Until now, we in the Classical Association in Northern Ireland have been content to partake of the usual fare – academic talks, film nights, ancient-inspired poetry readings, all usually nicely contained within a period of two hours.
But with Christmas 2016 looming on the horizon, we decided to try something quite different: a public reading of Homer’s epic, The Iliad.
If the British Museum could do it, the Classical Association in Northern Ireland could too
The idea presented quite a logistical challenge but we need not have worried.
The people, pupils, students and staff of Belfast, RBAI, Victoria College, QUB, Dublin, Maynooth and even Tasmania gave generously of their time and vocal skills to make sure that a large portion of the rota was filled up even before we began.
And it was not just through the readers that #IliadLiveBelfast was a great success.
As you can tell from the videos posted here, there was a hum of activity attending the reading all day. This was thanks to the members of the public and students of QUB who were very generous not just with their time but also their general interest in proceedings and their donations to the Simon Community, helping the homeless in Belfast at Christmas.
Innumerable people stopped to listen in on the latest goings-on between the Trojans, Greeks and their gods. A couple of study groups got very little work done during their meetings as individuals zoned out of their conversation to focus on Odysseus’ next ingenious plan or Achilles’s latest rant over how much he dislikes the son of Atreus.
That accompanying buzz in Belfast reminded us that ancient readings of the Iliad were met with a similar mixture of enraptured listeners, interested parties commenting on the story or the delivery and the general activity that surrounded such a public reading.
With laptops, television screens and microphones, #IliadLiveBelfast demonstrated that a great story is impossible to ignore.
And now for some facts, figures and highlights:
After a brief introduction at 9am, #IliadLiveBelfast began with our most distant reader as Heather Parsons contributed the opening of the Iliad from the sunny Antipodean shores of Tasmania.
Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus
and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians (Iliad I.1)
That Tasmanian introduction initiated nine and a half hours (570 uninterrupted minutes) of non-stop reading of Richmond Lattimore’s translation of Homer’s epic.
A group of pupils from The Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI), a school with a proud tradition teaching Classical languages, received the unenviable task of going through the ‘Catalogue of ships’ – but acquitted themselves…heroically…
Peneleos, Leitus, Arcesilaus, Prothoenor, and Clonius were captains of the Boeotians. These were they that dwelt in Hyria and rocky Aulis, and who held Schoenus, Scolus, and the highlands of Eteonus, with Thespeia, Graia, and the fair city of Mycalessus… (Iliad II.494)
Recent graduate Eric Craney brought all the passion (and impeccable pronunciation) inspired by his recent residence in Greece to his enthralling 20 minutes and local poet and CANI board member Erin Halliday showed that Homer’s Muse is still abroad.
By the time, Dr John Curran (QUB) brought proceedings to the close at 18:30 with Hector charging into battle, despite ill-omens, as the Trojans threaten to overwhelm the Greek walls at the end of Book XII, 57 reading slots had been provided by 41 readers of all ages, geographical locations and academic backgrounds.
|9.05-9.10||Heather Parsons (Tasmania)||13.50-14.00||Stephen Strickland|
|9.10-9.20||John Curran||14.00-14.10||Leslie Gilmore|
|9.20-9.30||Amber Taylor||14.10-14.20||Naomi McVeigh/Helen McVeigh|
|9.30-9.40||Solomon Trimble||14.20-14.30||Anita Greg|
|9.40-9.50||Corbin Fahy-Mcclear||14.30-14.40||Philip Griffith|
|9.50-10.00||Conor Hamill||14.40-14.50||Barry Trainor|
|10.00-10.10||Adam Forsythe||14.50-15.00||Philip Griffith|
|10.10-10.20||Theo Millar||15.00-15.10||Steve McCarthy|
|10.20-10.30||Lynn Gordon||15.10-15.20||Stephen Strickland|
|10.30-10.40||Patrick Bell||15.20-15.30||Padraig Crummey|
|10.40-10.50||William Odling-Smee||15.30-15.40||Katerina Kolotourou|
|10.50-11.00||Helen McVeigh||15.40-15.50||Peter Crawford|
|11.00-11.10||David Calvert||15.50-16.00||John Curran|
|11.10-11.20||Katerina Kolotourou||16.00-16.10||Anita Greg|
|11.20-11.30||Margaret Marshall||16.10-16.20||Eric Craney|
|11.30-11.40||Margaret Marshall||16.20-16.30||Eric Craney|
|11.40-11.50||Alastair Daly TCD||16.30-16.40||Caroline Jones|
|11.50-12.00||Vanessa Ehrhardt||16.40-16.50||Janine Paterson|
|12.00-12.10||Rena Maguire||16.50-17.00||Barry Trainor|
|12.10-12.20||Rena Maguire||17.00-17.10||Laura Pfuntner|
|12.20-12.30||Jordana Maguire||17.10-17.20||Rachel Brown|
|12.30-12.40||Anneloes Klaassen||17.20-17.30||Joanne Brown|
|12.40-12.50||Gerry Murtagh||17.30-17.40||Erin Halliday|
|12.50-13.00||John Curran||17.40-17.50||Philip Halliday|
|13.00-13.10||Aisling Reid||17.50-18.00||Stephen Strickland|
|13.10-13.20||Barry Trainor||18.00-18.10||Steve McCarthy|
|13.20-13.30||Gerry Murtagh||18.10-18.20||Helen McVeigh|
|13.30-13.40||Terry McLaughlin||18.20-18.30||John Curran|
The Classical Association in Northern Ireland would like to thank all of those who helped organise and promote the event, those who took part, who donated to such a worthy cause, or just took time to listen in as they passed by.
You all contributed to what was a fantastic atmosphere at a wonderful occasion.
However, for all the members of CANI, friends and family, QUB, the McClay Library, Hope Café, and the numerous readers from north and south (Ireland and hemispheres), there was one individual who deserves to be singled out for special consideration, praise and thanks.
From printing fliers, sending emails, organising the set-up, bringing together the rota, inviting (and occasionally) cajoling people into taking part, taking a couple of reading slots herself and devoting the entire day to overseeing the event, ably supported by daughter Naomi (our youngest reader), Barry and Big Dog, Helen McVeigh went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that the #IliadLiveBelfast was as big a success as it was.
Thank you, Helen.
And watch this space for our next ‘marathon’ reading!