Principal's Blog: Early June 2019

The Choir at Christ Church:
The substantial forces of Brasenose Choir invaded Christ Church on Monday to sing Evensong in the Cathedral, held at the usual ChCh time of 18:05. The Cathedral (which currently resembles a building site as a new lighting system is being installed) provided a significant increase in space and resonance to our regular venue – a particular challenge for vocal confidence and support. Nevertheless, the choir sang heartily through the Victorian repertoire, including Brewer’s uplifting Canticles in D, and Stanford’s Eastertide anthem 'Ye choirs of new Jerusalem' conducted by Senior Organ Scholar Bethy Reeves. The Organ Scholars also provided skilled accompaniment on an awkward makeshift organ, and Scott Hextall’s rousing interpretation of Bach’s Prelude in A minor (BWV 543) brought the service to a grand conclusion.

Architecture award:
We are delighted that our excellent Greenland Library was favoured with three architectural awards on 23 May. It is a magnificent space and a great tribute to the excellent team who designed it and those who implemented the design. The craftsmanship is uniformly superb. We thank again the generous funders of the project. The coverage of the awards can be seen at here. We are very proud of our Library, and our students love it, but it is wonderful to have the quality of the project recognised by such an illustrious body.

Blurbs and shipwrecks:
On 23 May I attended the second half of blurbs where Elizabeth Briggs spoke on her work on shipwrecks as a marine archaeologist. It was a fascinating account of a whole series of shipwrecks over the centuries from 1300 BCE to one at Bubluljas in the 4th century CE. I could not go to the first half because we held a drinks party for the students from Stanford and our excellent Junior Research Fellows. There are always so many events going on in this College.

Ed Davey:
On 21 May, Ed Davey (Brasenose, French and Spanish, 2000-04 and not Sir Ed Davey, the Liberal MP) addressed the PPE Society about his new book about environmental policy: Given Half a Chance: Ten Ways to Save the World. The talk ranged widely, from soil quality to biodiversity, as well as solutions to these problems. He was optimistic about our chances of stopping the climate breakdown. In answering questions, Ed considered that action on a global scale is of paramount importance, and that we should do all we can to avoid placing disproportionate burden on countries who have historically been less responsible for carbon emissions. 

The Welfare Lunch on 28 May heard from Dr Tim Knowlson – our link counsellor at Oxford University Counselling Service. Through some excellent slides, Tim updated us on all the services OUCS provides and also local mental health services on offer that students can access. The Service offered 2788 assessments in the last year of which 27.6% were in relation to anxiety. He has produced an excellent podcast on overwork and also spoke about peer support training.

I am delighted to report a top award for our fantastic students as the most engaged on sustainability issues. Congratulations to all – and in particular to Environment Rep, Margot Greenen.

To prepare for the visit of Kenneth Lonergan, Suzanne and I went to see The Starry Messenger in London. We also went to some of the Hay Literary Festival, which is always a joy. I was approached by an alumnus in the audience as often happens at such events. I have very eclectic tastes at these festivals so I saw Nigel Shadbolt, Keir Starmer, Marek Kohn (on bilingualism), Vernon Bogdanor (late of this College, on Brexit), Deborah Lipstadt, Julia Lovell (on Maoism, a global figure) and many others.

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