By Polly Toney
Following on from a successful re-launch in October of last year, which saw Lindsey Davis as guest-speaker, the Birmingham and Midlands CA held its first Sixth Form Conference on Saturday 10 March. Expected to become an annual event, with the potential to roll out the formula beyond Key Stage 5 to supplement GCSE teaching and learning in future years, the Sixth Form Conference demonstrated the BMCA’s ongoing commitment to facilitate and enrich classical learning in schools and colleges.
Proceedings took place at the University of Birmingham and we were delighted to welcome students (and several teachers) from a range of schools and further education institutions; from the relatively local, e.g., King Edwards Five Ways, to the further afield, e.g., Leicester Grammar. In an even more impressive vein, we were delighted to procure the speaking services of academics from across the country, including Professor Ingo Gildenhard, who travelled all the way down from Durham and Professor Oliver Taplin, whose busy schedule literally saw him jump out of a taxi, give his lecture to rapturous applause, then almost immediately set back out again to Oxford (the jet-setting lifestyle of the academic, eh?).
With the aim of providing support for both the AS and A-Levels syllabuses in Classical Civilisation and Latin, the day’s programme consisted of three pathways from which students could pick and choose. Following registration, Birmingham’s very own Professor Ken Dowden, kicked off the day in style with his keynote address. Covering AS and A-Level Latin, Professor Ingo Gildenhard (Durham), Dr Elena Theodorakopous (Birmingham) and Dr Chris Whitton (Cambridge) gave presentations on Cicero’s In Verrem 2, Ovid’s Amores 3 and Tacitus’ Annals 14 respectively. For AS and A-Level Classical Civilisation, Professor Oliver Taplin (Oxford), Laura Snook (Birmingham) and Dr Niall Livingstone (Birmingham) spoke on Greek Tragedy, Greek Art and Architecture and Greek Comedy. While our third pathway, designed as a miscellany of general interest talks, invited Emma Southon (Birmingham), Dr Carl Buckland (Nottingham) and Dr Niall McKeown (Birmingham) to muse on Caligula, Women in the Ancient World and Slavery in the Ancient World. After lunch, the entire cohort got together to hear Dr Juliette Harrison (OU and Birmingham) present on Virgil, rounding off the day with Dr Liz Gloyn’s extremely well received talk on Classics and Film.
As this was our first Sixth Form Conference and due to the relative newness of our re-formed CA branch we made sure to survey our attendees for their feedback and feel that all future events will benefit from their helpful suggestions. For example, with talks beginning at 10am through to 3.30pm we feel that the programme could be condensed and would benefit from drawing to a close around the 1-2pm mark, especially considering the lack of catering facilities on campus at the weekend. Moreover, we anticipate that the programme for next year’s conference will be available much earlier in advance to ensure maximum attendance and will expand its remit to support the AQA, as well as the OCR, syllabus.
With our new logo in circulation, courtesy of Luke Holliday, a Graphic Design student from Solihull College, the re-formed BMCA will soon be entering into its second year of proceedings and would like to extend its thanks to all those of you who have attended events thus far. Consolidating this year’s successes, the next promises to be even better, kicking off in October (exact date to be confirmed) with Professor Edith Hall as speaker for our Autumn Lecture.
You can find further details of the Birmingham & Midlands Branch on the CA website here, or by searching Facebook for ‘Birmingham and Midlands Classical Association’.