A day-long festival exploring classical currents in contemporary culture featuring Marina Warner, Joseph Rykwert, Rosemary Hill, Pablo Bronstein and Craig Hamilton in the magnificent settings of Greenwich's Old Royal Naval College and Queen's House


10:30am, Saturday, 6 October 2018


05:30pm, Saturday, 6 October 2018


Standard full day ticket: £40

Student full day ticket: £30

Standard half day ticket £20

Student half day ticket £15


Programme Curators

Lucy Hughes-Hallett and Ellis Woodman

Programme sub-curators

Phineas Harper, Will Palin, Christine Riding, Chloe Spiby Loh

Exhibition curators

Timothy Smith, Jonathan Taylor

Bar sponsors

Traditional Building (Southern) Ltd. (contractor) and Elliot Wood (structural engineering) 

Getting there

The Queen's House and Old Royal Naval College lie on adjacent sites to either side of Romney Road in Greenwich.  We're just 8 minutes from central London by rail, 20 minutes by DLR, or make the journey part of the fun and arrive by boat. For Greenwich town centre, the nearest stations are:

• Cutty Sark DLR

• Greenwich rail station and Maze Hill rail station

• Greenwich Pier


This is a past event


It’s the mark of a classic that it’s never out-dated. Many of the most exciting artists and writers working today are taking their inspiration from stories, concepts and forms now thousands of years old. This festival celebrates the legacy of the ancient Greeks and Romans by connecting it with innovative work being created today.

A stellar array of architects, artists, poets, novelists, theatre-makers, performers and critical thinkers will be appearing across two stages in the Great Hall of Inigo Jones’s Queen’s House – the earliest classical building in Britain - and the adjacent Old Royal Naval College, which includes work by Christopher Wren, John Vanburgh and Nicholas Hawksmoor. They’ll use music, visual arts and the spoken word to demonstrate how creatively the ancients shape our modern world.



Queen's House Stage


Cleopatra – Lucy Hughes-Hallett


Antigone – Blake Morrison


Dionysus – Robin Robertson and Sue Prideaux


Aristotle – Edith Hall


Achilles – Rosemary Hill and Rough Haired Pointer presenting Christopher Logue; Michael Hughes


Medea – Robin Robertson, David Vann, Ben Morgan with Rough Haired Pointer, chaired by Lucy Hughes-Hallett


Orpheus – Ann Wroe


Cassandra – Marina Warner

Old Royal Naval College Stage


Why Classicism is a Dead Style - Alexander Stoddart


Elemental Classicism: Learning From Lutyens – Craig Hamilton


The Vulgar – Judith Clark


Classicism & Power - Pablo Bronstein, Ioana Marinescu & Oliver Wainwright


The Life of Bramante – Pier Paolo Tamburelli


Myth and Modernity - Joseph Rykwert in conversation with Patrick Lynch 

Line-up in depth

10.30-11.10, The Queen's House

Cleopatra – Lucy Hughes-Hallett

Identified as the irresistible temptress for whose sake the world would be well lost, the last queen of Egypt has become a screen onto which the male erotic fantasies of two millennia have been projected. Lucy Hughes-Hallett draws on paintings and poetry, music, feature films and advertising, to explore how the dark arts of news-manipulation and spin have loaded Cleopatra’s image with messages relating to the politics of sex and race.

Lucy Hughes-Hallett’s book on Gabriele d’Annunzio, The Pike, won all three of the UK’s most prestigious awards for non-fiction. Her latest book is a novel, Peculiar Ground. She has also written books about Cleopatra, and about the cult of the hero from Troy to the present. She is one of the curators of the Metamorphoses festival.


11:25-12:05, The Queen's House

Antigone – Blake Morrison

Sophocles’ Antigone explores still urgently-debated clashes between personal loyalty and the law, between sisterhood and citizenship, between love and realpolitik. Blake Morrison introduces staged scenes from his Yorkshire-accented version of the ancient tragedy along with extracts from his Oedipus and Lysistrata (Lisa's Sex Strike)', to be performed by Rough Haired Pointer

Blake Morrison is an acclaimed poet, novelist and memoir-writer. His versions of Sophocles’ tragedies were first performed by the Northern Broadsides Theatre Company. He is Professor of Creative Writing at Goldsmiths College.

Rough Haired Pointer is a theatre company led by director Mary Franklin


11:25-12:05, Old Royal Naval College

Why Classicism is a Dead Style - Alexander Stoddart

Alexander Stoddart is a Scottish sculptor, based in Paisley, who works in the neoclasssical tradition. He is a frequent collaborator of the architect Craig Hamilton and has realised a series of public sculptures of figures including David Hume and Adam Smith. 


12:20-13:00, The Queen's House

Dionysus – Robin Robertson and Sue Prideaux

Dionysus is the perpetual outsider - sexually-indeterminate, bringer of ecstasy and wine. Robin Robertson reads his poems about the god. Sue Prideaux talks about the brilliant (and, ultimately, mad) philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and his re-imagining of Dionysus as the personification of tragedy and transcendence.

Robin Robertson’s poems, many of them on classical themes, have won numerous awards. His latest book, The Long Take, is the first narrative poem ever to have been long-listed for the Booker Prize.

Sue Prideaux is the author of award-winning books on Munch and Strindberg, and of a new biography of Nietzsche, ‘I am Dynamite!’


12:20-13:00, Old Royal Naval College 

Elemental Classicism:

Learning From Lutyens – Craig Hamilton

The architect Craig Hamilton considers the language of stripped classicism that Sir Edwin Lutyens developed in the years folowing the first world war and discusses the influence it has had on the direction of his own practice.

Born in South Africa and now based in mid-Wales, Craig Hamilton is one of the most innovative architects working in the classical language today. Recent projects include the Goldhammer Sepulchre at Highgate Cemetery (2018) and the Chapel of Christ the Redeemer at Culham (2016).


14:00-14:40, The Queen's House

Aristotle – Edith Hall

One of the most influential thinkers ever to have lived, Aristotle turned his extraordinarily lucid mind to questions as various as how a state should be governed, how art and literature work on our emotions, how an octopus has sex. His student, Alexander the Great, conquered a vast swathe of the world, but his conquests died with him, while Aristotle’s ideas still resonate and challenge. Edith Hall, famed for her wit and vigorous polemical style, presents him to us. 

Edith Hall is Professor of Classics at Kings College, London. Aristotle’s Way: How Ancient History Can Change Your Life is the latest of her more than twenty books.


14:00-14:40, Old Royal Naval College

The Vulgar – Judith Clark

Clark will discuss the relationship between ideas of classicism and vulgarity in fashion - a theme that she has previously explored in The Vulgar, the exhibition that she co-curated at the Barbican Centre in 2016

Born in Australia and raised in Rome, Judith Clark studied architecture at the Bartlett and teh Architectural Association. Between 1997 and 2003 she staged 21 exhibitions at the Judith Clark costume gallery in Notting Hill and has subsequently made exhibitions in museums and retail spaces across the world. Clark is Professor of Museology and Fashion at the London college of Fashion.


14:50-15:30, The Queen's House

Achilles – Rosemary Hill and Rough Haired Pointer presenting Christopher Logue; Michael Hughes

The most lethal of the warriors who fought at Troy, Achilles knew he was fated to die there, buying glory at the price of his life. Homer’s Iliad is perhaps still the most potent of all war-stories. Cultural historian Rosemary Hill presents staged readings from War Music, the glitteringly dramatic version by her late husband Christopher Logue. Michael Hughes introduces his novel, Country, in which the story of the Iliad is transposed to the Irish borderlands in 1996.

Christopher Logue (1926 – 2011) was a poet, playwright, actor, political activist (who went to jail for protesting against nuclear armaments) and author of the aptly-named autobiography, Prince Charming. His magnificent Homeric poems came out piecemeal over a period of forty years. 

Rosemary Hill married Logue in 1985. She is the author of the award-winning biography God’s Architect, on Augustus Pugin.

Country is Michael Hughes’s second novel and has been highly praised for its ingenious overlapping of the Homeric story with strife within an IRA squad during the 1996 ceasefire. Born in Armagh, Hughes now lives in London. 


14:50-15:30, Old Royal Naval College

Classicism & Power - Pablo Bronstein, Ioana Marinescu & Oliver Wainwright

From Periclean Athens to Jefferson's America, classical architecture has strong connections with social progress and the spread of democracy but those associations have come to be eclipsed in many people's minds by its more recent links with imperialism and authoritarian modes of government. This panel will consider the complex relationship between the vocabulary of classical architecture and the meanings that different cultures have projected onto it. Ioana Marinescu has made a photographic study of Ceausescu's transformation of her native Bucharest, while Oliver Wainwright has published a study of the architecture of North Korea. The work of the artist Pablo Bronstein often focusses on the relationship of architectural form and social behaviour.

Pablo Bronstein is an internationally acclaimed artist whose work incorporates elements of drawing and performance and maintains a strong interest in the relationship of architecture and authority. He is represented in London by Herald Street Gallery. Image: Hugo Glendinning. 

Oliver Wainwright is the Guardian's Architecture and Design Critic. His first book, Inside North Korea was published earlier this year.


15:40-16:20, The Queen's House

Medea – Robin Robertson, David Vann, Ben Morgan with Rough Haired Pointer, chaired by Lucy Hughes-Hallett

Medea was a witch and a murderess. Driven by passion for the hero Jason, she betrayed her father and killed her brother. Later, when Jason took a new young wife, she killed her rival, and then killed her own children. Her story is profoundly troubling. Three authors, a novelist and two poet-playwrights, present their versions of it, raising still unanswerable questions about sexual dependency, about abusive family relationships, about migration and exile and about what really might constitute a fate worse than death. 

Robin Robertson’s poems, many of them on classical themes, have won numerous awards. His latest book, The Long Take, is the first narrative poem ever to have been long-listed for the Booker Prize. His version of Euripides’ Medea has been widely praised.

David Vann grew up in Alaska. He now teaches at Warwick University. His novel Bright Air Black tells Medea’s story.

Ben Morgan lectures in Oxford. His Medea in Corinth is a poetic drama incorporating spells and songs.

As the author of a book on Cleopatra, Lucy Hughes-Hallett has frequently written about the misogyny implicit in the stereotype of the femme fatale.


15:40-16:20, Old Royal Naval College

The Life of Bramante – Pier Paolo Tamburelli

Pier Paolo Tamburelli will discuss the life of Donato Bramante (1444-1514), the Italian renaissance architect who radically reconceptualised the language of the classical antiquity for the needs of a new age. A disinguished architect in his own right, Tamburelli will discuss Bramante's relevance to contemporary paractice. The subject of his talk forms the basis of a major book to be published next year.

Pier Paolo Tamburelli is a director of the acclaimed Milanese architecture practice, Baukuh and co-editor of the magazine San Rocco.


16:30-17:10, The Queen's House

Orpheus – Ann Wroe

From Monteverdi to Rushdie, from Rilke to Cocteau, artists in all media have been irresistibly drawn to the story of Orpheus. He was a semi-divine musician whose singing could tame lions and set trees dancing. He was a husband who descended into the Underworld, defying death in a doomed attempt to save his beloved Eurydice. He was a tragic victim of homophobia, torn apart by furious women. Ann Wroe, author of dazzlingly original works of creative non-fiction, evokes Orpheus in a presentation including music, staged readings and film.

Ann Wroe is the author of Orpheus – The Song of Life, and other books on Shelley, Perkin Warbeck, Pontius Pilate and St Francis (forthcoming in November). She has also had a distinguished career at the Economist magazine, where she has edited several sections and, since 2003, written the Obituaries.


16:30-17:10, The Old Royal Naval College

Myth and Modernity - Joseph Rykwert in conversation with Patrick Lynch

Along with a number of writers and artists who came to prominence in the post-war years, Joseph Rykwert developed a fascination with the draw of mythic themes in an era of rapid change. In conversation with the architect and writer Patrick Lynch, he discusses the ways this tension has informed his own work and that of friends including Michael Ayrton and Roberto Calasso.

Joseph Rykwert is one of the world's preeminent architectural historians, and a prolific writer on the visual arts. His books include On Adam's House in Paradise: The Idea of The Primitive Hut (1962), The idea of A Town (1964) and The Judicious Eye (2008)


Patrick Lynch is the director of Lynch Architects and editor of the recently launched Journal of Civic Architecture.


17:25-18:05, The Queen's House

Cassandra – Marina Warner 

Cassandra, the Trojan princess and priestess, was always right, but never heard.  Abducted from her homeland by the warlord who had torched her city and murdered her family, she found herself witness to yet more horror, while being shunned as an alien, and as a woman too crazed to be trusted.  Marina Warner reflects on how the story, told first by the Greeks, returns in contemporary retellings and speaks to current wars,  displacements and  sex trafficking, mirroring back some of the distress of a world like ours today – a world full of migrants traumatised by war, of silenced women, and of people searching vainly for a home. 


Marina Warner is a writer of fiction, cultural history, and criticism. Her novel The Leto Bundle (2001) follows a victim of the gods across time, through different metamorphoses and flights from the Middle East to Europe; recent books include an award-winning study of the Arabian Nights, Stranger Magic (2011), and Forms of Enchantment: Writings on Art and Artists (2018). In 2015, she was awarded the Holberg Prize in the Arts and Humanities and was made DBE; she is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Birkbeck College,  President of the Royal Society of Literature,  an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy. Marina is currently writing a study of Sanctuary and finishing an ‘unreliable memoir’ about her childhood in Cairo.


Dramatic scenes and staged readings throughout the programme will be performed by actors from the Rough Haired Pointer Theatre Company, led by director Mary Franklin, which has been described as "one of the most innovative and entertaining theatre companies out there" (Exeunt).  Past work includes Christie in Love by Howard Brenton; Noonday Demons by Peter Barnes; a new adaptation of George and Weedon Grossmith's The Diary of a Nobody (pictured); the world premiere of Joe Orton's Fred and Madge; The Boy Who Cried by Matt Osman; and The Young Visiters by Daisy Ashford.



Illustration by Charlie Davis