Principal's Blog: 24th February 2023


JB stock photo to use Sept 2021Runcie Sermon

19 February saw the Annual Runcie Sermon in honour of our alumnus (and JCR president) Lord Robert Runcie. We were honoured by the visit of Rev Canon Dr Giles Fraser. As well as being a well known radio personality and author, Giles was Chaplain at Wadham for some years, where he also taught philosophy. He resigned as Canon Chancellor at St Pauls over the response to the Occupy protestors. In the Sermon, he took as his starting off point the criticism by Lord Runcie of Margaret Thatcher during the controversy over the church document “Faith in the City” as a “pharisee” and said that this was a misrepresentation of an anti Semitic trope. 

D R Thorpe

We were greatly saddened by the death of DR Thorpe the biographer who was an active member of our Senior Common Room until recently. Significantly, when Lord Hurd was asked to nominate the best five political biographies over the past 150 years he mentioned two by Richard Thorpe, those of Macmillan and Eden. He also produced the lives of Selwyn Lloyd, Anthony Eden, and Alec Douglas-Home as well as being a long serving school teacher.

Our concert season

Christian Wilson put on excellent concerts three weeks running. In another outstanding Platnauer Concert on 3 February our alumna Bethany Reeves played piano and Nick Budd a very loud trumpet in a range of repertoire from Jacques Ibert to Jean Hubeau via Pulenc and Debussy. Bethany (whom we greatly miss) now serves as Director of Music at St Mark’s English Church in Florence as well as much freelance playing.

Brasenose Singers excelled in the performance on 10 February in the Antechapel. The Voices ranged from Dido’s Lament written by Purcell in the 17th century to “She used to be mine” from the musical “Waitress” via Mozart and Stephen Sondheim.

Jonathan Katz and Christian Wilson gave a wonderful Bach concert in the Antechapel on 17 February. I have run out of superlatives to describe this duo of talents. Christian’s rendition of the Prelude & Fugue No 22 in B flat minor  was unforgettable, only then to be matched by Jonathan’s playing of Jesu, joy of man’s desiring.

In a different vein, this year’s Ale Verses was the best since I have been in College and I say that not least because there was no reference this year to JBQC or even JBKC. The winning entry was by Amanda Li, a rendition of Sweet DTB (which I believe means Down the Bar) to Neil Diamond’s classic Sweet Caroline. It included the immortal lines (try it yourself) “Sweet DTB, winning quiz night if you’re good, Getting plastered feels so good”. A very close runner up was “A Space in the Bib” set to “Somebody to Love” by Queen. It shows that the old tunes are the best. There was also a wonderful tribute to Arnaud Petit set to “The Addams Family Theme”. Well done all.

International Relations

Our distinguished Honorary Fellow Dominic Barton, the former Worldwide Senior Partner of McKinsey and Canadian Ambassador to China, addressed a group of alumni at a dinner in London on 6 February. He provided a fascinating overview of relations between the West and China.

We are lucky to be able to host the University International Relations Society from time to time. There was an especially interesting meeting with Prof John Ikenberry who writes on the liberal world order on 17 February.


We have been looking at old copies of the Brazen Nose for some changes which we are making in future editions (don’t worry; nothing too radical!) The first edition appeared in November 1909 and opened with these classic lines under the title “College Notes”: “We are not inclined to apologize for producing the first number of the Brazen Nose. It ought to have appeared long ago, but the initial impulse has till now been wanting”. It included a reference to the then Dr Arthur Evans who was standing for Parliament. He was a Fellow of the College and Keeper of the Ashmoleian Museum. He is of course best known for excavations in Crete and coincidentally there is a wonderful exhibition on this at the Ashmoleian Museum at present. The Brazen Nose noted that his Parliamentary candidature but said demurely that “As we have no politics in this Magazine, we will made no reference to Dr Evans’ political opinions or prospects”.

As I have said many times here, I love meeting our diverse and fascinating staff event. There was an Ash Wednesday coffee morning on 22 February. People brought in some excellent cakes.

We hold a welfare lunch each term which brings together the various parts of our welfare community. This term we had an excellent contribution by Pete Mandeville the university lead on the response to sexual harassment and violence.

Ben Holden has settled in well as our Outreach and School Liaison Co Ordinator. In the blog “Humans of Brasenose” he says “Brasenose really is an incredible place, and that’s largely due to the people….The college has such a warm atmosphere, and that makes it feel immediately familiar and comfortable”. He goes on to something I am not familiar with at all (but will now try!) “Brasenose has single-handedly made me 180 on my thoughts towards bread and butter pudding”.

Our archivist produced an excellent display of Rare Books in the Medieval Kitchen. This included the Corpus Juris Civilis (Body of Civil Law). A note at the foot of the title page states that the book was given to the owner by Elizabeth I herself.

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