Cambridge Hits The Right Note For International Music Libraries Conference

Client: International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres

Type of Event: Congress

Date: August 2023

Venues: West Road Concert Hall King's College Queens' College Christ's CollegeTrinity CollegeSt John's CollegeGreat St Mary's, The University ChurchThe Fitzwilliam MuseumPolar MuseumMuseum of Archaeology & AnthropologyHeong Gallery

Delegates at a conference at West Road Concert HallDelegates sitting in a conference room at the Divinity School, St John's CollegeGuests enjoying a gala dinner at King's Collegeumbrellas lined up against an old college wall

The International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres encourages and promotes the activities of institutions and individuals concerned with music and music materials, helping to strengthen cooperation among those working in these fields.

In 2023, it chose to hold its residential conference in Cambridge, attended by more than 300 delegates from 35 countries, spanning Austria to Australia and Croatia to Canada.

Multiple Venues

Following a competitive selection bid, Cambridge won and hosted the five-day event at multiple venues across the city: King’s College, the Faculty of Music including West Road Concert Hall, Trinity College, The Old Divinity School, and Great St Mary’s, the University Church. There were also trips and tours to Christ’s College, Queen’s College, and a variety of museums from Archaeology and Anthropology and ” to Scott Polar, the Fitzwilliam Museum, and the Heong Gallery. More colleges were visited as part of organ and library tours, and there was, of course, punting, and trips further afield to Anglesey Abbey and Ely.

The conference attracted 28 sponsors and 17 exhibitors, with delegates able to register for individual days but 210 attending the full programme. In addition, there were 21 volunteers and 50 accompanying persons.

Packed Programme

The Chair of the Organizing Committee was Margaret Jones, Music Collections Supervisor at Cambridge University Library. She says:

This was a packed five days and we were delighted to start proceedings with the world premiere of a new work by Cecilia McDowall, commissioned for IAML’s UK and Ireland 70th birthday.

In all, we had 113 papers presented in the professional sessions, two general assemblies, 12 working groups, four panel discussions and six library tours, as well as further concerts and premieres ranging from Baroque music through to contemporary compositions and vocal music at the opening and closing events.

Social Trips

"Wednesday, the mid-point of the conference, saw the popular afternoon social elements of the programme with 180 IAML delegates enjoying the sights of Cambridge and the Fens, dodging showers as they went. Thanks to Cambridge and the surrounding area having so much on offer, we were able to provide a variety of trips from punting and walking tours, museum visits, libraries, and King’s College to the celebrated organ crawl, Ely Cathedral and Anglesey Abbey. There was also a tour of London libraries pre-Congress, and a very wet post-Congress tour to Snape Maltings near Aldeburgh, taking in a visit to composer Benjamin Britten’s home, the Red House.

The combination of venues worked very well and over the five days, there was a lot of food and drink consumed including an opening event buffet, a sponsored lunch, a cream tea, coffee or tea with biscuits or cake throughout the week for breaks in the morning and afternoon, and a formal Farewell dinner at King’s College attended by 180.

Excellent Feedback

"There were a few challenges along the way, mainly with uncertainty over budgeting, as planning started pre-Covid and prices were affected by the war in Ukraine and the rising cost of living.

However, the event went extremely well and feedback from the delegates has been excellent. Everyone had a great time and many fruitful collaborations took place including a meeting between two researchers looking at the work of lesser-known female composers, and connections were made concerning research into a Renaissance choir book.

Working with Meet Cambridge

"Meet Cambridge was very helpful right from the earliest enquiries. At the stage when we were trying to promote Cambridge as a possible venue for IAML 2023, they were supportive, had excellent ideas about venues (several of which we ended up using), introduced us to contacts, and were particularly helpful in promoting Cambridge to those coming to it from outside.

As we got nearer the Congress date, they were a helpful source of advice on problems encountered along the way. Even if they couldn’t solve the problem directly, they were endlessly patient in finding more information where needed, or advising on who to consult next.

No problem was too small, and Judith and her team felt like friends that you could turn to through what turned out to be an unexpectedly long process."


Are you planning an event in Cambridge?

The Meet Cambridge team would be delighted to help, so do get in touch!

Call: +44 01223 768740, email: or submit an enquiry to us today.


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