by Jeremy Antrich
My wife Ann and I, both Classics teachers, arrived in Surrey from Bristol in 1974. We had previously enjoyed meetings of BACT and the Bristol CA, but there was no local Classical organisation. So we teamed up with some local teachers and in February 1975 the Guildford Branch of the Classical Association and the Guildford Region Association of Classical Teachers (GRACT) were created. At our inaugural meeting Mark Hassall was our speaker.
Our first official event was a Wine Party – following the custom of the London Branch. Our second meeting was a film show about David Raeburn’s recent production of Euripides’ Bacchae at Bradfield College. A committee was formally elected and our first President was John Henry, Chief Education Officer for Surrey County Council, and himself a Classicist. He was followed by David Raeburn, then Norma Miller, and our current President is Edith Hall.
For forty years the Guildford Classical Association (as we became known) has presented lectures for the general public, talks, conferences and quizzes for schools, and in-service events for teachers, with the financial and practical support of Surrey County Council and the Classical Association. Our speakers have been generally excellent, with some very high profile, such as Mary Beard, Natalie Haynes, Caroline Lawrence and Michael Scott. Throughout this period we have experienced considerable pressure upon minority subjects like Classics, especially in state schools. Nevertheless, endlessly shifting educational requirements have effectively been met, and changing trends in the interests of the general public admirably catered for.
Occasional special events have included outings to Roman sites, and a drama event held in 1986, when students and teachers performed in scenes from Plautus and Molière under the direction of Theo Zinn, then teaching part-time at Charterhouse.
Theo Zinn in rehearsal for the Guildford CA drama event in 1986 (photo by J. Antrich)
Perhaps our most ambitious event took place in September 1984 – a Roman Day, held at the Guildford Royal Grammar School. There was a whole day of activities including cookery demonstrations, poster and model competitions, drama, gladiator fights, and presentations by the Ermine Street Guard. The event was publicised in the press and on TV, and attracted over 1,700 visitors.
It has become our custom to end each decade with a celebratory dinner. Our guest speakers have been Peter Jones, Brian Sparkes and Chris Carey – and, this September, myself, as a Vice-President and founder member. I took the opportunity to pay tribute to all those – not least the Committee members – who have enabled us to flourish over the last forty years. I was pleased to report that membership had held up and that attendance at events was good. The Guildford Classical Association is now looking forward to its next 40 years.
GCA 40th Anniversary Dinner, September 2015 (photo by J. Antrich)
Jeremy Antrich is Honorary Vice-President of the Guildford Classical Association
Sheila Conway, Honorary Secretary of the Guildford branch, adds: The Guildford Classical Association is fortunate in having a number of young, enthusiastic and imaginative committee members, who are keeping us up-to-date with current trends and examination requirements. We are replacing our annual Staff Development Days with termly twilight sessions, which we hope staff will find easier to attend. Another innovation is our Certamen, an inter-school team quiz on the lines of University Challenge, which is light-hearted and fun and has proved extremely popular.
We are determined to live up to the high standards set by our founding members, with top quality and innovative events appealing to classicists of all ages.
The Classical Association has a number of affiliated organisations or ‘branches’ to whom it awards grants to support Classics in local areas. These are often (but not always) run out of university Classics departments and events include lectures, play readings and excursions. Many branches are also active in organising outreach events involving local schools, including reading competitions and quizzes. See the CA website for contact details for individual branches and our online calendar for information about forthcoming events.