Scents and Sensibility – organising the Fragrance Forum
A little piece of fragrant history dropped through my letterbox yesterday. IFRA UK, the fragrance association, has published ‘Olfaction: A Journey’. It’s the history of the annual Fragrance Forum, an idea I conceived along with Stephen Weller, of IFRA Global, and Lisa Hipgrave of IFRA UK in 2010. The first of what became an annual symposium was held in autumn 2011
It’s one of the initiatives I’m proudest of. This was no ordinary industry conference where people who know one another talk business to their peers. Each year, whilst I was running these events, we had carte blanche to scout around for fascinating speakers whose only common ground was that their work involved fragrance or olfaction. So, rather than industry heads talking to industry, or academics addressing academia, this became a melting pot whereby scientists from some of the world’s top universities mingled with industry professionals, with perfumers, researchers, historians, poets, gin and whisky aficionados, journalists and even, on one occasion, a forensics expert.
It was a great honour to bring together such notable commentators as Professor Charles Spence, Professor Tim Jacob, Christophe Laudamiel, Lizzie Ostrom (an editor of the book as well as a speaker at the first Forum), John J Johnston, Dr Barry Smith, Dr Jenny Tillotson, Dr Tristram Wyatt, Dr Jan Havlicek and many more. It was such a pleasure to get to know each of them as we planned and prepared. And it was a joy to see coverage in national newspapers and in SPC magazine, courtesy of the wonderful Editor, Julia Wray, each year.
What emerged from these events was the key role that fragrance plays in our lives, whether we know it or not. We explored how cities were created around smell; how Labradors might take over from the lab in sniffing out crime; the role of scent in choosing a sexual partner; how headspace analysis helps fragrance creation; and how smell affects emotion. We learnt about ‘smooking’ (the business of looking and smelling experienced by a new-born baby); and we heard about the pathological world of smell and disease detection.
Each year, the tiny team of just three of us (the Secretariat plus me) pulled off an event that was to become an annual fixture in the fragrance calendar. Behind the scenes were sponsors such as CPL Aromas and the wonderful ICATS people, exhibiting every year. The ICATS team joined us each eve-of-event – for no good reason other than the fact that they are a lovely group – for the exhausting annual ‘stuffing party’ where we compiled delegate ‘goody’ bags brimming with donated candles, household & personal care items.
Learning about olfaction as the science develops is a journey that is endlessly fascinating. Wishing you a fragrant day…
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