Welcome to the Guildford Classical Association. This site is intended to publicise forthcoming events and deliver other news to our Classicist friends. You can also contact the association using the “Contact” page above.

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Retirement of Glenda Sewell

At the 2021 AGM, Glenda Sewell stood down after 34 years on the GCA committee, including periods as Chairman and Secretary. At the same meeting, she was unanimously elected Honorary Vice President of the GCA, only the third person to receive that honour.

As Guest of Honour at a celebratory lunch a fortnight later, attended by past and present members of the GCA committee, Glenda was reminded, in an address from the current Secretary, Sheila Conway, of her long service and many achievements and of the lasting impression she had left on her colleagues, several of whom had penned tributes and reminiscences which Sheila read out.

Many recalled her unfailing energy and enthusiasm, combined with a businesslike approach to organisation, which resulted in great thoroughness and attention to detail, ensuring the success of any event she was responsible for arranging.

Coming into Classics teaching from a Modern Languages background, and, like many other Classics teachers, then finding herself Head of a Department of one, she was acutely aware of the need for staff training and support. For years, she ran the Teachers’ Forum, a twilight training session for teachers held in the Spring Term in her department rooms at Bishop Reindorp School. She was also a main organiser of the Staff Development Day which ran until a few years ago at the end of the Summer Term and provided very varied and useful support for teachers. In the days when it was easier for teachers to get time off school for INSET, it was normal to get about 40 teachers attending.

Glenda has taught Latin at several State Secondary Schools, often after school or under adverse conditions, and has been a staunch supporter of the GCA’s efforts to encourage the study of Classics in the maintained sector. The GCSE Conference was always a major interest of Glenda’s. It was originally a whole day event, with lectures relevant to the Latin texts in the morning and Class Civ topics in the afternoon. Glenda was always keen to make sure that the students had good value from the day.

In addition to the events for which she had direct responsibility, Glenda has always been willing to help out at any GCA event, in very practical ways. A recurring recollection in the tributes paid to her was how often she provided and served refreshments at GCA events. This had clearly left a lasting and pleasurable impression on very many!

Donations from friends and colleagues were used to present Glenda with a statuette of the Goddess Hebe, as a lasting reminder of her outstanding service to the GCA, as well as flowers and a John Lewis voucher.

May Talk 2021: Reconstructing the sounds of Ancient Double Pipes, with Callum Armstrong

Tuesday 11 May at 7.30pm, via Zoom webinar.

Callum, who is a professional musician, started experimenting with and researching the aulos in 2015, He has been involved in various productions of ancient Greek plays and he performed in The Latin Qvarter’s production of The Aeneid, hosted by the GCA at Charterhouse in 2019. Callum also leads workshops and teaches aulos around Europe, demonstrating playing techniques and reed making.  

We were very pleased to meet Callum again when he joined us from Germany via Zoom to give a fascinating description of the aulos and of the work he and others have been doing to unearth its secrets and bring it to the attention of modern audiences.

Callum started by explaining what the aulos was, and how it was constructed, showing pictures of aulos players (auletes) on ancient pottery and examples of surviving instruments from different periods, the latter clearly showing how technically complex and sophisticated the instrument became.

He went on to describe the work he has done on the manufacture of aulos reeds, based on the writings of Theophrastus, Pliny and others, together with much painstaking experimentation. Detective work was first needed to find the species of reed to use, then came much trial and error, and collaborative problem solving, to make reeds that worked musically and that could be played for more than a few seconds at a time. Unlike the reeds of modern wind instruments, an aulos reed could be years in the making and then require several months before it was “played in” and suitable for performance.

Callum presented several examples of aulos playing, demonstrating the difference between various instruments, reeds and styles of playing. In the Q&A, he described how he had started using modern western musical scales, but had moved on to other scales that were used by musicians in the ancient world, showing, with the aid of diagrams, how these were formed.

Callum’s passion, skill and knowledge came vividly across to his international audience at this May Lecture of the GCA – an enthralling experience. For more about Callum’s work, visit his website at https://callumarmstrong.co.uk .

A Virtual Reading Competition – a challenge embraced

The New Year was upon us, and with it the time to decide what to do about a major event in the GCA calendar – the annual Reading Competition in March. Our first thoughts had been: ‘impossible in a pandemic! Our second thoughts were: ‘Rather than do nothing, could we do it differently?’ If…

  • …schools were interested, with so many other challenges facing them,
  • …staff could somehow get students together to rehearse,
  • …they could produce a video of the candidates performing, which could be uploaded onto a platform and which adjudicators could access remotely……….. then it might be feasible.

So we took a deep breath and started investigating all these possibilities.

I have to say we were delighted by the response. Seven schools stepped up eagerly to the challenge. In spite of having little contact in school, they found enough time to rehearse.

Both staff and students, after months of remote teaching and learning during lockdown, had become sufficiently familiar with using various recording methods to produce clear, confident performances, either from home, or in school with correct social distancing.

Colleagues on the Organising Committee pitched in in various ways, including the crucial job of liaising with the schools on the production of their videos and organizing these on our GCA Google Drive, from where our adjudicators were able to access them and make their decisions.

The experience was always going to be different from our usual ‘live’ competition: for the students it lacked the buzz of a school outing, the interest of hearing others reading ‘their’ passage and the excitement of the final round; there was no tea and chat half-way through, giving the staff the opportunity to network and learn from each other.

But instead the judges had more time to consider their verdict on each performance, solo or dialogue, and to write detailed, constructive feedback, which was appreciated by staff and students alike. Our thanks go to Miss Sarah Parnaby, Mr. Phillip Parr, Mr. Henry Cullen and Mr. Stuart Macaulay for their time and expertise.

We have all learned a lot, through and from the process and are glad we took the plunge. Although there was no formal prizegiving and applause, book-token prizes were sent to the worthy winners of each Section, and all competitors and their teachers deserve a round of applause for embracing this unusual challenge.

David Raeburn, 1927-2021

We are sad to record the recent death in hospital of former GCA President David Raeburn.

In a distinguished career spanning 65 years he held many teaching posts, both in schools and at Oxford University, and was Director of the JACT Greek Summer School from 1968 to 1985.

His great enthusiasm throughout was the staging of Greek dramas, and the second meeting of the newly formed Guildford Classical Association in 1975 was a film show about his recent production of Euripides’ Bacchae at Bradfield. We were very pleased to welcome him as our President.

At our 10th anniversary dinner in 1985,  we staged a pantomime in which David gamely played Poseidon, triumphantly brandishing his trident, having speared a packet of Birds Eye fish fingers. Sitting beside David, in the picture below, is his wife, Mary Faith, who died in 2013.

GCSE Conference, 28 January 2021

It is not possible to hold this as a live event n the current circumstances. We shall instead provide recorded lectures that teachers can use with their pupils when and how they wish. Links to these lectures will be sent out to GCA members by 28 January. There will be no charge to members or their schools for these lectures.


Philip Hardie

Professor Philip Hardie, Trinity College, Cambridge, President of the Virgil Society, on Virgil : Aeneid 2. Lines 506 – 558;  705 – 740;  768 –794.  


Dan Hogg

Dr Dan Hogg,  Head of Classics, Cranleigh School and a Keynote speaker, on The prose texts from the Cambridge Latin Anthology: Tacitus: Germanicus and Piso;  Pliny: Regulus.

GCA Schools Talk, 13 October 2020

On Tuesday 13th October the GCA hosted our second virtual session, a brilliant and captivating talk from Caroline Lawrence, author of the much-loved Roman Mysteries series of novels, amongst other titles.

Caroline enthralled our audience, first with an insight into the origins of her desire to be a writer and the inspiration she found in Mary Renault, and later into the elements, both literal and conceptual, that make her characters, and other characters throughout literature and film, so fascinating. It was entertaining to see so many of our favourite stories from mythology and popular culture broken down into just seven ‘Plot Beats’ and the way our audience had engaged with Caroline so enthusiastically was borne out in the thought-provoking and wide-ranging question and answer session at the end.

We would like to extend our thanks again to Caroline for enriching our evenings and just as Nancy Drew was such an inspiration in Caroline’s childhood, we feel sure that Caroline’s Flavia will now become an empowering role-model to even more young readers after tuning in to such a wonderful talk. 

GCA welcomes its new President, Prof. Llewelyn Morgan

We are delighted to welcome Professor Llewelyn Morgan, Brasenose College, Oxford, as President of the Guildford Classical Association.

Prof. Morgan was already well known to the GCA, having delivered the 2019 Summer Talk, Aeneas in Italy: both Hero and Villain? and starred in The Latin Qvarter’s production of The Song of Arms and a Man, hosted by the GCA at Charterhouse in October 2019 (see earlier posts).

His first appearance as President was as MC and questionmaster at the GCA’s first virtual meeting, with Natalie Haynes on Pandora’s Jar – women in myths, stories and legends, and we look forward to welcoming him at many other GCA events.

Opening Party 2020, with Natalie Haynes

The GCA’s first ever virtual meeting proved to be very popular and was a great success, thanks to a brilliantly engaging performance by Natalie Haynes, whose knowledge and enthusiasm shone throughout a talk that was, as anyone who has heard Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics on Radio 4 would have expected, both informative and entertaining.

The GCA’s new President, Prof. Llewelyn Morgan, who has appeared with Natalie in several of her radio programmes, conducted a lively Q&A session, including a selection of the questions submitted by the webinar’s large audience.

Natalie’s talk focussed on Medusa and (at a request from the audience) Medea, and offered her own fresh and thought-provoking take on these characters from myth. Many more women from myth and legend are featured in Natalie’s new book Pandora’s Jar.

Coronavirus: resumption of GCA programme

We are pleased to announce that, although we have had to cancel our programme of physical meetings until further notice, we are able to resume activities online, and will be staging as much of the usual programme as possible in the 2020/21 season.

We begin the season with our usual September Opening Party, but this time as a webinar. We apologise to anyone who finds themself unable to use this format, but hope that it will enable many others who would not have been able to get to Guildford for a live event to join us.

We will post further information as the season proceeds.