Welcome to this international pandisciplinary symposium on solitude in community, the first of its kind (we think) but not the last (we hope). We are Julian Stern of York St John University, and Małgorzata Wałejko of the University of Szczecin, the co-hosts of this event. It is good to see so many people coming together to discuss this important topic.
Why this symposium? Both of us have been working for many years on issues related to aloneness – in both positive and negative forms, as solitude and as loneliness. In November 2017, we realised the links between our strands of research and, thanks to the Erasmus programme, met in York in February 2018. At that point, we started arranging this symposium, as both of us felt that there were many people, across a very wide range of academic disciplines and professional contexts, who were interested in different aspects of aloneness. We call it a ‘pandisciplinary’ symposium: we are not simply bringing disciplines together to talk ‘over the garden wall’; we are bringing people together who are interested in aloneness, to discuss these issues.
It is a great delight that people are coming to the symposium from nine countries (Australia, Belgium, Canada, Poland, Romania, Sweden, the UK, and the USA), and we have other colleagues from these countries and also from Hong Kong, China, and from Israel who would have liked to have attended. A number of people have asked about publications arising from the symposium. We are not publishing a ‘conference proceedings’ volume. However, there are two linked publications that we are hoping to organise. Jarosław Horowski, editor of Paedagogia Christiana, has suggested that there might be a special edition of that journal in 2020 (edited by Julian Stern and Małgorzata Wałejko), to which contributors to this symposium may wish to submit articles. Jarosław will say more about this, during the symposium. And the publishers Bloomsbury are interested in a proposal for a handbook of solitude, silence and loneliness (edited by Julian Stern, Chris Sink, Małgorzata Wałejko, and Wong Ping Ho), to which contributors to this symposium may be able to contribute. Although nothing is definite yet, we are delighted to have these two possibilities for publishing on this important topic.
We would like to thank a number of people who have made the symposium possible. The event is organised under the auspices of Professor Edward Włodarczyk, Rector of the University of Szczecin, and Professor Karen Stanton, Vice Chancellor of York St John University, and we are enormously grateful for their individual and institutional (and financial!) support. We are also most grateful for the support of Sophie Lievesley and the team from the York St John conference office, and Simon Bower and the technical team, who have organised so many of the details of the event. And during the event, we will be supported by a team of student volunteers, and we are very grateful to them for giving up their precious holidays to help us.