Friday, 5 April 2019

The CA Guildford Branch

by Marian Wernham

The GCA was set up over 40 years ago with the aim of fostering interest in the Classics in our community. We are an active branch, offering a range of activities throughout the academic year for students, teachers and those with a general interest in Classics.  We have about 90 members, many of whom are current or retired teachers as well as students and interested members of the public.

Our annual programme begins with an Opening Lecture, which is free to anyone and always well attended. A notable speaker (often the author of a recently-published book) is invited to talk about his/her subject. We have been privileged in the past to welcome such famous names as Mary Beard, Michael Scott, Natalie Haynes and Tom Holland, amongst others, and this year our President, Professor Edith Hall, spoke to us about how Aristotle’s ‘Ethics’ can guide us through 21st Century life. A second public lecture is arranged for the summer term.

Professor Edith Hall addressing the GCA at the
Opening Lecture © Ian Peel

In October Dr Mary Harlow from Leicester spoke engagingly to pupils in Years 6-9 on ‘Unravelling the Roman toga’, and in November sixth-formers were fascinated to hear Professor Tim Whitmarsh from Cambridge explaining the evidence he had found for the ways Homer might have been performed in antiquity.

In January we organise a half-day conference for about 100 GCSE students, providing them and their teachers with the opportunity to learn from academics covering the wider context of two of their literature set texts. This year we welcomed Professor Matthew Leigh of St. Anne’s College, Oxford (a long-standing friend of GCA), who gave us his insights into the Virgil text, and Dr Dunstan Lowe from Kent who talked about Boudicca and The Druids.

A major event each year is our popular Classical Reading Competition, at which about 100 students ranging from Years 6 - 13 from local schools battle it out in playlets, dialogues and solo recitations in Latin or Greek, according to their age group.  Four experienced judges have the unenviable task of awarding prizes and certificates based on accuracy and expression.

We are indebted to the CA for the generous grant that they provide for this event, which enables us to give worthwhile prizes and a welcome tea to all attending, and similarly for another competition which we have inaugurated in recent years - a Classical knowledge ‘Certamen’ run on the lines of those in the USA. This, too, is proving increasingly popular with students.

Occasional self-help Teach Meets enable teaching staff to share ideas and issues about developments in the syllabus and good teaching practice.

We were delighted this year to support the Surbiton High School Parthenon Casts project, and soon we hope to offer a bursary to a deserving student wishing to attend one of the summer schools.

More details of our activities can be found at Do come and join us – you’d be very welcome!

Marian Wernham
Membership Secretary, GCA

For information about your nearest branch, see the CA website: