Reportage: The Eighth Happy Hour Conference
On October 27th to 29th, 2023, an extraordinary event took place at the Jiří Mahen Memorial - a conference dedicated to the exploration of occultism and alternative religious movements, titled "Happy Hour VIII". The event was unique both in the professionalism of its content and the friendly atmosphere that permeated the entire three days. Participants from six different countries had gathered to share the latest findings from their research and practices, exchange experiences, and connect with like-minded colleagues. Despite the diverse backgrounds and affiliations of attendees, the entire gathering exuded warmth and a sense of community.
Notable guests included Professor Jiří Hanuš, the Vice-Rector of Masaryk University, as well as esteemed international visitors such as Professor György E. Szönyi from the University of Szeged, Mgr. Dell Rose from the University of Amsterdam, and Dr. Marion Vrbicky from Vienna.
As the Jiří Mahen Memorial's capacity was fully utilized with 62 in-person attendees, the official program was also broadcast online through platforms like Facebook and YouTube. On Saturday, 300 viewers tuned in to watch the lectures. This live stream and the conference's openness to the public were innovative in comparison to what is common at similar events. Additionally, a rich array of side activities was available, including tea ceremonies, explorations of Brno's underground, and thematic dance performances by the Friday Dancers group.
Throughout the weekend, participants had the opportunity to attend 17 lectures, partake in 2 tea ceremonies, explore topical locations in Brno during a guided city tour, and savour culinary delights lovingly prepared by one of the organizers, Inka Shanna. The conference was also supplemented with an exhibition "Contemporary Czech Occultism in Artifacts", curated by Petr Kalač from the Documentation Center of Czech Hermeticism, complemented by impressive canvases and sculptures by artist Lenka Táborská.
Jan Ševčík, the main organizer, the manager of the Jiří Mahen Memorial, and a historian, already foresees building upon this Brno’s new burgeoning tradition in the next year. The most significant change for the upcoming edition, compared to this year, will be a new name. The "Happy Hour" label was lent to the conference by the Documentation Center of Czech Hermeticism as a sponsorship, until the new conference establishes its identity. The conference was made possible thanks to the support of the Jiří Mahen Library, which provided the venue and technical support, the Historia Europeana association, which assisted with administrative arrangements and promotion, and the dedicated efforts of organizers Ondřej Varaďa, Veronika Šulcová, Markéta Oskeruše, Pavla R., Marcela Staňková, and, last but not least, Olga Čejková, who facilitated the collaboration with the Jiří Mahen Library.
As we look ahead towards the years to come, we wish the conference a continuing success and an ever-growing community of enthusiastic participants.