Reflections on this term’s training event…

Guest Blogger: Network Member, Dr Michael Subialka (Junior Research Fellow, Modern Languages)

“The Early Career Academic Outreach Network Training event for Hilary Term was excellent in both theoretical and practical terms. I was impressed that the session spanned from presentations on new data and ideas informing widening participation to a practical workshop showcasing a new method of combatting the disadvantages that sometimes face non-selective state school pupils.

Anne-Marie Canning, Head of Widening Participation at King’s College London, presented a trove of information. She pressed beyond the well-known facts and put new focus on issues that get less press. Chief among them is growing awareness that bursary schemes alone do not overcome disadvantages and that geo-demographics and gender are among the largest hurdles facing universities’ wider participation efforts today. I was especially shocked to learn that up to 42% of state school teachers report that they never or rarely encourage their highest-achieving students to consider applying to Oxbridge. Canning suggested this shows the importance of coupling outreach to students with outreach to other figures who influence their educational decisions, especially teachers and parents.

She also highlighted the need for going beyond ‘aspiration’ (an old buzzword) to look at the practical steps that will enable students to proceed with confidence toward higher education. It was thus ideal that Canning’s presentation was followed by a workshop with Rachel Curzons and Tom Wilks of The Brilliant Club, a non-profit education organisation dedicated to ‘ensuring students leave school with the skills, confidence and ambition to secure places at highly selective universities’. A quick immersion into their method of ‘concept mapping’ revealed the pragmatic way they train researchers to make their work accessible and inspirational for young students. I’m now very eager to learn more, and I would definitely recommend their model (and them – they’re recruiting) to my colleagues who are interested in helping to build a fair and accessible future for higher education.”

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Performance of the Bacchae at the East Oxford Community Classics Centre

Guest Blogger: Network Member Lucy Rayfield (DPhil, Modern Languages)

2G1A0796As Director of the upcoming production ‘Sparagmos’, a musical double-bill of Euripides’ ‘Bacchae’ and Poliziano’s ‘Orpheus’, I was keen to reach out to a wider community and use this play as a means of promoting the appreciation and enjoyment of classical tragedy. In my mind, ancient theatre such as that by Euripides is too often regarded as inaccessible or irrelevant, especially by younger audiences. In a bid to take a small step towards changing this, we decided to take the ‘Bacchae’ to the East Oxford Community Classics Centre at Cheney School in Oxford on 11th February, where fifty students from a range of year groups witnessed a special premiere of the production.

All involved found it to be an extremely rewarding experience. Lorna Robinson, the Centre’s Director, remarked that the performance was ‘exceptional’, adding that ‘students were able to witness the humour and terror of the play through some stunning performances, including a very arrogant King Pentheus and the fearsome god Dionysus!’ The students proved to be a strikingly attentive and receptive audience; Year 11 Ruchika Ganesh commented: “That was really amazing! The acting was so professional. I loved the singing!”, whilst Year 9 student Barnaby Evans reflected: “that was so much fun! I really enjoyed it”.

I was delighted to see that the students were so entertained by the production. Pentheus’ cross-dressing scene was particularly well-received, as was the music sung by the Chorus of Bacchants. I was also pleased to learn that several planned to attend the main performance in Exeter Chapel, for which we have introduced a special student rate of £3 (£1.50 per play). This initiative was certainly worthwhile, and I hope that some- if not all who attended- will have discovered that classical tragedy can hold the same fascination today it did 2500 years ago.

‘Sparagmos’ will take place on 18th-19th February at 7:30PM in Exeter College Chapel in Oxford. Tickets for the two performances can be bought here: http://www.wegottickets.com/sparagmos