Sunday, 3 July 2011


So, I have this problem.  I have a basic understanding of the timelines of each of the individual arts.  I know how Shakespeare relates to John Donne, I can place Mozart in relation to Bizet, at a pinch I can even put most of the major artists in some sort of accurate order.  But, when it comes to integrating those timelines, or, even worse, tying them up with what was going on historically or in the worlds of philosophy and religion, forget it, I'm hopeless.

When I first came back home after training to be a teacher there was an extra mural course at the local university that took a period in history and, drawing from all of the relevant departments, explored the social and political events along with the prevalent religious and philosophical movements and scientific discoveries.  It then placed the arts within that framework and asked how they had been influenced by the cultural climate in which they were created.  I really wanted to do that course but it ran during the day and of course I was working and couldn't get there.  So, I promised myself that when I retired I would beg the extra mural department to put on something similar, if necessary, just for me.  What I hadn't anticipated was that by the time I retired there would be no extra mural department.  In fact, no community education programme of any sort.  (I could wax lyrical about this abdication of civic responsibility, but that's for another day.)  Thwarted again!

Well, some of you will remember that this time last year I was getting extremely het-up about another education problem, namely the cost of Summer Schools.  My answer then was to stop grumbling and organise one of my own and not only did it go extremely well, this Summer we have expanded and have two Summer Schools running.    (Bromsgrove U3A Summer School)  Perhaps I could do the same thing again?  So, starting after the summer break I am going to bring together a group of like-minded people to see if we can't do something about this.  The idea at the moment is that we will take a pivotal year in British history and explore what was going on in as many areas of academic interest as we can, not only in Britain but across the world as it was known and understood at the time.  We aren't going to confine ourselves just to that year; if something vital happened a couple of years earlier, or a dozen years later, then of course that will be covered as well.  The one stipulation will be that we can't go beyond the date we have chosen for the next set of meetings, the ones that hopefully will begin in September 2012.  (Ever the optimist!)

At the moment the putative schedule looks like this:

September ~ General Meeting

October ~ Historical Events

November ~ Philosophical Movements

January ~ Religious Thought

February ~ Scientific and Medical Discoveries

March ~ Art and Architecture

May ~ Music

June ~ Literature

July ~ Review and Forward Planning

The basic idea is that one or more members of the group will research each month's area and then come back and present a paper to the rest of us.  Gradually, over the year, we will garner more and more understanding not only of the different topics but, more importantly, of how they interrelate one with another and this will then be the subject of discussion over the substantial pot of tea and gargantuan plate of biscuits that will be provided half way through the afternoon.  (Gillian, if you're reading this and panicking, don't worry, I'll bring the biscuits!!!) What this means for those of us involved is that no one will have to research and present more than once a year, which I hope will make it easier for those members of the group who, unlike me, are not far too fond of the sound of their own voice and lack confidence to speak out loud.  We shall see.

Of course, it may not work.  It is going to depend on our having people who are interested in covering each of the areas.  We are having a preliminary meeting a week tomorrow to see where we stand on this.  But it certainly won't work if we don't try.  As you will have seen the year we've chosen as a starting point is 1485, the year of the Battle of Bosworth and the beginning of the Tudor monarchy.  Not the happiest of years in the life of a Yorkist like myself, but one that I think will provide everyone with interesting material to research.  I'm thinking at the moment that we might set the upper limit at 1534, the year of the Act of Supremacy, when Henry VIII broke from Rome, but that will be up for discussion when we meet next week.

If we do get off the ground then two further ideas I'm playing with are building a website and possibly putting together a pamphlet at the end of the year containing all the contributions.  If I do get those established and anyone is interested in having access then let me know.

What really worries is me, of course, is after the Summer Schools last year and now this, what bright idea am I going to come up with next year.  If you see one beginning to burgeon, nip it in the bud straight away, will you?  There are only so many hours in the day!


  1. That sounds so wonderful! You are right about the problem with not making connections among the various disciplines; I know it's true for me. It sounds like so much fun to look at one year from so many different angles. I'd love to hear more about how this goes.

  2. Oh, I love this idea...sorry I've taken a while to comment. I've seen this pop up on my iGoogle page for a few days thinking I MUST comment. It is something that my Jane Austen group has worked on a lot - what music, what poetry, what other novels were being created at the time? Also, what was happening socially - the slow move to urbanisation, the increased circulation (I think I'm right) of newspapers, economics and the war of course. Oh, and of course, what were they eating and drinking - always that. (If you look at the About page on my group's JASACT blog you will see us around the table at one of our Regency Feasts - you'll also see that we are mostly of a certain age).

    Anyhow, I look forward to seeing what you come up with next year!! BUT do pace yourself.

  3. Annie, this is great!! Could it be run with a virtual audience as well? Those of us at a distance (real or virtual) could also nominate ourselves to provide info by a set date and take on the role of moderating if needed or just plain helping the conversation along? Maybe not this year, do it real time first and then see what kind of online 'member's' might put their hands up to run an online version. The members in the face-to-face group might find it interesting to follow the online conversation and if we're sufficiently far flung we could include information on our local areas. My fingers are already itching to do the research....