Principal's Blog: 11th June 2024


JB stock photo to use Sept 2021Unusually (and I think without precedent) I was granted a two week sabbatical to promote my book Downward Spiral (still available in all arguably good bookshops) and I used the fortnight to do events in London, Manchester, Grimsby and Wells by the Sea as well as Times Radio and LBC.

A packed Arts Week

I came back to Arts Week in its usual Trinity Term third week slot. Our Frankland Visitor Joanna Kavenna put on two panel events. The one I could go to was on premonitions with Olivia Smith and Sam Knight, which was fascinating. Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea director, our first Frankland Visitor and now an actor in Ripley) and his wife J Smith Cameron (Gerry the lawyer in Succession) returned to the city they love for the third time. Kenny put on a session for students on his films and they both did a Conversation moderated by Agota Marton, one of our English Fellows. Kenny also spoke about his recent appearance in Ripley. It was great to hear what it is really like working on a film set.

Ascension Day fell on the Thursday of Arts Week and we witnessed the ancient ritual of Beating the Bounds of the parish which parishioners attend with sticks to beat the bounds. There followed the annual entry through the gate between the Colleges into Lincoln where we taste their rather insipid Ivy Ale. We had the pleasure of welcoming the former Archbishop Rowan Williams who preached in our chapel and stayed overnight. The chapel was packed for his sermon with about ten listening from the antechapel. The service was held jointly with Lincoln.

As if this was not enough activity for one week, we also welcomed Con Coughlin our alum who is Defence Editor of the Daily Telegraph on the Wednesday of Arts Week. He gave a broad conspectus of world conflicts with particular reference to Gaza and Ukraine. He has recently published a book on Assad the Syrian leader. He made the powerful case that Putin would not have gone into Ukraine if there had not been western failure in Syria especially the failure to follow up the threat to intervene in Syria if Assad used chemical weapons.

In fourth week we hosted a magnificent exhibition of photographs of Oxford in the Antechapel put on by our good friend Douglas Verminnen. He organises his work as “Oxford through the Lens” and it formed part of Oxfordshire Arts Weeks.

The Ball was a brilliant success at the end of week 2 and I rushed back from sabbatical to be part of it. But no I did not do any daddy dancing or otherwise embarrassing spectacle. Congratulations to the Ball Committee for a magnificent event. It was ably headed by Dagmara Nogal.

April saw the memorial for the late alumnus, Professor Vincent Marks (1948, Physiological Sciences) in the form of his ‘final meeting’ at the Royal Society of Medicine where a number of colleagues and family talked about his life and work as a clinician and scientist, especially his work on insulin and hypoglycaemia.

On 2 May, we welcomed Gerald and Margo Smith to view the progress installing the new organ which they have generously enabled us to commission. Work on the organ is expected to be completed over the summer ready for the new academic year.

One of my vanishingly few readers has asked me to reinstate my notes of the books I am reading so, here goes. They are Will Hutton’s This Time No Mistakes; Alistair Campbell’s Diaries, Dennis McShane’s Diaries and of course my own Downward Spiral on which I spoke to our PPE Society.

This is of course a busy and important academic term. I wish all those doing exams the best of luck.

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