2016 AGM: elections and Chairman's report

The Ninth Annual General Meeting of the Society for Modern Greek Studies took place at the Hellenic Centre, London, on Saturday 4 June 2016. The following elections were made:

  • Dr Liana Giannakopoulou was elected Chair for a period of three years from 1 January 2017.
  • Dr Regina Karousou-Fokas was elected Secretary for two years from 1 January 2017.
  • Eleni Markou and Kostas Skordyles were elected members of the Executive Committee for two years from 1 January 2017.
  • Jessica Kourniakti was elected a member of the Executive Committee for one year from 1 January 2017.
  • Kristina Gedgaudaite was elected to the Executive Committee as Student Representative for one year from 1 October 2016.

The Chairman gave the following report to the meeting:

This is my fifth and last report as Chairman of the Society. I won’t attempt a retrospect of those five years, but I simply wanted to say that it has been a pleasure and an honour to be closely involved in the continuing development of the Society for Modern Greek Studies, which is still only eight years old. I think we have achieved quite a bit, but there is undoubtedly much more that we could do to promote our subject throughout the United Kingdom, given the manpower and resources, particularly, of course, the financial resources. In this report I will limit myself to activities over the past twelve months and our plans for future events. Last year’s speaker after the AGM was Professor David Connolly, and his lecture title: “Love’s Labour’s Lost, or a Tale of Modern Greek Literature in English Translation”. As both an academic specializing in translation theory and a distinguished and prolific translator, Prof. Connolly knows better than anyone the obstacles faced by translators and publishers in bringing Greek literature to bookshops in the English-speaking world and then persuading people to buy it. He had a rather gloomy tale to tell: despite the fact that much Greek literature does exist in English translation, it is far from being commercially successful. After discussing some of the reasons, he went on to suggest possible solutions, which boil down to concerted and coordinated efforts on the part of the relevant people and institutions in Greece and the UK. You can read the full text of his informative and often impassioned talk on the Society website. The most important achievement in the past year is undoubtedly the successful launch of the Society’s online journal. The first volume went live in December 2015, and, in accordance with our policy henceforth of uploading articles as soon as they are approved and edited, the second volume already boasts three articles and one translation on the website. We can be truly proud of having created an international peer-reviewed journal, which hosts academic articles and translations across a wide range of disciplines within the scope of Modern Greek Studies. And it’s free to all. The main credit must go to the Editor, Kostas Skordyles, and to Notis Toufexis for the design and technical support. Thanks are also due to Liana Giannakopoulou, who has acted as assistant to the Editor, and to the members of the editorial board. We congratulate them all. In the past year there have been several events which the Society co-organized: first, in association with Royal Holloway, University of London, and specifically its Centre for Diaspora Studies, we hosted an evening in October which marked the launch of a book on the historic architecture of Downtown Cairo, including many buildings associated with the Greek community. Speakers were the book’s authors Vittoria Capresi and Barbara Pampe, and Alexander Kazamias (of Coventry University), and the whole event was ably stage-managed by George Vassiadis. In February our partners were King’s College London, and Roddy Beaton was in the chair for a lecture by Dr Roderick Bailey entitled “Hazardous operations: British SOE agents in Nazi-occupied Greece and the strain of clandestine warfare”. The subject attracted a substantial and varied audience, including members of the Patrick Leigh Fermor Society. We have again supported a student-led colloquium at the University of Oxford. A full day’s programme on 16 March explored the theme “Renegotiating history in light of the ‘Greek crisis’”, with papers by students from universities in Greece, the USA and Lithuania, as well as the UK. The opening address was given by the Greek Ambassador. Congratulations to Jessica Kourniakti and colleagues for their initiative and very professional organization of this event. Finally, just a few weeks ago, we were pleased to join up with Dimitris Tziovas to celebrate 20 years of the Birmingham Modern Greek Translation Series, which he edits. The most recent volume to appear is the prose work by Thanasis Valtinos The Last Varlamis, translated by our expatriate compatriot Stathis Gauntlett, of the University of Melbourne. We were delighted to welcome the author himself, who read a short paper in Greek and answered questions from the audience. Dimitris Paivanas, who has researched and published on Valtinos’s work, gave a much appreciated presentation on the writer’s career and literary output. The event, which was sponsored by the Ouranis and A. G. Leventis Foundations, was streamed by Livemedia and a video recording is now available, via a link from our website. One of the functions of the Society is to represent our subject at a national level and beyond. During the past year there were two occasions when we exercised this public role. As I reported last year, we reacted to the proposal to abolish the Modern Greek A level by sending a letter of protest to the Secretary of State for Education, with copies to the Secretary of State for Business and Skills and the Director of Ofqual, and we received an encouraging reply from the Minister of State for Schools. We were therefore delighted when it was announced in April that Edexcel would be retaining and redeveloping both the GCSE and A level examinations in Modern Greek. Secondly, following an approach from the organizers, the Society supported a manifesto arguing for the recognition of translation as academic research, for the purpose of the Research Excellence Framework and in similar higher education contexts. The basic proposition of the manifesto is: “Translation should be treated as research by academics in and beyond Modern Languages, and by those who facilitate, monitor and assess their research.” The Executive Committee strongly supports this view and the Society is listed as one of the signatories. Finally, the other regular annual event which the Society organizes, apart from the lecture following the AGM, is the graduate research colloquium, which provides a forum for masters and doctoral students to present their work in progress, to meet one another informally, and to get feedback on their presentations. Last year the venue was King’s College London; twelve papers were given and just over 30 people attended. This year it will take place in Cambridge, on 16 June. Again there will be twelve papers and I’m sure the event will again reach high standards and fulfil its aims. Both last year and this year we are grateful to the Hellenic Foundation for generous financial support. The research colloquium is the last event of our academic year, but we are already making plans for next year. The first big event will be a commemoration of the sesquicentenary of the Cretan uprising of 1866 and the holocaust at the Arkadi monastery. We are working closely with the chairman of the Cretan Association of Great Britain to secure the necessary financial backing and we already have three speakers who have agreed to take part. It will take place on Monday 21 November, which is the actual anniversary of the heroic self-sacrifice of the defenders of Arkadi. Further details will be announced in due course. We have more plans in gestation, but this is your Society, so we are always ready to receive suggestions of activities that the Society might arrange, and offers of collaboration. As I’ve said in previous years, we would also like to expand our outreach beyond the southeast corner of these islands. But we need more members – more income in subscriptions, to put it crudely – if we are to achieve these ambitions. At present we have barely 100 paid-up members, whereas on Facebook the Society has over a thousand followers. We must alter the balance. I have proposed that we should make a greater strategic use of Facebook – yes, your ears do not deceive you – as part of our public engagement and in order to publicise our activities more effectively. In conclusion, I would like to thank the three retiring members of the Executive Committee for their service: Roderick Beaton, Marjolijne Janssen, and our student representative for the past two years Jessica Kourniakti. Jessica has done a fantastic job, organizing events, involving other students in the Society’s work, and generally being an energetic supporter of our aims and activities. We are also grateful to Notis Toufexis for his invaluable work in maintaining the website. May I also record my thanks to the Secretary and Treasurer for their dependable support over several years and wish them well as they take the Society forward. I’m happy to take brief questions now on the content of my report. If you have specific ideas and suggestions for future activities or improvements to the way we do things, it would be helpful if you could send them to the Secretary by e-mail.

David Holton

4 June 2016