#CA15 at Bristol

It’s that time of the year again – the time where Classicists get together in the annual CA. Bristol is playing host to this year’s conference and I will add my own welcome to all the delegates and virtual attendees to this fantastic place – a place that I also call my hometown.

The official conference website gives much detail in terms of programme, round tables, meals, excursions and all and sundries. Unlike previous year there will be no digest of it on this blog and we trust you will be amply supplied with information on that website, if not via email. Nonetheless, to keep updated via social media, please use and follow the hashtag #CA15; the official twitter account of the conference is #CAConf2015. You may also wish to be refreshed with the guidelines for live-tweeting at conference.

Bristol and Classics

Bristol has a long association with the study of Classics from the level of Minimus to megala biblia.

A look at the staff list of the Department of Classics reveal many luminaries of our age on topics from Latin love poetry to Greek lyric poetry, historiography to reception studies. The department is situated uphill (though for many travelling from the hotel to the conference venue it may be hard to imagine a place higher) at Woodland Road, a leafy street of university departments which afford good views of the City Centre and the Great Hall of Bristol Grammar School.

The university received its Royal Charter in 1907. It received much financial support from Henry Overton Wills. Wills, the first chancellor of the University, was part of the family that prospered in its control of Imperial Tobacco, the warehouses of which can still be seen at the Gorge-end of Bristol’s floating harbour. The significance of Wills is highlighted in that the centrepiece and physical symbol of the university, The Wills Memorial Building and Tower, is named after him – this building will house many events related to the conference.

For many Classicists Bristol will be most the place where those orange and blue volumes appear. In fact Bristol Classics Press was an imprint of the larger Gerald Duckworth and has recently been acquired by Bloomsbury Academic. The imprint has a long catalogue of manuals and editions and it is still growing though nowadays its connection with Bristol is (I believe – do correct me otherwise) minimal.

Though not minimal is the contribution of Minimus to the Classical scene. Barbara Bell, its fons et origo, developed the course far south of the Hadrian’s Wall while teaching at Clifton High School. The series has provided primary students with a course more suited to their needs and is used in many schools.

Bristol in brief

Once the second city of England thanks to its (very tidal) port, today Bristol is a vibrant and cultural city. At the moment it is also the European Green Capital 2015. It is famous for its Georgian architecture, association with Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Banksy.

Visitors to the city can wander around the harbour or its graffiti-filled streets – graffiti that draws visitors and artists with spray cans from around the world. A good prospect of the city can be viewed from Cabot Tower on Brandon Hill or the Clifton Suspension Bridge; a good prospect of Brunel’s Suspension Bridge, prominent in adverts such as that of Lloyd’s Bank, can be found from the Clifton Observatory. Brunel has also contributed the fine train station, compared to a cathedrals for trains, at Bristol Temple Meads.

The maritime heritage of the city can be explored by the locks of Cumberland Basin. At the end of the floating harbour one can consider how the harbour used to be tidal (as it still is beyond the locks) and the degree of success Brunel’s floating harbour (which provides the same water level throughout the day) had in keeping the trade in the city. Now the major ports are at Avonmouth – the mouth of River Avon which flows through the floating harbour and a new cut. The harbour can also be viewed from the Royal York Crescent, sitting majestically at Clifton Village. The contribution of the city to Atlantic exploration can be explored from The Matthew, the replica of its namesake which sailed to Newfoundland in the 15th century; the Steam Ship Great Britain of Brunel sits on the harbour as a fantastic museum.

If you are more inclined on experiencing Bristol, try out its accent, smile and local and don’t be perturbed if you are called a “luvver”. Try some cider or pear cider and have a pie from Bristol-based Pieminister, or visit the largest buffet restaurant by the harbour. Fans of Only Fools and Horses may also wish to find pseudo-Peckham. Whatever you choose to do in Bristol, you will be sure to be welcomed.

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