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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May Talk 2022: Professor Llewelyn Morgan, ‘The Aeneid before the Aeneid’

We were very excited this May to be hosting a live talk for our members again at last. It was held at Tormead School.

Our President, Professor Llewelyn Morgan of Brasenose College, Oxford, spoke to us on The Aeneid before the Aeneid. He gave examples of where Virgil seems to have taken pre-existing stories about different heroes and used them differently to suit his purpose in the Aeneid. He also pointed out places where Virgil referred by name to presumed ancestors of different Roman tribes whose names don’t occur anywhere else in Roman literature. Have other references to these people simply been lost over time, or did Virgil invent them to broaden the appeal of his poem to contemporary audiences? After the talk there was an illuminating question and answer session ranging over many aspects of the Aeneid and beyond.

We are very grateful to Professor Morgan for giving us such a stimulating talk. The audience, consisting of members as well as local teachers and students, were rewarded with many new insights into the Aeneid, both in the talk and in the ensuing question and answer session.

We are grateful, too, to Tormead School for hosting this talk for us and providing the refreshments and to the Tormead Classics department for making us so welcome.

Latin & Greek Reading Competition 2022

We were delighted to be able to hold the event live again this year, making it a special treat for those eight schools taking part. 73 excited students met at St. Catherine’s School in Bramley, for an afternoon of fierce competition. Entries were received from Year 6 right up to Year 13, and our team of four judges were challenged to make their selection of prizewinners. This time we welcomed Mrs Caroline Bowden onto our panel of judges, joining regular contributors Miss Sarah Parnaby, Mr Jeremy Antrich and Mr Phillip Parr.

Prizewinners were selected on the basis of their accurate pronunciation and expressive delivery in equal measure, and they were asked to perform again to the assembled company after a tea-break kindly provided by the catering staff at St.Catherine’s.

Prizes of Book Token gift cards (and chocolate eggs!) were given to the winners, and every competitor received a certificate of participation. Mr Jeremy Antrich, Hon. Vice President, then gave a few words to sum up the afternoon.

Thanks are due to St.Catherine’s for hosting the event; to our excellent judges who gave their time and expertise free, and were able to offer useful hints to the candidates to inform future entries; to our scribes, Mrs Judith Kingcombe and Mrs Bronwen Parr who applied extreme care in writing the certificates, and to all the students for taking part and the staff who trained them so diligently. It is a joy to see many of the candidates year after year as they progress through school and mature in their delivery of these wonderful languages.

GCSE Conference 2022

This year saw the GCA’s first live virtual GCSE Text Conference, consisting of a pair of Zoom webinars held over two successive weeks.

On Wednesday 26th January Professor Roy Gibson of the University of Durham kindly spoke to us on the ‘Land and Sea’ prose set-text options.

Professor Gibson’s interesting and nuanced talk provided a clear but concise overview of the context for the three set authors (Caesar, Pliny, and Livy) and their highly varied aims in writing, from justification for military adventurism to demonstrating suitable zeal for the finances of Bithynia! Professor Gibson also offered valuable insight into the specific stylistic choices each author made to mould these diverse but engaging texts to their particular purposes.

The following Wednesday (2nd February), we were joined by the GCA’s President, Professor Llewelyn Morgan of Brasenose College, University of Oxford, who spoke engagingly on the ‘Passions and Poisons’ selection of verse set texts.

Professor Morgan’s talk both offered up many specific examples of the various stylistic features of each of the three texts, and also drew out some themes which united them all, such as their sophistication and the shared (if, to modern audiences, somewhat unfortunate) insistence on the association of unbridled passion and womanhood.

We would like to thank both Professor Gibson and Professor Morgan for taking the time to prepare and deliver such useful and entertaining talks on these GCSE set text options, and also the Classical Association for allowing the GCA use of their Zoom Webinar licence to facilitate these virtual events. As both speakers kindly agreed to their presentations being recorded for later use, if you were unable to join us live for these events, or know of someone who would benefit from access to the talks, the recordings of Sessions 1 & 2 can be found at: https://youtu.be/9KsSGVn9l48 and https://youtu.be/pMEAdQT_1Sw respectively.

November Talk 2021: Augustus and the Imperial Image, with Dr Christopher Burden-Strevens

This talk was always planned as a webinar to make it easier of access to students than a live talk. This had the advantage of enabling us to invite a speaker from quite a distance without the need for him to travel all the way to Guildford.

When we invited Dr Burden-Strevens to talk to us, we had no idea quite what a treat we had in store. Dr Burden-Strevens from the University of Kent lectures on Roman history among other things and has a particular interest in the political history of the Roman republic and early empire.

Dr Burden-Strevens looked in detail at statues of Augustus and also at his recorded actions and what they suggested about the image he was aiming to present. He gave clear evidence of a differentiation between the picture Augustus was aiming to paint of himself to the Roman people and the image which he hoped the Senate and ruling classes would form. This juxtaposition of Augustus’ two main audiences showed clearly what a tightrope Augustus had to walk in order to achieve and then maintain his position of authority in Rome in the chaotic situation following the civil wars.

Dr Burden-Strevens proved an enthusiastic and inspirational speaker on a topic which obviously fascinated him and provided valuable insights for students attending. His extensive knowledge of his subject was perfectly complemented by the warmth and spontaneity of his delivery and his clear and well-structured talk was perfectly suited to our varied audience of members, teachers and students. He impressed by giving a talk which was at the same time extremely useful to students preparing for public exams and easily approachable and interesting for those with a more general interest. He thus showed himself able to walk a tightrope arguably as challenging as that of his subject, Augustus.

Dr Burden-Strevens is a lecturer in Roman history with a particular interest in the political history of the Roman republic and early empire.  He read Classics at the University of Glasgow, graduating with the top first in his year, and went on to study for an M.Phil at the University of Oxford followed by a PhD back at Glasgow where he received his doctorate in 2015. Since 2017, he has taught at the University of Kent. He specialises in the Roman history curriculum but also teaches both Latin and Greek and takes a particular interest in coinage as a means of communicating with the public. He has spoken at conferences in Europe and N. America and has a string of publications to his name. See https://www.kent.ac.uk/classics-archaeology/people/1749/burden-strevens-christopher 

Schools Talk 2021: Ancient Greek Spell-Writing for Beginners, with Prof. Esther Eidinow

We were thrilled when Prof Esther Eidinow from the University of Bristol agreed to give us a talk on Ancient Greek Spell-Writing for Beginners.

Prof Eidinow, currently Professor of Ancient History at the University of Bristol, has worked in various institutions in England and the USA and has many publications on Ancient Greek culture to her name. She has a particular interest in religion and magic.

We were disappointed not to be able to welcome Prof Eidinow to a live meeting as originally planned. It is more exciting and interesting for a younger audience, in particular, to attend a live event and engage with the speaker directly. However, having to hold this as a webinar did enable pupils from farther afield to benefit from Prof Eidinow’s knowledge and experience and we were very pleased to be able to share access to this talk with our colleagues at the Southampton and Lytham St Annes CAs with whom we have been collaborating and sharing virtual talks since last year. It has been good to repay these organisations for the talks they have shared with our members in recent months.

The talk was aimed at pupils in Years 7-10 and, in the event, Prof Eidinow pitched the talk just right. She engaged very enthusiastically with her audience by making imaginative use of the Q&A facility at several points and made the talk accessible to even the youngest audience members. She included a lot of interesting information about curse tablets, particularly those used by the Ancient Greeks, and undoubtedly most or all of her audience, including adult attendees, will have left with some extra depth or breadth to their knowledge of the subject.

We are very grateful to Prof Eidinow for coming to give us such an interesting talk and for helping us to enthuse the next generation of Classicists.

Opening Party 2021: Recovering the Women of Ancient Greek Myth, with Dr Emily Hauser

It was very exciting to have Dr Emily Hauser from the University of Exeter as guest speaker at our Opening Party this year. It is not often that you find a speaker who is both an established academic and a successful author. Not only this, but Emily is also well-known as an excellent speaker and in this she did not disappoint.

Although we were sorry not to be able to hold a live event this year, we were pleased to be able to open the webinar up to a wider audience. However, we were very much aware that a webinar lacks the festive spirit of a party and that our members would yet again be unable to meet one another in person which, for many, is such a joy of this annual occasion. Fortunately, our Vice-Presidents, Ann and Jeremy Antrich, agreed to host a Zoom meeting prior to Emily’s talk for those members who were able to attend, and some friendships amongst members were rekindled that way. We are very grateful to Jeremy and Ann for their efficient and friendly hosting of this event.

Emily Hauser combines two careers. One is writing historical fiction, most famously the acclaimed Golden Apple trilogy retelling the stories of the women of Greek myth. The other is teaching and researching with a particular interest in women in antiquity, Greek and Latin poetry and the connection between women and verse literature in Greek and Roman antiquity and women’s writing in the twenty-first century.

Emily proved a very engaging speaker. She was both enthusiastic and very knowledgeable and kept the audience fully engaged throughout her talk as was evidenced by the many varied and thought-provoking questions which audience members asked at the end of the talk. She spoke about her own books and how she had chosen and developed her subjects, making evident in the process the extensive knowledge which underpins her novels. For example, she had gone as far as to visit Troy, allowing her to see for herself and show her audience how the slope of the walls would have enabled Greek warriors to climb them. Her extensive research gave her many examples to share with us of how women in ancient Greece lived. However, she did not just describe her own books, research and creative processes but also spoke generously of other twenty-first century writers and warmly recommended their books to the audience.

We are very grateful to Emily for giving us such an interesting talk with so many insights into both writing and the world of women in ancient times.

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.