolate cake with Marjolein, Bev, and Vicky. Then we headed to the castle for the final off-unconference activity: a tour of the city!

Lloyd took us into the castle and told us about some of Cardiff’s history. We also saw Bute Park, Cardiff Crown Court, City Hall, and the National Museum, before wandering back through the city and hopping on a bus to Cardiff Bay. It was a wonderful sunny day and felt just like a summer holiday. We stopped for lunch at The Dock before taking a boat trip back into the city. That’s when we said our final goodbyes and I headed back up to Manchester.

Me and Courtney posing in a lift
Me and my new friend!

Life-long friends?

Once I was back in Manchester, I even ended up meeting up with Courtney, a translator I got to know at the unconference, as she was up here a couple days later for a concert. I took her to a rooftop bar for some drinks and we chatted away, enjoying some stunning views of Manchester.

The unconference gave me the opportunity to meet so many amazing translators who I might not have had the chance to meet otherwise, and I’ve made some great friends who I’ll be keeping in touch with for sure!

Final Thoughts

The Cardiff Translation Unconference was honestly incredible. I had such an amazing time meeting new and familiar translators, learning from each other, and making friends. I absolutely loved the intimate and informal vibes and I just felt so comfortable and able to fully be myself. I want to say a massive thanks to Juliet, Alex, Jason, Vicky, and Lloyd, and everyone who attended and made the event so friendly and wholesome. I really hope there’s another one next year – I’m already itching to get back to Cardiff and see everyone again!

Me, Kelsey, Laura, and Marjolein posing on the grass
A bunch of happy translators!

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