Summer School Reveries Part I – Lampeter

This time in the last two years, followers of our Twitter and Facebook accounts would be treated to the inner-workings of the Lampeter Summer Workshop. Three lessons on most weekdays with the excursions, the lectures and the workshops, on which we tweeted, and the jovial conversations academic and non-academic which were only one such signs of how much participants have always enjoyed the annual summer workshop. This year would have seen the 31st annual Summer Workshop, which had always been at Lampeter with the exception of the initial years in Aberwystyth. We are not in possession of any official statistics but, in its halcyon days, the summer school attracted well over 100 people from beyond the Kingdom’s borders to the sleepy town of Lampeter. There were Greek and Latin classes for all abilities, even Beginner’s Latin through the medium of Welsh and Medieval Latin classes.

Mari Williams, whose elegy to the Workshop you can read in the most recent CA News (June 2014, No. 50), was a long-standing member of the tutor team. Every year she managed to give tuition in Welsh with copies of Reading Latin that is English. Her passion is indomitable, whether being the question-master at the quiz or leading one of the Welsh taster classes. Her friendliness is plain for those engaged in conversation with her over a meal. The way she epitomises Lampeter evident in that the “returners” (some attendees of the Lampeter Summer School did really come back year after year) always sought her out for the latest news. Though above it all, her direction and management of the play was probably the contribution that leaves the most lasting impression on actors and audience alike.

Speak to the students, returners or otherwise, and they will tell you the about the friendliness of the Workshop and the town and how much they enjoyed their time spent practising or learning one of the two ancient languages. The Lampeter campus has its own charm and proves an excellent location for star-gazing. The town compact enough to provide all the distraction necessary to fill those afternoons when homework really should be done. The County Show that often occupied the final weekend of the Workshop also provide a snapshots of farming life, though ordering at the bar always proved to be more difficult then.

The students themselves were from all walks of life. Some were budding Classicists or ancient historians who would like a greater knowledge of the language; some were researchers of other disciplines, for example Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, music, science, who would like an aptitude in ancient language to aid or improve understanding of their work; then there were those who embodied the true sense of the word amateur, those who enjoy reading Classical text and discussing it for the sake of it – and do not mistake those classes to be lacking in rigour. To me, the greatest strength of the Workshop was in kindling, rekindling or sustaining the passion for Classics and/or ancient languages for non-specialists, the true amateur. That students returned year after year was a testament to this.

It was a great honour to have Prof Rosemary Wright to address the annual dinner at Lampeter last year to mark the 30th anniversary of the school. It was interesting to hear how she started it all from really small beginnings. Perhaps what was telling, then, was that last year’s crowd was significantly smaller than that of the year before. As it turns out, that Summer Workshop dinner would also be the last. It was remarked that the only significant change of the Workshop occurred as Aberystwyth closed their Classics department. As we reflect on the closure of Lampeter’s long-running summer school, we should lament the loss of a community that fostered the amateur’s passion for Classics and that provided a real platform for non-specialists to Latin and Ancient Greek. Not only that, but also the role played by Latin and Classics in Welsh education, be it higher education or in compulsory education.

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