Held every October, now in its seventh year, the Symposium is the Upper School’s keynote academic event. For one day, all boys in the Upper School are taken off-timetable, in order to explore academic areas beyond the curriculum.
The theme and guest speakers are selected by the Symposium Director and Sixth Form pupils, with the aim of promoting intellectual curiosity and stimulating debate within the Upper School community.
Sound: 6 October 2016
This year's Upper School Symposium will examine Sound, arguably the 'poor relation' of the senses. Our keynote speakers work at the top of their field, manipulating, crafting and designing soundscapes for spaces public, private and artistic, as well as commenting on the impact sound has on our lives.
Gareth Fry is an Oliver-award-winning theatrical sound designer, whose current and recent projects include Harry Potter, Theatre de Complicite's The Encounter and the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony.
Paul Weir is an audio director, composer and sound designer currently working as an Audio Director with Microsoft, and for Hello Games’ procedural sci-fi game, ‘No Man’s Sky’.
Mark Armstrong is a professional trumpeter, composer and arranger. He is Artistic and Music Director of NYJO (the National Youth Jazz Orchestra) and Jazz Professor at the Royal College of Music.
Miranda Sawyer is a journalist and broadcaster. She is a feature writer for The Observer, and its radio critic. She also writes for a range of publications, from Vogue to The Guardian.
Us and Them: 1 October 2015
Our keynote speakers this year are M.P. Kwasi Kwarteng, who will talk about the ways in which our identities are shaped by global movements from 19th-century Empire to 21st-century migration, German-born comedian Henning Wehn, well-known for his funny and thought-provoking approach to the Germans and the British, and Radio 4 presenter and journalist Justin Webb, whose recent book Them and Us explores the relationship between the Americans and the British.
Upper School boys will also attend two sessions of their choice from a programme of 35 seminars and workshops. These are given by teachers, outside specialists, and even some students, and this year include seminars on the depiction of the ‘other’ in popular film and Gothic literature, a first-person account of life in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, and an exploration of the gender politics of ancient and contemporary superhero narratives, from Achilles to Ant-man.
Power: 9 October 2014
Speakers included comedian Jo Brand who demonstrated with frankness and humour her deeply-held beliefs about the importance of challenging prejudice, pride and power in the world around us. Top political cartoonist Martin Rowson discussed a range of his scathingly satirical work, revealing the ways in which his work taunts and teases the British establishment, providing a caustic and irreverent challenge to power in its many guises. Poet Chris McCabe contributed to both sessions, reading a selection of his work, which provided a thought-provoking commentary on the power of the media, the horrifying disempowerment experienced by many on the day of the July London bombings, and finally, on the power of literature.
Seminars ranged from Ms Jarman’s talk on the power of gold and Mr Mair’s practical session on solar power, to Mr Sutton’s seminar on power narratives in the paintings of Edward Hopper. Two Upper School boys, Jakob Hedberg and Ed McNamara, led a workshop on the power of physical theatre.
Society and the Individual: 10 October 2013
Speakers included Mark Littlewood, Director-General of the Institute for Economic Affairs, Dr Marianne Franklin, Reader in Media and Communications at Goldsmith’s University, Dr Lawrence Ratnasabapathy, Consultant Psychiatrist at Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital, Barnet, Dr Tomas Rawlings, founder of Auroch Digital, and Consultant at the Wellcome Trust, Dr Matthew Chalmers, freelance science journalist and former features editor of Physics World, and Ken Eklund, designer of the cutting-edge game, ‘World Without Oil’. Seminars ranged from Dickens, Ibsen, and James Watt, to race, class and gender in World Wrestling Entertainment.
Time: 11 October 2012
Booker-shortlisted author, Will Self, focused on the relevance of time in literary narratives, Nottingham University philosopher Dr Jonathan Tallant prompted the boys to think about the idea of time itself, asking, ‘what do we mean when we say time passes?’ Dr Barry King, from Liverpool University’s Physics department performed a whistle-stop tour of time-related physics, from Newton to Special Relativity and the impact of Black Holes. Professor Thomas Higham gave boys a rare insight into his fascinating work at the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, where he has worked on dating the Turin Shroud and the bones believed to be those of John the Baptist. Seminars ranged from geology and poetry, to film and music.
Brains, Minds, Machines: 13 October 2011
Dr Derek Dunfield from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr Anders Sandberg from Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, and Professor Murray Shanahan from Imperial College, London, spoke on brain science, robotics, life-extension, and behavioural economics. Boys learned that a ten-dollar bottle of wine is as good as, or better than, a 90-dollar one, as long as you believe that you are drinking the more expensive vintage. They also learned how scientists are trying to build the brain of a mouse in computer form, and were treated to an exclusive screening of the fascinating documentary filmTranshuman. In one of the day’s other highlights, three Dulwich College teachers engaged in a vigorous and entertaining debate, which touched on many aspects of the big question of the day – what is it to be human? Seminars ranged from Bauhaus to Books of Hours.
Science and the Imagination: 14 October 2010
The inaugural Symposium featured poet and academic Ruth Padel, who studied the role of imagination and wonder in her great great grandfather, Charles Darwin’s developing approach to science. Neuroscientist Dr Guido Orgs explored what neuroscience can tell us about human notions of beauty, and broadcaster and academic Charlie Lee-Potter spoke on the historical and scientific context behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Seminar subjects ranged from Feynmann’s Penguins to Cyberpunk in French Cinema and Mr Weaver gave a talk on the Fellows’ Library Collection.