Principal's Blog: Late February

blogBowerscrop1The Runcie Sermon - 18 February:
The Runcie Sermon is given annually in Hilary Term by a guest preacher in memory of Archbishop Robert Runcie (1921-2000), who was an alumnus of Brasenose, and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1980-1991. Our preacher this year was the Very Rev’d Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans and former Chaplain of Brasenose. Robert matriculated in 1941 when the bulk of Brasenose were taught in Christ Church since the College had been commandeered for the war effort. He was later in the Scots Guards and was one of the first to enter the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. Jeffrey spoke of the temptations of appetite, idolatry and despair. We were joined by James and Marilyn (Imrie) Runcie, son and daughter in law of Robert. As well as being a Radio 4 Commissioner for the Arts, James also writes the Grantchester Mysteries series and Marilyn works as a drama director. It was a wonderful evening.

Ale Verses - 14 February:
The College observes a custom on Shrove Tuesday every year which goes back to the days when the assembled company were gathered around braziers in Hall, with smoke floating in the open timber roof (which is not the case now).  The College then brewed its own beer; and each year an undergraduate would write verses in praise of the Brasenose Ale, usually including topical references to current events and members of the College. This year was no exception with thirteen excellent entries set to modern popular songs which were in some (well almost all) cases better known to students than to your Principal. The verses are anonymous save for the winner who is chosen by the Clapometer system ie the level of applause which the verse gains in the packed Hall. This year’s worthy winner was penned by Rob Warrington and was on the highly topical and very important subject of diversity. Its words are worthy of reading even by those who are unfamiliar with the “tune” to which it is set of “All Star” (by Smash Mouth - Who (s)he? Ed).

Somebody once told me the Hall is full of old men
Who gave all their money to College
It was looking kind of dumb with no women and all men
‘cept that one who just killed all her husbands

Well the years keep going, we’ve admitted women
Change the rules, get those artists painting
Doesn’t make sense not to celebrate all
JCR looks great but how sad is Hall

So much to do, so much to see
So much Brasenose diversity
They’ll never know if we don’t show
Old men, it’s time to go

Hey now, you’re a Hall star, get your face on the walls
Hey now, Brasenose College, get women up in Hall
Cos all those women are gold
Only diversity can break the mold

By coincidence, Alessandro Raho was sitting next to me at the Ale Verses dinner. He will be soon painting two Brasenose women for our Hall, Cappy Hill ex-president of Vassar College and Kate Allen Secretary General of Amnesty International. If he did not feel pressure before, he says he does now!

Another song to note set to “The times they are a changing” to the Bob Dylan tune included these words;

The rainbow flag is now waving
Please get a new flamingo if you lost the old one
For Brasenose it is a-changin'
The collection is writ', the Sillett is gone
As the Spiezo now will later be cast
As the Bowers now will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin'
And the first one now will later be last
For Brasenose it is a-changin'

I can “comfort” readers that I am not going anywhere for a very long time!

Staff concert - 21 February:
The Antechapel was packed for the Annual Staff/Tutors recital. As the blurb for the event suggested “This is a wonderful opportunity to witness your tutors, professors, college heroes, etc. 'unplugged' from their usual academic environment”. Elspeth Garman sang a Northumberland folksong, Christopher Timpson conjured up the glory days of Blondie’s Debby Harry, William James played oboe, there was a baritone solo from Pegram Harrison, piano works by Liszt and Scarlatti from Jonathan Katz, and Peter Warlock's Capriol Suite was performed by Konstantin Ardakov and Christian Wilson. It was an eclectic mix and a great evening. Music is wonderful at Brasenose at present. To link with the previous paragraph, we are the first Oxbridge College to have three organ scholars who are all female.

I am delighted with the Homeless initiative by the post-graduate community which is also the subject of a separate website article. They reached out to the Pret A Manger cafes around Oxford to see how they would feel about contributing their leftover food at the end of a few business days a week for them to pass out to the local homeless community. Three times a week volunteers meet at the Pret A Manger in Westgate shopping centre to collect the food, and then they walk around the middle of Oxford handing out the food and having conversations with the homeless. Often times, people have commented that the conversation is more meaningful than the food. It is a fantastic scheme.

It is also great to record that in one week the College had admissions/access visits from a Bermuda school, the Oxford African-Caribbean Society (target schools), and a group of care experienced young people.

I was delighted to see two Brasenose alumnae two weeks running on BBC Question Time, Clare Perry and Lady Camilla Cavendish.

I went to hear Marty Barron speaking at a packed Blavatnik Lecture Theatre on 16 February. He is Editor of the Washington Post and spoke about a President at war with the press. On 21 February I heard Martin Goodman speak on his excellent book, The History of Judaism.

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