Dean Close has been associated with the Literature Festival since 2002, and this year it chose to support a Debating Strand, covering topics from Remembrance to Russia, and from reading to selfies. Furthermore, the School purchased over 200 tickets for a wide range of events, from Mary Beard talking Classics to journalists’ views on Brexit, giving many pupils the opportunity to experience this rich and stimulating Festival event.

Debating is important at Dean Close, and takes place in a wide range of forums, both formal and informal, from a topical lunchtime debate of a current issue such as the EU referendum to the competitive world of the house public speaking. Now, more than ever, young people must be equipped with the ability to analyse materials, solve problems, think in innovative ways and synthesise vast amounts of information. That is why we chose to lend our support to debate.

Some of the events attended this year included:

ANDY MILLIGAN – How to Write Fiction Workshop

Four budding writers in the Fifth Form took the opportunity to hear the benefit of published author Andy Mulligan’s words of wisdom as he gave them some insights into the writing process. The workshop that took place in Cheltenham Town Hall focused on how to create character using the first person narrative perspective. Pupils left feeling inspired to continue writing. Sophie Brown announced that she has now commenced her seventh novel!


The talk by Jonathon Trott, interviewed by Adrian Chiles, was really insightful in to the mind of an elite sportsman. It highlighted how the pressures of the media, team mates, fans and the sportsman themselves can turn success in to an overwhelming pressure, leading to anxiety.


As usual the Literature Festival boasted a number of talks on the Classical world. Mary Beard, Britain’s most instantly recognisable Classicist and Professor of Classics at Cambridge University, goteverything started with a talk about her very fine history of Rome, SPQR. The Town Hall was absolutely packed to the rafters – Dean Close’s Fifth Form Gratinists (who study Latin and Greek) really enjoyed the occasion, and were grateful for the opportunity to hear one of the country’s foremost intellectuals. The Lower Sixth Latin and Greek students were treated to a wonderful discussion of the poetry of the Roman poet Catullus, delivered by Daisy Dunn, author of Catullus’ Bedspread, an intriguing reconstruction of the life of Catulluswhich has been published to wide acclaim. Finally the Lower Sixth Classical Civilisation students spent an entire afternoon exploring the world of Homer’s great epic poem, the Iliad.

LEST WE FORGET – A discussion about the role of Remembrance in Society

This event, supported by Dean Close as part of the Debating Strand, illustrated the complexities of remembrance and how such a contentious issue often raises more questions than answers. Introduced by Rory Kavanagh, Head of School, he provided a clear, confident introduction to proceedings which saw the Chair ask of the panel, ‘is it our moral duty to remember or do we always forget eventually?’

The talk began by explaining how the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has moved from its original purpose of burying and memorialising the fallen to communicating the significance of the cemeteries to the younger generations. The panel argued that all will be gone eventually and that this can be a good thing, thereby challenging societal etiquette that remembrance is our moral duty; another panel member acknowledged the worth of this view but said it was contrary to his belief that ‘truth no matter how unpalatable should be never forgotten.’ The only consensus was that WW1 remains very much in the public memory.

Rory said: “It was a great experience to try something new outside of the Dean Close environment that I don’t think I would have ever had the chance to do elsewhere. The opportunity to meet and speak to famous authors was a great way to spend the afternoon.”


This debate, introduced by Lower Sixth Former Isabelle Moulding, involved three British history experts, Suzannah Lipscomb (The King is Dead), Anna Keay (The Last Royal Rebel: The Life and Death of James, Duke of Monmouth) and Oliver Cox (A Short History of the Long Eighteenth Century) discussing which of the 16th, 17th or 18th centuries had the biggest impact on Britain’s history. It was a lively and informative debate, exploring the political, intellectual and social history of the island in great depth, providing our historians with an insight into areas of history which they have not studied. At the final whistle, the packed audience voted for a tie between the 16th and 17th centuries, although our students showed a preference for the 16th, being swayed perhaps by the glamour and intrigue of the Tudor court.


Attended by Sixth Form politics students and introduced by pupil Freddie Faux, this somewhat less jovial affair was certainly no less interesting than the history debate. Russia experts Keir Giles, Andrew Monaghan, Nazrin Mehdiyeva and Commanding General of US Army Europe, Ben Hodges, explored the role that Russia has played in numerous recent geo-political events and discussed ways in which Russia’s long term strategic objectives might, or indeed will, clash with those of the West in the not too distant future. Amongst many interesting topics of discussion, the one which really captured the interest of our students was the difference between the Russian narrative of the last 10 years and that of the West, and an exploration of the reasons behind these different perspectives.


Upper Sixth Economists attended the very topical ‘We’re all Brexiteers Now’. This was a lively panel debate on the state of the post-referendum economy and what approach should be taken in negotiations with Brussels. The panel was balanced, comprised of a businessman, an academic and a journalist, all of whom contributed very positively. The debate truly warmed up, of course, when the first Brexiteer question was raised from the floor. In what appeared to be a largely ‘Remain’ audience, and in the absence of a politician in the panel, this immediately increased the political temperature in the hall. The evening finished with dinner and a further discussion at ASK Pizzeria. A great night all round.