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‘My Cultural Life’ – Mr S Hyams

‘My Cultural Life’ – Mr S Hyams

Mr Mark Zacharias, Head of English at Stamford High School, has started our latest lockdown project  – ‘My Cultural Life’. Inspired by the Times newspaper, amongst others: the Schools present interviews from individuals across our Stamford community, considering their cultural interests, loves and shortcomings.

We hope that these interviews help you to find inspiration during the unusual circumstances we find ourselves in, and that you enjoy learning a little more about us here at Stamford!

View all of our entries here.


Explore the cultural interests of Mr S Hyams, Teacher of Classics, below:

The box set I’m hooked on…

The Mafia Only Kills in Summer (All 4), which tells the story of a family in 1970s Palermo as they battle to maintain an ordinary life amid the corruption and chaos that surrounds them. It’s a beautiful tragicomedy of the sort Italians seem particularly good at, and there’s certainly some comfort in the ability to smile in difficult times given our present situation.

My favourite play…

Euripides’ tragedy, The Bacchae. It was the first Greek tragedy I read and no other play I’ve seen or read since has managed to provoke the same amount of emotion and horror.

My favourite author or book…

Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. A novel which manages to say an enormous amount about the world and the way we think despite the fact nothing happens in it.

The Roman poet Ovid also deserves a mention; he can do puerile, melancholic, provocative, and fantastic, and do them all well.

The book I’m reading…

Abundant screen time and a quiet social life pushed me to have a go at James Joyce’s Ulysses, which I don’t think I would have found the patience to read otherwise. So far it is both brilliant (I particularly like Joyce’s linguistic ingenuity) and baffling. I’ve also been dipping back into Alice Oswald’s Memorial, a relatively short poem which retells the death scenes of the Iliad. It’s moving, beautiful, and a testament to the vitality of the Classical world.

 The book I wish I had written…

I’m going to cheat slightly and pick two poems by Allen Ginsberg, his most famous ones in fact: Howl, an ode to counterculture, and Kaddish, a brutally honest lament for the writer’s mother. Sixty years later the poems still feel modern and able to challenge what we value in society and literature.

My favourite film…

Goodbye, Lenin!  An ardent supporter of the DDR (East Germany) goes into a coma just as the Berlin Wall falls and when she wakes up her children attempt to hide the collapse of communism from her. It’s ridiculous and poignant in equal measure.

My favourite piece of music… 

Allegri’s Miserere. It always gives me the chills.

My guiltiest cultural pleasure…

Millwall Football Club.

If I could own one painting…

The Garden Room fresco from the villa of Livia, now in the Palazzo Massimo in Rome. It is a floor-to-ceiling fresco on three sides showing an imagined paradise of birds and trees. Looking at it feels like stepping back two thousand years, not only into a Roman dining room, but also into the Roman imagination itself.

The music that cheers me up…

Anything from the Caribbean, particularly Soca and dancehall. Both genres are whirlwinds of energy and thumping beats, although the lyrics aren’t always family friendly. It reminds me of spending time visiting family in St Vincent, where music blares from every direction at all times of day. This includes, for some reason, public buses, which all come equipped with vehicle-shaking speakers.

I wasted an evening..

Watching The Irishman. Netflix’s ability to throw money at making films while giving directors free rein is in many ways a good thing (see Beasts of No Nation and Spike Lee’s timely new film Da 5 Bloods) but the unreasonably long Irishman suffers from a lack of restraint.


Read all of our ‘My Cultural Life’ entries here. 

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