Principals Blog: Mid February 2020


blogBowerscrop1Gothic Voices:
It is not often that we hear music which dates before the College was founded, but the quartet Gothic Voices filled the chapel with the sounds from the Medieval period (11th to 13th century) for the Platnauer Concert on 7 February. They are one of the world’s most celebrated early music vocal ensembles and sang in Latin and Norman French. This was a time (as the programme notes described it) when “the musical cultures of England and France were fundamentally united”. There was a big sale of CDs to a very appreciative audience. The excellence of this concert series owes everything to the skill, passion and networking ability of Christian Wilson, our Director of Music.

Brasenose Society and Alexandra Marks:
On 10 February the Society paid tribute to the work of Alexandra Marks over the 25 years she has served as secretary at a dinner in Brasserie Blanc in Chancery Lane, London. The tributes were made by female speakers, Drusilla Gabbott and Penny Andrews, the new secretary. They included the cool fact that she was mentioned in Debrett’s Most Influential 500 people in the UK and that she was the first woman President of the Society. She was instrumental in building the Society into the dynamic group it is today as well as being a Deputy High Court Judge, Linklaters Partner, member of the Judicial Appointments Committee and Chair of CEDR amongst many other things. Drusilla said that “Up to the point Alexandra is drawn into the inner circle, the Society minutes are a repetitive record of talk of lack of fresh blood; plaintive mourning the lack of younger members and not much business except keeping track of how a succession of college portraits was progressing: the meeting equivalent of tumbleweed. However the Frewin appeal in 1993/4 changed all that and became a focus for effort... For the next 25 years, Alexandra ran the Society. She encouraged the useful to stay on the Committee. She made it very easy for new Presidents to slot in for their year. I observed sporting heroes, captains of industry, and senior lawmen turn to her, like a latterday Moneypenny, to schedule their every move.” Alexandra was presented by the Committee with a specially commissioned BNC medallion pendant based on the Loggan Print and a bound copy of the Brasenose Women’s project portraits book compiled by the JCR and Society in 2014. The gift was financed via the donations of current and former committee members.

James Johnson:
Brasenose PPE Society welcomed our History & Politics alumnus James Johnson, who previously worked as Senior Opinion Researcher and Strategy Advisor to former Prime Minister Theresa May. The audience engaged in a thought-provoking conversation with James about the electoral strength and future of three major parties. James shared his experience of conducting focus group and his insights into the working of No.10 and recent public opinion change. Many comments by James were invaluable for our PPE students, especially for those who are keen in political sociology.  

Ale Verses:
The annual call has gone out for the College tradition of Ale Verses for the Shrove Tuesday dinner dates back at least to 1709.  Verses are preserved in the College Archive and should be (or attempt to be) humorous or satirical, but should not be offensive. The verses are officially anonymous, but an unofficial prize of a bottle of champagne may be awarded for the best entry. It has become customary to set verses to the music of pre-existing songs, hymns, pop tunes etc., and that the choice of tune should be clearly named.

Arts and Societies Dinner:
On 5 February, we held the Annual Arts and Societies Dinner for those who are prominent on the vibrant Brasenose arts scene that takes in music, art, drama in particular. Elena Trowsdale presided and Samuel Woof McColl (from Balliol) extolled the virtues the arts at Oxford. My contribution was to recall the greats of Brasenose past artistic tradition and record watching James Akka perform at 10 45pm at a very fringe venue at the Edinburgh Festival.

I was delighted to see that our alum David Warriner was shortlisted for his translation of Roxanne Bouchard’s We Were the Salt of the Sea for the Scott Moncrieff Prize next week

Prof Jarlath Ronayne from Sunway University addressed a SCR Lunch on 6 February about Sunway University in Malaysia. He is the TSJC Distinguished Professor there and a great friend of the College.

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