Category Archives: English

Rosemarie Swinfield: The world of William Shakespeare

On Tuesday the 5th of February Rosemarie Swinfield, lecturer, make-up designer and author with an international reputation and a series of lectures about Europe in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries,  covered the world of William Shakespeare without presenting simple facts about him that can be found with a simple Google search and instead detailing all we do and don’t know about Shakespeare as a person and the tales surrounding the legendary poet and playwright. Her lecture also included details on the world he lived in. This included the Elizabethan attitudes towards theatre, their methods of makeup, housing, certain rules everyone had to follow to keep pedestrians safe and even their attitudes towards milk! Rosemarie also went on to discuss Elizabethan portraits and the Mask of Venus, a template of sorts that artists had to use in order to replicate the way Elizabeth I wanted to be portrayed, and the singular painting where this format was not followed. Rosemarie also presented different rumoured paintings of Shakespeare speaking about the likelihood of them all being true representations of the playwright and her opinions on each one. In the question and answer section of this Williams project Rosemarie was questioned about the stories she told and further opinions on aspects of her lecture of which she all answered with confidence and a deep understanding of the topic. She was finally asked about the question of Shakespeare being the true writer of his plays where she expressed that she does not truly know the answer to the question nor does she believes it matters as it does not change the content of the plays themselves.

Sebastian Armstrong

Stacie Friend: “Why Do We Care about Fictional Characters?”

Dr Stacie Friend, from Birkbeck College, University of London, spoke to both branches of the Williams Project. She asked us why, when we know they don’t exist, do we still care for characters in stories and films? In particular, she asked if emotional responses to fiction are the same kind of emotions which we experience in real life, and, secondly, whether such emotions are irrational?

She set out these problems in the form of the ‘Paradox of Fiction’:

  1. We experience emotions toward fictional characters, situations and events.
  2. We do not experience emotions when we do not believe in the existence of the objects of emotion.
  3. We do not believe in the existence of fictional characters, situations and events.

It was a very interactive afternoon, with some very stimulating contributions. Stacie continued the discussion into the evening, and we are very grateful to her for her time and expertise.

Michael Pruss: writing movies

Old Chigwellian Michael Pruss, Senior Vice President of Production for Scott Free Productions, hosted a special Williams Project meeting on the Friday before he gave the prizes at the school’s Speech Day. He spoke engagingly and in depth about his personal journey to Hollywood from Chigwell, and then illuminatingly and with passion and humour about the structure of a standard movie plot, even detailing at which minute certain plot-turns are best placed. The audience were spellbound, and asked excellent questions.

Nicholas Spice: “The LRB: Journalism and Literature”

The second Williams Project this term was presented by Nicholas Spice, publisher of the London Review of Books. He began the talk with an introduction to the LRB, with samples handed out to give us an insight of what it looks like. Then he gave us an extract from the first draft an LRB writer had produced and the actual published version as an example to explain how the editors do their job. He raised many interesting points such as how our views on a piece’s reliability can be influenced by the way we use words. He also talked about the link between journalism and literature and how it has changed with time and the development of technology. In the end he took many interesting questions from us and told us the story of how he became a publisher. He also made predictions regarding the publishing businesses and the dramatic impact on the traditional bookstores from some new platforms like Amazon. The LRB has a bookshop with a wonderful selection of books, and Mr Spice told us stories of the authors he knew and some anecdotes about them. The talk was impressive and it was a rewarding experience for all of us.

Hang Su

Nicholas Perkins: Bone Dreams – Anglo-Saxon culture and modern imagination

On Tuesday September 25th Old Chigwellian Dr Nicholas Perkins visited the WP. He now teaches English at St Hugh’s College Oxford, and spoke about Old English poetry: what makes it special and different, and how it has inspired writers and poets through the centuries. Using an excellent handout he took us through the principles of the alliterative meter, as well as the heroic subject matter of this oral medium. We read some Beowulf and compared the Old English text of The Wanderer with Auden’s Old-English-style updated version. We then moved, through Tolkien, to Heaney, where we focused on how he used his experience of Old English poetry to cut through the English/Irish antithesis of his Northern-Irish upbringing when writing about the the “Troubles”. And finally some riddles.
Overall a scholarly, clear and wide-ranging illustration of the powerful insights we can get from a chronologically long look at poetic culture.

Charles Fernyhough

Former pupil and friend of Mr Fletcher, Charles is a novelist and psychologist. He spoke to the Williams Project about the links between psychology and fiction, in particular about how psychology informs writing, not so much through, say, an understanding of character, but because it shows us how to steer a reader’s mind to feel specific things at specific times. Writing fiction is like ‘writing software for the mind’.

Charles’ website.


Antony Sher stars in this chilling and disturbing hour-long BBC production of J.G. Ballard’s short story The Enormous Place. A man decides never to leave his house again, and video-diaries the ‘experiment’. Tulips and cats will never taste the same again.

Aidan Andrew Dun

Aidan returned to Chigwell and gave a talk on the history of his involvement with the King’s Cross area of London, touching on Rimbaud, Blake and Yeats, with plenty of ‘ambient rap’. The event, cohosted with the English department, and blest with students from Ratcliffe College in Leicestershire, continued over supper in Radley’s Yard, and then round the fire at Sandon Lodge, where Aidan explored the symbolism of his Pan Cross, and read from his poetry.

Aidan Andrew Dun and audience

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