Principal's Blog: Early November 2018 - Part One

blogBowerscrop1We have had an incredible number of visits to College from distinguished visitors over the last two weeks which is why my blog (no doubt eagerly awaited) has been somewhat delayed.

Visits to and from College:
Nick Timothy, the former Joint Chief of Staff for Theresa May, visited College on 22 October and spoke to a packed Antechapel about liberalism and populism. He answered a broad range of questions from the audience, some politer than others; the only one he dodged was “Who is the worst politician you have worked with?” (although he did tell me privately afterwards!). He is due to take up a visiting Fellowship at Wadham, which thus far has not been considered a hotbed of Conservatism! It was a wonderful event.

The fantastic French pianist Alexandre Prévert spoke and played on 26 October in the Platnauer Concert in the Antechapel. His highly original one-man classical stand-up “Are you ready for a life change?” was a wonderful musical and poetic journey through time and history focusing on music from the great poets and composers including musical works by Beethoven, Wagner, Schubert, Paganini, and Liszt. Amazingly, he is only 21 and a multilinguist.

Later that evening we welcomed back to College for dinner Alan Bennett, our former Steward, who has retired after 39 years at Brasenose. There was a very big turnout of Fellows and Emeriti, so much so that the 46 people was (I am reliably informed) the biggest-ever High Table. He was a Brasenose legend and now spends his time with the other fan (surely fans) at Oxford United.

On 28 October, the Ramsden Sermon was given in our Chapel by Revd Duncan Dormor of USPG, one of the leading missionary societies. He spoke about humility, Christianity and the global Christian in a wide-ranging sermon.

Through the good offices of James Johnson, an alumnus, we had two student visits to 10 Downing Street, in two groups of four each. They were Ed Shorland, Will Stone, Atty Abhyankar and Lennaert Woudt for the first visit, and for the second, Tabitha Everett, Joe Sibley, Tomos Macdonald and Rosie Duthie, and they had a great time.

On 4 November, The Right Rev Trevor Willmott, Bishop of Dover gave the sermon for the Eucharist for All Saints Sunday. In a sermon about living imperfectly with our vulnerabilities in the community of God’s love, he pointedly said that barbed wire could never be beautiful following a tendentious and foolish remark earlier that day by President Trump. 

Great Brasenose Lawyers: Sir Otto Kahn-Freund
kahn1Otto Kahn-Freund was born in Germany in November 1900. This was several months before the end of the reign of Queen Victoria, and he would on occasion describe himself as being a Victorian. He died in England in August 1979, several months after Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister. It is rather less likely that he would have described himself as being a Thatcherite. His remarkable life and contribution to legal scholarship were considered in the third of the Great Brasenose Lawyers series in the St Cross Building on 31 October 2018, indeed in the very hall where Kahn-Freund’s inaugural lecture, as the University’s Professor of Comparative Law, was delivered in May 1965. He was attached to Brasenose between 1964 and 1970.

Professor Ruth Dukes of the University of Glasgow opened proceedings, speaking to the topic of “A Weimar Life”. Professor Dukes traced Kahn-Freund’s early life and influences, considering the people and events that affected his thinking and later scholarship. He was German and Jewish, and as Professor Dukes reminded us, the 1930s was “the worst time to be German and Jewish”.

In March 1933, as a Labour Court judge, Kahn-Freund refused to uphold the dismissal of a group of technicians employed in the radio service, who were alleged to have been Communists and to have sought to sabotage a broadcast by the Führer. After this, he found himself subject to surveillance, and later in the same year, he fled to England with his wife Elizabeth.

The Dean of the Oxford Law Faculty and Brasenose Law Fellow, Professor Anne Davies, then considered Kahn-Freund’s work on “The Impact of Constitutions on Labour Law”, drawing on a paper published by Kahn-Freund in the November 1976 issue of the Cambridge Law Journal under that title. In that paper, he set out to (in his own words)“reflect on the impact which constitutions have had on the law governing the relations between management and labour.”

Professor Mark Freedland, Emeritus Research Fellow of St John’s (and for a year a Research Fellow at Brasenose), whose career working in Oxford labour law spans more than half a century, was able to speak from the perspective of someone who knew Kahn-Freund, and indeed worked as his doctoral student at Brasenose, starting in 1966. Professor Freedland, the author of a paper entitled “Kahn-Freund, the Contract of Employment and the Autonomy of Labour Law” spoke of him as being “a beacon and example of how labour law scholarship should be pursued”. Professor Freedland referred to Kahn-Freund’s concern about the central but problematic role of the contract of employment, suggesting a notion of formal equality but in the context of relational inequality.

Professor Birke Häcker, who currently holds Sir Otto’s chair, spoke of his contribution to comparative laws, especially in relation to issues of transplantation between legal systems.

It was wonderful that Sylvia Kahn-Freund, Otto’s daughter, and her partner could be present.

Dr Ian Kaier won a Philip Leverhulme Prize, to be presented on 13 March 2019. This provides £100,000 for him to develop a body of research and artwork centred on and drawing from the Brutalistic structure of the panoramic restaurant of Monsanto in Lisbon. He was the only person to receive such a grant from Oxford and we are delighted in his achievement.

On 2 November at 7.00pm, Brasenose’s Heberden Organ Scholar and multi-instrumentalist Bethy Reeves performed a terrific organ recital –
with a virtuoso programme of Baroque, Romantic and contemporary music for organ.

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