Previous writers have examined how topic and disagreement in assessments are managed within everyday conversation. This work, however, has focused on two-party interaction and little research has examined these issues in the context of multi-party discussion. In this article we examine these issues in the context of discussion by the admissions group of an arts and crafts guild. Analysis of the group’s discussions shows that on occasion group members find themselves in outright disagreement in assessment which leads to what is here described as ‘gainsaying’. However, a number of other instances reveal that the group is able to avoid problematic conversational structures of this sort by deploying a variety of topic control devices: insertion of collusive laughter, conversation restart and topic flow manoeuvres. The article concludes by drawing out some analytic distinctions between two-party and multi-party interactions
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