James Ward (writer)

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James Ward talking at Boring Conference, May 2016

James Ward (born 2 April 1981)[1] is an English writer and the founder of Boring Conference.[2]

Early work[edit]

James Ward first came to prominence in 2009 with a blog that charted his fascination with "small unimportant things".[3] The London Twirls Project, his attempt to map the availability, pricing and storage conditions of Cadbury's Twirls in Central London,[4] led to him giving talks at public events such as Ignite[5][6] and The Lost Lectures.[7]

In 2010, he won a competition run by Virgin Atlantic and was flown to America to write a pen-based comparison of London and New York.[8]

Writing career[edit]

Adventures in Stationery[edit]

Ward's first book, Adventures in Stationery: A Journey Through Your Pencilcase, was published in the UK by Profile Books in 2014.[9] Described as "high class pornography for the stationery enthusiast",[10] it received generally positive reviews in the British press.[11] It has been translated into Korean, Japanese and Chinese.

Adventures in Stationery was rewritten for the North American market and released in 2015 with the alternative title The Perfection of the Paperclip: Curious Tales of Invention, Accidental Genius and Stationery Obsession. This was due to words such as "stationery" and "pencil case" not commonly being part of the American English vocabulary. It was published by Simon and Schuster.[12]


Ward has written for The Guardian,[13] The Wall Street Journal,[14] The Daily Telegraph,[15] and New Humanist,[16] amongst others.

Boring Conference[edit]

Inspired by the cancellation of Interesting Conference,[17] Ward founded Boring Conference in 2010.[2] The conference describes itself as "A one-day celebration of the mundane, the ordinary, the obvious and the overlooked".[18] Speakers at the conference give short talks on a wide variety of "boring" topics, which have previously included sneezing, toast, IBM tills, the Shipping Forecast, and barcodes.[18]

Past speakers include Jon Ronson, Josie Long, Rhodri Marsden, Adam Curtis and Greg Stekelman. An unexpected success, the event regularly sells out minutes after tickets go on sale.[19] In 2011, The Sun ran with the headline "Disgrace as Boring Conference is Really Interesting".[20] The most recent Boring Conference – Boring VIII – took place at Conway Hall on 5 May 2018.[21]

The Boring Talks Podcast[edit]

In 2017, Ward made The Boring Talks Podcast in collaboration with the BBC[22]. Available as a weekly download from January 2018, each podcast consists of a talk on a single subject that would generally be considered 'boring', such as 'yellow lines' and 'book pricing algorithms'.

Other projects[edit]

Public speaking[edit]

Ward regularly gives talks on Boring Conference, the minutiae of everyday life, the nature of boredom and the joys of stationery. He has spoken at IBTM World in Barcelona,[23] Secret Garden Party,[24] Kings Place in London,[25] the Hay Literary Festival[26] and Nerd Nite.[27] He appears in airline Jet Blue's in-flight video "HumanKinda"[28] and as a guest on podcasts Little Atoms[29] and The Allusionist.[30]

Stationery Club[edit]

In 2010, Ward co-founded Stationery Club, a regular gathering where people would meet in a pub to discuss which pen they were using at the moment.[31][32]

The Concept Album Talks[edit]

In 2015, Ward co-founded and hosted The Concept Album Talks.[33] Each event centres around a different concept album. Speakers give a talk inspired by the title of one track of that album that must last for the same duration as the song.[34] Albums covered so far are The Dark Side of the Moon and Pet Sounds.


  1. ^ "BIRTHDAY". 22 March 2011.
  2. ^ a b Henley, Jon (27 May 2014). "The Boring Conference – the fascinating world of the mundane and ordinary" – via The Guardian.
  3. ^ "ABOUT". 15 July 2009.
  5. ^ "2009: The Year in Twirls by James Ward".
  6. ^ "March ‹ 2010 ‹ Ignite London".
  7. ^ "I like boring things". 29 October 2013.
  8. ^ "New York: A Sideways Bite of The Big Apple – Ruby: a blog by Virgin Atlantic". 16 August 2010.
  9. ^ "Adventures in Stationery".
  10. ^ "Subscribe to read".
  11. ^ Martin, Andrew (5 October 2014). "Adventures in Stationery: A Journey Through Your Pencil Case review – the final word in pens and paperclips" – via The Guardian.
  12. ^ "The Perfection of the Paper Clip".
  13. ^ Ward, James (30 August 2014). "From stationery fiends to hand dryer enthusiasts… who are you calling boring?". The Guardian.
  14. ^ Ward, James (5 June 2015). "The Enduring Genius of the Ballpoint Pen" – via The Wall Street Journal.
  15. ^ "The hidden dangers lurking in your stationery".
  16. ^ "Mocked prophet: what is David Icke's appeal? – New Humanist".
  17. ^ "Interesting".
  18. ^ a b "ABOUT". 29 January 2014.
  19. ^ "Boring Conference sells out in minutes". 30 November 2010.
  20. ^ "Disgrace as official Boring Conference is really interesting". 21 November 2011.
  21. ^ "The boring conference: 05.05.2018".
  22. ^ "The Boring Talks – Downloads – BBC Radio". BBC. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  23. ^ "James Ward".
  24. ^ "FESTIVAL". 22 July 2012.
  25. ^ "James Ward's Adventures in Stationery – London Talks".
  26. ^ "James Ward – Hay Festival".
  27. ^ "Nerd Nite London- September 21st".
  28. ^ "Are we becoming HumanKinda?".
  29. ^ "Little Atoms 347 – James Ward & Adventures in Stationery". 8 October 2014.
  30. ^ "Allusionist 21: Eponyms I: The Ballad of Bic and Biro".
  32. ^ "'Adventures in Stationery' by James Ward". 3 October 2014.
  33. ^ "Speak to the music at The Concept Album Talks".
  34. ^ "Update: The Concept Album Talks – Houston PR".

External links[edit]