In 1999, one of the then tutors at the Newark School of Violin Making had the great idea of setting up an annual one-day conference, open to professionals and students alike. Rob ran this single-handed for 21 years, with speakers from the UK, Europe and North America, until Covid shut it down in 2020.
Post-Covid Rob felt it was time to hand on to a new team, so I stepped in with my friends Tim Southon and Nicole Terry. The original venue wasn’t available but we were lucky to be able to move to the splendid surroundings of Newark Town Hall with its recently refurbished Georgian Ballroom. Like a child in a sweetshop I had the the lucky job of picking the speakers – in addition to Rob himself and the wonderful restorer Iris Carr, already booked for the cancelled 2020 event, I was happy to invite baroque specialist Anna Tummers and cello specialist Robin Aitchison. I’ve known all the speakers for some years and was delighted that they were able to take part. We also built up an important sideline of Lutherie; the traders. As well as some old faces, we were able to bring in Philippe Briand with his new varnishes. A new development
was to trial the idea of using Lutherie as a mini jobs fair for students and recent graduates. We were happy that Stringers of London took a stand for this purpose, and even more delighted that they had set up two job interviews by the end of the day.
My past experience of organising concerts and other events came in handy so the management of the event wasn’t too difficult for us, and we were delighted that we sold all the tickets, with around 150 people at the event. The rooms were buzzing from the beginning; so many people who hadn’t seen each other for two years just so happy to be together again. We learnt exactly how CAT scanning of violins works from Rob; were left awestruck by Iris’ detailed presentation of how she reconstructs fronts where the f-holes have been recut in the past, moving them back to the original position; Anna took us deep into the world of baroque conversions, explaining carefully the importance of changes to bridge and fingerboard; and Robin talked us through cello making with the depth of knowledge that comes only from someone who has immersed himself in every detail for many years.
Roll on next year! Lutherie 2023 will be even more special, celebrating 50 years since the foundation of the Newark School.