Today, we were very lucky to be able to welcome Ben Haggarty to the Iris Classics Centre to deliver fascinating and engaging workshops to three different groups. In the first session, Ben encouraged the students to look at some classical objects, such as a Greek jar, and to think about the stories that might lie behind each object – how was it made, why is there a crack in it, how did it arrive.
Then he asked the students to look at the designs and images on the object, and think about what they might be representing. He talked about how stories can arise from very ordinary things.
He then looked around the room, and was inspired by a tree on the blackboard to begin telling the story of Erysichthon, a huntsman who cut down a tree in a grove sacred to Demeter, and who was cursed with a hunger that could never be satiated. He ended up eating his own daughter in the version Ben told.
For the second two groups, Ben told the well-known story of Apollo and Daphne, but he started with the beginning of creation, and chaos, Gaia and Ouranus, before telling the story of Rhea and Cronus. He then moved on to the birth of Apollo and Artemis from their mother Leto (forbidden to give birth on mainland by Hera since Zeus made Leto pregnant). He introduced the story of Leucippus, a companion of Daphne, before telling the story of Apollo’s love for Daphne, her fleeing from him and praying for help, and finally turning into a tree.
The stories were told with great artistry and skill, containing lots of fascinating extra details, and after each workshop, there was an opportunity to ask questions and discuss themes, and some really interesting strands of conversation about religion, fact and fiction, and the shapes of stories emerged.
We are very grateful to Ben for spending the morning with us, and introducing us to such gripping storytelling.