The J. S. Bach Dialogue Meeting differs from a conventional academic conference in that every delegate makes an equally important contribution regardless of whether or not he/she is presenting a paper or session. The aim of the presentations (whether an individual ‘Burning Issues’ paper or a topic-orientated research session) is not to impart new information as an end in itself, but primarily to open up questions that are frequently unanswered and unanswerable and generate open-minded dialogue. The public search for answers and the process of raising multiple ideas is possible because of the collective expertise and specialisms of the delegates. The abstracts for the Dialogue sessions, written in the form of a short statement with many questions, reflect this discussion-based format.
Originally held annually in Oxford, the Dialogue Meeting of BNUK has become a biennial event. We began the two-yearly pattern in 2010, when instead of putting on our own meeting, we presented four sessions at the 14th Biennial International Conference for Baroque Music in Belfast. This pattern of alternating our Dialogue meetings with the biennial International Conference on Baroque Music (ICBM) has proven to be highly successful. Our fifth Dialogue Meeting was held in Edinburgh in summer 2011, our sixth in Warsaw in 2013, our seventh in England in 2015, and our eighth is planned also to be held in England in 2017. Reports of past meetings can be found in Understanding Bach.
Over the years the free spirit of our Dialogue Meetings has been evident both in the informal conversations over breakfasts and coffee breaks and evening meals and throughout the friendly formality of professional papers and public discussions. Many new and creative ideas have resulted from the meetings, frequently feeding into articles published in our open access web journal Understanding Bach.