Principal's Blog: End of term

2015 10 22 13.03.5625 May Beating the Bounds:
On Ascension Day we had the ancient ceremony of Beating the Bounds which I witnessed for the first time. Throughout the morning in my study I had heard sounds of singing and beating, down Brasenose Lane. As well as beating, they also mark the stones with chalk so that we can be sure where the parish boundaries are (this was started before Google Maps). The Chaplain Rev Judith Brown hosted tea in Hall at 11.15 with a large group of some 150 bounds beaters who had been involved with this, carrying lots of sticks. They came from both St Michael at the Northgate and the University Church of St Mary the Virgin. We then open the door between the Colleges to Lincoln College once every year so that we can partake of the penitential Ivy Beer, which we did in warm sunshine. The origins of this tradition are contested, but it may recall a Brasenose man who was being pursued by a mob and tried to flee into Lincoln, but Lincoln refused to let him through and he was killed by the mob.

Also on 25 May, Michael Palin popped into College for coffee, although only for a short time as he was stuck on his train in Slough; now that sounds like the makings of a Monty Python sketch. He came to meet the recipient of the George Walker Bursary which he endowed in memory of his close friend and former student of the College.

25 May Summer Eights week:
I went down to the river on two days but fear that I brought bad luck on both. On 25 May the Men’s 1 boat crashed into the side and the race had to be abandoned. On the second day we were bumped. I guess I should stay away next year!

27 May Ross-on-Wye:
I spoke at the Oxford University dinner in Ross-on-Wye about my role as Head of House. About 60 people were gathered in a local hotel. This was conveniently en route to the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival, which was as always action packed. I also took the opportunity whilst in Hay to meet one of our terrific nonagenarians but still very active alumni, Jeff Babb, who taught for many years in Grimsby.

30 May a tour:
One of the great things about my job is that I get to show many people around the College. I have a specific tour which I regularly perform which encompasses the Chapel, Hall, Medieval Kitchen and SCR. My groups are normally friends and/or alumni but on 30 May it was a group of police cadets whom I was asked to show round by the new Principal of St Anne’s, herself a former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Met Police. I then attended a seminar on Race and the Law with them at St Anne’s.

1 June Diane Coyle:
Diane Coyle, a Brasenose alumna and Professor of Economics at the University of Manchester, addressed a Principal’s Conversation on the economic effect of Brexit.

Diane is a former economics editor of The Independent and former advisor to the Treasury.  She specialises in competition analysis and the economics of new technologies and globalisation, including extensive work on the impacts of mobile telephony in developing countries. She took a very negative view of the future in a hard Brexit, as did virtually the whole audience.

2 June funeral of Reynaud de la Bat Smit:
Many of our College community crowded into the University Church for the funeral of Rev Reynaud de la Bat Smit, who served the College as an interim Chaplain but was firmly part of the College for years afterwards. He came from Zimbabwe and was passionate about human rights all over the world. I had visited him in his hospice as he battled against cancer. The funeral was just as he had wanted it: a mixture of ancient and modern music. Steve Winwood, his long-time friend and blues rock musician , played the guitar. The family and friends came back for a tea in our Hall. He will be much missed and our thoughts are with his family.

6 June Brasenose party:
We attended the Brasenose Society President’s summer party in the stunning setting of the Ernst and Young offices at More London near London Bridge, very close to the terrible terrorist incident which had occurred just three days before. About eighty people of all stages of their careers (and from all over the world) enjoyed excellent food and drink.

7 June Graham Richards, Ettore (“Hector”) Delcuratolo and Kate Allen:
We had a very busy day on 7 June, even by Brasenose standards. It started with a breakfast talk by Professor Graham Richards at the London office of Powell Gilbert in Fleet Street. Graham (an alumnus of the College and then a Tutorial Fellow in Chemistry for many years) gave an excellent and witty account of what he called his “lucky” life and described his entrepreneurial activities as well as his scientific career. Graham co-founded in 1989 Oxford Molecular Ltd, which was later floated on the London Stock Exchange. In 2001 he founded InhibOx Ltd. His talk included a fascinating account of how Brasenose became one of the first colleges to admit women.

We then paid an emotional farewell in Hall at 11 30 at a tea to Ettore (“Hector”) Delcurasto, our SCR Butler. We said arrivederci rather than goodbye since he is just going across the Square to All Souls.

At 5.30, Kate Allen (an alumna whose photo is on the wall of our student common room) spoke to the PPE Society in the Chapel about refugees. She has been Director of Amnesty International UK since 2000 and before that was at the Refugee Council, so that she was in a perfect position to tell of the five million refugees in the world, the biggest crisis since World War II (and the inadequacy of the UK Government’s response).

8 June Election:
I was delighted to hear that Brasenose came second out of all the Colleges in the online student union's “Pledge to Reg” competition, meaning we are the College with the second highest number of students who are registered to vote. We've won some prosecco and cookies for this.

9 June Brasenose Concert:
We had a Brasenose Concert in the Antechapel with classical works, jazz standards and songs from musicals, put together by our excellent Director of Music, Christian Wilson. All were performed by our students, and included bagpipes, guitar and vocals.

11 June Leavers’ Service:
Reverend Judith Brown, our Chaplain, delivered her last service and appropriately enough it was a Leavers’ Service. The readings were mainly by BNC alumni. I paid tribute afterwards for her excellent service in the Chapel over the last two terms. I was very flattered that she thanked me and said that I was a great example of ecumenicalism.

Congratulations to Professor Daniela Bortoletto who has been awarded an Equality and Diversity Award in the Best Initiative category for “the development of the annual Conference of Undergraduate Women in Physics, and for engaging and inspiring undergraduate women from across the United Kingdom”.

I mentioned our involvement in Town and Gown in the last blog. I can now give more detail and I quote the eloquent words of our Senior Tutor: “Brasenose’s team was so massive that its exact count has to date defeated even the official organisers. There were at least 73 registered runners!”  Dani Ball (2nd year Economics & Management) effortlessly kitted 60 out with specially designed technical T-shirts in Old Quad before the official photo was taken. The College effort also extended beyond the team with Brasenostrils taking part under various other flags of convenience – including (notably) Dr Ed Bispham (Senior Proctor) who ran alongside Dr Dan Hicks (Junior Proctor) to raise funds for student scholarships and hardship. Brasenose’s own fundraising total for Muscular Dystrophy currently stands at an incredible £2,166.25!!”

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