Sixth Form English Literature students soak up literary culture in Dublin
Our Sixth Form English Literature students ventured to Dublin over the half term break for an insight into its literary heritage. From open top bus rides and theatre trips to weather disrupting their plans, this was a fantastic trip, thoroughly enjoyed by all of the students taking part. Lower Sixth student Zoe Weston and Edmund Smith from the Upper Sixth share their positive experiences of the trip.
“To even a casual visitor, Dublin’s literary and artistic heritage is made abundantly obvious. Theatres, art exhibitions and even the brass plaques commemorating literary figures all serve to make that clear. Even taking a morning walk in the streets of Dublin allows one to come across any number of sights, ideas and pieces of history”, Edmund said.
Zoe continues, “A comprehensive bus tour of Dublin gave an intriguing overview of the city’s rich history and culture. Unfortunately the experience was slightly marred by Dublin living up to Ireland’s reputation as windy and rainy, not so fun if you’re on an open top bus…
We went to the Abbey Theatre, founded by W B Yeats, an Irish poet familiar to Sixth Form English students, and his close friend and patron Lady Gregory. We had the privilege of seeing The Hanging Gardens, the latest offering from critically acclaimed playwright Frank McGuinness. The play presented shocking insight into the struggles of an elderly man and his family with his worsening dementia.
The next day was chockfull of history and culture, with an early visit to the Dublin Writers’ Museum, which featured a portrait gallery of the most famous Irish authors. Lunch saw some exploring authentic Irish cuisine. We then visited the National Library of Ireland to see an exhibition about W B Yeats, which dealt with some of the less well-known aspects of the poet’s life, including his Tarot readings and interest in the occult. We then saw The Threepenny Opera at the Gate Theatre, a 1928 satirical musical on the bourgeois society of the times which has surprising relevance to today’s culture.
Sunday was perhaps the busiest and most educational day of the trip, kicking off with a walking tour of Dublin that made us all realise why we were supposed to wear sensible shoes. This included visits to Trinity College Dublin and Dublin Castle. We had a break for lunch, then visited the Chester Beatty Library, where we received an informative tour of the ancient texts the library holds of Islam, Buddhism and Christianity. Though not directly related to the Irish authors we are studying, for me this was a highlight of the trip, being able to see thousand year old books and scrolls carefully preserved so that they can still be enjoyed today was an awe-inspiring experience. We also saw an exhibition on The Book of Kells at the Trinity College Library. The Book of Kells is a copy of the four gospels, in Latin, lavishly decorated and adorned with intricate designs. That evening we were granted free time in Temple Bar, Dublin’s “cultural quarter”; a lively area jam-packed with restaurants and cafés.”
Edmund said; “From art galleries to literature museums and walking tours we picked up ideas and concepts, some humorous, most of them academically useful, all of them interesting – whether it be on the history of the book, Yeats’ occultism, Irish history or modern architecture.”
Zoe recounted the bad weather that unfortunately affected the last day of the trip: “The storm that struck the UK and Ireland over the weekend impacted on Monday’s itinerary, but Miss Bellamy and Mr Green coped with this admirably, rescheduling our initial plans. We then flew back to Stansted on Monday evening.”
Edmund concluded, “Above all, the trip is a social one, and falls into a small calm between adjusting to sixth form and the rush towards AS levels (for the lower sixth) and between UCAS and A2s in the case of the Upper Sixth. Opportunities like this close the rift that is wont to open up between the years of the Sixth Form, and by giving opportunities to take in art and theatre we gain a language of art, a means of talking meaningfully about literature, about poetry or music. It was, then, worth the early mornings and late evenings, and for some a last opportunity to revel in joys of literature before exams make its study regimented and compulsory.”