Case Study – European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry 2019

The event:  ECQI

Date:  February 2019

Venue:  John McIntyre Conference Centre, St Leonards, Salisbury Green Hotel & Bistro (Mansion House), Playfair Library

Event organiser:  Ms Laura Marshall, University of Edinburgh, Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics, Centre of Creative-Relational Inquiry

Host:  Edinburgh First

Attendees:  350 delegates

The third annual European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry (run by University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Creative-Relational Inquiry, CCRI) took place from 13-15 February 2019 and brought together qualitative scholars from across the globe to discuss ‘Qualitative Inquiry as Activism’.  There was a pre-conference workshop day on 12 February which included software workshops, pre-conference registration and welcome drinks.

With 350 delegates and a programme comprising keynote speakers and eleven workshops running simultaneously, CCRI were looking for a space that could accommodate a large amount of people in one area as well as offer a good number of breakout areas within close proximity to each other.

The event was spread across three buildings on the Pollock Halls campus within a few minutes’ walk of each other.  The keynote speeches were held in the Pentland suite in the John McIntyre Conference Centre (JMCC), large enough to fit all delegates seated.  The other breakout rooms were used to good effect within the conference centre.  The central area of the JMCC was used for refreshments between sessions where delegates could relax and network.

One of the breakout rooms was used as an expressive arts space.  Blank paper was hung on the walls and delegates were encouraged to paint their contribution based on any thoughts and experiences they may be having during the conference.  This was a great way for delegates to unwind and express themselves during the event.

Next door to JMCC lies St Leonard’s Hall where two rooms were used to deliver workshops.  These rooms held between 50 and 60 people.  Another two rooms (each holding 24 people) were used in Mansion House at Salisbury Green Hotel and Bistro, again, a few minutes’ walk from JMCC.

One of the keynote sessions relied on our state-of-the-art AV system within the Pentland suite.  The session was co-presented with one speaker Skyping live from Australia.  It was vital that the AV equipment could handle the live call without any lag.  The connection speed and AV equipment meant that a clear presentation was given despite the distance.

The seating was altered in the Pentland suite to be facing the middle aisle as a keynote performance play was staged for the delegates.  The use of the middle aisle allowed the performers to get closer to the audience since the play was performed in the middle of the room as opposed to on a stage.

On the Thursday a conference dinner was held at the stunning Playfair Library Hall, part of the Old College which was built in the 18th Century, the birthplace of the University of Edinburgh.  The dinner was open to 150 delegates who had registered prior to the conference.  The neoclassical barrel-vaulted ceiling and huge pillars made this hall a spectacular setting for the dinner.

Throughout the conference, CCRI hired a mobile Welcome Hut which was installed next to the JMCC.  Delegates could register for a session in this tiny outdoor space, a sanctuary from the conference which allowed time to reflect on the conference with other delegates.  The large amount of flexible space meant that the JMCC was the ideal place for CCRI to try new things when it came to the planning of their event, including the expressive art room and the Welcome Hut.

During the course of the conference the keynote speakers and some delegates stayed at Salisbury Green Hotel and Bistro, the year round, recently refurbished hotel situated on the same campus.  As well as a comfortable stay and breakfast/dinner options, the delegates are just a short walk to the conference centre each morning.  The hotel was open to bookings for any delegate in attendance.

Laura Marshall, from CCRI, said “This event was the largest I had organised in terms of delegate numbers and number of parallel sessions being run. It was an absolute pleasure to work with Adele [Conference and Events Manager, Edinburgh First] on this event who made all aspects of the event run so well and accommodated all of my requests.”

The main reasons that CCRI saw JMCC as a stand out venue for their conference were:

  • The number of venues and rooms available on Pollock Halls campus meant that they could run eleven simultaneous group sessions within close proximity of each other as well as access to a large plenary room for keynote speakers.
  • The venues and accommodation are all within a few minutes’ walk of each other. The onsite accommodation means that delegates do not have to think about getting a bus or taxi to the conference centre each day.
  • All profits from Edinburgh First go directly back into the University of Edinburgh, thereby supporting further education in the city.
  • On-site parking for any delegates who are travelling, which was also useful for the Welcome Hut.

The third European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry was seen as a success and the CCRI were pleased with the smooth running of the event and use of space available to them at the JMCC.  The venue is an ideal mix of smaller break-out rooms and larger spaces for keynote presentations along with large networking areas.  All facilities are on-campus making the management of an event simple for organisers and easy for delegates to navigate.

For more information on holding your next conference at the JMCC please contact or call +44 (0) 131 651 2189.