Welcome (and welcome back)
Week 1 of Michaelmas, the first week of full term. Those of you who are new to Oxford will have noticed that the weather can be variable, but when the sun shines you realise just what a beautiful city you can now call home. Those of you for whom ‘the long vac’ is marked by having a little more space in the library or the lab, it’s worth taking a moment to remember the excitement of your own first few weeks here.
Our new students began to arrive from 23 September and I hope found it useful to have a few days to acclimatise and start to navigate the city before the excitement of Freshers’ Fortnight. They will have noticed that at St Cross the wonderful Student Representative Committee (SRC from now on) ensures that there is even more fun to be had than in other Colleges before the hard work starts, by lining up not one but two weeks of introductory activities. We have already seen croquet, quizzing, yoga, pub crawls, museum visits and much more. The bar has been buzzing and the Common Room full.
Teele, Chloé and their colleagues have done a fantastic job and the whole College team is immensely grateful to them.
Of course, it is not just new students who have been welcomed. New Fellows and Members of Common Room met a good number of their new colleagues on Monday evening and were, as always, delighted to find how easy it is to make unexpected connections across such a range of specialist subjects.
In the next few weeks we will also be welcoming new members of the Development and External Relations team, who will soon be familiar faces around the College and beyond.
Meals and More
On Sunday, 13 October, the Hall hosted around 100 Freshers for Sunday brunch and was completely full for the first formal College meal of term, Tapas Hall, on Tuesday. The first Special Dinner of term followed on Wednesday, 16th. These occasions fill up quickly and it is as well to book online as soon as possible.
Guests at Special Dinners this term will include college supporters as well as the artist Sandy Brown, who is giving a talk before dinner, Anna Carragher (former head of the BBC in Northern Ireland), Rania Hafez, (Programme Leader for Education, University of Greenwich and founder of Muslim Women in Education), alumna Professor Lisa Downing, who is also giving a talk before dinner on her new book ‘Selfish Women’, and the entrepreneur and theatre impresario Rupert Gavin. The Founders’ Feast is also coming up on 29th November.
Paul White has recruited new members to back up the regular kitchen team, as external events continue to grow and Baxter Storey (our caterers) have taken on management responsibility for the College bar as well as the café.
Those who are keen on food might also like to walk down the road to the Ashmolean Museum to see its current exhibition on food and drink in Pompeii: https://www.ashmolean.org/pompeii to which our Dean, Mark Robinson, has been a major contributor. The Ashmolean is one of Britain’s great museums: its main collections are free to enter for all, and Oxford University students also get free entry to special exhibitions.
Alumni and Open Doors activities
We also continue to engage with former members and reach out to the wider community. In the past few weeks we have welcomed over 300 visitors as part of the Oxford Open Doors weekend, and hosted a family tea during the Meeting Minds weekend which brings alumni of the University back to the city. The latter included activities for children (although I’m sure the adults were just as keen on the bubble blowing) and some highly competitive croquet.
We also held another very successful Degree Day celebration for alumni from all over the world, their friends and families. The rain held off for the photographs and the walk to and from the Sheldonian and those without tickets for the ceremony enjoyed being able to watch on the big screen in the Common Room.
Oxford has continued to offer a range of cultural activities and, amongst others, I’ve enjoyed Don Quixote in the covered market, Two Trains Running and Mallory Towers at the Oxford Playhouse and a wonderful late-night concert in the chapel of New College as part of the Lieder Festival. I’d encourage everyone to make the most of the wide range of cultural activities in the city. (Don’t forget that staff, students and GB Fellows of the College enjoy a range of benefits at the Playhouse).
Another of the opportunities of being in Oxford – and also one of its challenges, as it is impossible to go to everything – is the range of talks and presentations that are available on any given day and at any given time. The Principal of Somerville, Baroness Jan Royall, organised a chilling panel discussion on modern stalking, which made deeply uncomfortable listening but had some highly practical suggestions for those who are in, or have family or friends who are in, an abusive relationship. Resources are here: https://unfollowme.vice.com/ and here https://paladinservice.co.uk/ .
In College we have a range of talks and events on offer: from short weekly ‘flash talks’ at lunchtimes to cultural events and seminar series. All can be found here: https://www.stx.ox.ac.uk/events . I’m delighted that we will continue to host regular talks and discussions in the Global Thinkers of the International series https://www.facebook.com/GTIOxford/ and for the Africa Oxford Initiative (AfOx) http://www.afox.ox.ac.uk/ .
All of which reminds me to mention the new website, and to thank Ella Bedrock for her work in putting it together. There is further development to be done, but the new site is more flexible and user-friendly and will enable us to use it more creatively in future. Feedback would be very welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org .
My work outside College
Trustee duties often involve Away Days at this time of the year and I have enjoyed planning sessions with fellow Trustees of Historic Royal Palaces and the Horniman Museum, as well as the Annual General Meeting of the Oxford Preservation Trust (OPT, which runs Oxford Open Doors. As well as being a Trustee I Chair its Planning Committee), and a presentation by Pro-Vice-Chancellor David Prout on the University’s plans for its estate to OPT members. It was in the OPT role that I took part in a panel presentation to Oxford City Council’s Citizens Assembly on Climate Change.
I’m glad to say that David and I were also able to spend some time on holiday over the summer: an exciting two weeks wildlife watching in Borneo, and a relaxing few days with friends in Gascony. I hope all of you managed to get some time off too.
Also, on a personal note, David and I not only celebrated our own 40th wedding anniversary with a wonderful lunch and tea party in College in July:
but we have also just had the great pleasure of attending our daughter’s wedding in a beautiful location in Kent.
It has been quite a summer – I’m really looking forward to what the new term will bring.