By Dr. Arlene Holmes-Henderson
On Saturday 3rd February, our partners at the University of Exeter hosted a whole day of Classical activities. Some participants had travelled from 80 miles away and had taken two busses and a train in order to attend. The day started with an introduction from Dr Sharon Marshall, a member of the Classics Department. Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson, AHRC Research Fellow in Classics Education, gave an overview of the ACE project and explained that significant support is available to schools to introduce Classical Civilisation and Ancient History (both professional and financial) from Classics for All. The first interactive workshop was led by Laura Jenkinson from GreekMythComix. She explained that designing comics can be a useful way to engage with the key characters and plot developments of any story. She demonstrated her artistic approach then challenged participants to create their own, with some prompts from Greek art.
After lunch, three further interactive workshops stimulated both thought and giggles. The first was focussed on ancient architecture. Dr Chris Siwicki explained the contribution of Vitruvius to architectural theory and practice. His drawings (not so scientific) of the Vitruvian man and of column capitals prompted much hilarity (including from himself!). He vowed to stick to writing about architecture in future, rather than attempting to draw too many images freehand. The second workshop was led by another Exeter Classicist, Dr Nicolo’ D’Alconzo. This time, Greek drama was the focus and he sought volunteers to act out a scene from Euripides’ Helen after discussing characterisation, both ancient and modern. The scene was funny already, but when Dr Marshall and Dr Siwicki performed the scene their acting talents took the performance to a whole new level.
The final interactive workshop was run by A Level Classical Civilisation students from Exeter College. As well as being informative about the events of the Battle of Thermopylae, the workshop included the recreation of the Spartan fighting formation (the phalanx), complete with replica armour and weapons.
Exeter students had been encouraged to enter the Great Roman Bake-Off competition which was judged towards the end of the day by ACE patron Charlotte Higgins and Dr Holmes-Henderson. Entries included Odyssean cupcakes (coconut and lime curd), Seaton hoard coin cupcakes (chocolate and orange), iced Roman shortbread biscuits (butter lemon) and a spectacular model Pantheon (vanilla and lemon). The judges awarded a runner-up prize to postgraduate Oliver Maynard for his iced Roman shortbread biscuits but gave first place to undergraduates Matt Noble and Nicole Browes for their cake Pantheon. This cake was a deserving winner for both aesthetic and taste.
The day finished with a fascinating talk from ACE patron and Chief Arts Correspondent for the Guardian newspaper, Charlotte Higgins. Charlotte explained how she had benefited from studying Classics at school and university and demonstrated, with examples, how the skills she learned have been valuable throughout her career. Participants asked many interesting questions, which Charlotte answered with her customary honesty and good humour.
The event at the University of Exeter was a triumph. Our partners are now working hard to follow up with state schools across Devon and further afield to widen access to the study of Classics. For more information, please contact Sharon.Marshall@exeter.ac.uk or Matthew.Wright@exeter.ac.uk.