We recently held our first ever LSA CA Zoom meeting for our 2020 AGM and virtual celebration evening. It was a ‘bring your own cake and wine’ occasion but we still managed to celebrate in style, including a chorus of Happy Birthday for our student ambassador Declan who turned 18 during lockdown. The Chair, Secretary and Treasurer delivered their annual reports and our President Professor Michael Scott also joined us and sent everyone his warmest wishes and thanks for their ongoing support, generosity and enthusiasm.
Thank you so much to those who joined the call, it was lovely to see you! For those who didn’t get the chance, do have a read of the Chair’s Report below as we reflect upon the past season, which contained so many highlights before Covid-19 unfortunately kept us apart. We miss you all and, guidelines permitting, can’t wait to see you as soon as safely possible! Do keep in touch and share your remote classical endeavours with us via the hashtag #classicscommunity.
Casting our minds back to September, we began our sixth lecture programme with a visit from Dr Jerry Toner, an excellent and very engaging speaker, who discussed slavery in ancient times, including how slaves were harshly punished for the smallest of misdemeanours but also how some social mobility was possible for those who could earn or buy their freedom.
November was a bumper month which included Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill’s much anticipated lecture on Pompeii and Herculaneum where he took us to the backstreets of these famous, fateful cities using recent evidence discovered in the bar of Amarantus including amphorae, graffiti and the skeleton of a mule and a tiny dog, and sewage finds from Herculaneum which reveal the varied diets of the townsfolk. Andrew combined erudition with eloquence effortlessly and a really enjoyable evening was had by all.
Just two weeks earlier, we had welcomed to Lytham St Annes, Prof Dame Mary Beard who, in her role as outgoing President of the national CA, delivered her Presidential Address and we were thrilled to be asked to host the event. She gave her lecture on the Empresses of Rome not once but twice to over 600 people which was fantastic. The committee was delighted to be able to invite over 350 students to come to AKS Lytham for the talk and photos with Mary.
I just want to say another thank you to the committee and our amazing volunteers because it was a herculean task to coordinate this double event which involved some serious crowd management, parking stewards, Victoria sponge making on an industrial scale yet as deliciously home-baked as ever, patience and understanding from all our members, and a huge amount of work from the Secretary in particular. It was a thrill that the event went so smoothly, testament to our minutely detailed plans (!), and it was great to receive such positive feedback about it, not least from Mary herself and the rest of the CA Council. It was certainly the highlight of 2019 and for us one of the highlights of the past six years. I still smile every time I see this photo of Mary and Michael holding the selfie board with #MaryBeardCA – 6 years ago I could never have imagined they would be together in Lytham St Annes!
2020, for all its ups and downs, certainly started in great fashion for the branch and January and February became the months of the Michaels! January was our own Presidential lecture – this year a really comprehensive and well-illustrated journey of discovery into the religious lives of the ancient Greeks – followed by the celebration meal, held for the first time at Tiggi’s in St Annes and I’m sure you’ll all agree it was a lovely evening in very Mediterranean surroundings. Runshaw won the quiz, I nearly lost my voice and Michael had his favourite dessert, so nothing new there! Michael Wood’s return visit was even better than the first, as he captivated us with his evocative exploration of Troy, tied to the British Museum’s exhibition which I know many of you enjoyed – he really is the most endlessly fascinating and fascinated person; it’s a privilege to listen to him speak live.
It is a real shame that we have not yet had the chance to meet and listen to Emily Hauser, Robin Osborne and Charlotte Higgins but there will be future opportunities, undoubtedly. I have been sharing classics resources that are now available freely online that can hopefully pique your interest, but I know it’s not as good as the real thing and we’re all really missing your company as well as the classical content of the lectures. We are awaiting government guidelines about events and performances which should be available in July but at the present time we’re unable, like all other associations, to be able to confirm our programme for next year. Please rest assured that as soon as we know what we are allowed to do, we will be in touch again.
From the past year though there have been a few personal highlights: receiving an email from Michael Wood asking to come back and give another talk; having a very enjoyable AGM & Celebration last summer at AKS Junior School as we launched this year’s programme; joining Michael Scott for another of his live Q&A sessions where I chatted about the Barley Boys (gladiators); reading Mary’s tweets to her hundreds of thousands of followers saying what a great time she’d had in Lytham; and watching the four eloquent finalists in our Classics Competition. The Competition was another great success and we had more entrants than ever before, as we continue to expand our reach and encourage students from across the UK to enter. It’s been great to see that the competition winner, Connor Irving, has since gone on to launch his own Youtube channel (The Mythology Manifest) and become a student ambassador at the branch and we look forward to sharing more of his classics journey with him.
This year, I’ve been very impressed by the excellent standard of writing amongst our student members and a special mention to Declan Boyd who not only wrote an erudite article on Sallust’s depiction of Cicero, which received praise from senior academics on twitter, and was the winner of the prestigious CA Gladstone Essay Prize, but also took over the reins as Editor of our student-run newsletter Agora and produced an excellent fourth edition with new features such as ‘Sculpture of the Issue’ and really interesting pieces by Classics Ambassadors Leo Riley and Liv Sample.
Thomas Adamthwaite and Zeeshan Mahroof also joined our ambassadorial team this year and we look forward to more students coming forward and joining the team – we love working with young people and it’s always lovely to watch them delivering votes of thanks at the lectures as well as getting stuck in with behind-the-scenes projects.
The Repton Summer School may have been cancelled for 2020 but, all being well, it will go ahead next summer and therefore we continue to develop our bursary fund to allow young people the chance to attend the course and I’d like to thank you again for your generosity – in the current climate especially, we want to see how we can help and support people who want to pursue their interest in classics no matter their age, background, or finances and we very much appreciate your continued support and donations.
My final thank you goes to our committee members, to Jayne and Michael, to Gerry and to Liz for their continued hard work, dedication and great sense of fun. Peter Williamson has taken the decision to stand down after five years as promotions officer and we would like to publicly thank him for his service – he was instrumental in the establishment of the branch and his support on the committee has been invaluable, and very very much appreciated.
We hope you and your families are safe and well – we’ll be in touch again soon!
Katrina Kelly, Chair