Beard in Belfast: The Civilisations Tour

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On 5 March 2018, members of the Classical Association in Northern Ireland were very fortunate to attend William Crawley’s interview of Professor Mary Beard at BBC Blackstaff as part of the eye-opening new series Civilisations.

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Over the course of 90 minutes a vast array of questions, from interviewer and audience, were asked and answered by Professor Beard on a variety of subjects linked to the show, its making, its predecessor by Kenneth Clark, and the history touched upon within.

Through clips from the show, starting with Professor Beard’s first episode in the series on how man has depicted himself in art, those in attendance were taken on a journey from a monumental Olmec head in a zoo…

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…to the upright Kore style statue of the likes of Phrasikleia…

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…giving way to the more natural, flowing presentation of the Apollo Belvedere, a sculpture elevated to ‘perfection’ (for good and ill) by the influence of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, the father of Art History.

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The audience were also treated to clips from Professor Beard’s second episode in Civilisations, which focuses on the depiction of the divine and the problems that can arise, such as the potential horrors of but logical arguments behind Iconoclasm – the breaking of icons – and when does veneration become idolatry within a monotheistic religion (and not just in Christianity).

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The fact that there were over 2000 applicants for just 350 seats in Blackstaff Studios to watch and listen to such a fascinating interview suggests once more what we at CANI have long suspected – there is a real appetite for the Classics, Ancient History and History of Art in Northern Ireland.

We hope to have Professor Beard back to these shores really soon, perhaps even as part of CANI‘s programme of events.

Thanks to Mark Adair, BBC NI, William Crawley and Professor Beard for providing a thoroughly engaging evening.

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Civilisations is broadcasted on BBC Two at 9pm on Thursdays and is available on the BBC iPlayer.

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