The ‘Flying through the Thirties’ Symposium at the weekend was extremely enjoyable.

The speakers ranged from the literary evidence for ‘air-mindedness’, through art and film representations of flying, to aspects of the wider impact of the pioneers of flight on society – or indeed whether they reflected the changes in society or were driven by it.

A few of my favourite topics were:

  • Kathryn Simpson’s research on Lady Mary Heath, a pioneer of flying whose extraordinary feat of flying across Africa was overshadowed, or rather eclipsed, by the race to cross the Atlantic.  The recent film The Aviatrix (2015) is based on her life – so I must see it.
  • Michael McCluskey looked at documentaries about flying, and how it symbolised progress – the clip of the air mail service was delightful and amazing.
  • Nicola Dawood examined Elizabeth Bowen’s novel ‘To the North‘ examining how a fictional tale of travel resembled reality and how , or whether, the changes to the characters reflected the changes that travelling brings.  That’s a very bad summary, but I enjoyed her description and must look out the book – as I will Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, featured earlier. Robert Byron’s First Russia, then Tibet, also sounds intriguing.

We were treated to a tour of the Croydon Airport Museum – housed in the original airport building.  This is a marvellous building, Grade 2 listed – although it should be Grade 1 in my opinion, as it and the control tower were the first purpose-built, fit for purpose, commercial airport buildings in the world.  The control tower is fitted out with mock air traffic controllers and some good direction finding games.  Far too much to see in a quick tour, and I look forward to going back for one of their Open Days, first Sunday of the month, probably in September or October.

The display of Geoffrey’s Box was well received, and lots of people have a good book to read when they get home!

Thank you to the organisers at UCL and to Croydon Airport Society for enabling the event to be held.  My brother and I thought it would be great to get an international conference organised, but maybe it would just be too costly to get the South Africa and Australian enthusiasts together.  We’ll have to investigate a virtual conference!


Most enjoyable symposium #flyingthirties

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