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Cambridge Alumni Magazine Issue 63 Easter 2011

In this issue:

Supercomputers Public intellectuals Two wheels good Secret Cambridge My room, your room Summer reading


CAM/63

Contents

CAM Cambridge Alumni Magazine Issue 63 Easter Term 2011

Lee Woodgate

20

Charlie Troman

24

Regulars Letters 02 View from the top 03 Update 04 Diary 09 Connect 11 My room, your room 12 The best... 13 History of a friendship 14

Take three 17 Secret Cambridge 18 Review University matters 39 Summer reading 40 Music 45 Sport 47 Prize crossword 48

Features Two wheels good

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With the wind in your hair and the sun on your face, the bicycle is the only really civilised mode of transport says James Randerson.

The MareNostrum. Photograph by Simon Norfolk

Pop vox

24

Forget the ivory tower. Twenty-first century thinkers are on air, online and sometimes even on Twitter. William Ham Bevan charts the rise and rise of the public intellectual.

32 CAM is published three times a year, in the Lent, Easter and Michaelmas terms and is sent free to Cambridge alumni. It is available to non-alumni on subscription. For further information contact the Alumni Relations Office. The opinions expressed in CAM are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the University of Cambridge.

Editor Mira Katbamna Managing Editor Morven Knowles Design and Art Direction Smith www.smithltd.co.uk Print Pindar Publisher The University of Cambridge Development Office 1 Quayside Bridge Street Cambridge CB5 8AB Tel +44 (0)1223 332288

This publication contains paper manufactured by Chain-of-Custody certified suppliers operating within internationally recognised environmental standards in order to ensure sustainable sourcing and production.

Editorial enquiries Tel +44 (0)1223 760155 cameditor@alumni.cam.ac.uk

Alumni enquiries Tel +44 (0)1223 760150 contact@alumni.cam.ac.uk www.alumni.cam.ac.uk www.facebook.com/ cambridgealumni www.twitter.com/CARO1209

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Professor Robin Holloway explains why music of quality can take time to reveal itself.

Power house

Advertising enquiries Tel +44 (0)20 7520 9474 landmark@lps.co.uk Services offered by advertisers are not specifically endorsed by the Editor or the University of Cambridge. The publisher reserves the right to decline or withdraw advertisements.

The rest is noise

Gold Award Winner 2010 Robert Sibley Magazine of the Year Award 2010

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Supercomputers might be the unsung heroes of scientific research, but they face an uncertain future, as cosmologist Andrew Pontzen explains.

Cover photograph: Gemma Booth. Copyright Š 2011 The University of Cambridge.

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EDITOR’S LETTER

Your letters

Sun, cycles, supercomputers. that someone would want to actually run through the countryside (as it was), rather than train for scheduled athletic events. Ken Portnoy (Clare 1965)

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elcome to the Easter issue of CAM. The Cambridge cyclist is not easily deterred. In the last weeks of June, flipflops, library books, ballgowns, tennis racquets and the assorted paraphernalia of graduation all pass as perfectly unremarkable cycling accessories. I was particularly impressed by the sight, a few evenings ago, of a double bass disappearing down Silver Street, its owner completely obscured. On page 20 James Randerson explores just why, in Cambridge at least, two wheels are always good. However glorious the journey, at some point you will reach your destination. For many of Cambridge’s scientists that destination is a computer terminal connected to the University’s supercomputer, Darwin. But while supercomputers around the world are busy helping scientists to design the future, what is the future for the machines themselves? On page 32, Andrew Pontzen discovers that their prospects are more complex than you might think. Elsewhere, on page 24, CAM investigates the state of intellectual life, as seen through the eyes of some of Cambridge’s most eminent thinkers. Professor Mary Beard has no intention of describing herself as a public intellectual (“You’d sound an utter Charlie,” she says) but thinks our intellectual life is in rude health. Perhaps that is why, in our roundup of summer book recommendations on page 40, David Baddiel thinks fellow alumni will enjoy a book which is “incredibly boring... and yet kind of brilliant” and Alastair Campbell suggests Une forme de vie by Amélie Nothomb. Lastly, after much fretting by sticky bun fanatics around the world, I am delighted to report that Pembroke College has announced that Fitzbillies will reopen in the summer, with Chelsea buns still very much on the menu. Mira Katbamna (Caius 1995)

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Garden House riots

To boldly go During the 19th century, an anonymous cowboy penned the lines to Home on the Range. The opening: “O, give me a home where the buffalo roam and the deer and antelope play”, is widely known – and parodied – by schoolchildren everywhere. But the last stanza is not widely known. It should be, because it speaks, I feel, most eloquently to the spirit behind Lucy Jolin’s terrific article To boldly go: “How often at night / When the heavens are bright / With the light from the glittering stars / Have I stood there amazed / And asked as I gazed / Is their glory much greater than ours?” Bob Drew (Corpus 1955)

The best... jog in Cambridge I enjoyed Paul Smith’s piece in Lent CAM, all the more so because I used to run to Coton when I lived at Clare Memorial Court. The UL was there, of course, but no Robinson, Cavendish or the M11. In fact, there were no runners either. As an American used to the pleasures of solitary running, I thought I would be joined by others. In fact, most English friends were astonished

I have to take issue with the letter from Alec Samuels (CAM 62). Although I don’t condone the violent demonstrations against tuition fees last year, my experience of trying to influence government’s mind is that it is difficult, even when government chooses to consult. I am conscious that I was university educated for six years at no cost to myself, but my generation has decided that its children will not have this benefit. Dr John Heathcote (Queens’ 1973) Alec Samuels wrote: “if you cannot persuade by evidence and argument... resort to coercion and violence”. Laurie Penny, writing in The Guardian, quoted Leyla, a 14year-old at a student protest last November: “I wish they weren’t breaking things but this is what happens when they ruin people’s futures.” My thoughts exactly. Neil Laurenson (Homerton 2000)

History of a friendship I was interested to read of the dining club held by the youngsters of Magdalene and I congratulate them, but I wish to draw your attention to the far older Jesus College Dining Club which held its 60th and final annual dinner in March 2010. We decided against fading away with a whimper but to go out with a bang and this we did last year. The club was born in 1950 when a small group of new graduates, finding themselves together in London, decided to maintain contact by meeting for a reunion meal once a year. At the time of our final dinner we still


We are always delighted to receive your letters and emails. Email CAM at cameditor@alumni.cam.ac.uk or write to us at CAM, Cambridge Alumni Relations Office, 1 Quayside, Bridge Street, Cambridge, CB5 8AB. Please mark your letter ‘For Publication’. Letters may be edited for length.

View from the top

You can read more CAM letters at www.alumni.cam.ac.uk/news/cam/letters.

Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz is Vice-Chancellor of the University

had 37 members. Were we all not so modest we would say: “Beat that!” Brian Wicks (Jesus 1944)

An obsession with monarchy In your article about the monarchy, I was startled to read that the “The Germans are obsessed with die Queen”. Really? Yes, European royalty occasionally warrants articles in the German popular press or short reports on TV – but entertainers, sportspeople and politicians get way more coverage. I’ve lived in Germany for 20 years and the only interest in British royalty I have ever encountered has been when friends or colleagues have asked me, in bemused tones, whether I actually care about the royal family. Christine Clayton (Newnham 1972)

Access all areas I would like to add my support to Dr Gatti’s call for the wider use of open access publishing of academic work under the Creative Commons. As a taxpayer with no current academic affiliation, the system has always struck me as unjust. [Academic work] should be free and accessible to all users, at least in electronic form. More power to your elbow, Dr Gatti! Peter Lapinskas (Caius 1971)

Preprandial drinks William Ham Bevan’s article on sherry says that “semiotically sherry belongs to Britain”. This reminded me of the Wursthaus, a restaurant that used to be in Harvard Square when I was a graduate student at MIT in the late 1960s. We called it the Worst House. Its stein-shaped drinks menu declared: “The finest sherry and port of the world are from the Harvey Vineyards in England.” Avinash Dixit (Corpus 1963)

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write this at the end of my first year in office – a year which has been both momentous and troubling, for Cambridge, and for universities in general. There have been a great many high points: Cambridge has been ranked number one in national and international rankings. Our academics continue to produce work on the cutting edge, to win prizes and accolades. Our alumni continue to be some of the most sought-after employees in the world.

But there have also been some very tough issues to unpick and decisions to make. Much of my time has been dominated by the question of funding – for students, for researchers and for capital funding, the money that enables us to ensure our laboratories are the most modern and best equipped in the world, that our libraries continue their digitisation projects. Substantial change is occurring in the research arena. Facing a world in flux, large funders – such as the Research Councils and the British Academy – are keen to put money towards answering the really big questions and unsurprisingly, Cambridge academics are keen to answer them. But finding the solution to feeding a growing population, interfaith conflict or ensuring global water supplies cannot be answered by individuals. Arguably, they are questions that cannot even be answered by a single institution. They require teams – across discipline, across institution and across national boundaries – to work together. This all might seem rather obvious, but one of Cambridge’s great strengths, and one of the things that fuels excellence here, is the freedom individual academics have to pursue their intellectual interests wherever that study takes them. To bid for funding in this new environment requires us to work differently, yes, but also to think differently, without undermining those fundamental strengths of bottom-up, curiosity-driven research. One further major area of challenge this year has been the cutting of capital funding. I do not speak lightly when I say that these have been the most savage cuts we have experienced – indeed, in some cases expenditure will be cut by 50 per cent. It’s not an area that grabs headlines, but think about it: Cambridge has 150 or so departments and institutes, each home to its own world class researchers – the people who make the world-

changing discoveries, who attract major funding, and who will teach the next generation. They need buildings and facilities that need continual investment. A good example of this is the new Sainsbury Laboratory, which was opened by HM The Queen in April. The new lab will house 120 scientists charged with answering some of the big questions. They are the people who make Cambridge what it is, but they need world-class facilities. As I look forward to the year ahead, my key priority remains the quality and excellence of teaching and research. It is clear that maintaining and improving our laboratories and libraries so that we can remain at the cutting edge is going to be an important part of that. The issue of student fees was debated at length, both formally – by the Regent House – and informally, across Cambridge. Many alumni joined the debate, either by contacting the Alumni Office, or by writing in response to my letter to alumni on the subject. But in some ways, the issue was straightforward: without higher fees, we cannot provide a Cambridge education founded on our intensive supervision and College-based traditions. The complication of course is that Cambridge depends upon attracting the brightest and best. I don’t think anyone rejoices that we charge home students £9,000 (or that international students will continue to pay the full cost). But I can honestly say that the generous bursary structure we have put in place means it will be no more expensive to come to Cambridge than to any other major university in the UK. These are major challenges. So people are sometimes surprised when I say that after a year in office I am sure I have the best job in the world. To be in Cambridge again after so many years away is wonderful. Seeing our students and alumni succeed – often spectacularly – is a source of great pride. But perhaps above all, having the opportunity to debate these issues, which have the potential to radically alter what it means to be a Cambridge graduate, with some of the best minds in the world, is both a privilege and a pleasure.

To read the Vice-Chancellor’s letter to alumni on fees visit: www.tinyurl.com/letterfromvc CAM 63 03


Images courtesy of architects Stanton Williams. Photography Hufton & Crow

UPDATE EASTERTERM

PLANT SCIENCES/RESEARCH

Sainsbury Laboratory

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rand opening? Yes. Phenomenal architecture? Yes. Outstanding facilities? Of course. But the opening of the Department of Plant Sciences’ new laboratory by the Queen this term is about more than an undeniably fantastic building. Indeed, the ViceChancellor, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, described the opening of the Sainsbury Laboratory as “one of this century’s most significant moments in British science”. The huge excitement about the laboratory is in part

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explained by the research that will take place there. The hi-tech research facility, which was made possible by an £82m grant from Lord Sainsbury’s Gatsby Charitable Foundation, will focus on addressing some of the key environmental problems threatening the world today, including the increasing strain on the world’s food supplies. “With an increasing reliance on plants, not just for food but for fuel as well, the fundamental understanding of plants is more important than ever,” said Professor Elliot Meyerowitz,

Above left Central court. (Architecture by Stanton Williams Architects).

Above right Internal street with breakout and social areas. Below View of the laboratory from the internal street.

the inaugural Director of the Sainsbury Laboratory. Located in the heart of the University Botanic Garden, the lab brings together state-of-theart technology with the Garden’s internationally acclaimed collection of over 1000 trees and 10,000 other plants. It will also house the University Herbarium, which contains over one million plant specimens, including those collected by Charles Darwin on the voyage of the Beagle. For more information about the laboratory and the scientific research being undertaken, visit www.slcu.cam.ac.uk.


Research gateway Cambridge research now has its own home on the web. Updated daily, the site covers the latest news, features, videos and audio content. Or, to get the best stuff direct to your inbox, sign up for the weekly bulletin. www.cam.ac.uk/research

Chancellorship of the University HRH The Duke of Edinburgh steps down as Chancellor of the University this summer, shortly after his 90th birthday, and after 34 years of service. The Nomination Board has proposed Lord Sainsbury of Turville as his successor. The nomination is before the Senate and if uncontested, Lord Sainsbury would become Chancellor on 1 July 2011 – otherwise there will be an election in the autumn.

UPDATE EASTER TERM

Ben Hawkes

RESEARCH

Butcher. Baker. Cabbage gelder.

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Mary Evans Picture Library

ame. Email address. Date of birth. Password. If you’ve ever been tempted to rebel against the tedium of 21st-century form filling, you may be comforted to find that this feeling is not a modern phenomenon. Historian Dr Peter Kitson has found that the Very Reverend Dr Peter Scrimshire Wood, vicar of the church of St Mary in the tiny parish of

Middleton in Norfolk, also found form-filling a bit of a bore. Required to record the paternal details of every new child in the baptismal register, Reverend Wood decided to get creative. In 1819 he recorded, as well as the more mundane occupations of ‘coachman’ and ‘farmer’, the rather more colourful ‘lamb gelder’, ‘chopper of chips’ and ‘good workman’. The following year, warming to his theme, he added ‘cut throat of pigs’, ‘publican and beggar maker’, ‘turn coat and knight of the needle’, ‘master of the rolls and burn crust’, ‘farmer and fortune hunter’ and, perhaps best of all, ‘cabbage gelder’. Dr Kitson came across these quirky entries while processing data from the parishes of rural Norfolk from the early 19th century. He is one of a team of University historians and geographers undertaking the biggest ever survey of occupations in England and Wales from 1379 to 1911. www.hpss.geog.cam.ac.uk/research/ projects/occupations

EVENTS

Festival of Ideas Dennis Gilbert

The Faculty of Law has announced the launch of the first entirely new degree in Law since the 19th century. The Master’s degree in Corporate Law (MCL) will offer students the opportunity to engage in a detailed study of the legal and regulatory framework in which companies are governed and financed. In addition to offering indepth analysis of legal rules, the course will provide students with the opportunity to understand how ‘real world’ corporate deals are structured and run. The MCL will be taught by the Law Faculty’s team of corporate lawyers, widely recognised as one of the strongest in the field. The intake will be approximately 25 students per year.

What will life really be like when the global population reaches seven billion? What does the future hold for the individuals and nations who have pushed forward the Arab Spring? Is Wikileaks a sign of changing attitudes to openness on the net? For the answers to these and hundreds of other questions, come to the fourth annual Cambridge Festival of Ideas, which will take place across the University this October. Intellectuals of all ages are welcome: junior boffins will be able to attend Prehistory Day at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, listen to talks by authors Charlie Higson and Marcus Sedgwick and join Nick Sharratt for an illustration masterclass. The Festival of Ideas, 19 to 30 October 2011. Visit www.admin.cam.ac.uk/whatson to find out more. CAM 63 05


UPDATE EASTER TERM

The bun is back! Good news for cake fiends: Pembroke has just announced that Fitzbillies will reopen later in the summer as an independent bakery and cafe. Happily the new owners confirm that they will continue to produce ‘ludicrously sticky and delicious Chelsea buns’. Phew.

Kettle’s Yard has won a £2.32m award from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Together with funds already raised, the grant will enable the gallery to build a new wing, housing a space for artists’ projects and two new education spaces. The house, which was founded by HS “Jim” Ede as a place where visitors would “find a home and a welcome, a refuge of peace and order, of the visual arts and of music”, is a major centre for 20th-century and contemporary art, as Antony Gormley (Trinity 1968) explains. “Kettle’s Yard is an invaluable visual resource for the University and town that combines a foundational collection made at the birth of modernism in Britain with an evolving programme of contemporary art,” he says. “This investment from the

Heritage Lottery Fund is vital and will allow more people than ever to experience and enjoy this wonderful place.” To find out more visit www.kettlesyard.co.uk/development Below: model of proposed extension Bottom: current gallery

UNDERGRADUATE

Only A-level can predict degree success A Cambridge study has shown that very strong A-level performance is the key indicator of potential among its undergraduates and that this does not vary according to school or college background. The study investigated which factors at admission provided the best indication of future undergraduate potential. A-levels and GCSEs, aptitude tests, school background and gender were all considered. Richard Partington, Senior Tutor at Churchill, chairs the University’s Admissions Research Working Party, which oversaw the research. “The consistency of this study’s findings is striking. A-levels were overwhelmingly the best indicator available of likely future degree performance,” he said. “School background and gender did not make a significant difference. Given the same performance at admission, students from different schools and colleges were equally likely to perform well.” Sir Cam

UNIVERSITY

Images: Jamie Fobert Architects and Kettles Yard

A Cambridge Honour Bestowed upon a select group of exceptionally distinguished individuals, the honorary doctorate (honoris causa – “as a mark of honour”) is the highest award the University can make. This year, eight people will be celebrated. The previous Vice-Chancellor, Dame Alison Richard, is to be made a Doctor of Law; and Sir Trevor Nunn, theatre director and Director Emeritus of the Royal Shakespeare Company will be made a Doctor of Letters. The other honorands are Mrs Anita Lasker Wallfisch, Dr Shirin Ebadi, Sir Martin Evans, Dr Mildred Dresselhaus, Sir Peter Mansfield and Sir Colin Davis. To read about the graduands visit www.admin.cam.ac.uk/news/dp/2011030803 62 07 CAM 63


Saturday 12 May 2012 CARO is planning a special black tie dinner, attended by the ViceChancellor, at the Painted Hall in the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, to celebrate Cambridge sporting achievement and to mark the forthcoming London Olympics. Tickets are £212 per person. To register your interest for this event, please email: events@alumni.cam.ac.uk.

DIARY SUMMER/ AUTUMN

Friday 7 September 2012 The Arthur Balfour Chair of Genetics at Cambridge marks its centenary in 2012. To celebrate, the Department of Genetics will be hosting a one-day symposium and dinner at Churchill College. All alumni and former members of the department are very warmly invited. For more information please email: events@alumni.cam.ac.uk.

BUSINESS

EVENTS

Networking in style

21st Alumni Weekend

Monday 5 December, 7.30pm–9.30pm, London

Friday 23 – Sunday 25 September

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f you’ve ever thought you might have enjoyed lectures more if you hadn’t had to be there at 9am while also worrying about Tripos, then Alumni Weekend is for you. Each September, the University invites its graduates to return for three days of inspirational talks, events, ideas and learning, showcasing our very best speakers and most cutting-edge research. This year, alumni will discover how materials science can save the world, why the marathon isn’t actually an Olympic event and why pain could be useful – in between touring some of Cambridge’s most stunning gardens and museums, and of course meeting up with old friends and making some new ones.

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here better to network than with your Cambridge peers from across the business spectrum? This December, Sir Paul Judge (Trinity 1968) will open up his stunning riverside apartment for an informal networking evening. Hosted by Sir Paul and members of the Alumni Advisory Board, this is the perfect event for you to build new relationships and to give your contacts book a boost. Tickets cost £48 per person.

Find out exactly what’s on, and when, by downloading the Alumni Weekend brochure from the website or by contacting CARO for a copy. Places are limited and early booking is advised. Prices start from £50 for a one-day registration. Registration for the entire weekend is £70. Full details of prices including parking and catering options are available on our website. The weekend is non-residential. With a choice of over 100 events over three days, whether you come on your own or bring family, friends or colleagues, the Alumni Weekend offers something for all ages and interests. For more information and to book online, visit www.alumni.cam.ac.uk/weekend.

MUSIC

Recital and supper Tuesday 8 November, 7pm–10.15pm, London

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Andy Potts

oin the Cambridge University Musical Society for an exclusive concert and supper in central London. In the surroundings of a beautiful Robert Adamdesigned house off Portland Place, the evening will begin with a sparking wine reception, followed by a drawingroom recital from Cambridge’s finest young musicians. Guests will then be able to enjoy a two-course supper with the musicians. Tickets are limited and cost £40 per person for the concert and drinks reception, or £75 with supper. You can book almost all alumni events online. Access the website www.alumni.cam.ac.uk/events for fast and easy booking.

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CONNECT

Spend and support Looking for a simple way to support the University? Use the official University credit card and Cambridge will benefit when you set up your account and every time you use it. Accounts include online banking and attractive rates. See http://www.alumni.cam.ac.uk/benefits/ credit/ for more information.

Data protection statement As part of a wider project, the University Development Office (CUDO) and the Alumni Relations Office (CARO) have reviewed data protection procedures. Our revised data protection statement can be found in full on the cover sheet enclosed with this issue of CAM and is also available online at http://www.alumni.cam.ac.uk/privacy/ tandc/privacy.html.

ONLINE SERVICES

Keeping in touch You will soon be able to log on securely to a new part of the CARO website to view and update your details using your alumni membership number (printed on your CAMCard and on the cover sheet accompanying CAM). As well as updating the contact details that we hold for you, alumni without a cantab.net account (the lifetime email service available to all graduates) will be able to set one up easily, and those who are already signed up will be able to connect to their account. Early adopters of the new system will be able to take advantage of the online Business Directory (which launches at the end of this year) and benefit from improved networking opportunities. The new services are part of CARO’s improved data management system for alumni. To find out more or to opt out of the new online services please visit www.alumni.cam.ac.uk, phone + 44 (0)1223 760163 or write to us at website@admin.cam.ac.uk

Alumni news direct to your inbox Want to stay on top of the latest research, keep in touch with Cambridge news and get information about alumni events in one simple step? Join 100,000 of your fellow alumni and sign-up for the Alumni Relations Office’s monthly e-bulletin. Short and snappy, the e-bulletin will keep you abreast of everything happening in Cambridge without clogging up your inbox. You’ll also be able to find out about the latest developments in our online services. To receive the e-bulletin, email communications@alumni.cam.ac.uk and we will add you to the distribution list.

Please note that unfortunately, opting out will mean you will no longer receive the CARO e-bulletin and e-communications from University departments, clubs and societies who mail through the Development Office.

Worldwide directory The new Alumni Worldwide Directory is now out, listing contact details for 249 regional volunteer-led alumni groups, 131 College groups and 29 shared interest groups around the world. For the first time, the directory includes a section covering the alumni groups of student clubs and societies. Alumni living outside the UK will find a copy enclosed with this issue of CAM; it is also available online at www.alumni.cam.ac.uk/groups

Can you help?

Andy Potts

We are keen to rejuvenate regional alumni groups in Bangladesh, Ghana, Kyrgyz Republic and Yemen. If you would be interested in getting involved in any of these groups please contact Jan Pudney at jan.pudney@admin.cam.ac.uk.

Contact CARO Website: www.alumni.cam.ac.uk Email: contact@alumni.cam.ac.uk Telephone: +44 (0)1223 332288 Post: Cambridge Alumni Relations Office University of Cambridge, 1 Quayside, Bridge Street, Cambridge, CB5 8AB CAM 63 11


MY ROOM, YOUR ROOM OLD LODGE 14, FIRST COURT, MAGDALENE Words Leigh Brauman Photograph David Yeo Katie Derham (Magdalene 1988) is a journalist and a presenter for Radio 3 and the BBC Proms. She will be in Cambridge this summer to promote the Cambridge Summer Music Festival, the city’s major classical music festival, which takes place from 15 July to 6 August.

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Arthur Boscawen is a first year Divinity student who reckons that going to lectures is worth it. “An hour’s passive learning always seems easier than an hour’s active learning!” he says.

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atie Derham and current resident, Arthur Boscawen, declare as one: “What this room needs is a second floor!” You can see their point. Old Lodge 14 or, as it’s better known, “probably the smallest room in College” fits a bed, a cupboard, a desk and not much else. “I reckon a loft with a bed would be great,” Boscawen explains. “And then you’d have room for a sofa – three sofas – down here.” “You are so right. What you need is some kind of mezzanine arrangement,” Derham says. “It’s got the height but not the floor space.” “And it would be nice to have something around the sink,” Boscawen adds. “It looks a bit bare without a cupboard.” “Yes, I’d pretty much take everything out and start again!” Derham says. The carpet, the cupboard and the desk are the same (apparently the curtains are not as pink as they once were). “It has been very hardwearing!” says Derham. “It was all new when I arrived – done up because the


THE BEST... LAWN IN CAMBRIDGE Rhys Jones is reading History at Robinson

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ut grass is like noxious gas to me. Barely a whiff of the stuff and I’m throwing my hands to my eyes, rubbing them raw. For hay fever sufferers, Cambridge – the land of eternal lawn – can seem like an assault course. In fact, I spend most of Easter Term self-medicating against the inevitable sinal onslaught. Nonetheless it is a small sacrifice: to study at Cambridge and not appreciate its finely trimmed grass would be time wasted. That the city is famous for its mowed lawns is not surprising; that the best is practically unknown is a scandal. Perhaps this is so because Thorneycreek, at Robinson College, does not correspond to the typical image of a Cambridge garden: that verdant quad, boxed by four wisteriaclad walls. Rather, it is unconfined, uneven and, when the sun cares to shine, flattened by picnic blankets and revision notes. With its backdrop of Thorneycreek House, a lofty 1895 Victorian edifice, it is, to my knowledge, the only lawn in Cambridge upon which you are actively invited to stroll. Of course, it’s not immaculate, nor is it criss-crossed with lawnmower lines, but then that’s the whole point.

If a natural and open space such as this is intended to restore clarity to the five senses and to provide academic pursuits, then what point can there be to a manicured grass square? The physician Thomas Fuller was surely right to insist that “a good garden has many weeds”; and indeed parts of Thorneycreek are practically jungle. For lawn purists, of course, nothing really compares to the green spaces of St John’s or Trinity. Their quadratic intricacy suggests many things (pedantic groundsmen for one), yet it seems to me they lack an organic physical presence. Neat and tidy symbols of authority, walking on this grass is, of course, prohibited. While I imagine there is nothing quite like standing defiantly on King’s magisterial Front Court lawn, I imagine that there is nothing quite like being tackled to the hallowed grass by a King’s porter, either. And perhaps that is why Thorneycreek is a lawn of such distinction. Its democratic openness – anyone can walk on it and at any time – is at once the cause of its imperfections and its charm. It may be almost entirely unknown but, unlike its rivals, it is certainly not unused. Charlie Troman

girls were arriving. The room was bigger than my room at home, and so I thought, this is all right. It wasn’t until I saw some of the other rooms that I realised I might have drawn the short straw.” Of course, one critical item of room paraphernalia is missing. “What you don’t have, which was key for us, was a noticeboard on your door where people could leave you notes.” Boscawen is too polite to gasp with incredulity. “So you had a pinboard on your door?” he says, boggling at the sheer inefficiency of the system. “Yes. That was how we communicated,” Derham says. “So you spent a lot of time dropping in on people and not expecting them to be there.” This seems rather to confirm Boscawen’s worst fears. Noticeboard aside, however, Old Lodge 14 doesn’t look very different from the day Derham stepped through the door as the very first woman in residence at Magdalene. “I came up a week early to do an audition for an instrumental award (which I failed to get). In the car on the way to Cambridge, it suddenly occurred to me that there might not be any other girls there at all for the whole week,” she says. “On that first day I had a stream of men knocking on the door announcing that they had ‘come to see the Magdalene girl’ so I remember this room well!” Derham and Boscawen agree that, while the room itself might be small, the view of the Master’s garden is lovely, it’s a peaceful place to work and that, if you put your mind to it, it is just about possible to throw a party. “I haven’t done it myself, but my neighbour has pretty much the identical room and he manages it, so parties are possible,” Boscawen says. “Definitely some people have got better rooms, but it’s not that bad.” What kind of student was Derham? “I remember summer in this room. It was a really lovely hot summer and I spent it wondering where everyone was and why it was just me and my friend, Kate James, sunbathing. Exams were a bit of a shock.” she says. “But I enjoyed economics, especially the third year, when I did a lot of economic history and internationaldevelopment.” But of course there are so many distractions in Cambridge. Boscawen is still receiving emails for activities he signed up to in Freshers’ Week but hasn’t got round to doing. “I’ve started rowing at a very low level this term – so low in fact that there are barely enough people to crew the boat,” he says. “I’m a member of the Union but I’ve not been very often – I turned up the other day and the queue was horrific.” This is an attitude Derham can relate to. “I did a lot of music, CUMS, the Gilbert and Sullivan Society. I wrote a few reviews for Varsity, but I wasn’t a real hack,” she says. “There were quite a lot of things that I tried at a really low level but which were huge fun. I mean, there were people like Rachel Weisz in my year; no wonder I stuck to College acting! And then of course I spent an awful lot of time sitting around eating toast.”

‘In the car on the way up it suddenly occurred to me there might not be any other girls there at all’

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HISTORY OF A FRIENDSHIP

FROM LITTLE ACORNS Andy Hopper CBE (Trinity Hall 1974) and Hermann Hauser CBE (King’s 1973) met at a disco, and with Andy Harter (Corpus 1980) started a technology revolution. Words Anna Melville-James Photograph Christoffer Rudquist

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always say I met Andy Hopper at a Darwin disco,” says Hermann Hauser, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Acorn Computers. “We were both there because of a girl (who became my wife). Mine and Andy’s first meeting was nothing earth-shattering. We didn’t say, ‘Shall we change the world?’ And then we played tennis! For a long time there wasn’t any computer science or physics in it at all. It was social. The first serious thing Andy and I did was a company called Orbis in 1978.” Hermann is talking, of course, about his long-standing friend and collaborator, Andy Hopper, Professor of Computer Technology and Head of the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory. Together with Andy Harter, Visiting Fellow and a founding director of Cambridge technology companies RealVNC and Adventiq, these three friends have had a ringside (and sometime ringmaster’s) view of the development of Silicon Fen. “Hermann had a nice Triumph TR6 – that’s what I remember!” says Hopper. “I was helping with a practical research project – a high-speed network being used by universities – and a number of companies were selling it. It was as fast as anything, and a competitor to Ethernet. And Hermann with his entrepreneurial spirit said, ‘Why don’t we start a company to sell it as well?’ The company we started very quickly merged into Acorn.” Hermann continues, “Acorn Computers at that time was the only company whose products all had a network connection. When Bill Gates came to see us he was desperate for us to adopt MS-DOS. We sat him down in front of the computer and explained we couldn’t take such a retrograde step because our operating system was a lot more sophisticated. Bill’s response was ‘What’s a network?’” A few years behind Hauser and Hopper, Andy Harter knew of the pair by reputation. “I met Andy Hopper in 1981 when he lectured in Digital Communications, and later as my PhD supervisor,” says Harter. “I started out just being an electronics enthusiast at school. I built computers from scratch and wrote operating systems and programs, and then in 1980, before I came to university, I bought one of the first Acorn Atoms, for £120 pounds.” (“Did the keyboard work?” asks Hermann, laughing.) “I knew there was a computer industry starting to build up around Cambridge which I wanted to be part of, and I worked for Acorn as an undergraduate which is when I first met Hermann,” Harter continues. “In those days, you could only study Computer Science in Part II and had to be admitted to read something else. I did Maths in the first year, but I nearly didn’t get through the admissions interview because I told them I wanted to do Computer Science and at that time there was

‘When Bill Gates came to see us he was desperate for us to adopt MS-DOS. We sat him down in front of the computer and explained our operating system was a lot more sophisticated. Bill’s response was “What’s a network?”’

still some suspicion in the Colleges that Computer Science was too vocational.” In 1986, Hermann and Hopper started the Olivetti Research Lab (ORL), and were soon joined by Harter. “ORL was a national research lab in parallel with the University, very symbiotic, not intellectual property driven but personal contact driven,” says Hopper. “If you wanted to teach you put your academic hat on. If you wanted to do industrial research of a wacky, funky kind you did it. You had an operational model that meant resources appeared infinite. It was your problem how to change the world, not somebody else’s.” “It was magic,” remembers Hermann. “I can’t think of a research lab in the world with that sort of spirit. It was infectious and Andy [Hopper] became known in the Cambridge area as a hoover for talent. The brightest people in Computer Science ended up at ORL.” It was a period of great breakthroughs: high-speed networking, multimedia, ubiquitous computing, tablet computers, wireless, broadband. “I think it had more spinouts than any other research lab during that period,” Hermann says. “Andy combined the technical leadership and filter – a lot of the ideas came up from the bottom – with a way of encouraging young people to do their best. That’s an unusual combination.” Andy Harter, who joined the lab straight after completing his PhD, continues. “Andy [Hopper] lets you get on with things and gives you genuine responsibility and ownership and doesn’t micromanage or set artificial goals and objectives – that’s the thing I’ve learnt from him. He inspired me to think big and engineer things to really work. He was and is my mentor.” Andy Hopper nods. “Get the right people and don’t give them boundaries …” The three friends may share a love of highoctane pursuits such as skiing and flying, but it’s computer technology and its extraordinary potential, particularly in networking, that is their uniting passion, as Andy Hopper explains.

“The most complex thing humans have ever built is our global network. One of Cambridge’s special features is that, because of Andy Harter and others, we’re one of the few areas in the world that isn’t an expert at a particular sliver, but understands the whole stack, from hardware up.” “The number of ways you can do new things is absolutely ginormous – the universe of possibilities is staggering. And because things are so complex, to have the right gut feeling in which direction the interesting developments are heading is an important, very high-level skill that is very difficult to teach,” says Hermann. “It’s part of the culture and something that makes Cambridge special.” “Andy Harter is very knowledgeable in a broad sense and very forward-looking. He has that sense of where technologies are going,” says Andy Hopper. “His biggest sulk is that he created things that looked remarkably like the iPad and iPhone over 10 years ago. He’s a technogenius!” Andy Harter quickly replies, “I think it was just too far ahead of its time, that’s all.” If Hermann is the entrepreneurial genius, he has unreserved admiration for his two friends. “Andy Harter is a five-star wizard. We have many gifted people in Cambridge, but then there a few that are really outstanding,” he says. “And Andy Hopper is a daredevil, and also very creative. If he finds something vaguely practical that might have impact he can’t help himself. He’s a sucker for it, with his enthusiasm; there aren’t any barriers, we can achieve this, it’s great – never mind that everyone else says it’s not going to work … there are few people like him.” They might be technological magicians, but Harter and Hopper say that Hauser’s business sense is critical – or as Hopper puts it: “I can spot the truffles … Hermann can develop the truffle.” Andy Harter says it all comes down to a finely developed understanding of what consumers want and how they want it. “Hermann has a keen sense of exactly how to bring technology to market, what works, what doesn’t, how to finesse things. He has a certain business charm and commercial confidence that are irresistible.” And in the end, it’s the collaboration – both as friends and as partners – that makes the difference. “I might come up with something and say ‘What do you think of this?’ and Hermann will say, ‘It’s a load of rubbish!’ And vice versa,” says Hopper. “[But] when he thinks something is going to be really good, I think, ‘Bloody hell, we’d better do that then.’”

The book, The Cambridge Phenomenon, will celebrate the Cambridge technology cluster. For more information visit www.cambridgephenomenon.com

If you would like to share the history of your friendship, contact us by email at contact@alumni.cam.ac.uk or by post (see page 11). CAM 63 15


TAKE THREE

Construction is not on the list of hi-tech, efficient industries. Can it change?

Dr Cam Middleton is senior lecturer in Structural Engineering and Director of the Laing O’Rourke Centre for Construction Engineering. Sir Michael Latham (King’s 1961) was chairman of Willmott Dixon Limited from 1999 to 2002 and deputy chairman from 2002 to 2010.

Professor Robert Mair is professor of Geotechnical Engineering and head of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He is also one of the founding directors of the Geotechnical Consulting Group.

Interviews by Lucy Jolin

MICHAEL LATHAM The majority of our work

at Willmott Dixon is partnered – the construction firm goes into partnerships with the client, the architect, the engineers and their specialist subcontractors. If, which is the case at the moment, clients are advised by their cost consultant to ask for the lowest tender possible, the only way the contractors or the specialist contractors can profit is by claims and variations. So the consultants or architects are taking the lowest fee bid and consequently the only way they can make any money is by sending a bill whenever they go on site, or whenever they make a telephone call. This is not an efficient way of working. Thinking in silos is not the way to proceed. Yes, you are either a client or an architect or

Angus Greig

CAM MIDDLETON The industry can change but a radical rethink in the way we procure, design and build is needed if we are to meet the demands to upgrade our existing infrastructure whilst also delivering a low-carbon, sustainable world. In all sectors of construction, for example buildings or bridges, designs tend to be bespoke which limits the opportunity for contractors to benefit from the economies of scale and to invest in technologies that can be reused on multiple projects. The construction industry also works to much lower profit margins than many other industries. Companies take large high-risk investment decisions with returns typically in the range of 4–8% and sometimes even less. No self-respecting banker would get up in the morning for such a return. In such circumstances, investment in innovation, research and development, which are the life-blood of many high technology industries, tends to drop down the priority list and, in practice, often gets missed out altogether. Smarter procurement to promote innovation is clearly part of the answer. Perhaps clients, specifically government, could specify that any tender bid for a new project must have 1% of the bid price spent on research and development. This would stimulate innovation and the search for technological advances, which would give the UK a distinct advantage in the fiercely competitive but massive international construction market.

a civil engineer or a surveyor – but you all need to think together. When I was writing Constructing the Team [the joint governmentindustry report on the construction industry] I went to Ove Arup, the engineers, for the Glaxo building in Stevenage. Within a month, they had got the client, the architect, the engineers themselves, and the main contractor, Laings, all working in the same office. Within that month, they had forgotten their differences. ROBERT MAIR The UK construction industry

is perceived by the public to be expensive, often late, and of mixed quality: “old and slow” as opposed to the “new and fast” technology sectors. The fragmented overall supply chain and the length of the innovation cycle have historically made major industry transformations difficult. Significant waste is created. Of the 420 million tonnes of material used each year, an estimated 20% is thrown away. Also, the construction industry has traditionally had little investment in research, particularly when compared to other engineering sectors. But there are exciting opportunities to

develop and commercialise emerging technologies which could provide radical changes to the construction industry and infrastructure management. These could lead to considerably enhanced quality, efficiency, and adaptability. A major new research centre at the Department of Engineering, the Cambridge Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC) on Smart Infrastructure and Construction, will combine business knowledge with the most up-to-date research to harness the full potential of emerging technologies to transform the construction industry and bring together the Engineering Department, the Computer Laboratory, the Judge Business School and the Department of Architecture. Modern sensor technologies, data management tools, manufacturing processes and supply chain management processes can help to push forward the frontiers of construction technology and management. With these new tools we can challenge deep-rooted attitudes, with the aim of revolutionizing construction and its public perception.

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SECRET CAMBRIDGE

RIVER TEMPLE Words Becky Allen Images Charlie Troman

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n this bright Easter morning, Trinity Street teems with tourists but upstream the river is still calm – the first punters have yet to set off for Grantchester. Crossing the footbridge from Sheep’s Green to Coe Fen, I spy a well-trodden path, leading through an iron gate and into a small walled garden, overhung with ivy. In the garden stands a flowering Japanese quince and a pair of old yews. Beyond, is Hodson’s Folly. The folly’s oriel window frames the water and the willows: a view that has been enjoyed by generations of Cambridge swimmers, from Byron to Rupert Brooke. And so, as I ease myself off the quay into the cool, deep waterI wonder whether, a century ago, on a morning such as this, John Hodson might have sat here, keeping a watchful eye on his swimmers’ progress. Hodson is said to have built his small, neoclassical summer house as a private area where his daughter could bathe in the river. And until recently, that was all that was remembered about the place. Now, thanks to some detective work by John Durrant, a former mayor of Cambridge and chairman of Cambridge Past, Present and Future’s heritage working group, a clearer picture of the folly’s history is emerging. The City Council’s building records show that Cambridge Corporation approved plans for the summerhouse in August 1896. Durrant believes the folly was built soon after and indeed Ordnance Survey sheets held in the University Library Map Department show a structure standing on the site by 1903. The plans show a larger site than the walled garden today, including a stretch of land shaped like a boomerang curving away from the river up Vicar’s Brook. Quite how Hodson acquired this part of the common, or how it passed back into the hands of the council, remains a mystery. Census returns may tell us something about the man himself. The only mention of a John Hodson is in the local census of 1871: this Hodson is listed as a butler’s assistant at Pembroke College where he worked

alongside his mother, a College housekeeper and sister of College butler Thomas Smith. Born in Wavertree, Liverpool, in 1840, by 1881 Hodson had replaced Smith as Pembroke’s butler and by 1901, the 62-year-old widower lived at Downing Archway, Lensfield Road, with his only daughter Bessie, then aged 20. “There is no certainty that this is the same J Hodson but it makes a good story, and if I ever get into the City Council archives we may be able to prove it one way or the other,” Durrant says. “And I like to think the folly was built not by a grand philanthropist or a University luminary but by a College butler.” Durrant lived in Newnham as a child and messed about on the river in dinghies: “I liked the place. It had a desolate, romantic air and I always wondered what the folly was, with all the accoutrements of a proper building, but derelict.” The late writer and wild swimmer Roger Deakin (Peterhouse 1961) also remembered the place, describing revisiting it in his book Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey Through Britain. “I crossed the bridge and went into the walled garden, still a lovely place but oddly neglected in a city with a taste for fine buildings, even little ones,” he wrote. “I changed in the swimmers’ temple, and looked out through its balcony window into the clear tributary it overhangs. A magnificent foot-long perch, the dandy of the stream, swam lazily through the shallows.” On Deakin’s advice, I exit the water via a brick step set into the side of Vicar’s Brook and step across grass glistening not with water but with broken glass and the remains of pastimes other than swimming: beer cans, syringe packets and condom wrappers. “HOLLY + RUTH WOZ ERE!” too, leaving their mark in orange spraypaint below the folly’s crumbling windowframes. Raising money to repair Hodson’s Folly and reclaim the garden is one of the reasons for Durrant’s and Cambridge PPF’s research. “The derelict site needs to be brought into much better condition along such a popular punting and walking route,” he says. “The folly is the first building one sees coming downstream from Grantchester – it is a fitting gateway to the commons and the city.”

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TWO WHEELS GOOD Photographs Charlie Troman

With the sun on his face and the wind behind him, James Randerson gets on his bike to explore the peculiar pleasures of Cambridge’s favourite mode of transport.

Above: Julia Hart is a Modern and Medieval Languages undergraduate at Corpus.

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ris Murdoch would brook no disagreement on the matter. “Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish,” she wrote. “Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.” There can be few places in the British Isles blessed with more transport purity than the streets of Cambridge. While in other cities the lone cyclist feels fragile, unwelcome, even suicidal on busy streets designed for lorries and gas-guzzlers, in Cambridge traffic is refined: calmed of its boyracer tendencies and soothed into more polite behaviour by the sheer number of what Murdoch called the “most civilised conveyance known to man”. But there is a paradox to cycling. It is only through this safety in numbers that the rider can experience the full liberation of two-wheeled transport. You are most free when you have the unspoken camaraderie of other cyclists around you: when two wheels is the dominant form of transport on the road.

For me, the bike offers ultimate liberty. The cyclist is self-sufficient. There is no need to rely on buses or trains with their timetables, delays and overcrowding. We whizz past roadworks and traffic jams without delay and there is no need to stop to fill up the tank. If we choose, we can change course, double back or take a detour. And there is no need to stick to the road at all. There is always the option of a greener route or an amble past a canal or river. Even better, unlike the commuters trudging to their destination half awake, cyclists really experience the journey. We feel the seasons in the sun and wind on our face, in the ghost of our breath on a frosty day and in the glow in our cheeks when we reach our destination. And we are connected to the road in ways that a motorist in his metal and glass box could never understand. The route’s rises and dips are imprinted on our thighs and in our lungs. On a still summer evening we can feel the temperature change as we rise and fall with the landscape: the warmth trapped in the trees at the top of an incline and the chill gathered in a dip in the road. On the breeze, we smell the spring blossom and the earth after a rain shower that breaks a spell of dry weather. All of this adds up to something important because how we get around changes who we are. Your commute sets the tone for the day ahead. It affects your mood, your health and your sanity. The novelist HG Wells put it like this: “When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.” I didn’t really appreciate any of this when I was at Cambridge. Like every teenage boy I had a bike for mucking about on at home, but I had never really used it for getting from A to B. So I didn’t understand what made cycling in Cambridge so special. When I came up to King’s I brought with me a battered old Raleigh racer that I’d bought for a fiver and restored to working order with my dad’s help (anticipating my imminent departure from the family home I think he felt he had to pass on some life skills).


Right: David Jabbie, director of Brownstone Design. “I am cycling all the way to Paris!”

Below: Hugh Salt, director of Cambridge Dutchbike Limited. “Dutchbikes are special because they last for years, require minimal maintenance and can be ridden in your best clothes.” Above: Jake Gresham, sixthformer. “The best thing about making my own bike is that it’s personal to me and completely unique.”

Below: Véronique Mottier, Fellow and DoS in Social and Political Sciences at Jesus. “I love my bike because it’s a 60-year-old heirloom from my Dutch family.”

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‘The problem is that with so many bikes, there aren’t enough railings to lock them up to. And then there is the peculiar hazard of the ambling tourists locked in upward-glancing reverie’

We finished the frame off with a stylish spraypainted red and silver colour scheme. But I was confident that even with its shiny new livery and daring dropped handlebars the machine’s inner cheapness would shine through to any selfrespecting thief. Surely no one would bother to steal it. I was wrong. Within a few weeks of the start of Michaelmas Term my trusty steed – infused with so much father–son bonding – was gone. Someone had nicked it while I was on a visit to Homerton (I resolved never to go there again). And of course the police never found it. Undeterred, I decided that what I needed was an even cheaper bike. And I found one languishing, unlocked and in some disrepair, at the back of the Garden Hostel bike shed. This bicycle was much more becoming of a Cambridge cyclist – a classic sit-up-and-beg contraption which made a satisfying clonk with every pedal stroke. And it was painted all over in racing green. That could only mean one thing. I had heard apocryphal tales of the disastrous Cambridge green bike scheme to provide free two-wheeled transport around the city, but had never actually set eyes on one of the bikes. In October 1993, two years before I matriculated, the council had collected up unclaimed bikes recovered by the police and had them painted green by offenders doing community service. The idea, which was based on an earlier public bicycle scheme in Amsterdam, was that the bikes would be available to borrow for journeys around the city. The deal was that you should drop them off, unlocked, at your destination for someone else to use. The scheme was both years ahead of its time and hopelessly naive. A precursor to London’s chunky public Boris bikes and similar hire schemes across the country, for example in Cardiff, these later projects all learned some valuable lessons from the spectacular failure of the Cambridge scheme. On launch day, the first lot of green bikes 22 CAM 63


Opposite page, top: Susan van de Ven, Lib Dem county councillor. “Cycling is critical to Cambridge because it solves so many problems; it also happens to be a joyful way of getting around.” Opposite page, bottom: Zlatko Saracevic, technician, Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology. “I love cycling because it makes me feel as if I am flying through the air. Pedalling is a mind refresher and ideas collector.”

Right: Francesca Warner, English undergraduate, Corpus. “I love cycling in Cambridge because you can get practically anywhere in under five minutes.” Far right: Hannah Postgate, mother. “Rosie and Ned call our bike the Mummy Ship. They love it because, come rain or shine, it really is the best seat in the house.”

Below: Sebastian Keibek, history undergraduate, Jesus. “Cycling in Cambridge and in the Netherlands is quite similar because both locations are conveniently flat.”

were distributed around the city for students, residents and tourists alike to share in idyllic harmony. By the end of the day – so the stories go – all the bikes had disappeared. Undeterred, the council tried again with a second batch, with exactly the same result. After my Homerton experience, this didn’t come as much of a surprise. In a rather harsh verdict on the episode, the Cambridge Cycling Campaign proclaimed in one of its leaflets that the scheme’s failure “brought international disrepute to the city”. I wonder if the family of nations has forgotten yet. So I suppose that giving the green bike a second lease of life was in some way handling stolen goods, but it didn’t feel like it at the time and no one in authority ever remarked on it. I used the bike for getting to and from lectures and for exploratory trips to Grantchester, Robinson and New Hall (as it was then) as well as pubs outside the centre of town. Without it I doubt I would have moved beyond a two-mile radius of King’s.

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ycling in Cambridge presents some unique challenges. Nowhere else have I seen temporarily abandoned bicycles leaning two or three abreast along pavements with no fixture to anything more permanent than their own front wheels. The problem is that with so many bikes, there just aren’t enough railings or lamp-posts to lock up them to – let alone bicycle stands. Even the vast bike park next to the station is significantly smaller than the demand for space. And then there are the pedestrians. People on foot anywhere tend to be more of a liability to the cyclist than the car because their movements are less predictable. Often, in trying to avoid you they manage to jump directly into your path. But in Cambridge, the ambling tourists locked in upward-glancing reverie at the turrets, spires and chapels of the colleges are a peculiar hazard and the cause of numerous minor collisions.

With a better lock, the green bike lasted me until I graduated, when I left it behind along with the memories of College life. Cycling has stayed with me though. I live and work in London now and I don’t own a car so a (more upmarket) bike is my main mode of transport. And the number of cyclists is increasing rapidly. By 2008, according to Transport for London, more than half a million journeys a day were happening by bike – an increase of 91% on the beginning of the decade. And within a month of their launch, Boris bikes were being used for around 15,000 journeys a day. But despite the increasing numbers, London is still a long way from the critical mass effect of Cambridge – let alone the cycling utopias of Amsterdam or Copenhagen. And because of that, cycling in London retains a different feel – more underground, unusual, even a little bit naughty. It is hard not to feel the sting of Jeremy Clarkson types denouncing us cyclists as antisocial lycra louts or velociraptors but, if I’m honest, I like that feeling of subversion. Why just travel from A to B when you can be part of a political movement and a gang of mates in the process? There is something special about being part of an informal exclusive club. And being in the in-crowd means that other cyclists treat you differently. We chat at traffic lights about the weather or the broken glass on the road that we both had to swerve to avoid. We tell strangers that they have left their bag open or that the batteries in their lights are low. We make common cause against shouty taxi drivers. But London still has a way to go to alter the balance of power on its streets from four wheels to two. If Iris Murdoch could survey London’s traffic today she would see some hope for a purer heart but much to have nightmares about. Then she would get on the train to Cambridge. James Randerson (King’s 1995) is co-editor of Cycle Babble: Bloggers on Biking, published by Guardian Books in June. CAM 63 23


PopVox Clockwise from top left: CP Snow, Charles Darwin, John Maynard Keynes, Bertrand Russell.

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Forget the ivory tower. Twenty-first century thinkers are on air, online and sometimes even on Twitter. William Ham Bevan charts the rise and rise of the public intellectual. Illustrations Lee Woodgate

T

erry Eagleton has described it as “a job description, not a commendation”. Christopher Hitchens reckons that “to be a public intellectual is in some sense something that you are, and not so much something that you do”. One would hope they would be two a penny in Cambridge, but what exactly is an intellectual – and what on earth are they for? Someone who has spent much time on the question is Stefan Collini, Professor of English Literature and Intellectual History at Cambridge. He identifies three ways in which the word is commonly used. There is a sociological sense (a brain worker) and a personal sense (a highbrow). But it is the third, cultural sense of leading thinker or opinion former with which he mostly concerns himself. The reference is to one who performs a certain role, drawing upon scholarly expertise to engage with the concerns of society at large: the “public” intellectual. But any discussion of intellectuals in Britain is likely to spend less time defining the species than bewailing its extinction, or denying that it ever roamed these shores at all. Typical in this sense is George Orwell’s essay England Your England, in which he offers “a couple of generalisations about England that would be accepted by almost all observers”. One is that “the English are not intellectual. They have a horror of abstract thought”. Never mind that many would think Orwell the model of the 20th-century British intellectual. In his book Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain, Collini sets out what he terms the ‘absence thesis’. He explains: “There is this longestablished tradition in British culture, and maybe more specifically in

English culture, of denying that England has real intellectuals, and stating that they only exist elsewhere. And when a tradition, a set of clichés like that, gets established, it becomes a point of reference even when it no longer has much substantive support behind it. “So I think it’s very easy to talk about ‘so-called intellectuals’ in Britain, and how there’s always hostility to intellectuals, and a lack of them, and so on. In my book, I try to contest some of that, and suggest that Britain is not wholly distinctive in this matter. I don’t think, to be honest, that it made much of a dent in the historical clichés, which go on being repeated.” In fact, the ‘absence thesis’ takes in two propositions: that intellectuals are found only in other countries; and that even if they do exist here, they’re a poor imitation of the thinkers who came before them. The contradiction inherent in this dual assertion brings to mind the old joke about Punch magazine being “not as funny as it used to be – but then it never was”. And all too frequently, the ‘elsewhere’ with which Britain is compared is France. There, it is often suggested, to be called un intellectuel is never anything but a compliment – unlike here, where that qualifying ‘so-called’ curls about the word like smoke around a Gauloise. Cross the Channel, the cliché goes, and the bullish empiricism that characterises British reasoning is immediately replaced by a thick fug of concepts and theories. Collini believes that, although there may be a little more justification for the idea of French exceptionalism than there is for its British

‘The absence thesis takes in two propositions: that intellectuals are found only in other countries; and that if they do exist they are a poor imitation of the thinkers who came before them.’ CAM 63 25


‘You wouldn’t self-identify as a philosopher. You’d sound an utter Charlie, wouldn’t you? These are all things you can’t use in the first-person singular: “I am a public intellectual.” It’s an impossible phrase to say.’

counterpart, the differences are now overstated. “The contrast between Britain and France 50 years ago looked very marked,” he says. “The contrast between them in these matters now looks less so. I think people are more open to the suggestion that there isn’t one wholly distinctive, wholly deviant British tradition here, against the European norm.” So why does the notion that Britain lacks intellectuals continue to hold such sway? According to Mary Beard – a Professor of Classics, Fellow of Newnham College and Times columnist who herself often features on lists of leading British thinkers – it’s partly a matter of native diffidence. “I think that there’s a fantastic strain of nostalgia here, and British self-deprecation,” she says. “Nobody would call themselves a public intellectual – ‘What are you?’ ‘Oh, I’m a public intellectual.’ But you shouldn’t confuse being embarrassed by a word with the state of British informed comment, which I think is pretty jolly healthy. “I think it’s just as healthy as it is in France, but the French are different, because you can still call yourself a philosopher over there. You wouldn’t self-identify as a philosopher here. You’d sound an utter Charlie, wouldn’t you? These are all things you can’t use in the first-person singular – ‘I am a public intellectual.’ It’s an impossible phrase to say.” The cartoonish stereotype of the intellectual may be of one who holds court in a café on the Rive Gauche and owes allegiance to no one, but Collini points out that today’s intellectuals are increasingly likely to have an academic affiliation. He says: “I think one reason why more and more people who get called intellectuals are connected to universities is just that the scope of what universities do has expanded so much. We now have people who are writers, or teach creative writing, holding academic appointments.

We have people there who study sport, or contemporary politics – people who, 100 years ago, might have been doing this from a base in Fleet Street or some other part of society. “They haven’t always been career academics – sometimes they make a mark in some other field and then get an attachment to a university. So it’s not that academics in a narrow sense are taking over public discussion, but that universities have become more and more of a useful base which people can be attached to.” But, as with almost anything connected to the question of intellectuals, their relationship with universities is not uncontroversial. Collini has explicitly argued against the view put forward by the late Edward Said, in his influential 1993 Reith Lectures on Representation of the Intellectual, that the true intellectual must be an unaffiliated outsider – pointing out that Said was able to make such pronouncements from the comfort of a professorship at Columbia University. An associated charge is that academics have retreated from the wider world into their ivory towers; and that research has become so specialised, compartmentalised and arcane that its practitioners have little to offer the wider world as public intellectuals. It is an argument for which Professor Mary Jacobus has little time. As director of CRASSH, the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, she is at the helm of an organisation that fosters and promotes interdisciplinary collaboration across Cambridge. Her belief is that the idea of the cloistered academic is used as a stick with which to beat academics – often by those pushing an instrumentalist agenda in which learning is judged solely on its immediate economic benefits. “In fact, academics have been very successful in communicating not only within universities but beyond them,” she says. “So this sense of ‘Come on, you guys, why don’t you just talk to each other, and talk to

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Emily Davies

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the world?’ – well, I think we have very good examples of academics who have also been public intellectuals. “At Cambridge, there are examples such as Onora O’Neill, who happens to be a philosopher but who wrote the BBC [Reith] lectures on trust – they were a very, very effective form of communication. And similarly, economists like Amartya Sen have been enormously widely discussed and read, and he has communicated a whole new way of thinking about human rights. Then there’s someone like Richard Evans, writing on the Second World War, a historian of great distinction but in the public domain, and so on.” And it is difficult, Mary Beard believes, to consider the nation’s intellectual life impoverished after analysing the channels through which today’s intellectuals reach their audience. The notion that the Quarterly Review’s essayists at the beginning of the 20th century were superior to those in today’s journals is wide of the mark, she says. “I think we’re doing fine. It’s quite attractive that we’re so breastbeating about it, and it would be really ghastly if people went around all the time feeling so self-confident about British intellectual life. But if you look at it analytically, as an observer, it is thriving. “Look at some of the writing you get in the TLS, the London Review of Books and some of the broadsheets. In 100 years’ time, I think people will look back to this and say ‘Gosh, what a vibrant intellectual culture’. And look at the BBC – what other country in the world would have In Our Time, getting millions of listeners every week on a Thursday morning talking about the Pelagian controversy?” Unlike print and broadcast media, the internet pays scant regard to national borders; and the emergence of new media has arguably rolled back the frontiers of our cultural environment. John Naughton, Open University professor and Director of the Wolfson Press Fellowship Programme at Cambridge, points out that intellectuals across the English-speaking world now find it far easier to disseminate their ideas, and cites Paul Krugman, David Brooks and Andrew Sullivan as figures based outside the UK who have developed an eager following here. Beyond this, Naughton believes that the vast proliferation of different voices online has increased, rather than diminished, the need for informed commentators. “The web has created a great ecosystem of publishers,” he says. “There is much more opinion and speculation

as well as fact out there. But in the end, what is finite for readers is time and attention, so there’s a need for intelligences to filter and sift things. And I think that’s what we’re seeing happening. “Some publications clearly have a really good future online. It’s because they have an editorial sieve that people value and trust. Classic examples are The Economist, the FT, the New Yorker – publications like that. I think there’ll be more of that, and I think there’s a role for public intellectuals there. There are a lot of them on the web already – clever, insightful, interesting, thoughtful people, who take what comes out, and filter and interpret it.” Whatever conclusions are drawn on the state and status of the intellectual in the information age, there is one matter on which few could disagree: it is a subject that seems to hold a particular fascination to the British. On why this should be so, Mary Beard says: “When questions fascinate people, underneath them there’s something important – even if it’s not quite what the question would make you think it was. And in this case, it’s a key question of the past 2500 years: what, in our culture, is the role of the person who thinks? “If you sit in a library and write books, are very smart and know a lot, what is your job in society? What kind of notice should we take of you? What’s the difference between a doer and a thinker – can you be both? Can you know a lot about fifth-century classical Greece, but also have something that will tell us about what we might think about now? Those are questions that are perennially interesting to people, and they’re important questions.” Indeed, the success of Absent Minds – now widely acknowledged as a classic, and this summer the subject of a public debate at London University – is a potent demonstration of the subject’s hold over the imagination. “I think there are all kinds of reasons why we continue to find the subject of intellectuals interesting,” says Stefan Collini. “There is a hope, on some level, that there are going to be important ideas that help us to live, tell us how to treat the world and how to understand the world. “And whatever the medium through which it is expressed, I still don’t think the role to which we attach the word ‘intellectual’ is in our time or in the foreseeable future going to be usurped.”

Isaac Newton

Dorothy Garrod

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R

OBIN HOLLOWAY has always belied his age. With his lean frame and restless, darting movements, he exudes the same slightly gnarled boyishness of 10 and 20 years ago. He talks with undimmed verve, mixing eloquent enthusiasm with the occasional precisely aimed barb. Stylistically omnivorous in his own music, the man who has inspired two generations of composers, from Judith Weir (King’s 1973) and Robert Saxton (St Catharine’s 1972) to Thomas Adès (King’s 1989) and Huw Watkins (King’s 1994), is adamant that a teacher of composition should never impose a style or dogma. His aim has always been to elicit rather than prescribe, to find and nurture a composer’s individual voice. “Of course, most music being written today, as in the past, is bad. What any discerning musician or music-lover is looking for is quality, a core of radium inside the flocculent debris. The musical scene now is extremely polystylistic, ranging from rarefied complexity to down-right populism: from Elliott Carter and Brian Ferneyhough on the one hand, to Philip Glass and John Adams on the other, if you like. Within each style there are a few works of vision and technical accomplishment that will survive when the debris becomes landfill.” It is often said that musical values today are depressingly distorted by brash commercialism, with glitter and gush always bidding to trump more durable qualities. Yet for Holloway it was ever thus. “Haydn,

Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert – they all composed against the debris which has fallen away. They were the radium which burns with increased potency as time passes. True, the gulf was less wide then: there were more rules and conventions, and music could not be ill made – and it also had to be live. But worthy utility often triumphed. As to commercialism, what could be more commercial than Haydn in London, or Beethoven in his shifty dealings with publishers? A composer of Wagner’s pushiness and self-belief would thrive in any circumstances. Shy violets like Schubert had to wait to be seen as radium rather than fluff.” In our own time the abiding power of fluff is epitomised for Holloway by the huge popular and critical success of Alex Ross’s book The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century. “It proves that most so-called cultivated people don’t have a clue about contemporary music,” he declares, passionately rather than provocatively. “Very few people have the nose for quality; and those who do may be either practising musicians and composers, or a few lay people of acute sensibility. But time invariably sorts out gold from base metal. Works like Boulez’s Le visage nuptial and Le marteau sans maître, Stockhausen’s Gruppen and Berio’s Sinfonia are really strong period pieces that have withstood the test of time. Yet looking at the adverts for avant-garde composers of 40 and 50 years ago, how many names have survived? They’ve had their five minutes, then oblivion.”

RADIUM AND FLUFF Professor Robin Holloway says finding new music of quality takes time. Words Richard Wigmore Photographs Charlie Troman 28 CAM 63


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CV 1961 Matriculates at King’s College, Cambridge 1966–9 First Concerto for Orchestra 1971 Fantasy-Pieces on the Heine Liederkreis of Schumann 1974 Appointed lecturer at the Cambridge Music Faculty 1978–9 Second Concerto for Orchestra 1990 Clarissa (opera, completed 1976) premiered by English National Opera 1992–7 Gilded Goldbergs

While saddened that new music of quality remains on the margins of our cautious, conservative culture, Holloway finds exhilaration in the plurality of today’s musical scene. Amid much dross, there are things he admires in all styles, from easy-listening minimalism to total complexity, though he believes that the total complexity of a Carter or Ferneyhough is just another kind of easy listening. “There’s only one way you can listen to a jungle of sound, just as there’s only one way to listen to the reduced simplicity of the minimalists. When confronting a thing of seething complexity like a work by Carter, you can only allow yourself to be submerged within a mightily impressive blast of noise. It’s like confronting a vast wall of writhing sculpture on the front of a Gothic cathedral – though admittedly the analogy isn’t quite exact, since if you got up very close to Chartres Cathedral, you could read all the iconography. But it’s an old illusion – one fostered in the old fetishistic total constructivism days of the 1950s and 1960s – that complexity is invariably complex.” At the polar extreme from Carter and Ferneyhough, Holloway cites the transparent complexity of Webern. “In a Webern work we hear exactly what he’s written, exactly how it’s made. The audible process is as naked as a Bach chorale. We can only hear Carter as a jungle of sound, and John Adams as pulsing common chords. At their best, both are valid – but they represent different ends of a tight-stretched line of simplicity. People tend to be flattered and fooled by technical obfuscation when approaching the total complexity school. But we have only our ears, like the sharp ear’d Bistroušky in Janácek’s Cunning Little Vixen. True complexity is not like that. Mozart is complex! Appreciation might take 10 years or a 100 years, as with Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge. But eventually it will get there with the aural equipment we actually possess; they are capable of infinite subtle evolutionary extension, but they cannot be forced.” Holloway’s own music has always involved a tug-ofwar between dissonant modernism – epitomised by the First Concerto for Orchestra, his earliest major work – and the ineluctable lure of the past. Works such as Fantasy-Pieces on the Heine Liederkreis of Schumann, the Serenade in C (which, in his own words, gives “an affectionate twist to tonal common practice and lightmusic clichés all the way from Biedermeier Vienna to Southend pier”) and Gilded Goldbergs quote, parody and deconstruct in a spirit of mingled nostalgia, postmodernist irony and sheer wacky inventiveness. His Second Concerto for Orchestra, initially inspired by a visit to north Africa and the heady orchestral extravagance of Edgard Varèse’s Amériques, leavens astringent atonal constructivism with Italian ice-cream tunes and a snippet of Jerusalem. “I don’t want to be outside that ocean of music down the centuries,” he once said. Certainly, no contemporary British composer has a wider frame of musical reference. These days Holloway’s avowed musical credo is to delight, move and invigorate rather than shock. Yet, as he puts it, wryly misquoting James Boswell, “modernism keeps breaking in”. His newest works cultivate an ever more supple notion of atonality, in which bits of the past, whether medieval, 18th-century or romantic, are synthesised. “I no longer make conscious blood transfusions of music from earlier centuries. My friend and fellow-composer Colin Matthews said a lovely

2001 Appointed Cambridge Professor of Composition 2004–5 Fourth Concerto for Orchestra 2009 Fifth Concerto for Orchestra

thing after hearing my Fourth Concerto for Orchestra: ‘This is what you’ve been trying to reach all your life, isn’t it? It’s got everything, but not in a spirit of conflict. It’s created its own lingua franca.’” Holloway’s latest major project, commissioned by the BBC and due to be premiered at the Proms on 4 August, is another Concerto for Orchestra, the fifth in a genre that has always fascinated him: less prescriptive than either the symphony or the solo concerto, allowing forms and shapes to develop through texture, colour and individual virtuosity. “In my Fourth Concerto, partially inspired by Piers Plowman, I’d spread myself lavishly over an hour and a half. Conversely, the Fifth Concerto for Orchestra is an exercise in compression: dense in texture and harmony, building high into the sky and deep into the rock; Manhattan, not Los Angeles.” Unusually for Holloway, the Fifth Concerto is not inspired by places, people, cities. If anything it’s about colours, though not in the sense of Bliss’s Colour Symphony. The first movement he describes as a black web of sound, sometimes written on as many as 80 staves, with an intricate division of strings. The second movement, in extreme contrast, is buoyant, airborne. The strings are still elaborately divided, but now they glisten and ripple. The third is fast, brilliant, chunky, extrovert, which Holloway says he thinks of as scarlet. “Then there’s a movement I call Rainbow, a return to the complexity of the first movement, but now shimmering rather than clogged and stagnant. The last movement is light blue, crimson, purple. It attempts to realise an ideal I’ve held since my teens, of a rich polyphonic texture at once wholly atonal and wholly concordant.” While there is no play of allusion in the concerto, a distant model was Schoenberg’s Five Orchestral Pieces: a few short pieces making one whole with total concentration. “It’s probably his greatest work. None of the pieces lasts more than five minutes. But my God, what he says in that span! Every aspect of the work is wonderful, including building high when you haven’t got space to spread.” With his withdrawal from full-time teaching imminent, Holloway is relishing a future that allows him to balance composition with travel, reading, and writing more about music, painting and literature. For his Cambridge farewell party in November this most eclectic of British composers has, aptly, chosen his most stylistically exhaustive work: the Gilded Goldbergs for two pianos, in which the 18th century’s most monumental set of variations is weirdly and wonderfully deconstructed and ‘Stravinskified’, in styles ranging from pure Bach and direct quotation to experimental modernism. “The Gildbergs, to be played by two distinguished young composer-pianists, Huw Watkins (a former pupil) and Ryan Wigglesworth (who recently held an all-too-brief lectureship here), are the best leaving present the Faculty could have given me,” he says. “It’s a thesaurus in which you do things in order to find out who you are. It’s born of this place and my teaching here, composed on the pianos in my rooms in Caius and first tried out with any students who could play the other piano part halfway decently. Granted, some of it is borrowed costume. But it’s me wearing it!” Huw Watkins and Ryan Wigglesworth will perform the complete Gilded Goldbergs in West Road Concert Hall on Saturday 12 November at 6pm. For more information please contact Terry Wylie, tkw23@cam.ac.uk. CAM 63 31


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Supercomputers might be the unsung heroes of scientifc research, but they face an uncertain future, as Andrew Pontzen explains.

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Power house.

omewhere in central Cambridge, along a dusty corridor, hidden behind a nondescript door, Darwin is hard at work, pushing the boundaries of modern science. But this isn’t Charles reincarnated. It’s the University’s supercomputer, capable of performing tens of trillions of calculations every second. At its installation in late 2006, it was one of the 20 most powerful computers in the world. Although no longer in that league (despite a recent upgrade), it remains highly competitive and has been used in hundreds of projects in 27 departments across the University. Stuart Rankin, senior system administrator, unlocks and opens the unassuming outer door. Just beyond it, he deftly defeats an array of security measures. The Spooks theme music worms its way into my head as he shows his face to a security camera. It does the trick – the inner door is magically unlocked – and suddenly we’re standing in the heart of Darwin. I’ve been taking advantage of the facility since starting a research fellowship in October 2009. For an astrophysicist, state-of-the-art computing services are essential. Raw power is required both for analysing data (currently Darwin is playing a key role in constructing a new picture of the early universe from the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite) and, in my own work, for turning the basic equations of physics into a detailed picture of the evolution of the cosmos.

The photographs that accompany this article are taken from a series called Supercomputers, by the award-winning photographer Simon Norfolk. Norfolk, who captioned the images, is as interested in the work undertaken by these computers as the computers themselves. Left: Mapping the human genome.

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But even though I’m an intensive user of the facility, this is my first look around. For users, access is completely remote; connections are made through the internet, allowing commands to be issued and results retrieved without ever visiting in person. The hardware itself might as well be on the other side of the world. The inner sanctum clamours with computer ventilation fans: Darwin, like most modern facilities of its kind, consists of hundreds of machines, each individually similar to a desktop computer. What makes a supercomputer different is its dazzlingly fast internal network, hundreds of times faster than a top-notch broadband connection. That allows the machines to work together, performing cooperative calculations that a single machine would baulk at. The whole setup resembles a small supermarket, each aisle offering a different range of whirring technology. Rankin tells me with an excited grin that the computers in this room are drawing 1100 amps of current – consuming a quarter of a megawatt, several percent of the output of a small power station. And that figure doesn’t even count the air conditioning needed to keep the equipment cool: stepping through the facility, the temperature fluctuates from blazing hot to freezing cold. In every second aisle, cold air blows up through grills in the floor – it’s funnelled into the computers with an array of perspex baffles and, curiously, some cardboard, Sellotaped in place. “We’re not ashamed to be low-tech,” confides Rankin. “These bits of card are essential for keeping the temperatures optimal.” I made sure, of course, that Darwin would be running one of my own programs at the time I visited. Somewhere in this maze of blinking lights and droning machinery, Rankin could probably point to particular machines containing my mini-universe. But typically, tens of different programs are running simultaneously. And during my visit, part of Darwin is investigating science on a very different physical scale. The behaviour of molecules can be probed by studying how individual atoms are bound together by their electrons. The Theory of Condensed Matter Group, part of the Cavendish Laboratory, has been in this game for half a century. “It’s difficult to understand without a supercomputer because every electron in the molecule interacts with every other electron,” says Danny Cole, research associate in the group. “We need to work out how the electrons move and in turn influence the atoms themselves.” That involves a huge number of calculations. The traditional uses for this kind of work are in understanding the basic chemical and physical properties of matter. But the group has recently been able to branch into the uncharted territory of biosciences. “Until five 34 CAM 63

‘The sheer speed and low cost of graphic chips means that their potential is difficult to overestimate. But their curious heritage means they are optimised for very specific tasks. To achieve anything close to their potential requires extraordinary expert knowledge.’

years ago the number of biological applications would have been tiny. Now this new world is opening up to us, because we can start to look at systems of thousands, rather than tens, of atoms,” Cole explains. This frontier hasn’t been reached solely from improvements in computer power. The group’s researchers, working alongside colleagues from Imperial College and the University of Southampton, have been able to develop new computational methods. Previously, doubling the number of atoms in their system would require an eight-fold increase in computer power. That made it almost impossible to make meaningful inroads into problems involving large biological molecules. The group’s new work means that this kind of disastrously steep increase in required power is a thing of the past: “Our new code, called ONETEP, has been written to scale linearly, so doubling the number of atoms only requires a doubling in computer power.” That is a remarkable achievement, coming at the cost of only a marginal reduction in accuracy. Cole has been using the breakthrough to collaborate with the Cambridge Molecular Therapeutics Programme at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. Using the new code, he has been able to simulate the interaction between two key proteins responsible for repairing damaged DNA molecules. Mutations in one of these proteins have been linked to breast cancer; atom-level simulations of the underlying chemical processes are a step towards a deeper understanding of the disease. Cole is full of ideas for applications. But, having reached this holy grail of linear

scaling, it’s hard to imagine future developments in the software itself being as dramatic as those of the past few years. All that can be done now is to tweak, to extract every drop of performance from the evolving computer hardware. That will require some rethinking, because in the future the best performance is going to come from an unexpected quarter. “The future, we’re told, is the graphics chip,” observes David O’Regan, a research student with the group. “And we don’t really know how to make best use of these yet. We’re going to have to look at our algorithms from scratch.” O’Regan is referring to the elephant in the computer room. The commercial explosion of the games industry has driven development of graphics processors, ancillary chips that perform the intricate calculations required to display realistic 3D graphics. Virtually all modern computers have one. The bulk of Darwin’s computations still take place on traditional processors. But, back in the machine room, Rankin showed me racks of new computers with highperformance graphics chips installed: “All of a sudden people realised we have hardware that’s performing huge numbers of calculations per second, so we can do highperformance computing on it.” Mention this to a computational scientist and you’ll get two reactions. First, excitement; the sheer speed and relatively low cost of these chips means that their potential is difficult to overestimate. But hard on excitement’s tail comes alarm. The chips’ curious heritage means that they are optimised for very specific tasks. To achieve anything close to their potential requires extraordinary expert knowledge. It’s a technological problem, but also a sociological one: scientists are supposed to spend time pushing the boundaries of their field, not tinkering with computer codes. Tobias Brandvik (Trinity Hall 2003) isn’t afraid to tackle the problems head on. He recently completed his PhD at the Engineering Department’s Whittle Laboratory, which specialises in modelling flows – essential for designing anything industrial that interacts with air or fluids, notably jet engines and wind turbines. Along with his supervisor, Graham Pullan, Brandvik has rewritten the lab’s computer codes from the ground up to capitalise on the newfound power of graphics processors. Brandvik started his PhD by rewriting existing codes in a computer language compatible with the new chips. But, he says, “I quickly realised that it was highly repetitive. I was copying and pasting code over and again.” So his next step was radically different. “You might have 20 or 30 different operations, but they are all fundamentally very similar. So we completely rewrote the code and expressed these operations in


Above: Simulating automotive crash tests

Above: Mapping and predicting global virus outbreaks

Below: IBM BlueGene L

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a higher-level language.” Instead of explicitly telling the computer chips what to do at every stage, the new language expresses only a broad-brushed sequence of operations. The framework then inspects these operations and generates the fine-grained, step-by-step instructions required to reach an efficient solution using any given hardware. It’s a technique known as meta-programming: instead of writing a computer program, you write a program that writes your program for you. “That gives you two things,” Brandvik continues. “One is that the framework can do all sorts of complicated optimisations that you wouldn’t want to do manually. And the other is that you can run from the same code on any type of processor. The people in the lab only need to know a simple overview; they never need to worry about what goes on behind the scenes.” They’ve recently launched a spin-off company, Turbostream, to license the new framework to industry. Brandvik assures me they are quickly gathering top-name licensees, although he’s reticent about the details: clearly, much of their work is commercially sensitive. But their website, outlining collaboration with Mitsubishi and Siemens, gives some impression of the industrial impact that computational developments can bring. Back in the Darwin office, away from the roar of the machine room, Rankin is enthusiastic about the work: “They’ve been incredibly successful in making best use of our graphics chip cluster.” But, asked whether this is the future of programming – the way to overcome the sheer complexity of a modern supercomputer – he is more circumspect. “The jury’s out, frankly. These guys have made it a success. But they are solving one particular problem, so what we need to do

IBM BladeCenter JS20 Cluster Power PC 970 2.2GHz

now is foster more communication between people working in different areas to see whether other problems can be tackled in this way.” If the codes developed on Darwin have been radical, so too has its administration. In 2006, shortly before purchasing the first set of machines with money from the Higher Education Funding Council, the University decided to make its high-performance computing service a long-term self-financing enterprise. Departments wanting the best service would now have to pay for each hour used. At the time, this was a radical shift away from an ad hoc approach where researchers had free access to a modest central facility, typically supplementing this by purchasing departmental machines. Rankin joined the service shortly after the transition, and is unapologetically supportive of the new funding system. “We’re trying to persuade people to do away with their ‘broom-cupboard’ clusters, sitting in the corners of labs. It’s actually much more costeffective for them to buy services from us. But sometimes that’s not obvious because the running costs of a departmental machine are hidden away in electricity bills and the time of the PhD student who ends up maintaining it.” The University’s strategy mirrors the commercial world’s move into cloud computing. Companies can now opt to rent their servers from large facilities instead of buying them outright. As with Darwin, the hirers need never see the hardware at all. Amazon, the internet retailing company, is now also the leading worldwide seller of computer time – although it is beginning to face stiff competition from Microsoft and IBM. The setups offered by these enterprises are typically aimed at business use – web servers,

databases and the like – rather than science and industry, but the parallels are clear. “We do model ourselves as a private cloud,” says Rankin. Accordingly, Darwin now has a range of users from external industries. Cambridge spin-offs like Pullan and Brandvik’s Turbostream can not only offer software and expertise, but also resell time on the Darwin cluster itself. “We can’t be shy about seeking additional sources of work and funds from outside the University sphere,” explains Rankin. But since July 2010, Amazon has been quietly targeting the scientific corner of the market. Does Rankin worry that Darwin, exposed to market forces, could be outcompeted? “Not really. We’re specialists; we know how to get the computing environment right for science users.” He later adds that, by running its own private cloud, the University avoids worrisome legal issues over responsibility for and ownership of stored information – and circumvents the need for slow, expensive, long-distance data transfers. Rankin is optimistic, but as I walk away from the service’s new offices, I’m left wondering. The technical and commercial face of supercomputing is changing rapidly. Will in-house, dedicated facilities be able to compete with cheap commercial services, or will they start to look like the broomcupboard clusters of their age? Will scientists even be able to find ways of harnessing the theoretical power of increasingly complex machines? The changes of recent years may be the start of a much larger revolution.

Modelling physics inside an exploding nuclear warhead

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Review

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University Matters Stephen Jolly Director of External Affairs and Communications

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Summer reading CAM asks a star panel of alumni and academics for their summer reading recommendations

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Music Emma Johnson, clarinettist

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Sport Cambridge University Croquet Club

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Prize crossword What’s the Word? by Schadenfreude

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University Matters We are all marketeers now Stephen Jolly Director of External Affairs and Communications Patrick Morgan

Our External Affairs and Communications team exists to support Cambridge in achieving its mission of contributing “to society through the pursuit of education, learning, and research at the highest international levels of excellence”. However, we do so in an environment that has never been more challenging. Wall-to-wall instantaneous global media means we all share responsibility for Cambridge’s reputation – whether we be alumni, students, faculty, or staff. In reality, whether we like it or not, we’re all marketeers now. A good example is the University’s 800th Anniversary celebrations. We achieved many things – global media exposure for Cambridge research, a reaffirmation of our historic collegiate mission, a grassroots flowering of new initiatives in the arts, humanities, social sciences, science and technology, a rekindled warmth in relations between town and gown. Yet the External Affairs and Communications team that emerged at the end of the Anniversary celebrations in 2010 was radically different from the team that began preparations back in 2008. And the key difference was technology. For the staff who work day in, day out to manage the reputation of Cambridge, help promote its research and help foster its engagements with the many communities it serves, a paradigm shift took place during this period. This is best exemplified by our flagship film series, Cambridge Ideas. This series, designed to bring cutting-edge Cambridge research to global audiences – whether it be emoting computers, corvid cognition or the mechanics of insect locomotion – proved a catalyst. With more than a million viewers since its inception, it was clear that Cambridge Ideas had broken the mould. It inspired us to take the lead among British universities in the new media space. It led us to re-skill and re-equip and ultimately, re-structure our entire communications operation. Cambridge led the way on key platforms – iTunesU, YouTube EDU. It used these platforms to disintermediate traditional media outlets and appeal directly to viewers and listeners worldwide through its increased production of multimedia features as well as news. Such an approach is vital if we want to

‘In this noisy, restless world of dialogue, texts and tweets, Cambridge has to run hard to stay out in front’

represent the full scope of the contribution Cambridge makes to society through its research. Beyond the published research findings that can easily be turned into a press release, new media and the direct-to-audience model of delivery has allowed us to represent the University’s achievements as a centre for experimentation, discussion and debate – as a global hub not just for knowledge, but for ideas. In the past 12 months, we also moved swiftly to exploit social media, especially

social bookmarking sites such as Reddit, and bring our content to mobile users with a new Cambridge phone app. At the same time, we began the process of updating and overhauling our brand management systems and the trademarking and licensing of our brand to ensure that the strength of Cambridge is presented and seen in a consistent way across the globe. Today, Cambridge’s new media offering is the most viewed outside the United States. If we were an American university, we would be ranked eighth in the number of views and hits we receive online. And we’re determined to close that gap and move into the top three within the coming year. To that end, in April this year, we relaunched the research pages on www.cam.ac.uk/research. Our new research gateway is designed to allow the user maximum flexibility in the way he or she can explore the research undertaken by our academics. It interacts with the user by introducing new or associated content on an intuitive basis, encouraging engagement and commentary and seeks to increase the general “stickiness” of our web pages. In the past month alone, this has led to a year-on-year uplift of almost 90 per cent in the number of visitors to these pages. More than 100,000 at the last count. The principal lesson of new media is that the old command and control structure of institutional communications no longer holds. Audiences want a relationship based on trust and seek expression on equal terms. Authority and deference just won’t wash. In this noisy, restless world of dialogue, texts and tweets, Cambridge has to run hard to stay out in front, to differentiate itself from clamorous competitors and deliver its mission.

Stephen Jolly is the University’s Director of External Affairs and Communications. He is a Fellow of the Judge Business School and of Clare College.

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“My word Professor, I’ve never seen such a large one!”

Books Summer reading What will you be packing in your suitcase (or downloading onto your e-reader) this summer? CAM gathers recommendations from our star panel of alumni and academics Words Carrie Dunn Illustrations Paul Slater

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David Baddiel (King’s 1982), comedian and novelist I’ve just finished The Pale King, David Foster Wallace’s posthumously collated novel. It’s possibly the most difficult book I’ve ever read, because it’s about boredom. It’s set in an IRS office in 1985, and much of it deals with the minutiae of tax returns – and Foster Wallace decides to make the book mimetic of that. Basically much of it is incredibly boring. And yet ... it’s kind of brilliant. It would almost certainly have been more brilliant, and less kind of so, if he had lived to write a few more drafts. I’m planning now to read The Afterparty by Leo Benedictus, which just sounds like a laugh from the reviews, and

Meg Wolitzer’s new book, The Uncoupling. Wolitzer is a fave of mine, a writer in the Anne Tyler or Carol Shields mould, but funnier.

Professor Nicholas Cook 1684 Professor of Music My daughter gave me Tom Boellstorff’s Coming of Age in Second Life; this wasn’t a complete surprise as she is doing an MSc in Digital Anthropology at UCL, and I had previously done a small project on classical music in Second Life. But Boellstorff’s book is a serious ethnographical study, the polemical point of which is that ethnographies of virtual worlds have to be done in-world, rather than by

‘Basically much of it is incredibly boring. And yet... it’s kind of brilliant.’


talking to their real-world designers, investors and consumers, and it got me thinking about the extent to which music is itself a virtual world. In music you play your part, but we don’t usually think of it in terms of role play, which lies at the heart of Second Life. Both Second Life and music are artificial contexts in which social and cultural realities are reconfigured in unforeseen ways. They are both places for trying out new constructions of yourself and of what in real life would be impossible or transgressive relationships. Though the word music never appears in it, Coming of Age in Second Life showed me how music has involved role play, non-human agency, and performative constructions of the self all along. The best books to read on holiday are the ones that make your work look a little different when you get back to it. Nicholas Cook’s book The Schenker Project: Culture, Race, and Music Theory in Fin-de-siècle Vienna (OUP) has won the 2010 Wallace Berry Award of the Society for Music Theory.

Mike Atherton (Downing 1986), broadcaster, journalist and former England cricketer I’ve recently read David Remnick’s The Bridge, a wide-ranging and in some ways mythshattering look at the rise of Barack Obama. I’d also recommend Michael Lewis’s The Big Short, which takes a look at the financial crisis from the perspective of those financiers who actually saw the carnage coming and made a packet out of it.

Miriam Margolyes (Newnham 1960), actor

I’m reading The Hare with Amber Eyes, by Edmund de Waal, and I think it’s wonderful. I’m always very interested in anything to do with the past, especially the Jewish past, and this is a well-written and fascinating story. I’m also reading Chaucer by GK Chesterton – it’s an old book, but I love Chesterton, who’s one of the best writers on my favourite author Charles Dickens. I’ve not really read Chaucer since university and thought I’d like to know a little bit more about him. When I’ve finished these two, I think I’ll probably go back and read Great Expectations yet again!

Not sure I would have bought it but couldn’t put it down. Strange, haunting and impossible to fully understand, it has stayed with me.

Professor David Abulafia FBA Professor of Mediterranean History I’ll be spending some time in the summer heat of the Mediterranean, and hope that a novel from the far north will have a cooling effect: Sofi Oksanen’s Purge is about the horrors of life in Estonia between 1939 and 1992 under first Nazi and then Soviet rule. I avoid history on holiday so I have space and time for popular science, in the form of Sean Carroll’s From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time. Having been asked at the age of 13, “At this school, will you want to do Greek or will you want to do science?” I have much catching up to do. If I do read a history book it will be Felipe Fernandez-Armesto’s 1492: The Year Our World Began, in which, with his customary brio, he compares what was happening on opposite, often disconnected, sides of the planet in that fateful year. The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean by David Abulafia is published by Penguin (£30)

Alastair Campbell (Caius 1974), writer and political strategist I did languages at Cambridge and still read a fair few French books among the English. One I read recently which I loved was Une forme de vie by Amélie Nothomb – it is the story of a novelist (Amélie) corresponding with an American soldier based in Iraq (or so it would seem). Last week I read Ian McEwan’s Solar which I thoroughly enjoyed, not least because it was not what I had expected. Because all the prepublicity was about global warming as the backdrop I did not expect it to be such a human story. It was not totally McEwanish!

Clare Balding (Newnham 1990), TV presenter and sports journalist I recently read One Day by David Nicholls and loved it – very evocative of my time at university and an easy, yet not simple read. Very funny in parts, desperately sad in others, it is rightly being lauded all over the world. I also read The Horse Dancer by Jojo Moyes, who sent it to me as she thought I would enjoy it. It’s beautifully written and very carefully observed. I’m now about to start her latest book, The Last Letter from Your Lover. I enjoyed Room by Emma Donoghue, written from a child’s perspective and reminiscent of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. I ran out of books on holiday recently and went to the hotel library where I picked up The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

Olivia Colman (Homerton 1993), actor I’ve been having a bit of a reading dry spell, but I’ve just started reading The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas; I’m about a fifth of the way through and enjoying it. Before I go on holiday I go into our lovely local bookshop and ask for recommendations from the owner, who’s read everything, and she suggested this one. A friend bought me Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, and that’s next on the pile – that looks like a good weepie. I make sure I read different books when I’m filming – nothing emotionally involving, usually something by someone like Penny Vincenzi, and I do wish I could hide the cover with something like War and Peace.

Simon Sebag Montefiore (Caius 1984), writer David Abulafia’s book The Great Sea is a vibrant and compelling history of the Mediterranean and humanity from the Trojan Wars to the beaches of Ibiza in the 21st century. It’s a scholarly, accessible and exciting tour de force. I’d also recommend Rivers of Gold and The Golden Age: The Spanish Empire of Charles V by Hugh Thomas, the first two of a trilogy on the Spanish Empire – absolutely gripping and fascinating, bringing to life the kings and queens of Spain, Emperor Charles V, and the adventures of the Conquistadors as they create an empire. Jerusalem: The Biography is published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson (£25)

Emily Maitlis (Queens’ 1989), newsreader I just finished Solar by Ian McEwan, which I absolutely adored – not epic or tragic like Atonement but brilliantly drawn characters that just made me weep with lip-biting laughter. McEwan is one of the few writers of whom I read everything, and he always makes it worthwhile. It’s highly different to his previous works – maybe a little bit of Saturday in the quiet explanations of daily routine going wrong – but unique. I also loved One Day by David Nicholls, a brilliant summer read. Very rarely do I read dialogue that is meant to be funny without wincing a little, but Nicholls pulls off the letterwriting exchanges so well, and the rise and fall from grace of two intertwined lives. I am now reading a brilliant business book – The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick – about how the whole project took off, ahead of a documentary I’m making on them and with them at the start of summer.

Professor Simon Goldhill

‘The book is as funny as Jane Austen but with much more sexiness: a book you will want to read out loud to your partner’

Professor in Greek Literature and Culture This year I have been teaching a Part II course called Prostitutes and Saints, and one of the great discoveries for me was Harriette Wilson’s memoirs, The Game of Hearts. Wilson was a Regency courtesan, and when she ran out of money she wrote to various clients asking for £50 not to publish their names. Wellington’s response became a proverb: “Publish and be damned.” He is utterly skewered in the memoirs. The book is as funny as Jane Austen, but with much more sexiness. A wonderful and

CAM 63 41


‘He may be writing about interesting stuff, but I find his journalistic whizz-bang style intensely irritating.’

enlightening read that will enliven any beach or holiday cottage: a book you will want to read aloud to your partner. By contrast, another book I revelled in this year was Mrs Humphry Ward’s Robert Elsmere, one of the greatest bestsellers of the later Victorian world, about a vicar who loses his faith. Mrs Humphry Ward became a figure of fun for Virginia Woolf and other trendies and is deeply unfashionable still: but this is a powerful and gripping novel of ideas for those who want the 19th century before it has had the BBC treatment. Freud’s Couch, Scott’s Buttocks, Brontë’s Grave is published by Chicago University Press in September.

constantly tugged into complete empathy with all the characters and surfed along on a prose and dialogue style that flows smoothly despite the undoubted literary hinterland of the author. As a bit of light relief, I am just starting on Star Island by Florida journalist Carl Hiaasen. This focuses on the trials and traumas of Ann DeLusia, a double for wild pop diva Cherry Pye – a lassie much given to booze, drugs and bonking. As somebody who has written and commentated on volatile businessmen like darts players for nigh on 40 years, I can’t wait to see how the sarcastic pen of Hiaasen paints the grotesque excesses of the Miami showbiz crowd and their passion for the vida loca. But I’m sure that our author, just like Franzen, will also give the good guys and gals every red cent of their due.

Sid Waddell

CAMCard holders receive a 10% discount on all book purchases at Heffers in Trinity Street, Cambridge and online at www.alumni.cam.uk/benefits/camcard

(St John’s 1959), sports commentator I’ve just finished The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. The book follows a stressed-out American family, the Lamberts, as they try to balance out their hopes and obligations to each other. The action and characterisation are mainly as vividly realistic as Balzac or Dickens could have made them, and Franzen handles the inner lives of his characters with genius, only straying to caricature when the naive Chip mixes with super heavies in designer suits toting Uzi machine guns. I was

Dame Athene Donald Professor of Experimental Physics I’m currently reading Londa Schiebinger’s The Mind Has No Sex? Women in the Origins of Modern Science – interesting and puts things in a broad context. I’m also reading Joel Garreau’s Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies – and What It Means To Be Human. He may be writing about interesting stuff, but I find his journalistic whizz-bang style intensely irritating.

“ I definitely said a reading holiday”

CAM 63 43


Emma Johnson: a CD shortlist Mozart Clarinet Quintet and Concerto ASV GLD 4001 Finzi/Stanford Clarinet Concertos ASV CDDCA 787 Copland/Bernstein Clarinet Sonatas Naxos 8.572240

Music Emma Johnson

CAMCard holders receive a 10% discount on all CD purchases at Heffers Sound in Trinity Street, Cambridge.

Words Richard Wigmore o what’s a woman doing playing the clarinet?” was a French radio presenter’s opening salvo in a recent interview with Emma Johnson (Pembroke 1985). Even in these days of musical egalitarianism, stereotypes and preconceptions still linger. At school, girls are far more likely to take up the flute than the clarinet. Clarinettists in professional orchestras are overwhelmingly male. As to solo female clarinettists, most music lovers will alight on Emma Johnson and the German Sabine Meyer – and then flounder. What initially drew Emma Johnson to this supposedly unfeminine instrument was its unique versatility. “As a small child I was already mad on the recorder. Then when I was offered the chance to learn the clarinet at the age of nine, I leapt at it: the clarinet had this huge range, it felt like singing when you played it and, unlike the oboe, which my sister learnt, it could play jazz – that was cool.” For most of her teens Johnson gave no serious thought to playing the clarinet for a living. She even dabbled with the viola after people muttered that she would never get work with the clarinet. Then, in 1984, aged 17, she won the BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition, and appeared on a Val Doonican Christmas Special alongside John Dankworth. Even with a career virtually assured, she opted to read English, rather than Music, at Pembroke, partly as a safety net. “I wanted to explore ways of using the clarinet as a solo instrument rather than play in an orchestra, as clarinettists traditionally do. And I was never confident that it would last more than a few years. With an English degree I thought I might end up as a journalist.” She didn’t. By her second year Johnson was finding it impossible to juggle concert engagements and the vast amount of reading demanded by the English Tripos. Grappling with Beowulf backstage at the Albert Hall, she decided to switch to Music for her final year and never regretted it. “Part of the Music syllabus was composition, and the background I gained studying composition has given me the confidence to arrange pieces for orchestra, compose short pieces of my own, and write my own cadenzas. “At the risk of sounding glib, there really was, and is, nowhere like Cambridge for music. You could have a go at anything you

Tim Kavanagh, Universal

S

‘You can see why it happened, why people wanted a different way of writing music. But I appreciate 12-tone music far more now that it’s not being presented as the only way’

wanted. I’d think, ‘I fancy conducting Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony’, and cycle round to friends, leaving messages on doors if they were out – no mobiles in those days to make things easy. At Cambridge I first played Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto without a conductor. And we could programme crazy things like Varèse’s Octandre, which I remember going down spectacularly badly at a Pembroke summer concert!” Johnson’s prime inspirations, then and now, have tended to be singers rather than instrumentalists, above all the German baritone

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Not long after leaving Cambridge she heard FischerDieskau’s final London recital. “It was an allSchumann programme, and intensely moving. I thought, yes, that’s how I want to give concerts. He coloured every phrase, and the audience was totally enthralled: you believed in his interpretation every second of the way. Some musicians feel it’s enough to follow the structure, and don’t put anything of themselves into the performance. But if you don’t experience the emotional truth of a work, the audience won’t either.” Throughout her career, Johnson has balanced renewal of the core clarinet repertoire with enthusiastic promotion of offbeat and contemporary works. Her next two CDs are of the Brahms clarinet sonatas (late Brahms for Johnson doesn’t automatically mean autumnal and elegiac) and jazz concertos written for her by Dankworth and Will Todd. Michael Berkeley has also composed a concerto for her; and she likes to programme a piece by former Cambridge professor Alexander Goehr that sports by far the longest name in the clarinet catalogue: A Paraphrase on the Dramatic Madrigal ‘Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda’ by Monteverdi. “It’s full of multisonics and other 1970s stuff. I enjoy it, but I’ve never subscribed to the view that this kind of music is the way forward. These days the musical scene is far more pluralistic than it was in the 1970s and 1980s – and I appreciate 12-tone music far more now that it’s not being presented as the only way. You can see why it happened, why people wanted a totally different way of writing music. But I have to be careful to ration this kind of music, so as not to lose my audience. Immediate communication with people, using the range of colours and styles available to the solo clarinet, is what’s important for me. I like to feel I’m useful to society, taking people out of themselves, perhaps even making their lives better.”

Johnson’s recording of the Brahms Clarinet Sonatas, with pianist John Lenehan, is released by Nimbus in September.

CAM 63 45


Charlie Troman

Sport Croquet RobThorman and Tony Williams Interview Becky Allen “

I

t’s a gentle sport that combines strategy and physical skill,” the club’s website says. “Nevertheless be under no illusions – at the higher reaches of the sport it can be mentally exhausting and psychologically brutal.” The sport is croquet and the mental exhaustion isn’t a euphemism for the aftereffects of too much Pimm’s and too much sun, although for many students they might be part of the sport’s attraction. Rob Thorman and Tony Williams joined the University Croquet Club in search of respite from revision. “When we started last year it was quite light-hearted, a fun thing to do in the exam term,” Tony says, “but gradually we’ve started to take it more seriously. “Croquet is accessible because beginners

can play simpler versions of the rules, but Association Croquet – which is what we play competitively – is a very hard game to master. “It’s like pool and snooker. Pool is very accessible and is something anyone can play. Snooker uses the same basic mechanisms but is a much harder, more strategic game so it’s an apt analogy for how Association Croquet relates to the game you play with the family over a jug of Pimm’s in the back garden,” Tony explains. What makes a good croquet player is a strategic brain and physical precision, says Rob: “Unlike other sports you don’t need to put the hours in at the gym. In croquet you can be competitive without having to commit your whole life to it, but you need to be good

at both the strategy and long-distance hitting.” Rob and Tony, who are both reading Classics, think croquet’s strategic side attracts a certain kind of student. “A lot of croquet players at Cambridge are scientists or mathematicians – the strategy of the game definitely appeals to that kind of mind – so we are quite unusual in that respect,” says Tony. Having started playing croquet for a bit of fun, a year on the pair are in charge of the Croquet Club and determined to help grow the sport at Cambridge. Last year’s croquet Cuppers – the intercollegiate competition – attracted 160 players from 40 college teams, and Rob and Tony want to build on 2010’s success. “Joel Taylor, last year’s president, was extremely proactive in promoting the Croquet Club. He found it in a state of complete disrepair and last year put a huge effort into publicising it,” says Rob. “He was really good at encouraging people who’d never played before to come and have a bit of a knock about, as well as taking on people who wanted to play more seriously.” By giving people a taste of playing croquet by the advanced rules, Cuppers is an important way of cultivating grassroots croquet and improving Cambridge’s chances in the Varsity Match. “If we had more established grassroots in the University, and can foster Cuppers, perhaps in a few years we’ll be able to get on terms with Oxford,” says Rob. Held at the Hurlingham Club in London each June, the Varsity Match has been a rather one-sided affair in recent years, Oxford winning every match since 2003. “We get hammered,” Rob says. “We got a record result last year – losing 7–2 instead of the usual 9–0. That’s the best Cambridge has done for a while. But Oxford has proper courts, whereas we just have to find the flattest bit of lawn.” “We use College lawns – scholars’ or fellows’ gardens – which have well-kept grass but we don’t have any dedicated facilities unlike Oxford, which has two croquet courts. It’s a bigger sport there and a more established set-up,” says Tony. Whatever the Cambridge croquet team achieves this year at the Hurlingham Club, Rob and Tony hope they can encourage more students to put down their books and take up a mallet for a couple of hours. “Croquet’s played during the Easter term, when everyone’s really busy with revision, so it provides some light-hearted relief and an hour or two in the sun,” says Tony. It’s an opportunity not to be missed, says Rob: “This is the only place you’ll have these grand buildings and these flat lawns and people who are inclined to go out in the sunshine and play a bit of croquet. It’s a nice thing to do with your time here.” www.srcf.ucam.org/croquet

CAM 63 47


Two consecutive letters must be removed from each clue before solving, always leaving real words.In clue order the removed letters spell out the defining part of a quotation followed by a jumble of its originator. The word which it defines appears in the full quotation and can be traced out in the completed grid using knight’s moves. Solvers must highlight the squares visited by the knight.Each of the entries at 1, 20 and 33 across is a clue of identical construction (without a definition) to the required word. Chambers (2008) is recommended.

CAM 63 Prize Crossword

What’s the Word? by Schadenfreude

ACROSS 9 12 13 14

17

18 24

Solutions and winners will be printed in CAM 64 and posted online at www.alumni.cam.ac.uk/news/cam on 12 September 2011.

27

29

30 31

The first correct entrant drawn will win a copy of Ian Sheldon’s Cambridge Footsteps: A Passage Through Time (CUP, £15) and £35 to spend on Cambridge University Press publications. There are two runners-up prizes of £35 to spend on Cambridge University Press publications. Send completed crosswords to: CAM 63 Prize Crossword, CARO , 1 Quayside, Bridge Street, Cambridge CB5 8AB. Please include your contact details. You can also enter the crossword online at: www.alumni.cam.ac.uk/news/cam Please email your completed puzzles to: cameditor@alumni.cam.ac.uk Entries to be received by Monday 5 September 2011.

48 CAM 63

32

To teach again here director keeps reading (7) Stop a casino working with Willis, banning women (10) Welsh hotel by a mere—in what condition? (5) Chinese doctor mean on the outside provides little grain (7) Who’s storing Cambodian sugar in these small rooms? (6) Distracted Dutch in the wake of pedalo here at sea (6) A bias in grade is a small curiosity for Walter (6) A squirrel perhaps heading for oaks by river in New Forest (6) Marine deposit oddly seen unscorched in bygone days (7, 2 words) One who hacks poet’s shaded stake, conserving energy (5) Omani saving time left to form an opinion of sable etc (10) Contracts horrify Tim abandoning market (7).

Solution and notes to CAM 62 crossword Cracking Titles by Loda

DOWN 1

Source of water deserted by untrained Spahi (8)

2

Engineers sing about hydrogen power and embark again (6) Moera in ancient hunt turned closer (6) Formerly reserve the French meals for Morag (5) No charge in flying across a city in America (9) Cry of a bird, late, next to northern meadow (7) Rerun by nobleman with unknown past in good time (6) Stay up late, not at university (4) Grass fine in Menin before harvest (6) Idiot starting to dance in derelict wing? True, tango to follow (8) Raft lit up with haloes launches once more (8) Austrian wright shackled by unending spousage developed a stripping aid (9, 2 words) Sick roman is edgy missing a cell (8) Profligate envied by Jack late in development (7) Reformation of a least lusty exotic Arthurian lover (6) Stinker catches up with champion (6) Marriage bed gen given to a husband (6) A cover once coupled with anterior folds (6) Forgotten Beatle with trendy tenor (5) Wait! I see a boat (4).

3 4 5 6 7

8 10 11

15 16

19 21 22 23 25 26 28 29

Winner: Andrew Taylor (Emmanuel 1972) Runners-up: James Newell (Sidney Sussex 1977) and Jack Nichols (Jesus 2001) lnitial letters from clues containing extra words should be arranged to form ENIGMA. Letter from extra words and their decoding are: 2D (E=5) WIMPS back 5 becomes R H N 33A (N=14) CHOICE bac k l4 becomes O A O 19A (l = 9) SEISM forward 9 becomes B R V 31A (G=7) LOYAL back 7 becomes E R E 17D (M=13) ENVOY back or forward l3 becomes R I L l2A (A=1) SORER forward 1 becomes T S S Robert Harris novels constituting the perimeter are: lmperium; (The) Ghost Lustrum; Fatherland; Archangel; Pompeii.


CAM 63  

Cambridge Alumni Magazine 63

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