By Dr Evelien Bracke
Having lived in South West Wales for four years now, I have increasingly found myself looking with slight envy towards England, where projects introducing Classics to a wider audience appear to be growing steadily in number and popularity. Of course schools and universities in Wales offer Classics and the Classical languages as well, but in the local communities, the profile of Classics is – at least in the South West area – hardly visible. Time to rouse the dragon (or to contradict the Harry Potter adage, draco dormiens titillandus!), we thought.
In 1928, Swansea University staff, alongside local school teachers, had started up the ‘Swansea and District Branch’ of the Classical Association, which provided a series of guest lectures to a non-specialist audience and thrived for most of the last century. The branch stopped functioning a number of years ago, however, and that seemed to be the end of that. Some months ago, a few of us got our heads together and decided it was time for get things going again. The branch was relaunched as the ‘South West Wales Branch’, its aim not merely to provide a series of lectures, but rather to function as a community project in the local area, an Outreach programme which works in liaison with local schools and HE institutions in South West Wales, to bring Classics to a wider audience, and to young people particularly. Above all, it should be fun, and connect people of all ages and backgrounds through their love of Classics!
The launch took place on the 27th October, at the local Waterstones bookstore (a former cinema and enchanting venue), with a speech by Prof Emeritus Ceri Davies (Swansea University) and a delightful talk and reading by Caroline Lawrence (her chicken impersonation is still the talk of the town!). The launch was attended by more than sixty people, from young Roman Mysteries fans to retired Classics teachers, from university students to professionals who had enjoyed Latin at school. It was an encouraging start, and we hope to continue in this vein, with talks on fake excavations at Pompeii and on the Olympic games, as well as Roman cooking workshops and an Aristophanes play. A volunteering scheme is also being organized for Swansea University students to teach Latin to local primary schools.
Our logo connects the Argonautic ram with the Welsh dragon (in a – to some minds apparently – slightly mischievous way, but hey, what’s wrong with that?!), with the dragon guiding the ram into the future and a strong focus on the children (though it has been suggested they could easily be Welsh miners too, because of the hats…) This, then, is our mission statement: reconnecting South West Wales with its Classical roots. Watch this space!
Facebook: South West Wales Classical Association
Dr Evelien Bracke teaches Latin and Greek at Swansea University, has been Director of the Lampeter Summer Workshop in Greek and Latin at UW Trinity Saint David for the last two years, and is currently the Secretary of the South West Wales Branch of the Classical Association.