Chair of the branch, Katrina Kelly, reflects on the success and highlights of the Lytham St Annes Classical Association’s fourth year and looks forward to another exciting lecture programme for 2018-19.
“We have once again enjoyed a great programme of lectures featuring first class speakers and a range of subjects that have taken us from the marble magnificence of the Parthenon to the rubbish dumps of Egypt, with brief detours to Sicily, Athens and London, featuring colourful characters from third century Rome, from the mines of Britain in the age of the Flavians, and even from Nazi Germany.
Just from a glimpse at our programme, it is clear that the bar has been raised yet again and our speakers keep offering us ever more fascinating insights into so many different aspects of the ancient world. It’s hard to choose only a few highlights but some of my favourite moments include meeting ex-Apprentice mentor Margaret Mountford (who was a lot less intimidating in real life!), watching Caroline Lawrence brandish a sponge stick much to the glee of a hundred school children when she was acting as patron and judge of our Junior Classics Competition, and, of course, marking my 21st birthday in very memorable fashion by interviewing the legendary Lindsey Davis back in February – it was a fascinating interview and quite a proud, personal moment seeing how far we, as a committee and as a branch, have come. I was lucky enough to spend my 16th birthday in Pompeii but had no idea that five years later I would be celebrating on stage with the author of the books that have helped bring Pompeii and Rome to life for so many people!
The weather has conspired against us at times this year and I have vivid memories of rescuing Joann Fletcher from the winds and snow that had plagued her mammoth journey across the Pennines as she eventually made it to Preston station, and also of losing our President Michael on the platform because he was unrecognisable wrapped up in several layers, scarf and thick hat. Thankfully, however, it never dampened the spirit of all the visitors to the Association – indeed, our average attendance has risen to 233 members and visitors per lecture, and our President’s annual lecture in freezing January temperatures was enjoyed by a 270-strong audience of enthusiastic classicists.
I was sad to miss Carrie Vout’s opening lecture on the depiction of the gods in ancient art but I know she started the season in style and entertained everyone who came. In October, Harry Sidebottom gave a compelling and humorous lecture – he brought a great sense of fun to the whole evening and our thanks again go to Ego Restaurant for providing such a great venue for all of our post-lecture meals; Harry’s was particularly memorable, and we all had a great time there celebrating our fourth presidential evening back in January. It’s always a highlight of the year to come together and celebrate the success and community of the branch with lovely food and great company, and I know that Michael loves coming as much as we do!
Michael’s lecture also marked the first in a series of interviews conducted by some of our student ambassadors for their brand new, self-produced classics newsletter Agora which is now in its second publication. Editor in chief Alex, ably assisted by fellow ambassadors Liv, Leon, Eleanor and Niamh, has collated articles, opinion pieces, quizzes, and more lecturer interviews with Joann Fletcher and Mary Ann Ochota into Agora. It is great to see these young people enthused and challenging themselves with new, exciting projects even when in the midst of their very busy school lives. This year, with ten student ambassadors, there has been a greater sharing of duties and I’ve been really pleased to see lots of different writers producing eloquent, incisive and well-illustrated blogs for the website, as well as going out of their comfort zones to deliver the votes of thanks – they are always impressive speakers, ever-growing in confidence and I am sure that they will all go on to achieve great things.
In March, we had an incredibly busy month and the committee rose to the occasion by organising and producing two lectures, two Classics Competitions, and selecting our Student Bursary winners within three weeks! It was a pleasure to welcome Dr Fiona Hobden to Lytham St Annes to judge the grand Final of our Senior Classics Competition – it was hotly contested by four excellent young speakers and Runshaw College’s Megan Maguire was a deserved winner for her eloquent and well-researched talk on ancient Ephesus. The entries in our inaugural Junior Competition were also of a very high standard and congratulations go to all who took part, especially winner Oliver Hinds from St Mary’s Hall, Stonyhurst, as they informed and entertained the audience and our Patron/ Judge Caroline Lawrence.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank our partners and supporters, especially AKS for their generous support and for providing such a lovely venue, and the Clifton Arms for accommodating our lecturers in stylish comfort. The Association could not run without our dedicated band of volunteers and all have been personally thanked at our AGM and Celebration Evening this July for their ongoing enthusiasm and hard work.
After the unveiling of our new 2018-19 Programme on 5th July, I am incredibly excited to lead us into another year of fascinating talks, outreach activity and Classics fun! I’m also thrilled to welcome two new members, Monica and Gerry, onto our committee to help us fulfil our aim of helping people of all ages and background access the ancient world. I cannot believe we are now in our fifth year and I hope we can continue to build and enjoy our classics community, and, in the words of our President, be ‘a beacon for the study of the ancient world in the north!’ See you in September – we can’t wait to welcome you (back) to the largest and friendliest branch of the Classical Association in the UK!