Last year with a certain degree of trepidation I organised The Verrall Supper for the first time on my own! For those of you not in the know, I am a member of The Entomological Club (http://entomologicalclub.org/), the oldest entomological society in the world. I am also, despite the grey beard, the youngest member of the Entomological Club, and more stressfully, have the job of being Secretary for the Verrall Association of Entomologists. As the Verrall Secretary I have to organise the annual Verrall Supper http://entomologicalclub.org/page8.html . The object of the Verrall Association of Entomologists is to continue the tradition of an annual supper of entomologists begun in 1987 by the late Mr G. H. Verrall as the Annual Entomological Club Supper. This is a chance for amateur and professional entomologists to meet once a year at a social gathering to exchange ideas, make new friends and meet old ones. To say that it was a very traditional event, even old-fashioned is perhaps an understatement. Women were not invited to the supper until 1962 and there has been only one female member of the Entomological Club to date, the late great Dame Miriam Rothschild. Until recently, dress for the event was formal, a lounge suit; a prerequisite that prevented me attending for several years, since I have not owned a suit since my first wedding in 1977 (although I did wear a hired suit for my eldest daughter’s wedding eleven years ago in Sydney; hired by her I might add). I finally accepted an invitation to attend the Verrall Supper some twenty years ago and compromised my standards somewhat by replacing my jeans for smart trousers and my desert boots with shiny shoes.
All that said, I don’t want you to get the impression that the Verrall Supper was, or is, a stuffy event. Get a large number of entomologists together with a supply of alcohol and good food and you are guaranteed to have a good time, even if over half the guests are well past their prime. Given my famed lack of sartorial elegance, it was somewhat of a surprise when I was admitted as a member of The
Me with the late great Michael Way (my sponsor for the Entomological Club).
Entomological Club in 2011 and given my transgressions against the Verrall dress code (I accidentally turned up in jeans one year), it was an even greater shock to be chosen to succeed “Van” as Professor Helmut van Emden is known to entomologists all over the World, as the Verrall Secretary.
The reason that I find organizing the Verrall Supper more stressful than you might expect is that the former Verrall Secretary, Van, organized the event for forty years, yes 40 years! He thus, understandably, has a somewhat proprietorial interest in how it is run under its new management. Those of you interested in knowing how my first year went can find an account in Leather (2013). I had added to the stress quotient by making a number of changes to the event, first by changing the venue from Imperial College to the Rembrandt Hotel, just opposite the Victoria & Albert Museum , second by changing the ticketing system, thirdly by altering the seating allocation method and introducing round tables and finally by changing the dress requirement from lounge suits to smart casual (before I became a member of the Entomological Club, I had already started to subvert this rule, not actually owning a suit of my own anyway). I am told that the evening was a great success; I was too stressed to really notice but certainly the emails that I received after the event put my mind at ease.
This year I introduced yet another change, email invitations and renewals. Last year we collected as many email addresses as possible, well Clive Farrell actually did the collecting, but it was a joint decision. Despite a few ‘undeliverables’ the email booking system worked remarkably well and 185 entomologists ranging in age from 21 to well over 80 turned up at the Rembrandt Hotel on March 5th where they were greeted by the ever-dependable Clive Farrell and one of my ex-PhD students, Dr Jennifer Banfield-Zanin, whom had met me earlier in
Jennifer Banfield-Zanin and Clive Farrell attempt to keep track of the attendees
the day to discuss some papers were are writing and found herself co-opted to collect money from those members without cheque books. I should point out that people pay a subscription to join the Verrall Association of Entomologists, not to pay for the dinner. The dinner, which comes with wine (another new innovation), is part of the membership package. The subscription is traditionally not fixed, rather, an amount is suggested, with the expectation that most will pay it and that a significant number will generously exceed it and thus enable the less well-off to attend without undue hardship. This is a tradition that I fully support, although I fear that not enough of the newer well-salaried members are aware of this expectation. This year we had 46 female members including Marion Gratwick who was one of the first ever women to attend the Verrall Supper. My aim next year is to try to get to an even sex ratio. It was nice to see so many of my ex-students, PhD and MSc plus lots of Tweeters.
I leave you with assorted scenes of revelry and intrigue!
Ward Cooper and Professor Mike Claridge – discussing a future book deal?
Ashleigh Whiffin and Craig Perl – two of the first Harper Adams University MSc Entomology graduates, now at Edinburgh and Sussex respectively.
Charles Godfray & Keith Bland – Keith taking advantage of the relaxed dress code!
Everyone facing the camera at this table is an ex-student of mine!
None of these are ex-students of mine! Also proof that not all entomologists are male or old.
Chatting about Collembola? Flic Crotty & Fran Sconce deep in conversation.
Gia Aradottir and Tilly Collins
Tilly was my first Giant Willow Aphid PhD student and then was co-supervisor with me of Gia, who was my latest Giant Willow Aphid PhD student and we still don’t know where it goes in the winter!
Helen Roy, Gordon Port and John Whittaker. A shared interest in aphids and ladybirds.
One half of the Top Table – Van, Gill van Emden, Chris Lyal, Richard Lane and Mike Siva-Jothy
Top Table – without The Verrall Secretary; conspicuous by his absence – he must be taking photos 😉
@MiniBeastMayhem (centre stage) enjoying her first ever Verrall with among others, @MadAboutCaddis, and @Nyctibiidae
James Logan and team – trying to drink the bar dry despite London prices!
Charlotte Rowley & Joe Roberts (Harper Adams University PhD students)
This makes me feel old – Dr Ailsa McLean – her Dad and I were PhD students together and I can remember her in her pram!
Entomologists at the bar!
Happy Diners – including Hugh Loxdale and Helen Roy
I hope that this fairly random assortment of pictures gives you some flavour of the evening and also highlights the fact that the Verrall Supper is no longer entirely populated by old grey-bearded entomologists, although of course there are still some of us left 😉
Leather, S.R. (2013) The Verrall Supper 2013 – New organiser – New venue. Antenna, 37, 138-139