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U2 CONFERENCES

Since 2009, The U2 Conference has gathered fans, students, and scholars to explore the music, work, and influence of U2 and U2 fandom. Check out the feedback from attendees and see here for information about previous conferences. (Skip to the Call for Presentations for U2Con ’21.)

The U2 Conference 2021-2023: 30th Anniversary Conferences

As U2’s most transformative era of 1991-1993 starts its 30th anniversary this November, we have planned a series of gatherings for fans, students, and scholars. Join us for the journey–we can’t do it without you, nor would we want to!

We’re getting ready to leave the station for these stops down the line (maybe with a few surprises along the way):

Stop #1:
Light My Way
Achtung Baby! 30 Years Later
A Virtual Celebration & Exploration of U2 Dreaming It All Up Again
November 18-20, 2021
(More details below.)

Stop #2:
Watch More TV
The Zoo TV Experience 30 Years Later
A Celebration & Exploration of U2 Dreaming It All Up Again
February 2022
(More details TBA October 2021.)

Stop #3:
Vorsprung Durch Technik: Zooropa and Macphisto 30 Years Later
A Celebration & Exploration of U2 Dreaming It All Up Again
May 2023
(More details TBA October 2022.)

Stop #1:
Light My Way
Achtung Baby! 30 Years Later

A Virtual Celebration & Exploration of U2 Dreaming It All Up Again

November 18-20, 2021

Beloved, bewildered, and betrayed. The reactions thirty years ago to Achtung Baby followed those feelings when U2 felled its Joshua Tree era with a shock-and-awe reinvention, born from dreams and responsibilities to itself, its art, and its sense of rock ‘n’ roll. 

“Sometimes I feel like I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like checking out. I wanna get it wrong . . .”

Did U2 get it wrong? On purpose? Did U2 find a new light by heading into a new darkness? Guided by that ageless muse, given voice by poet Brendan Kennelly in The Book of Judas (1991)–“The best way to serve the age is to betray it”–U2 played with betrayal from so many angles that we’re still not over it, still not sure how an album so full of shadows shines so brightly. Join us for a celebration and exploration of how Achtung Baby has betrayed and served an age and still lights our way. 

We will post information about registration and the online platforms we’ll use later this summer; however, we will make use of our space on Discord, which you can join for free and start talking about U2 with fans now at this invite link. We also invite you to submit a proposal to be on the program with this Call For Presentations:

CALL FOR PRESENTATIONS
(Available as a PDF here.)

Light My Way
Achtung Baby! 30 Years Later
A Virtual Celebration & Exploration of U2 Dreaming It All Up Again
November 18-20, 2021

We invite fans, students, and scholars to propose a presentation they’d like to make on the program for a virtual conference celebrating and exploring U2’s Achtung Baby as it turns 30. Presentations can be personal, creative, collaborative, communal, or academic, and most likely will have a mixture of some of the above or surprise us with something else. All presentations will be made virtually, as the program this year will be online only. Proposals and presentations can be in languages other than English. Following this conference’s brief thematic guidelines are details for how to submit your proposal.

Thematic Guidelines for The U2 Conference 2021

“Light My Way, Achtung Baby! 30 Years Later” is our 2021 U2 Conference focus for conversations, celebrations, and critical inquiry into how Achtung Baby remains a light along our way, despite—or because of—its complexities, dark corners, and sonic experiments.  When released thirty years ago, feelings in music communities and popular culture ranged from beloved to bewildered to betrayed, which was certainly all part of the plan when U2 felled its Joshua Tree era with a shock-and-awe reinvention, born from dreams and responsibilities to itself, its art, and its sense of rock ‘n’ roll.

“Sometimes I feel like I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like checking out. I wanna get it wrong . . .” 

Did U2 get it wrong? On purpose? Did U2 find a new light by heading into a new darkness? Guided by that ageless muse, given voice by poet Brendan Kennelly in The Book of Judas (1991)—“The best way to serve the age is to betray it”—U2 played with betrayal from so many angles that we’re still not over it, still not sure how an album so full of shadows shines so brightly. Join us for a celebration and exploration of how Achtung Baby has betrayed and served an age and still lights our way. 

For the 2021 conference, we encourage proposals that focus on the album itself and themes of betrayal, desire, darkness, adventure, mystery, service, light, and love, all of which are expressed many times over across the album. As you think about these themes, you might be interested in your personal reactions to them on the album and how U2’s songs have been a light on your way. Or, you might want to explore these themes in U2’s history and how Achtung Baby expressed them differently, better, or in greater tension with each other. Or, analyze how U2 was influenced by and/or commented on the “age” it “served,” by considering the cultural, technological, musical, political, literary, or spiritual elements which influence an “age” and caught U2’s attention. We offer these ideas as suggestions only, not as boundaries nor as a list of limited ways to discuss Achtung Baby.

* Please note we are also planning a conference in 2022 focusing on the 30th anniversary of the ZooTV Tour and a conference in 2023 focusing on the 30th anniversary of MacPhisto and Zooropa. We will post a separate Call for Presentations for each conference and are interested in accepting proposals for each conference that focus mostly on just that conference’s subject matter.

How to Submit A Proposal

Fans, students, and scholars / aca-fans working in the area of U2 Studies have proved to be the hearts and minds of The U2 Conference, and we hope to have another program in 2021 representing the diversity of backgrounds in U2 fandom. We’re committed to including presentations exploring the music, work and influence of U2 and its fans without privileging a type of educational preparation for the presenter or a type of format for the presentation.

The 2021 conference will be 100% virtual with pre-recorded and live elements, with more details coming about the presentation platforms we will use. We suggest crafting your proposal to take advantage of delivering your presentation online; it is very likely we will ask accepted presenters to submit a final, pre-recorded version of their presentation a week before the conference begins.

Keeping in mind our conference theme for 2021 of “Light My Way, Achtung Baby Years Later:  A Celebration & Exploration of U2 Dreaming It All Up Again,” you can present on the program in one of these suggested ways:

    • by giving a solo presentation
    • by speaking on a panel you’ve organised with others
    • by leading an open-call round-table discussion or chat room on a topic of your choice
    • by interviewing a person of interest to the U2 community on a topic relevant to the conference theme
    • by presenting a poster or other type of infographic
    • by creating and narrating a gallery or similar media presentation
    • by leading a book or film discussion after the attendees experience the media
    • by presenting a creative performance or demonstration relevant to the conference theme, then participating in a Q&A
    • by sharing your own creative expression of your interest in Achtung Baby
    • by a different way that you propose

Proposals should be submitted as a short, casual video talk of about 5 minutes or as a written description of 300-400 words. Your proposal should clearly explain what you intend to do, whether it includes other presenters, how much time you need for your presentation, and how it connects to the conference theme. Please attach a short biographical description about yourself, or a resume or CV if you have one.

If you wish to chair or host a session not your own, please submit a separate short video or written statement expressing your interest, including your full name, affiliation, and experience in virtual event formats.

All proposal files should be sent to U2conferenceproposals@gmail.com as attachments or with a link to a video file. Questions about proposals may be sent to the same address. The deadline for all proposals is September 1, 2021. Decisions and replies from the conference team may be made on a rolling basis as proposals come in, with all decisions made by September 15. All presenters are expected to register for the conference and pay the modest registration fee.

The U2 Conference team is:

  • Scott Calhoun, Director, and Professor of English, Cedarville University
  • David Comay, Independent Scholar
  • Johnny Duncan, U2 Fan and Curious Human
  • Sherry Lawrence, Former Staff Writer for atu2.com
  • Angela Pancella, Director of Development and Parish Life at St. Francis Xavier (College Church), St. Louis. Contributor to U2 and the Religious Impulse: Take Me Higher
  • Diane Rasmussen Pennington, U2 Fan, U2 Scholar, and Associate Professor of Information Science, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland
  • Jo D., U2 Fan and creator of U2 and Coffee

U2 Conferences started in 2009. Please see below for more information about each previous conference, and check out the feedback we’ve received from previous attendees.

The 2009 U2 Conference was at North Carolina Central University, Durham, North Carolina, on October 2-4, 2009.

The 2009 conference program is here as a PDF.

A Flickr gallery of photos from 2009 is here.

In addition to paper and panel presentations, the Keynote Speakers, Special Presenters, and Special Events included:

  • Anthony DeCurtis, Contributing Editor at Rolling Stone
  • Neil McCormick, Chief Music Critic for The Daily Telegraph, U2’s biographer
  • Anges Nyamarawo, Ugandan nurse and AIDS activist, founder and member of the Mulago Positive Women’s Network (MPWN), member of The AIDS Support Organization (TASO)
  • Jim Henke, Vice President of Exhibitions and Curatorial Affairs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, former music editor for Rolling Stone
  • Matt McGee, creator of @U2.
  • Screening of The Heart of America Tour with director Dominic DeJoseph and Agnes Nyamarawo in attendance, at the Carolina Theater
  • Screening of It Might Get Loud at the Carolina Theater
  • Screening of U23D in the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh

The 2013 U2 Conference was at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Cleveland, Ohio, on April 26-27, 2013.

The 2013 conference program is here as a PDF.

A Flickr gallery of photos from 2013 is here.

In addition to paper and panel presentations, the Keynote Speakers, Special Presenters, and Special Events included:

  • Steve Averill, Senior Art Director, AMP Visual
  • Bill Carter, director of the documentary film Miss Sarajevo
  • John Gorman, President of Gorman Media, veteran broadcaster for Cleveland’s FM WMMS
  • Brian O’Neal, former Vice-President and Co-Founder of The Wasserman Group, former media promotions officer with Universal Music Group
  • Jim Henke, Vice President of Exhibitions and Curatorial Affairs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, former music editor for Rolling Stone
  • Screening of Meet Me In The Sound, exploring the U2 fan community, with director Natalie Baker in attendance
  • Screening of U23D in the Rock Hall’s Foster Theater
  • Screening of Unforgettable Fire: The Story of a U2 Tribute Band with director Michelle Regina Iacobelli and Unforgettable Fire in attendance
  • Masterclass presentation from Unforgettable Fire, the longest running U2 tribute band in America, with a concert later at the Hard Rock Cafe Cleveland

The 2018 U2 Conference was at Queen’s University with The Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice, at Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, and at the Ulster National Museum, Belfast, UK, on June 13-15, 2018.

The U2 Conference 2018 program is here as a PDF.

A Flickr gallery of photos from 2018 is here.

In addition to paper and panel presentations, the Keynote Speakers, Special Presenters, and Special Events included:

  • Catherine Owens, Visual Artist, Creative Director of screen imagery for animation, film and video, for U2 tours from 1992 – 2010, director U23D
  • Stuart Bailie, music writer and broadcaster for NMEMojoUncutQ,  The Times, The Irish Times, The Irish IndependentClassic RockMusic WeekBelfast Telegraph and Hot Press
  • Shaughn McGrath, Design Artist, AMP Visual
  • Steve Averill, Design Artist, AMP Visual
  • Andy Rowen, a childhood friend of Bono’s who inspired U2’s songs “Bad” and “Raised By Wolves. with Steve Stockman, minister of Fitzroy Presbyterian Church in Belfast and author of Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2
  • John Brewer, Professor of Post Conflict Studies in the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast
  • Beth Nabi, Associate Professor of Graphic Design and Digital Media at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Fla., creator and curator of the U2 Tattoo Project
  • Fiona Magowan, Professor of Anthropology and a Fellow of the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University, Belfast
  • December, in concert at The John Hewitt

The 2019 U2 Conference was in Sydney, Australia, in partnership with the Australia National University School of Music and Studios 301.

The 2019 conference program is here as a PDF.

A Flickr gallery of photos from 2019 is here.

In addition to paper and panel presentations, the Keynote Speakers, Special Presenters, and Special Events included:

  • Dallas Schoo, Guitar Technician for The Edge
  • Samantha Bennett, Associate Professor in Music at the Australian National University
  • André Brett, Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow in History at the University of Wollongong
  • Richard Lowenstein, Director, Editor, Producer: U2: LoveTown, 1989; U2 music videos “Angel Of Harlem” and “Desire,“ 1988; Writer and Director: Mystify: Michael Hutchence, 2019. Screening of U2: LoveTown and Mystify: Michael Hutchence

The 2020 U2 Conference was on the Whova platform for virtual conferences.

The 2020 conference program is here as a PDF.

In addition to paper and panel presentations, the Keynote Speakers, Special Presenters, and Special Events included:

  • Edel Rodriguez, Artist & Activist
  • Bill Flanagan (writer), Mary Wharton (director), Chris Farrell (producer), in conversation with Kristi York Wooten about the film Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President
  • Kimberly Mack, Assistant Professor of African American Literature and Culture, The University of Toledo, Ohio
  • David Dark, Associate Professor of Religion and the Arts, Belmont University, Nashville
  • Timothy D. Neufeld, Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, Adjunct Professor, Fresno Pacific University
  • Chad Seales, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of Texas at Austin
  • Cathleen Falsani, Author and Journalist
© The U2 Conference, 2021.
This site is not affiliated with U2, its management, or its record label.