Richard Hudson writes:
The ‘spells’ were drawn from every type of writer from Edmund Burke, via Shakespeare, Milton, Dylan Thomas and the Bhagavad Gita to the American rapper J Cole. The competition is open to all year groups from the Fourth Form upwards and has become a place where the intellectually bold can cut their teeth in front of the small audience of fellow competitors, a few of their friends and a handful of staff. The intimacy of the event is part of its charm.
Over the years, what constitutes a ‘spell’ has been broadened beyond any definition of which ‘Kek’ (as we called Frank McEachran) would have approved: any piece of text, and a talk on any aspect of it, lasting no more than five minutes. Content and intellectual integrity is all, slickness of presentation much less important.
This year’s adjudicator was Richard Barber OS. As is customary, he opened the proceedings with a brief reminiscence of ‘Kek’, describing the experience of being taught by this unique man who inspired a lifelong reverence in all (including me) who came under his own spell. The text of Richard’s reminiscence can be found here.
Choosing winners was this year even more difficult than usual, and the adjudicator’s instinct exactly matched that of the writer (who remained mute). Winner of the junior section was Tom Allen (Ch IV), whose spell “People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors” was taken from Edmund Burke’s 1790 pamphlet Reflections on the Revolution in France. The full text of Tom’s talk can be found here. Highly commended was Orlando Williams (Rt IV) who spoke passionately about Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood.
In the senior section, the winner was Ebrahim Jamshid (SH LVI) for a deeply personal talk on bani adam by the 13th century Persian poet Saadi, inscribed on the UN building. Highly commended were Henry Mayhew (Ch UVI) for his exegesis of I met a Genius by Charles Bukowski and Otto Rothwell Hurley (Ch LVI) for his meditation on Robert Frost’s Fire and Ice.
Many thanks to the brave competitors who enthralled us with their passionate engagement with their texts for 90 minutes, and to our outstanding adjudicator, whose sense of what this wackiest of Salopian academic competitions is really about was so instinctive.