Allan Mallinson visits the Flecker Library

This year’s Cheltenham Literature Festival celebrations began with a visit from celebrated historian and author, Allan Mallinson. On Thursday 11th October, Dean Close historians were fortunate to have the opportunity to listen to Allan give a talk on the causes of the First World War, in the Flecker Library. Mallinson was a soldier for an impressive 35 years and he spoke to the pupils about his time with the army, it was not planned and the experience “widened his horizons”. He explained in depth about a wide range of different causes of the war and involved pupils in his talk by allowing them to debate their own ideas with him and other members of staff. Sixth form pupil, Georgia Goddard, said, “ It was a very insightful talk that allowed us to look more deeply into the causes of the war, and we were extremely grateful to receive a signed copy of his new book ‘Fight to the Finish’ at the end of the talk.”

Lunch in the Writer’s Room with Nicola Tuxworth

A lucky group of Sixth Form English literature pupils were invited to lunch with Literature Festival’s Head of Programming Nicola Tuxworth.  As well as enjoying a meal in an area normally reserved for VIPs, the invitation allowed them to catch a glimpse into the world of event organisation and the work that goes into planning such a significant event.  Pupils questioned Nicola on last year’s scoop including the arrival of Hilary Clinton and Nicola shared her experiences with visiting writers such as David Attenborough and one of her own favourites, Gus O’Donnell, who provided a fascinating insight into the British political system.

She went on to discuss some of the legacy of the Festival and plans to make accessible archive footage of readers and writers from past festivals, such as Allan Ginsburg’s performance of ‘Howl’. Nicola also shared ways in which the Festival plans to celebrate its seventieth anniversary next year, she intends to be on the look- out for new talent with “Seven at Seventy” rather than a retrospective of Festivals past.  The pupils enjoyed a lovely lunch and left the Writer’s Room (after a spot of Celebrity Spotting!) with a new enthusiasm for the Festivals.

Oh! What a Lovely War

Dean Close were proud to sponsor the ‘Oh! What a Lovely War’ lecture at the Cheltenham Literary Festival on Friday, 12th October. A group of Dean Close Historians excitedly went along to the talk, with Sixth Form pupil Susie ready to introduce the event. The panel was chaired by Allan Mallinson and included three other top academics including Hew Strachan – the leading British historian on World War One.

After a super introduction by Sixth Form pupil, Susie Main, the panel helped the audience to see the War from some unusual aspects. Hew Strachan challenged the British narrative that its army adapted to its losses on the Western Front so that by 1918 the Allied victory was due mainly to the way commanders like Haig had learned from their earlier mistakes. Professor Strachan reminded the audience that it was very much a Coalition effort with the US Army, for example, adapting in a remarkable way after joining the war late.

Another one of the highlights was the time allowed for questions from the floor which included one from our very own Ethan Bareham. He asked the speakers: “What was the biggest mistake made by each of the main Powers?” The speakers relished such a challenging question and the answers that were eventually forthcoming included: ‘the blank cheque’ Germany gave to Austria-Hungary in 1914, sticking to the Schlieffen Plan and underestimating the British response to the invasion of little Belgium, those that joined the war late in July 1914 and the British committing to both the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration.

Head of History, Jonny Sheldon said, “It was a very enjoyable and stimulating lecture to commemorate the centenary First World War ending. It left the group with lots to think about and discuss.”

We Need To Talk

The final event that Dean Close sponsored at this year’s Cheltenham Literature Festival was ‘We Need to Talk’. The event centered around challenging the normality of everyday sexism and racism and proposing potential solutions to the micro-aggressions that still prevail in society today. Head of School, Katie Humphries, expertly introduced the event. Katie said, “Getting the chance to listen to Marisa Bate, author of The Periodic Table of Feminism, and Afua Hirsch, author of Brit(ish) tackle big questions on topics such as diversity, gender power dynamics, identity and patriotism was fascinating and thought provoking. I think it’s really encouraging we are beginning to think about the broader social world and ask interesting questions, especially in the context of an increasingly globalised world where we are often challenged to look again at the way we treat people who are not like ourselves and the legacy of how we have treated them in the past. I had the opportunity to speak to Marisa Bate and Afua Hirsch before the event and, alongside getting taught how to actually pronounce ‘Afua’, I was able to ask questions about their books, their career paths and plans for the future. I left the event feeling so inspired by these strong women and determined that solutions can be found to the pressing social issues in society today.”