BritGrad 2011 saw the inauguration of the Lizz Ketterer Memorial Award, a prize for the most promising abstract submitted to the conference as chosen by the panel and the fellows of the Institute. I was honoured to be asked to present it to Elizabeth Sharrett, who, thanks to the kind efforts of the BritGrad committee, will hopefully be the first of many worthy winners. While it was a sincere pleasure to be able to recognise and encourage the exciting work of an up and coming scholar, it was also daunting to have to talk about the person in whose name the award was established: my friend, Dr Elizabeth Ann Ketterer, who had died only four months earlier at the age of 31.
To me she was Dr K, Dr Lizz, Lizzbet, or just plain old Lizz. But in her life, wondrously, she was anything but plain, and in her death, too, too tragically, she was anything but old. We undertook our PhDs together as exact contemporaries at the Institute, and in our time saw several BritGrads together. While my role was invariably passive, however – turning up with metronomic punctuality for the wine receptions and only slightly later for my own panels – Lizz could be found at the entrance to the building stuffing materials into welcome packs before the bleary-eyed delegates turned up for the first session of the morning; carrying tray after tray of lasagne from Marco’s deli through the Church Street traffic; elbow deep in washing up suds, turning the dirty morning coffee cups into clean afternoon coffee cups; connecting up audio-visual equipment; arranging chairs; giving her own paper; and, most importantly of all, just being there for anyone and everyone who needed guidance, encouragement, information, directions, or anything at all (within reason), always with the kind smile that was never far from her face. The foundations for so much of the way BritGrad is run today – the massively increased number of delegates, and, therefore, the concurrent panel sessions, the impressive number of distinguished plenary speakers, the relationships with publishers – are because of Lizz’s efforts, as is its reputation as ‘the friendly conference’. It is a supportive, generous, critically exacting environment where future scholars can cut their conference teeth and develop personal and professional relationships that will last a lifetime.
I was, and continue to be, extremely grateful to the BritGrad organising committee for being so proactive in helping to combat the shockwaves of grief that Lizz’s death had sent through our small community, and in trying, in the spirit of BritGrad itself, to turn it into something positive by reaching outwards to help a bigger one. It is a conference run by graduate students for graduate students, and some of the happiest times of my Shakespearean career to date are associated with it. Those associations, of course, are inseparable from Lizz, and it seems perfect to me that she is able to live on in the conference to which she gave so much. Hers is an award that both supports (£150 is, to the average grad student eating toothpaste sandwiches a la Al Bundy, nothing short of ostentatious riches to help keep body, soul and photocopying together) and recognises burgeoning academic excellence. Lizz was herself a great scholar – her important and original doctoral thesis on the musical repertory of the Admiral’s Men graces the collections of the Institute Library should you wish to examine it while you’re here – and a great recogniser and supporter of talent in others.
Sadly, Lizz’s career and life, which, had she been given the chance to see them out, would without doubt have sparkled with the originality and passion she managed to communicate to everyone she met, did not last for very long beyond her time in the postgraduate communities of the Institute and of BritGrad. Through the love of those left behind, and the establishment of awards such as this, however, her important legacy will.
On behalf of Lizz, the BritGrad committee, and myself I wish you the very best of luck in this year’s competition, and a happy and productive BritGrad 2012.
- Will Sharpe
[You can learn more about The Lizz Ketterer Trust and performances by the Ketterer’s Men by visiting their website.]
[Will Sharpe gained his PhD from The Shakespeare Institute, and has since worked at the University of Leeds where he has completed postdoctoral work on the forthcoming Cambridge Complete Works of Ben Jonson. Will is one of the General Editors of the forthcoming RSC/Palgrave Collaborative Plays by Shakespeare and Others, as well as a Chief Associate Editor of the RSC Shakespeare individual volumes series, for which he co-edited Cymbeline with Jonathan Bate. He is one of the General Editors of Digital Renaissance Editions, and has taught at the University of Warwick, Nottingham Trent University and The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham. He is a proud former delegate, and current avid supporter of BritGrad.]