SMGS 2013 AGM – Chairman's Report

At the Annual General Meeting held on 1 June 2013, the Chairman gave the following report:

In this report I shall cover the period from last year’s AGM to the present, and also say something about forthcoming events and more general aspirations for the future. I speak as the chair of an active and committed committee and I would first of all like to express thanks to those who stepped down at the end of 2012: Eleni Papargyriou as Secretary, Sarah Ekdawi as Treasurer, and David Ricks as a member of the Executive Committee, not forgetting also John Kittmer who served as student representative until September 2012 (and now, of course, represents Her Majesty’s Government in Athens).

The guest speaker after last year’s AGM was the novelist Victoria Hislop. Rather than giving a formal lecture she opted for the interview format; Anthony Hirst ably took on the role of interlocutor and we learned much about Mrs Hislop’s love of Greece and the Greek people, the background to and the reception of her two novels set in Greece. It was, by common consent, a very enjoyable occasion and one which, I think, enabled the Society to reach out beyond the confines of academe to an appreciative philhellenic audience.

As I reported last year, we had an excellent response to the call for papers for the Annual Research Colloquium. The Colloquium duly took place in Cambridge on 7 June. There were 34 registered participants, who came from various universities in the UK (Birmingham, Cambridge, Glasgow, Loughborough, King’s College London, University College London, and SOAS), and also included a number of visiting students from Greece and Italy. Eleven papers were given, on a wide range of topics and disciplines within Modern Greek Studies; comparative approaches to literature were strongly in evidence, and it was good to have papers on the representation of identities in film and art, as well as on the Greek Diaspora, gender and class. We are especially grateful to the Alexander S. Onassis Foundation for providing a significant grant towards the costs of the Colloquium.

In October Klearchos Kyriakides organised a guided tour of the Royal Air Force Museum , with particular attention to exhibits relating to Greece and Cyprus. He followed the tour with a lecture on the wartime history of RAF Nicosia.

The Society’s next major event was organised in collaboration with the Centre for Hellenic Studies at King’s College London in November. Under the title “Sounds of the Greek world and beyond”, it celebrated the travel-writing of Patrick Leigh Fermor. Speakers were Professor David Roessel, Sir Michael Llewellyn Smith and Dr David Wills; Leigh Fermor’s biographer Artemis Cooper also took part in the round table discussion, chaired by Roddy Beaton, that concluded the formal part of the evening. This was a highly successful event, attended by over 100 people. The organisation was undertaken by Liana Giannakopoulou and John Kittmer.

In April the Society shared the honours with the Modern Greek Section at the University of Cambridge for a one-day conference on “Greece and Britain in women’s literary imagination, 1913-2013”, held in association with the Hellenic Foundation for Culture. This time the main organisers were Eleni Papargyriou and Semele Assinder, who also both gave papers. The keynote address was given by Dr Vassiliki Kolocotroni of the University of Glasgow, and there were six other speakers, from Greece, the USA and the UK. Around 30 people attended and enjoyed a wide-ranging and enlightening exploration of the subject: British women novelists who set their work in Greece and Greek women writers whol have engaged with Britain. The Society is extremely grateful to the Leventis Foundation and the Faculty of Classics at the University of Cambridge for financial support.

Finally, just two weeks ago, members of the Society had the honour and privilege of being invited to the Residence of the Greek Ambassador, Mr Konstantinos Bikas, for a discussion on Modern Greek Studies in the UK and a splendid reception. We were most grateful to have this opportunity to get to know the new Ambassador, and we are indebted, yet again, to Dr Victoria Solomonidis, for her support and for facilitating this event.

Looking to the immediate future, next Tuesday in fact, we shall hold the usual annual Research Colloquium for graduate students, this year at Oxford, organised by Professor Marc Lauxtermann. Full details of this and other events can of course be found on the Society’s website. In July the Society has offered sponsorship to a two-day conference taking place here, in the Hellenic Centre. The subject is “Contemporary Greek Film Cultures” and it is arranged by colleagues at the Universities of Glasgow and Reading.

The Committee is planning further events for the next 12 months, and invites suggestions for the kind of thing that members would welcome, and indeed any offers to organise such events, perhaps in other parts of the UK where there is a cluster of members and a likely audience: South Wales, Bristol, Central Scotland, Birmingham, Leeds-Bradford? We would particularly like to host, or co-host, book launches, events for schools, commemorative events, and so on. And we hope to have some kind of involvement in the all-day celebration of Greek culture “Greece is the Word”, which is being planned to take place on the South Bank in October. Finally, although discussions are still at a very early stage, members may be interested to know that we are considering the possibility of a Society online journal. I hope to have more news about it by this time next year.

David Holton