Week 4, Hilary Term

Yes, it is Week 4 already. We are in February. We have had glorious clear weather and we have had snow. College has welcomed ‘Winter School’ participants, lunch and dinner guests, and attendees at talks and lectures of all kinds. Here are a few of my highlights and a look at what is coming up.




College certainly had its fair share of trees over the holiday period – the Common Room, Hall and West Wing all had beautifully lit examples. They were a cheerful reminder of the season for those staying in Oxford and we missed them when they came down.

(And, yes, I did wear that hat all day on the last day before the holidays!).




We enjoyed Snowflake at the Old Fire Station, Lessons and Carols at Christ Church and Dick Whittington, the Playhouse’s Pantomime, and loved having the family together in Oxford for the first time at Christmas. My broken ankle mended beautifully, thanks to the attention and care of the NHS, and I am fully mobile once more.

In the weeks after Christmas James Balmforth’s piece, Boundary Interface, was installed in the garden. We are grateful to James and the Hannah Barry Gallery for the loan of this piece. You can read more about it here.


It has already been seen in sunshine and snow, and is definitely settling in to its place.

It will be with us for rather longer than the snowman, but both are cheery additions to our space.


The snowdrops appeared early in the year and seem to have survived the snow itself, which was quite a load for the hellebores to bear:

Exchange dinner with Clare Hall, Cambridge

Did you know that we have a ‘sister’ College at Cambridge? St Cross and Clare Hall, which is also a graduate college, have a reciprocal arrangement offering benefits to members of each college. St Cross members visiting Cambridge are able to enjoy guest accommodation and dining rights at appropriate member rates, attend social functions and become Members of Common Room for up to ten days without paying subscription and vice versa.



Students have been organising exchange dinners for a while now and we thought it was time that Fellows stepped up to the plate: last year, Fellows visited Cambridge, arranged by the respective Senior Tutors, and this year we returned the favour. Our Fellow Marina Jirotka gave a great talk on her work on algorithms, transparency and public policy and we had a wonderful meal, exchanging stories and agreeing to do it all again in Cambridge next year – by which time the event will have become a treasured tradition!


Indeed, dinners are in full flow with not one but two sets of Burns’ Nights guests enjoying the full experience with bagpipes, address to the haggis, a traditional meal, the appreciation of Burns himself and the toasts.

We have had three buffet suppers for first-year students to enjoy, and to get to know Fellows in their broad area of study. The atmosphere is very informal and it has been a pleasure to have another opportunity to meet and catch up with students’ progress. College advisors also have lunchtime meetings with their advisees early in this term. The Hall is even busier than usual!


Our Fellow Christian Sahner gave a great St Cross talk based on his recently published book ‘Christian Martyrs under Islam: Religious Violence and the Making of the Muslim World’ and Junior Research Fellows Jürgen Brem and Imran Rahman have given pre-lunch Flash Talks on their research and then continued the conversation over lunch in Hall. This is a new way of sharing colleagues’ research and we will host more such talks in future: on 11 February Moritz Lindner will talk on ‘Gene therapy for vision restoration’.

I was also delighted that the AfOx Insakas brought Nanjala Nyabola to St Cross to talk about her new book ‘Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics: How the Internet Era is Transforming Kenya’.

On 19 February Dr Tom Birkett will be giving a St Cross talk on ‘Stories for our Times: Retelling the Norse Myths’ and on 28 February, Dr Daniel Halliday will address the question: ‘Is there a Moral Problem with the Gig Economy’ in a St Cross Special Ethics Seminar jointly arranged by the Oxford Uehiro Centre and the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities. And as if that were not enough, on Saturday 23 February we have the Centre for the History and Philosophy of Physics’ one-day conference ‘A History of the Small’ taking place in the Martin Wood Lecture Theatre at the Department of Physics.

Making links

I am taking the Eurostar to Paris on Thursday to meet up with alumni there and then back on Friday morning for a Special Dinner that evening. So far this term I have welcomed Xa Sturgis, Director of the Ashmolean, and his partner Anna Benn; Debbie Dance, Director of the Oxford Preservation Trust and her husband, Stephen; and Sheree Dodd, who has been head of news and media in several government departments, and her husband Clive Chapman.

On 13 February Paul Smith, Director of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and his partner will be my guests as will Professor Kathy Willis, the Principal of St Edmund Hall, with her partner. On 26 February Professor Basie van Solms and his wife, from South Africa will join us, and on 1 March Jane Shaw, Principal of Harris Manchester College and her partner, Sarah Ogilvie from Stanford University and OUP, will be our guests for Feast. Please do come and introduce yourself to our guests before or after meals – they all enjoy the opportunity to get to meet students and Fellows of the College.

Around Oxford:

The Weston Library’s Sappho and Suffragettes exhibition closes on 24 February, whilst the Ashmolean’s Jeff Koons exhibition opens on 7 February: it is already the museum’s most popular exhibition to date in terms of pre-booked tickets and will, I’m sure, attract a wide audience. Look out for the smile effect on the blue spheres in the final gallery!


Rosie has been practising her levitation skills – but this ball was unimpressed:











And finally – do you know where in Oxford you could find this feature?