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Issue 31 Autumn/Winter 2011



‘YOU DO NOT KNOW THE FACTS OF LIFE’ A fresher’s memoir of 1952 St Mary’s

Durham First – the magazine for alumni and friends of Durham University



a mystery to a very great degree,’ he says of his voice. ‘It comes from a combination of sinuses and cavities and everything else about the way the body’s made up. The fact of being tall is no disadvantage, as was being reasonably athletic, at one stage in my life at least. They were all assets that one could call upon towards creating a singing life.’ He calls it a natural voice, one that has not had to be manufactured nor needs to be constantly kept in shape, and there are recordings from his youth in which it is recognisably the same. Perhaps this is why it does not seem to be a contrivance that exists outside himself but one that emerges from deep within; perhaps this accounts for its emotional power. Thomas Boaz Allen was born at Seaham Harbour in County Durham in 1944, a child of what he has called these ‘tight-knit, unbeautiful communities’. Inspired by his father’s love of music, he learned first the piano and then graduated on to the church organ.

‘I was passionate about the organ, the power of the thing,’ he says. ‘I used to practise it like mad. It was like the Phantom of the Opera, the man sitting at this machine, creating this amazing sound.’ The way he tells it there is a sense that the power the instrument generated could hold its own among the heavy industries of the North East, that it could compete with the pitheads, steelworks and shipyards whose presence inspired the other boys at the grammar school in Ryhope. Yet he dismisses as ‘too poetic’ the notion that his voice eventually usurped the power and place of the organ. He knew himself that he would never make it as an organist, but the potential of his voice was recognised early on by his physics teacher, Dennis Weatherley, who taught him singing in the lunch hour, and then by Durham’s Professor Arthur Hutchings, who, in one of the seminal moments of Sir Thomas’s life, was the first person to recognise his talent beyond his school and community. He was 18, in the last year of

grammar school and dressed in the maroon and gold of his prefect’s uniform, when he took the bus into Durham and walked up to the Music Department on Palace Green. The meeting had been arranged by his headmaster in order to find out what to do with him, as ‘he had never before encountered a problem such as myself’. He chose to sing some of The Messiah and Schumann’s The Two Grenadiers, and it was Professor Hutchings who then arranged his interview at the Royal College of Music. ‘I was on my way,’ Sir Thomas says of this moment. It was at the Royal College that he discovered the emotional and artistic confidence to go with the power of his voice, and, although he had never contemplated becoming an opera singer (he imagined he would be a recitalist), his tutor joined the Welsh National Opera, took Sir Thomas with him and the parts began to come to him. A residency at the Royal Opera House followed and by his mid-thirties he was a freelance soloist in demand around the world.

The New Chancellor Get to know Mozart’s own Don Juan Sir Thomas Allen has presence. He is a big man, six foot one, barrelchested, powerful. He is huge in the world of opera. Hailed on his debut as ‘surely the best British lyric baritone singing in opera since the war’, he has dominated opera houses and concert halls all over the world. And the voice is as extraordinary as you would imagine. It is a resonant and compelling mix of patrician power, the rich Italian cadences of librettos and the County Durham accent of his boyhood.


‘What is funny is that it is amazing that no The roles that have defined his career include Billy Budd, Pelléas, Eugene Onegin, matter how deeply involved some people are in production for opera houses or in Ulisse and Beckmesser, but it is perhaps as theatre, they still sometimes forget that the seductive, enigmatic, murderous Don the character you are portraying is not who Giovanni – Mozart’s own Don Juan – that you are. People often said about me that he found his signature role. I wasn’t like Don Giovanni. Of course I ‘You have to dig deep, deep, deep inside wasn’t. He was a monster that I plucked you for all the resources that you have to out of the universe.’ play this role,’ he says. ‘You have to find out And in person he is not the least monstrous, what you have in there and then drag it out but charming, personable and, above all, and display it and just be as unpredictable, approachable. For a big man, he does not as dangerous, as fascinating and as hide his big emotions, and he could not interesting as possible. be more proud of being made Chancellor of Durham University.

‘There have been some major things in my life over the last 40 years,’ he says. ‘It’s a journey that leads from the coast of County Durham to one opera house or another, to a small company, a bigger company, to an international company, to several international companies, and along the way I have had honours of one sort of another, but this has overwhelmed me. Since learning I was to be Chancellor, it is extraordinary the pictures that have been running through my mind, remembering the visits we made to Durham as a family, rowing on the river and staring up at the Cathedral, trying not to go over the weir. Becoming Chancellor may be the most thrilling thing I have ever experienced. And one of the beauties of this is that I don’t know what’s involved. Every day is going to be a lovely surprise for me.’


Vice-Chancellor’s Questions Q:Why has the University chosen Sir Thomas Allen as the new Chancellor? A: Most of us thought it would be impossible to fill Bill Bryson’s remarkable shoes – his personal commitment and Chancellorship have been inspirational for all of us who have had the good fortune to meet or work with him, and his performance has been watched in awe by many other universities. His successor, Sir Thomas Allen, follows in the same Durham tradition of internationally renowned cultural figures – a true successor to Dame Margot Fonteyn, Sir Peter Ustinov and Bill himself. Durham is his spiritual home – he was brought up in the local mining community of Seaham Harbour and it was a Professor of Music at the University who recognised his early talent and set him on his way to the Royal College of Music in London. He has returned to Durham many times during his extraordinary career, most recently to give a recital to celebrate our 175th anniversary, and he is Vice-President of Durham University Choral Society. Beyond this, Sir Thomas has the kind of presence one might expect from someone who has held audiences

spellbound in the major opera houses of the world, while at the same time he is also one of the warmest people one could hope to meet. The University could have no more fitting a Chancellor. Q:Do you see the role of alumni changing with the introduction of the new tuition fees? A: Yes and no. Durham has always had the most loyal alumni, who have supported the University, its colleges and students in all sorts of ways. And we have always aimed to provide a distinctive and rounded education for the most able students of greatest potential, whatever their background. This however is becoming harder and harder with the loss of government funding. (Not many realise that as little as one per cent of our teaching income in 2014 will come from the UK Government.) In order for Durham to continue the educational traditions from which we have all benefited in our careers and lives (I too am an alumnus – BSc Botany, Grey, 1973-76), it will be increasingly important for alumni to give back in whatever ways they can so that

We are calling this issue the ‘Alumni Edition’ because in the end it is your view of the University that matters. If our alumni are not our advocates and ambassadors, then no one else will be. And this is why it is with you that we are first raising the question you will have seen on the cover: Can Durham be a brand?

From the Editor Welcoming a new Chancellor is a once in a decade event so we are thrilled to bring you the first feature-length interview with Sir Thomas Allen, Durham’s new Chancellor. Which is just how it should be. As an alumnus or alumna of the University, you are the most important constituency we have, one of the ultimate owners of the University’s identity so it is only right that you should be the first to hear Sir Tom’s Durham story.

It’s a provocative question I know, but we are fortunate to be able to ask it of alumnus Robert Senior, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi and Fallon. And it is one we are going to have to explore over the next few years as the higher education sector becomes more competitive, both nationally and internationally. Our alumni community is central to this discussion and we hope the article creates a lively debate on our Facebook or LinkedIn pages (or you can email me your views at the address below).

future students can benefit in the same ways as we have. It could be helping to provide those ‘extras’ of college life, or offering mentorship and guidance, or serving on development boards, or making contacts and helping us raise funds for scholarships and bursaries, or even making a legacy gift. The help alumni give to maintain and develop their alma mater and its future generations of students is only going to become more and more essential. Q:Now Durham is officially third in the UK’s Sunday Times league table, what’s next for the University? A: Second and then first, of course! Seriously though, as a small university with its heart in a small and beautiful city, it is actually rather difficult for us to compete with some of the behemoths of UK and world education. What we must do is simply maintain our special, arguably unique, nature – the Durham Difference – and continue to strive for excellence in everything we do. Professor Chris Higgins Vice-Chancellor and Warden

We explore the University’s identity in other ways too, with evocative stories from our past and potential highlights of our future. In particular, I hope you will enjoy the photostory about Ushaw College. It is a parallel symbol of the University itself: an ancient, scholarly, religious community, with its cultural and physical expression in the form of its library, manuscript collections, treasures and architecture, captured just at the moment it is given a significant new intellectual purpose, one that emerges organically from its rich inheritance. Just like Durham itself. I hope you enjoy the provocative, evocative Alumni Edition of Durham First.

Astrid Alvarez – Editor

New Leadership Roles in the Development and Alumni Relations Office Tim McInnis has taken on a new leadership role focusing exclusively on principal gifts. He will be working with the Vice-Chancellor and other University champions to secure individual gifts of at least £1m that will transform Durham’s academic capacity and global reputation.

Tim’s new title is Director, Office for Principal Gifts. In Tim’s three year tenure as Director of Development and Alumni Relations (DARO) Durham’s philanthropic funding increased by 65 per cent. Tim has handed over the reins of DARO to Interim Director Laura

Cantopher from the philanthropic consultancy GG+A (Grenzebach Glier and Associates). Laura has previously served as Head of Campaign Management at King’s College London and has held roles at Royal Holloway and the Wellesley College Alumnae Association in the USA.











02 The new Chancellor

14 Bill’s Best Bits

04 VCQs

Sir Thomas Allen

Highlights from Bill Bryson’s Congregation speeches 2005-11

Questions to the Vice-Chancellor

16 A fresher’s memoir of 1952 St Mary’s

Welcome to the Alumni Edition of Durham First

06 Can Durham be a brand? Insights from Robert Senior, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi

08 Nick Mohammed

By Elizabeth Boyd

18 Mr Cameron, take note

10 What are the colleges for?

Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, the doyenne of volunteering

Glorified halls of residence or something more?

An alumna in East Jerusalem

24 Research Durham Durham research headlining the news

A profile of the up-and-coming comedian

11 First Person

04 From the Editor

25 Experience Durham Student achievement in sport, music and the arts

20 The new life of the House of Ushaw

26 News in Brief

The seminary on the hill

Back Cover – Alumni Events Calendar

Alumni and University news

12 When will the dam burst? Preventing disaster in the Himalayas

EDITOR Astrid Alvarez Alumni Relations Manager MANAGING EDITOR David Williams DEPUTY EDITOR Victoria Ridley Alumni Relations Officer


IMAGES Sussie Ahlburg (Sir Thomas Allen – cover) Andrew Heptinstall (Robert Senior, Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, Sir Thomas Allen – inside front cover) Simon Veit-Wilson (Dave Petley) Vanessa Whyte (Nick Mohammed) Alex Ramsey (Ushaw College) CARTOON Rosie Brooks

DESIGN Crombie PRINT Elanders CONTACT US Alumni enquiries/Letters to the Editor Alumni Relations Team Durham University, University Office Old Elvet, Durham DH1 3HP T: +44 (0) 191 334 6305 F: +44 (0) 191 334 6073 E: W: © Durham University 2011

Opinions expressed are those of individual writers. Requests for reproducing material should be made to the Alumni Relations Office, where permission will usually be given.


Can Durham be a brand? Robert Senior doesn’t even pretend to give this question any thought. ‘Like it or not, Durham University is a brand; almost everything is a brand,’ he says.

‘We live in a world of brands: politicians are brands, football clubs are brands. And brands are not created by the originators; they are created by people talking to other people. That is just the reality of the world we live in, so there is very little point in denial. If I were to throw the names of three universities at you, you would have a view of them, based on osmosis. Rather than avoid this reality and hang on for dear life to yesterday, go with that force, be clear what the brand is, and, without falling victim to marketing mumbo-jumbo, work with the positive forces of the brand. This does not demand an advertising campaign, it just demands a sense of self and a clarity of purpose. Otherwise your audience won’t know who you are and you will get beaten by lesser institutions.’ Robert Senior (BA Politics and History, Castle, 1984-87), has a CV that gives him the authority to say this. Not only is he CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and of the Saatchi & Saatchi Fallon Group, he is also Chairman of the Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide Creative Board. He was one

of the four founders of Fallon UK, and has worked with the likes of P&G, Sony, Skoda, Nike and Cadbury. But surely, you might say, with its colleges, departments and institutes, let alone its world-leading experts, the University is a more complex and multi-faceted organisation than any corporate entity? He swats this one away as well. ‘Durham is one of the most straightforward and simple organisations in the world of brands that I can think of,’ he says. ‘Think about the BBC, which I worked with for 13 years: radio, TV, different channels appealing to different age groups and different socioeconomic groups at different times of the day, at different niche states, plus the online space, and all the regional output. Yet they are all behind the one brand. This makes Durham look monotone.’ And he has the charisma to say all this too. He makes his living sitting in front of executive teams and telling them things they aren’t used to hearing, and to do that you need a formidable presence. This is what the advertising bible Campaign says

about him: ‘If Senior has any shortcomings, lack of self-belief certainly isn’t one of them. He’s an account man by trade but that hasn’t stopped him taking on the chairmanship of the Saatchi & Saatchi worldwide creative board. And just to reinforce his big-cheese status, he’s taken to driving to work in his newly acquired Aston Martin DB9. He remains one of the bravest, most inspirational and most determined chiefs around.’ Lord Philip Gould, Blair and Brown’s pollster (of which more later), called him a man with ‘enormous enthusiasm, completely infectious enthusiasm and determination’. And Senior himself sees his unique selling proposition as being his ‘fearless candour’. So self-belief, enthusiasm, candour – but also considerable charm. And there is nothing bombastic about his view of what a university can be, or his love for Durham. Indeed, he has been acting as a volunteer consultant to the University’s executive. ‘A university is about passing on the stock of human knowledge and preparing


The Unofficial Biography > Dubbed ‘Adland’s golden boy’ and ‘the hottest name in Adland’ by The Independent. > Joined an ad agency on graduating from Durham, but noticing that when his first boss got himself into a tricky situation he would always refer back to when he worked with P&G, Senior thought this a ‘good trick’, so got a new job working on the P&G account for five years. > Founded Fallon London in 1998 with four other partners. Together they grew the business to a 190-person strong, multi award-winning agency that won Campaign magazine’s Agency of the Year in 2006 and 2007. > A qualified ski instructor and fitness fanatic with two gym memberships, has been known to invite clients to use his chauffeur-driven limousine while he walks ahead. > Board member of the English National Ballet School; a recent failure at culinary night school. > Was speechless for the first time in his life upon meeting his all-time hero Mick Jagger.

people for the adventure that is life,’ he says. ‘With a clear sense of this purpose, you can shine a white light through the current prism of doom and gloom. A lack of purpose will throw you into the question of whether a university education represents good value for money. And the fiscal equation is the wrong equation. ‘But Durham has more to it than the generic property of higher education, and I am not talking about its research credentials. Of course these are world-class and critical, but in the grander narrative of being an undergraduate there it is only part of the story. Durham takes a lot of pride in giving people the time to explore other aspects of university life. As one of the executive put it to me: “We do both hemispheres of the brain.” That is a lovely encapsulation of what makes Durham such a characterful, textured experience.’ So you try a different tack. If the University isn’t that complex in itself, how about the product? Surely a transformative, three or four-year, intensive, personal, intellectual, social and sometimes spiritual journey is too big to brand simply? After all, it defines

forever who we are, who our friends are and what we will become. ‘Nah,’ he says. ‘Look at Disney. It is a very consistent, marketing-orientated brand that has always been experiential. A great Disney experience should be with you forever. Yes, a degree is three years long, but it is still an experiential, transformative experience. The more complex a thing is, the greater the need for a common purpose or strategy.’ The Durham–Disney comparison might stun some, but then the University is in good company: he told Gordon Brown more or less the same thing. It was Senior who came up with the famous line Not flash, just Gordon. He coined it when working with Lord Gould and Lord Mandelson, Douglas Alexander MP and Alastair Campbell on the Prime Minister’s aborted snap-election campaign of September 2007. ‘He is the most magnificent technocrat,’ Senior says of Brown. ‘You won’t find anyone who cares for this country more than he does, nor anyone who is less able to communicate it than he is. He is

fascinated by detail and not terribly interested in a grander, simpler narrative. Deep down I felt he was in excruciating denial that he was a brand or that any politician could be. On a purist level, he thought that it was a serious position to be head of government and lead a country through good and bad, so how dare I diminish this to some marketing puffery. To which my response was: “That’s all very interesting Gordon, but here is the reality – if people don’t know what you stand for, they won’t vote for you, that is the relevance of branding. I am not disagreeing with the importance of being Prime Minister, but, if it is a position you covet, the modern landscape requires you to be televisual in a manner that is simple and succinct and memorable.”’ Just like Durham, that’s his implication. And he puts it even more strongly. ‘The current changes in funding require you to redefine who you are and what is in it for the student,’ he says. ‘Durham has the opportunity to attain iconic status.’


Nick Mohammed: a profile of the up-and-coming comedian His work gets inside your head, sets the world askew In one sketch, he has the three Apollo 11 But he didn’t do comedy at Durham, until, his job temping for Morgan Stanley and astronauts meet up to reminisce when Buzz right at the end, when the Durham Review become a fully self-employed comedian. Aldrin reveals that it was only during the asked him to compère their comedy set in his After five years, he has done more or less moonshot itself that he realised the earth final year. everything: the compulsory Edinburgh onewas a sphere. There is his Durham-student creation: Cordelia Beatrice Jasmine de- ‘That was I suppose my first comedy gig,’ he man show; he has played characters in Beatrice Beatrice Dot-co-dot-uk Grimes, who says. ‘I did a little bit of stand-up at the start scripted studio-sitcoms where it is all about was known as Bayeux at school – after the of it, but I ended up doing magic for most of it. hitting your mark, rehearsing Monday to tapestry – but who prefers to be called Bunny. It was like a complete one-off, because I never Thursday and filming on Friday; he has done And then there is his edit of an episode of the did comedy. My magic routines were quite the chaotic live panel show in which the big cookery show Ready Steady Cook, in which a light-hearted, but they were definitely not danger is that the guests are quicker than you series of speed-ups, slow-mo’s and loop-backs funny.’ He laughs at the idea. ‘It wasn’t a are; and he has improvised naturalism with reveal the aggression behind the bonhomie comedy magic act at all. It was magic, and if Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant (having just and the sinister beneath the banal. At one it happened to have the odd joke in it then shot an episode of their new sitcom). All this point, an excerpt from Martin Luther King’s so did a lot of those kinds of acts at the time. varied work has given him the opportunity to find out what he is good at. ‘I have a dream’ speech is laid over the top The patter was light-hearted.’ of host Ainsley Harriott’s invitation to the audience to vote on the best meal, and for a But something was going on inside his head. ‘I think a comedian should work hard,’ he says. few seconds you see the absurd chasm in It was as if the idea of being a comedian was ‘This last couple of years has been good in that human nature between our noble aspirations bubbling away in his unconscious, just waiting I feel that I’m sort of finding out what I am to find a fissure that could take it to the actually good at. I know I’m not a stand-up, and the inane actuality. surface. The impersonating of teachers, the and I wouldn’t really work well on a panel show You might not have seen Nick Mohammed’s magic, the talent for music, the intelligence, because I’m not that quick. I am quite scripted work (all of the above is available on his the surreal take YouTube channel), but, if you watch British TV, on the world were the chances are you will have seen him – in all there, and the something. He was a colleague in the Martin crack came when Clunes version of Reggie Perrin on BBC One, he left Durham to sat next to The Inbetweeners’ Simon Bird on do his PhD. He ironic Channel 4 panel-show The King is Dead auditioned for and performed in the BBC comedy tribute the Cambridge Pete and Dud: the Lost Sketches. And any Footlights Review, kids you know will know him too, from CBBC’s got in, then asked his PhD supervisor for the time off to go to the and for me it’s all about character and voice Sorry, I’ve Got No Head. Edinburgh Festival with that year’s show. He and some of it is quite surreal so it wouldn’t He is then the definition of up-and-coming, was just setting off when the realisation quite fit.’ a couple of years or so away from getting his hit him. But it is this quirky surrealism that is his alone, own show. But beyond being the latest thing, like putting Martin Luther King’s words into the ‘It was very sort of clichéd and romantic,’ he what’s fascinating about Nick Mohammed (MSci Geophysics, St Aidan’s, 2000-03) is that says. ‘But I remember just looking back at the mouth of Ainsley Harriott. And he knows his it didn’t ever seem to occur to him to become laboratories and thinking: “I know I’m not take on the world is not instantly appealing a comedian. He was a musician at school coming back.” Not because I thought that the in the way of a stand-up’s one-liners. ‘There’s (Allerton Grange High School in Leeds), where comedy was going to take off, but just because nothing better than almost starting a gig,’ he says, ‘and I’ve had this before a lot, like when he was known for impersonating teachers, and I knew that the PhD wasn’t right.’ I’ve been doing an hour-long show and people then he rejected a place at the University of Cambridge to come and study at Durham. He So Cambridge couldn’t keep him a second aren’t quite with you at the start, then you turn got a first from Durham, started a PhD at time, and the comedy did take off, slowly and it round. To have them by the end is kind Cambridge and had a job lined up at an oil surely. At Edinburgh, an agent and a BBC of an ode to how I want to run my career. company before the desire to be a comedian producer handed him their cards. He took his I’m not saying that the people out there surfaced. The other unusual thing about him own show to Edinburgh the following year, got should dislike my stuff, but I like getting them is that he is also a magician, performing in great reviews, did four half-hour character- more on my wavelength. There’s something church halls by the time he was ten, and a based monologues for Radio 4 (which included rewarding about letting people in and then part-time professional by the time he got to his Durham inspiration, Cordelia Grimes) and, enjoying it with them.’ university, where he would perform routines at as TV work began to drip in, he was able to quit the Durham balls in exchange for a free ticket.

‘I remember just looking back at the laboratories and thinking: “I know I’m not coming back”’



highlights 2011

Life’s Too Short BBC Two

2010 Pete and Dud: the Lost Sketches Hot Sauce TV/BBC Two

2009 Reggie Perrin BBC One

2008 4uarters BBC Radio Four

2007 Billy Goat Hat Trick/BBC One

2006 Lenny Henry pilot BBC Three

2005 Back in Town Again one-man show

2004 Beyond a Joke Cambridge Footlights National Tour

2003 Graduates from Durham Contact:


What are the colleges for? by John Hirst, Senior Teaching Fellow in Management at Durham Business School Glorified halls of residence – it’s a line often used by those unfavourably comparing Durham’s collegiate tradition to the teaching colleges of Oxford and Cambridge. But it’s wrong, both historically and pedagogically. In fact, Durham colleges are arguably more authentic and have a major, but mostly immeasurable, long-term impact on learning and wellbeing. First, the history: collegiate universities largely derive their structures from medieval guilds in which a Master (not a gender-specific term then) would take apprentices into his or her household and instruct them in the mechanics of a craft while simultaneously taking responsibility for their wellbeing and encouraging their personal development. Far from the autocratic system that is sometimes imagined, these apprenticeships were a rich mixture of instruction and (what we would today call) embedded and reflective learning. The whole thing was overseen by a highly motivated community of Craft Masters – the guild confraternity. The early European university – studium generale – was founded to serve the higherorder learning needs of the guilds and followed much the same model. Subjects were taught in ‘schools’ by Regent Masters (the academic equivalent of Craft Masters) and opportunities for embedded and reflective learning were provided for by aula (or halls). These embryo colleges were mandated to provide students with six things beyond their basic welfare, many of which remain a feature of Durham colleges today: • facilities for private study, such as a library or study space; • mentoring (often by more senior students who also learnt by this process of representation); • opportunities to participate in multidisciplinary debate or discourse with members of the academic community to promote rigour; • opportunities to participate in public disputations, so engaging with the external community and promoting relevance;

• group-reflection sessions, allowing students to internalise understanding, represent it to others and discuss how to apply it; • practical engagement in roles and responsibilities as an integral part of community life. Regent Masters were clearly distinguished from the Principals of these halls or colleges, and learning was a twin-track ‘when Durham’s collegiate structure dialectical process, involving an was created, it actually replicated alternation between teaching provided by the Regent Masters in the schools and a more authentic, earlier model the experienced reflection leading to deep of the collegiate university’ learning gained in the halls or colleges. It was not so much a parallel process as into a relevant context (for example, a spiral process, designed to provoke the workplace or the wider society). transformational learning. With the end of the guild system, the teaching and reflective-learning spiral began to break down. Academic specialisation and disciplinary fragmentation permeated the colleges, which were becoming increasingly disconnected from their wider social ecosystems. It is therefore arguable that, when Durham’s collegiate structure was created, it actually replicated a more authentic, earlier model of the collegiate university. This matters because creating opportunities for reflective and embedded learning alongside the learning delivered by teaching is one of the great goals of modern pedagogy. Reflective learning is the ability to reflect on the relationship between new knowledge and selfknowledge; while embedded learning is the ability to integrate that learning

The Durham colleges achieve much the same goal and thereby profoundly complement the work of the University’s departments and schools, as well as providing students with a sense of belonging and a place they call home. Like their precursors the guilds, colleges are learning communities that foster an integrative and holistic approach to personal development and relationship formation, embracing a wide diversity of experiences, knowledge, values, approaches and opportunities, and conjoining them with narratives glued together by college traditions and rituals. It is no wonder that most of our alumni reflect on their colleges with affection and with an enduring sense of belonging that provides a source of continuing inspiration and encouragement throughout life. Durham students learn immeasurably from them.


First Person

To breathe or not to breathe Alumna Madeleine McGivern in East Jerusalem To breathe or not to breathe – that is indeed the question when unlucky enough to be caught up in thick and heavy tear gas. If you don’t breathe, well, there are obvious ramifications. But if you do breathe… In April 2011, in the Palestinian community of Silwan, East Jerusalem, my eyes felt like someone was stabbing them from behind, my throat burnt dry, and my lungs were on fire, desperately trying to fight the intrusion of such toxic and dangerous gas into my body. For 15 minutes after we had to run through the tear gas to get to safety, my colleagues and I coughed, heaved, and choked our way to breathing normally again. It was easy to understand how a baby could die from tear gas inhalation, as one three-month-old girl had in Silwan a few months before. The next day, I felt like I had flu, and was sick twice; it took me 48 hours to feel like a functioning human being again. What dangerous demonstration was I attending? Well… the closing night of Palfest, the Palestine Literature Festival. Palfest runs cultural and literature-based events across the West Bank and works in universities and refugee camps. The closing night of the 2011 festival was held in the Solidarity Tent in the East Jerusalem community of Silwan. Silwan is a densely populated and impoverished place. It is home to approximately 50,000 Palestinians and 500 illegal Israeli settlers. According to the 2008 EU Report on East Jerusalem, the area is ‘largely neglected by the Jerusalem Municipality, suffers from scarce educational services, inadequate sewage management and a lack of sustainable infrastructure’. The same report states that 88 housing units are ‘threatened with demolition to allow for the further expansion of the so-called King’s Valley Archaeological Park’. If demolished, this would lead to the displacement of 1,500 Palestinians in order to make way for a tourist attraction known locally as the City of David Park. The UN Committee Against Torture said as long ago as 2001 that it ‘expresses concerns about Israeli policies of house demolitions, which may amount to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment’.

Since these plans to demolish homes were announced, life in Silwan has been tougher than ever. For the last six months, a police presence has been an everyday occurrence, with tear gas as much a part of the day as going to the shops. ‘They (the Israeli authorities) want to force us out, but to be able to say we left voluntarily,’ says one Silwan Community Committee parent. On that evening at the literature event, we were also told to leave by the Israeli police. As we approached the venue, angry policemen shouted that the road was closed and that we couldn’t pass. The magic word ‘international’ got us through the roadblock and down into the tent. Local people, Israeli peace activists who work with Palestinians and are opposed to their own government’s polices, and the internationals gathered, waiting for the event to begin. Instead, at 7.45 pm the Israeli Police fired large amounts of tear gas at the tent. Everyone inside, including me and my colleagues, was forced to flee.

longer can the residents of Silwan, and those other communities, survive this pressure exerted on every aspect of life, every single day? Why should they have to? As Fakhri Abu Diab said, whilst describing the tension of living with a demolition order on his family home: ‘Why are we different from any other family in the world?’

‘my eyes felt like someone was stabbing them from behind, my throat burnt dry, and my lungs were on fire’

Despite this flagrant attempt to stop the event taking place, by 8.30 pm the audience and authors had found their way back to the tent. We were welcomed by Fakhri Abu Diab, Chair of the Silwan Defence Committee, a non-violent resistance organisation set up to defend the homes of the families of Silwan. ‘We had wanted to welcome you in our own way,’ he said, ‘with the poems of a 13-yearold boy. We had women who wanted to talk about their writing, but because of worries for children’s safety, they have left; and now we welcome you with tear gas.’ With red eyes and gas embers still burning in the air scratching our throats, we listened to poetry, readings and music from Palestinians and internationals. Soldiers watched from the hills, as their attempts to close down the nonviolent event, in a violent way, failed miserably. What is happening in Silwan is representative of events taking place in communities across the occupied Palestinian territories. How much

Fakhri Abu Diab (right) at Palfest 2011. Madeleine McGivern (BA Combined Social Sciences, Trevelyan, 2005-08) was in Silwan as a volunteer for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel

Can you help? Durham University is trying to trace students of Bir Zeit University who received scholarships in order to study for a year at Durham and/or any Durham graduates who attended the Bir Zeit University Summer School. Please email



Image: Inayat Ali, Pamir Times


we moved a lot of people out of harm’s way and I am proud of that


There is a monstrous new lake in the Himalayas. Formed by a landslide at Attabad in early 2010, the lake has inundated 7.55 km2 of land and submerged 25 km of the strategically-vital Karakoram Highway, which links Pakistan with China. It has cut off the 20,000 people who live upstream, and it threatens the 25,000 people who live downstream with a catastrophic flood should the rock and mud of the dam give way. And it will break, one day. ‘The situation is dire,’ says Professor Dave Petley, Executive Director of the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Reliance (IHRR). ‘The dam is there. The water levels are rising again. It is unlikely that it will survive.’ So what can be done for the tens of thousands of people affected by the dam? This is the question that confronted Professor Petley in the spring and summer of 2010 and that still confronts him today. An expert on landslides, Professor Petley was asked by the charity FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance Pakistan to visit the area in late February last year and report on what he found. ‘There is a substantive risk of an outburst event…’ he wrote, ‘most likely during or shortly after water flows across the (top of the dam)… If such an event occurs, there is the potential for a large flood-wave to travel downstream as far as 600 kilometres… This wave would greatly endanger the downstream population and could cause damage to infrastructure.’ But over topping was not the only risk. The dam might be shaken apart by an earthquake; a further landslide into the water could create a wave that would break it apart; flash floods created by the collapse of lakes dammed by glaciers or moraines high in the mountains could destroy it; or the weight of water could seep out underneath and through the dam, undermining it from below in a phenomenon known as ‘piping’. As the water began to rise in the deep glacial valley behind the dam, Professor Petley advised precautionary evacuation of the most vulnerable people downstream. The authorities appeared to listen. Fifty-five thousand people were moved to temporary camps, while a spillway was constructed on the downstream face of the dam. In March 2010, the dam began to seep, but held. Another of Professor Petley’s recommendations was a substantive monitoring effort. ‘There is an urgent need to determine the likely date upon which water may flow across the spillway,’ he wrote. ‘This should be disseminated and

recalculated regularly, with caveats that this is an estimate… Four alert states are recommended, underpinned by a robust communications plan and an awareness and evacuation plan for the potentially-affected population.’ Unfortunately, the political situation in Pakistan prevented any transparent approach to information provision, so in early April Professor Petley helped FOCUS establish a temporary monitoring team above the lake. He then created a website publicising the data that was available and which estimated the date when over topping would occur. One official source disseminated a date of 17th April while Professor Petley’s estimate was early June. By mid-May, the waters had still not reached the top of the dam and the authorities were briefing against him. On 30th May 2010, the waters came over the top; yet the dam held. And it still holds today, harming the life off everyone who lives above it and hanging over the lives of everyone who lives below. So what is it like, taking responsibility for the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of people? ‘I recommended temporary evacuation while over topping occurred. And I stand by the prudence of that course of action today,’ says Professor Petley. ‘No one knew what would happen, and the risk of a catastrophic flood was real. This summer, as the flow of meltwater into the lake increased, the authorities chose not to move people. I think this was the correct decision. Nevertheless, the downstream communities are facing a level of risk that is intolerable. You just have to look at the landscape around them. There are hundreds of landslide scars in the area, many of which will have blocked valleys in a similar way to what has happened at Attabad. Yet how many landslide dams are left? There are fragments and remains of them in many locations, but there are very few intact landslide dams.’

‘Academics today have to put their heads above the parapet and accept the consequences of their responsibilities,’ he says. ‘And, however difficult it was for me – and as the waters rose it was sometimes unbelievably uncomfortable given the multiple political forces at work in Pakistan – the real jeopardy was with the people who lived below the dam. We moved a lot of people out of harm’s way and I am proud of that. But my concerns are still the same as they were. At the moment, it looks like the authorities are going to do the right thing, which is to lower the level of the dam during the low-flow season over the next two years. I hope they do, because the dam will continue to pose an unacceptable risk.’ Professor Petley’s response to problems like the Attabad dam inspired him to develop a new approach to academic intervention. Realising that it was developing countries that bore the losses of this kind of catastrophe but the developed ones that had the research, he has created a three-pronged approach based on high-quality research, the seeking out of external partners who can build capacity in the country concerned, and the provision of a rapid response to the crisis. This framework – research, partners, response – ultimately led to the creation of the Institute for Hazard, Risk and Resilience and created the cross-disciplinary model followed by the other Durham institutes. ‘In 2007, the University asked people to propose ideas for a series of fundraising campaigns to mark its 175th anniversary,’ he says. ‘I had identified that there were lots of researchers working across the University on different types of hazard – volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, terrorism and financial crashes. So I asked why we couldn’t bring them all together using the same model of research, partners and response. The University agreed and with the help of three very generous alumni we were able to create the Institute. ‘Fundamentally it is a mechanism for linking together people who work in different academic departments, and those working with hazard and risk outside academia, in order to address the key questions that face society. Why, for example, do natural disasters create so much loss of life and have such an economic impact when our knowledge and technology are always advancing? IHRR aims to generate a new type of relationship between academics and practitioners, with the ultimate aim of reducing risk and loss.’

To learn more about the work of the IHRR, please go to


JUNE 2005 Thank you very, very much for letting me be part of this glorious enterprise, this wonderful institution of yours, and thank you for making me proud. And thank you, perhaps above all, for this fantastic outfit, which I’m very pleased to have. I am so going to knock them out at my next high school reunion.

JANUARY 2006 President Bush only last month signed a bill providing over $3.5 billion for a single research programme, something called the National Nanotechnology Initiative to study very small things. Now President Bush was of course grateful for this, because they’re hoping that with the new technology they will be able to locate his brain. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

JUNE 2006 Although I haven’t been Chancellor very long, I’m discovering slightly to my surprise that I am already evolving certain small traditions of my own, and one of them seems to be that every time I get up to speak, at some point in the speech, usually quite early on, usually just about now in fact, I make some sort of light-hearted observations about the mental capabilities of my President, George W Bush. But I decided I wasn’t going to do that this time. I wasn’t going to give in to that terrible temptation to make fun of the poor man. And then, about a week ago, entirely coincidentally, a friend in Canada sent me a collection of recent statements made by the President in the course of his official duties. Statements, actual statements like: I know how hard it is to put food on your family, or You teach a child to read and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test, or Our enemies are innovative and resourceful and so are we – they never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we. And I looked at all this for a long, long time and I thought: ‘No, I’m not going to go there, I’m not going to do that, it’s just too easy and he is my President after all.’

Bill’s Best Bits Were you there? Highlights from all Bill Bryson’s Congregation speeches 2005-11


JANUARY 2007 My obsession for this coming year, for this 175th anniversary year for Durham, is to try to get every student who wants to do so to sign on to the organ-donor register. I cannot think personally of a better way to start the rest of your lives than by taking a step that may one day help others to do likewise with their own. But let me just say that, until that day, I hope all you graduated students get decades and decades of happy, fulfilling use out of all your organs and out of every last molecule of fibre that is so gloriously and uniquely you.

JUNE 2007 It was a terribly exciting year for me because I got to pose for the Durham University Charities Kommittee naked-student calendar, which may actually be the high point of my life so far. Certainly it gave me all kinds of credibility with my own children, particularly when they learned that I wouldn’t be posing naked myself. In fact, the people took one look at me and made me put on more clothes before they took the pictures.

JANUARY 2008 You who have graduated today really are exceptionally lucky. You will never be in a better position than you are at this moment. Enjoy your life and make the most of it. That’s the last instruction I will ever give you as Chancellor, but it’s also the best one I will ever give you too.

JUNE 2008 I’m always on the look out for particles of wisdom that I can pass on to the graduates here, and it happens that recently I had an experience that I found unexpectedly inspiring. It happened in a bar in Des Moines, Iowa, my home town, and I was drinking at the time so it may be that I overrate its significance very slightly. But it seemed awfully good to me at the time and I hope that it will be of some value to you too in the years to come. I was just taking stock of my surroundings and my gaze fell on a sign that was on the wall. The sign was one of those official notices that they put up because they are required to by law in America, and this one said: ‘Warning – drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause birth defects.’ And somebody had written underneath it: ‘Just look around.’

‘...if you want to take pictures of me, you just snap away. I’ll be very pleased to pose.’ Durham is unquestionably the friendliest place I know. It is striking – frankly it is almost spooky at times – how cheerful and amiable this place is. I’ve been watching Durham very closely for a few years now and I’m convinced that it is genuinely and consistently just about the nicest place on earth. I don’t know how you do it but I’m impressed and grateful.

I am happy to do. I’ve thought very hard about this and there is a great deal that I could suggest, of course. You could try to end poverty, find cures for malaria and cancer and other pernicious diseases, bring peace to troubled regions. But, fundamentally, the challenge for your generation I think comes down to a single goal: you must figure out some way to beat Germany in the World Cup.

JUNE 2009


You are uniformly delightful and adorable and brainy and gifted and good, and for those of you graduating today my only command to you is to stay like that for ever. You have achieved a kind of perfection. You might as well maintain it.

Now this is something of a poignant time for me because I’m just entering my final year as Chancellor of this wonderful and glorious University. This is almost, unbelievably to me, my 107th individual graduation ceremony and my 36th visit to the City, and I like to think that I’ve learned a thing or two about Durham in my time here. Certainly, I have learned that this is incontestably the loveliest city in the world. I’ve even come to accept that, if you squint your eyes to the point where almost no light reaches the optic nerve and avert your gaze slightly, even Dunelm House takes on an austere beauty.


JANUARY 2010 I don’t have to do a thing for myself when I come to Durham. People hold open doors for me and fetch me cups of tea and call me Dr Bryson. It’s just wonderful. I can never get enough of that. It isn’t like that in the real world for me, believe me. In the real world things are usually much more like an experience I had in Bath not too long ago. I was just standing there in front of one of the Roman Baths and some man came up to me with a camera and he said: ‘Excuse me do you mind if I take a picture?’ And I was thrilled because this just never happens in the real world for me, and I said that of course I would be delighted, and I kind of struck a pose. And he looked at me like I was a complete idiot and he said: ‘No, would you mind moving out of the way? I want to take a picture of the baths.’ So I’m very, very grateful to be treated as an important person every time I come to Durham, and when we go out onto Palace Green in a few minutes, if you want to take pictures of me, you just snap away. I’ll be very pleased to pose.

JUNE 2010 As you know, I am required by long tradition to offer you new graduates some solemn advice that will help you to lead better lives and make the world a better place, which

JUNE 2011 This is one of 14 graduation ceremonies this week in this magnificent cathedral and, as you might imagine with such a number to get through, you might think it would get a little repetitious. But honestly it doesn’t. Every ceremony here really is gloriously individual, just as every graduand is gloriously individual. For me, it is a week of 3,500 separately electrifying moments with a few rather more exuberant surprises thrown in. Sometimes, as you’ve seen, I get a warm hug, sometimes a high-five, sometimes I’m given a little bag of sweets or a wristband or some other small keepsake. Once, a young man handed me a library book that he said was desperately overdue and asked if I would return it for him. So it is a genuinely exciting and unpredictable week. To be presented with a week-long procession of cheery young people, all with minds sleekly honed and precision-engineered for life beyond Durham, it’s not something you would ever tire of, believe me.





With your reading list, you receive a list of suitable articles to bring to Durham, which include sheets, an eiderdown, cups and saucers, a sugar basin, a butter dish, tablecloths etc, for which there is not a great deal of choice as they are in short supply. These are packed in your trunk, with your books and clothes, and the trunk is collected from home and delivered to College by the railway company for 2/6d (12½p). It is waiting in your room when you arrive.

You experience the Union coffee bar, where you are greeted like an old friend by a Chadsman who had been on teaching practice at your school and who says you must now call him Ike. This is quite beyond you, although you try to appear at ease.

At your department, you meet your newly appointed Professor, who gives the group (of 14, including five women) a pep-talk. He warns the women not to get pregnant. You are surprised by this, as it had not occurred to you that this would be an option in your course. As you do not at this stage know the facts of life, you spend much of your first year not sitting too close to male students in the library.

FIRST DAY You meet your room-mate and other freshers, also some older students. All the other freshers are vivacious and articulate to a degree you can only hope to aspire to. The second years are amazingly sophisticated and lose no time in telling you that during your time in Durham your goal is to obtain a degree, a husband and £1,000 a year. The Principal is a tiny Scot with a soft voice, who can see what you are thinking. You are instructed to put your butter ration in your covered container and to place it with your sugar ration in its bowl in the large cupboard at the entrance to the dining hall, to be collected for use during meals. It does not occur to you that anyone else will use it, nor does any difficulty with the system arise during your first two years while rationing continues. Your room is unlocked and this does not strike you as strange.

You go to the freshers’ ball in the Great Hall of the Castle, where an enormous elderly gentleman engages you in conversation and enquires how you like Durham. As he is wearing a long purple dress, you are rather overwhelmed – you later discover he is the Bishop of Durham, Michael Ramsey. To introduce students to the area, a series of visits is arranged. You go to Consett Iron Works. Although your home is in Consett, you have never been allowed near the Works, and you find the experience terrifying, although you do strike up an acquaintance with a Chadsman in your department when you both flee in terror from a white-hot girder rolling across the floor towards you. The older students put on an entertainment on Saturday evening and amaze you by their self-possession and talent. You are particularly impressed by the Senior Woman, Doreen, who sings songs from The Mikado; she is quite grown-up. (At this stage in life your ambition is to be 28 and have interesting bags under your eyes.) The Principal quietly informs students that her flat is just above the front door and that it would be appreciated if she did not have to listen to people saying goodnight to friends.

There is a fire practice, during which the fire engine runs over the ornamental square in front of the main entrance, annihilating the baby tree planted there; the Fellows’ Garden is no more. At the first lecture, everyone else has read more, knows more, and has more opinions than you. One of the freshers is in her late twenties! Another one is from Africa! On the Saturday night at the end of the week, the first years have to produce a song. Gwyneth takes the year in hand and you make up something to the tune of It’s a Long Way to Tipperary. This is performed at a College sing-song, which features songs by previous years and some old favourites. Apparently there have been problems with facilities: the music rooms are not soundproofed; the partitions in the toilets were not thought to be of a decent height and have had to be raised.

FIRST TERM You wear your gown to all lectures. Lectures are in the almshouses on Palace Green and sometimes in Pemberton. The lecturers call you ‘Miss’, as do your fellow students.


If you are out during the evening and return There is some ruling about whether students are allowed to visit public houses. between 10 pm and 11 pm, Mr Robinson As you have never been inside a public is on duty at the kitchen entrance to check house, and have no intention of visiting your name in the book. You do as you are one, you do not appreciate the strength told – after all, you have far more freedom here than you ever had at home – but there of feeling of male students in your year who have come up after national service. are rumours of people who do not sign out ‘The Waterloo’ features largely in their and return by way of the laundry window. discussions. You discover that one of your fellow freshers has her own radio! At the end of term you have Collections. It does not occur to anyone to tell you how JCR meetings are held in the West JCR well you did, apart from signifying that on Sunday afternoons. There is heated you are allowed to continue your studies. discussion (in which you do not, of course, participate) about whether students should FIRST YEAR come into breakfast with their hair in There is discussion at a JCR meeting about curlers; it is decided that they should not. pieces of tin in the students’ food – soup, There is a freshers’ dance in College, which or perhaps fruit. The matter is taken up you do not attend. About halfway through with the bursar, and the kitchen acquires the evening, you are dragooned into putting a new tin-opener. You are invited to visit in an appearance, because there is such a other colleges. You have coffee in Hatfield, shortage of women – you go down, and are John’s and Castle. The College holds a mobbed by male students who have come formal debate, for which you have to wear to Mary’s because they want to meet women. evening dress under your gown. You are so interested in what people are wearing that Some people are worried by the lack of you cannot recall the topic, or who spoke. privacy in the washrooms. At some point You spend a great deal of time working in curtains are fitted in front of the washbasins. the library. The afternoons are thirsty, as women are not allowed into the Union bar You meet your moral tutor, who gives you in the afternoons. You and another student a glass of sherry. This strikes you as the height of sophistication. She mentions that stay up all night talking, just to see what it she will be monitoring the number of times feels like. You play tennis for College, but this does not seem to involve playing away you sign out of College, because you will from home; probably the courts at Mary’s need to do some academic work while are the only ones for women. You do play you are here. Not until 40-odd years later mixed friendlies on courts at the racecourse. do you discover the tutors’ checklist, which has a detailed breakdown of your evening activities.

It is some time before you invite a young man for tea. When you do, you ask him for 3 pm, quite forgetting that visiting hours are from 3.30 pm. A student from next door pops in at about ten past, wearing a rowing sweater and a pair of diaphanous panties. She sees the back of your guest’s head and pops out again pretty quick. During the Easter term, a meeting of the St Mary’s Committee is held in the East JCR. You and your friends are amused by the idea that the hatted and gloved ladies attending were ever your age. You are invited to Castle Day, which you enjoy; it is the first weekend of the Easter term and a blazing hot day. You do not understand why everybody laughs when Lofty does a cabaret turn and declares he will give up rowing. His actual words: ‘I’ll never touch an oar again!’ You are offered a vacation job as an au pair with a French family. The letter points out that it is the custom of this particular family to swim naked, so your moral tutor advises you not to accept the post. Instead, you work for a family business on the outskirts of Paris. You learn to be a barmaid and have some interesting experiences before your return as a second-year. Elizabeth Boyd (PGCE, St Mary’s 1952-57)


MR CAMERON, TAKE NOTE Dame Elisabeth knows how to organise volunteers She calls the Prime Minister ‘young Mr Cameron’. She is 70, Mr Cameron is 45, so why shouldn’t she? But there is also something between a knowing and old-fashioned respect and the arch implication that Mr Cameron is wet behind the ears when it comes to understanding how to create the Big Society, that he is a big boy with a big idea who isn’t sure how to make it happen. people in their own homes so they did not She however knows how to make it happen. have to live in an institution; and, long before For the last half a century, Dame Elisabeth anyone had come up with the idea of teaching Hoodless (BA Social Studies, King’s College, assistants, it was a CSV project that showed 1959-62) has been working for Community that there was a role in classrooms for Service Volunteers – the home-based version unqualified people who could help the of VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), both of teacher with jobs such as sharpening which were founded by Alec Dickson. For 36 of those years she was Executive Director, and, pencils and taking children to the toilet. by the time she retired earlier this year, the And now CSV is pioneering Volunteers in organisation had an income of £28 million Child Protection, an initiative that began in and was leading more than 200,000 Bromley after the death of Victoria Climbié volunteers with the help of 16,000 partner and which is now underway at over 15 local organisations – groups, companies, charities, authorities. public services and schools. CSV works with 12,000 young unemployed people, with ‘I thought, we’re going to do something,’ says 1,000 teenagers who are volunteering fullDame Elisabeth, ‘and to the eternal credit of time away from home, with young offenders, the Sainsburys Foundation they funded us to with senior volunteers and with employees; it turns down no one who has the time to give. do a pilot programme in Bromley to see what happened. It was marvellous. In Bromley, the turnover of social workers is on average every So when Mr Cameron made his Big Society announcement back in 2010, Dame Elisabeth six months, so to have a volunteer who stays with a family for five years, or up to ten years gave, by her own count, 14 television as it is now, is just magic. The very first interviews welcoming the initiative. volunteer, he was a city gent, said that once you’ve been to the supermarket there’s not a ‘I thought the concept was very promising,’ lot to do; so he now works with four families. she says. ‘The difficulty is, as has been said The social workers like it because they know, about the economy, that if you cut deep and fast, you destroy the pillars that hold everything if nobody’s called them, that things are looking up. And the mothers love it because the kids up. For example, if the libraries have been closed, you can’t volunteer to keep them open. start going to school, they can get a job, and they know the volunteers can’t take their The last thing volunteers want to do is take children away. As one of them put it to me: over someone’s job, and young Mr Cameron “They get the mattress and fridges out of the needs to understand that when people retire back garden.” after years of taking responsibility they’re quite happy to give their time. I am thinking of a neighbour who volunteers once a week for ‘That’s the delight of volunteers, or the problem, whichever way you see it. Volunteers think a nature reserve. What my neighbour doesn’t independently, they don’t have to worry about want to do however is take responsibility. All his life he’s been a doctor; he has been taking their pension or their career. If they see something that’s wrong, they say so.’ responsibility; now he’s retired, he just wants to do what he’s told and make the world a When asked if there isn’t a fundamental better place.’ conflict between volunteering and a ‘statist’ solution to social problems, she says ‘Ooh, But for Dame Elisabeth, the most important that’s a big word!’ Like all good political thing CSV does is innovate. It was CSV that rhetoric, what she is saying sounds like first harnessed volunteers to help care for

common sense, anything any reasonable person could agree with. And there is certainly something of the ghost of Blair’s ‘Third Way’ about her. Her background is Labour. She was Secretary of the University’s Labour Club, as was Donald, her husband-to-be, also a Durham graduate. Indeed, the stories of her student days feature Labour Cabinet ministers on speaking visits crammed into the back of Donald’s car, of trips to Russia (where she saw parks with empty plinths and toppled statues of Khrushchev lying in the weeds) and then to America; as if she was seeking to join the dots on the political axis of the then-world in the way that today’s students spend their gap years volunteering. She went on to become a Labour Councillor in Islington at the age of 22, but left the Party shortly before Tony Blair resigned in 2007. ‘When they cut the benefit for single mothers,’ she explains. ‘I wouldn’t vote for anyone else but I wasn’t going to give money to them.’ She was close too to the Blairites. A family friend of David Blunkett MP, she also knows Lord Levy, Blair’s fundraiser and special envoy to the Middle East, who is the current President of CSV. It was Lord Levy who taught her to make the ‘ask’ – that moment when a fundraiser has to ask a donor to contribute. ‘Oh he has all the strengths of the Jewish community,’ she says. ‘He has energy, he has wisdom, he thinks laterally, he tells the most outrageous, enormously funny jokes and he is deeply committed to volunteering. He knows almost everybody, and, if he doesn’t know someone, he knows somebody who does. He’s a visionary in terms of what could be, and he loves young people.’ She concedes there could be a question hanging over the police’s motivation for the famous investigation into the selling


of peerages, particularly given what we know now about the relationship between the police and the press. ‘I can’t say what role the police played,’ she concludes, ‘but I know the man: he’s an accountant and accountants don’t do silly things which the police thought they could catch him out with. In the end, he was given a clean bill of health. But the suffering that he went through was beyond belief.’

that our social work course did not include volunteering – when I was at LSE, it was like a dirty word. The job was a two-year contract and I thought, “Oh well, I think I’ll be engaged by then, I could do it for two years”.

‘the last thing volunteers want to do is take over someone’s job’

She chose Durham because it was further away than Liverpool, although, as she also believed Durham was somewhere north of Blackpool, this may have been a fortuitous guess. In any case, she ended up in Newcastle because she had applied to King’s College (the Durham college that became the founding institution of Newcastle University in 1963). A postgraduate qualification in social work from the LSE followed, and then the job that has defined her life.

To my amazement, I was offered it. I’m not saying I never looked at another job, but I never saw another job that I wanted to do until I retired at 70.’

‘I was expecting to be a medical social worker when I saw a job advertised that said young person needed to organise young volunteers,’ she says. ‘Now, as a child I’d grown up in a family that volunteered. I can remember my parents organising Sunday afternoon tea for prisoners of war, and I found it quite strange

As well as raising two sons, the other thing she fitted in for 42 years was being a magistrate. So how would she have dealt with this summer’s rioters? ‘Oh I gave very powerful lectures, very powerful lectures,’ she says. ‘I sent very few kids into custody because I know the damage it does. There

is an enormous range of penalties available for young people nowadays, including curfews, which they find very inconvenient, as well as work of social value, which they get used to. I would have kept them busy until they got a job.’ She has all the brilliant matter-of-factness of a common sensical English girl who just wants to get things done, and it is telling that she tags the photography for Durham First onto her trip to the hairdresser’s. ‘Now I can’t lay my hands on it at the moment but there is a most wonderful government booklet and this is what Mr Cameron should produce,’ she says, as a parting shot. ‘This book was published in 1939 to tell everybody what was needed in the years ahead as war approached. There’s a message from the police, there’s a message from the Prime Minister, and then the Home Secretary lays out what people needed to do and whom to contact if they would like to do it.’ Mr Cameron, take note.




Less than four miles away from the sanctuary of Durham Cathedral, on a hilltop at the entrance to the Durham dales and in the heartland of Saint Cuthbert and Saint Bede, there exists another historic, beautiful and sacred space. Ushaw College can trace its foundation to the creation of an ‘English College’ in Douai, France in 1568 and to the training of Roman Catholic priests who could be smuggled back into England to celebrate Mass – and face the penalty of execution if they were caught. Following the French Revolution, the seminary relocated to County Durham and re-established itself at Ushaw. Consciously modelled on a university college, Ushaw College was to become the intellectual centre for Catholicism in the north of England. In 1958, 40,000 people attended an open-air Mass in the grounds to celebrate its 150th anniversary.



Ushaw closed as a seminary in June 2011. However, Durham University is now working on ambitious development plans, in full partnership with the trustees of Ushaw, to establish an internationally significant centre of Catholic scholarship and culture. We are working to ensure that the unique, historic, and historically important manuscripts, libraries, archival holdings and treasures all stay in their rightful place, at Ushaw, under the expert stewardship of the University. This photo-story, by renowned architectural photographer Alex Ramsey, captures Ushaw College at this moment of transition.

For further information regarding the development at Ushaw, contact


DURHAM RESEARCH HEADLINING THE NEWS Our University Strategy 2010-20 states that we will be ‘recognised internationally for creative thought and transformative research of the highest calibre that will benefit from and help to shape national and international agendas’. Durham’s research activity generated over £48 million in 2010 alone, helping to shape our education provision through research-led education. If we are to fulfil the University’s ambitions, and preserve and enhance the currency of a Durham degree, it’s vital that Durham punches above its weight in an ever-competitive global research field. The research strategy also highlights the importance of raising the University’s research profile nationally and internationally by effectively disseminating our research successes and outcomes.

2011 saw Durham’s research making headlines across the globe: from testing theories about the evolution of the universe, dark matter and the formation of galaxies, to exposing public health partnerships as ‘ineffective’ at addressing critical issues of obesity or alcohol abuse. Converting what can be very technical, specialist research into an engaging ‘hard news’ or feature package for national and international media interest can be a challenge. Durham academics work with the media team to relate their research to, and drive, the global news and policy agenda. This also makes research widely accessible beyond academic journals. Innovative research partnerships with the likes of Procter & Gamble and energy watchdog Ofgem have brought in significant income to the University in 2011 and advanced Durham research to shape the world around us. Our research stars’ expert comment on the biggest stories of 2011 – from the Japan earthquake and the global economy, to standards of primary education, has enhanced public engagement and understanding through a prism of some of the world’s most acclaimed media outlets. In recent months, this has included the Daily Telegraph, the pages of the New York Times or primetime news broadcasts and documentaries on CNN, China National Radio and the BBC. New discoveries and fresh thinking are continually thriving in our dynamic community. Looking back at September, for example, Durham researchers at our School of Education demonstrated how primary schoolchildren can become effective peer tutors, raising reading and mathematics levels among their schoolmates. Then, in October, researchers from our Department of Geography made headlines for their role in a project to explore a hidden lake in Antarctica which could yield new knowledge about the evolution of life on Earth and other planets –

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the project’s aim being to provide vital clues about the Earth’s past climate. Stories like these demonstrate Durham’s diverse research authority. Critically, our research is also informing public policy, with requests for research from Government committees and political parties. For the last five years in succession, Durham has been achieving more national and international media profile than at any time in its history, and the quality of media coverage of Durham research (and researchers) continues to increase too. In the last six months, Durham has secured more than 3,000 positive news articles in the media, a 41 per cent increase from the same period in 2009-10 in overseas media outlets and 1,500 articles in the US alone. In 2012, exciting research to be unveiled includes a controversial project which is looking at the feasibility of ‘seeding’ the Earth’s atmosphere to tackle the issue of global warming, and the roll-out of some of Durham’s pioneering applications of new smart grid energy technologies. Keep an eye out for the headlines… Maintaining a high profile for Durham’s research, by both a greater and targeted media distribution, helps to create international demand for our cutting edge academic and research programmes, invites international collaborations, and provides supporting evidence for researchers to demonstrate the ‘impact’ of their work to leverage more funding. Proclaiming our ‘excellence in research’ is more important than ever. And good news stories are not exclusive to our research output, with student achievements, special events, cultural attractions and our steady rise up national and international university league tables all putting Durham’s name in lights in recent months.

DID YOU KNOW… More Durham University academics featured on BBC Radio 4’s world-acclaimed Today programme in the last 12 months than those of any other university.


Experience Durham Student achievement in sport, music and the arts Quentin Sloper, Head of Student Experience (Sports, Music and the Arts)

The last few months have seen a number of truly exciting developments at Experience Durham. As the umbrella organisation with responsibility for the oversight of student sport, music and the arts (and for both staff and student volunteering), Experience Durham has been up and running for the past 12 months. At the start of the 2011-12 academic year we are looking forward to an exciting phase of development. We are fortunate to have been able to secure funding for a sabbatical officer, who will have oversight of the development of student theatre and music within the University. Jess Gordon (BA English Literature, Hild-Bede, 2008-11) joined us in August and has made a great start, providing a light touch and steering hand to complement the superb work that our students have been doing for so many years. The emphasis is on building on what is already in place and providing unique and distinctive opportunities that were not previously easily accessible. One of the best examples of this will come in the form of students being provided with the opportunity to travel to Zambia and work with local people to develop their understanding of drama. Experience Durham has had a long-standing relationship with Sport-in-Action Zambia, and this summer saw Durham students travel to Africa and work with young

people for the sixth successive year. Extending the opportunity to those involved in student theatre promises to be a really exciting addition, and, if the last six years in sport are anything to go by, a life-changing experience for many of the people involved. The impact of students working within the local community has always been something that Durham has been proud of, and the role that Student Community Action (SCA) plays at the centre of this is quite astounding. Our hope is that by working in conjunction with SCA we will now be able to create and further formalise opportunities for students wanting to help develop music and theatre within the local area. This will also include engaging our Vice-Chancellor’s Scholars within the programme. Our scholars are some of the most talented young people in Britain and we are keen to ensure that they are great ambassadors for the University.

THE BEST YEAR IN DURHAM’S SPORTING HISTORY It has been an exciting summer for sport. Our new facilities at Maiden Castle are not quite finished, but will be a great addition to the University when they are. The construction has not held us back however. We go into the 2011-12 season having had the best year in our history, and we believe that we will be able to deliver even more this time around. Recruitment has now become a pivotal aspect of succeeding at university-level sport. We are strengthening our talent base with new recruits starting with us this year – over 70 freshers and 53 postgraduate students with exceptional sporting ability from around the world, with strong representation from the USA. When you add these 123 athletes to the talent we retained

from the end of last year, we have a right to believe that we are well placed to succeed in the British Universities and Colleges Sports (BUCS) Championships. Women’s football and men’s and women’s volleyball are the latest sports to have been developed as our programme continues to grow. Although it is exciting to believe that we could have up to 11 BUCS National Championshipwinning squads this year, it is important to remember that our 360-degree model of community engagement means that all of our target sports must at the same time deliver a programme within the community, as well as support our ever-growing college programme. We are likely to work with over 4,000 young people this year and have more teams, across more sports at college level than ever before. If we can achieve all of our objectives, it really will be an impressive year.


News in Brief Intrepid Alumnus and Crew Row to North Pole

‘Old Pulteney Row to the Pole’ is the brainchild of Jock Wishart (BA Combined Arts, Hild-Bede, 1971-74), a proud Durham alumnus and loyal University supporter and fundraiser, as well as a seasoned Arctic adventurer and transatlantic rower. This summer, Jock led a five-man crew, including fellow Durham alumnus Christopher ‘Billy’ Gammon (BA Anthropology & Sociology, St Cuthbert’s Society, 1993-96) in the world’s first attempt to row to the 1996 position of the Magnetic North Pole

Honorary Degree At Winter Congregation, Durham will award an honorary degree to Joanna Barker née James (BA French, Collingwood, 1977-81). A former President of Durham Union Society, Joanna is a pioneer in private equity and the fight against cancer. She started her career when venture capital in the UK was in its infancy and later was one of the first to introduce this form of finance to the newly-liberated countries of Eastern Europe. Her charity work was prompted by the deaths of her mother and sister from ovarian cancer. She founded Target Ovarian Cancer to improve survival rates by raising awareness of the symptoms and through research into new treatments. She is married to Graham Barker (LLB Law, Van Mildert, 1977-80).

Carrying the Durham University logo on their boat, Jock and his crew achieved two historic firsts. Not only did they become the first people to row to the position of one of the earth’s poles, their expedition was also the first to use rowing boats in the polar regions since Sir Ernest Shackleton ordered his ship’s crew to their boats in Antarctica in 1916. You can find out more about this magnificent feat of ocean and ice endurance, at

New College Appointments

In recent months, several colleges have welcomed new Heads of House. (From left to right) Professor Joe Elliot has become Principal of Collingwood College; Professor Simon Hackett joined St Mary’s College as Principal; and Professor Tom Allen became Master of Grey College. All have previous experience of Durham University as members of the School of Education, the School of Applied Social Sciences and Durham Law School respectively. Dr Susan Frenk was made Principal of St Aidan’s College, having fulfilled the role of Acting Principal and Senior Tutor of the College in recent years. Van Mildert College welcomed Professor David Harper as Master of the College in November. Professor Harper was previously Professor of Palaeontology at the University of Copenhagen and Head of Geology at the Natural History Museum of Denmark. The search is now on to find successors for: Professor Graham Towl, Principal of St Cuthbert’s Society after his promotion to Deputy Warden of Durham University; Dr Penny Wilson, Principal of Ustinov College, following her retirement; and Professor Maurice Tucker, Master of University College, following his move to Bristol University.

Alumnus awarded Bravery Medal in Australia John Hannah (MSc Management Studies, Graduate Society, 1979-80) has been awarded the Bravery Medal by the Governor General of Australia for protecting a woman who was being attacked in the Australian

Capital Territory earlier in the year. Mr Hannah and his partner Jennifer Small (who received a Bravery Commendation) both suffered considerable injuries as a result of their bravery.

Mr Hannah said: ‘At Durham, a lot of female students used to ask the male students to walk them back to their colleges. Now, the same Durham chivalry has been recognised in Australia.’


Fourah Bay College Update The editorial team would like to thank all of the many people who responded to our request in the last issue for information about Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone and the possibility that Durham validated ‘the first BA in Africa’. A number of our respondents are continuing to investigate and we hope to be in a position to give a definitive update in our next edition.

Queen’s Birthday Honours for Durham Alumni and Staff Our warmest congratulations to those who received a DBE: Rosemary Cramp (Emeritus Professor of Archaeology); and Sarah MacIntyre (BA Social and Public Administration, St Aidan’s, 1967-70). Also to Christopher Shaw Gibson-Smith (BSc Geology, University College, 1964-67), who received a CBE.

Our very best wishes also go to all those who received an MBE: Michael Butler (Community and Youth Work Studies, Grey College, 1975-79); William Dixon (Sociology, St Cuthbert’s, 1979-82); Mary Hawgood (BA French, St Mary’s College, 1953-57); and Leo Westhead (BSc Applied Physics, University College, 1960-63).

Our very best wishes also go to all those who received an OBE: John Rotherham Hunter (PhD Archaeology, University College, 1970-77); Bronwen Northmore (Russian, Trevelyan College, 1969-72); Catherine Purdy (MBA, 2000-02); Andrew Strauss (BA Economics, Hatfield, 1995-98); and William Timpson (BA Geography, Hatfield, 1991-94). wear it with pride


JUNE 2012





Palatinate Christmas Ball Royal Courts of Justice, London

Durham Business School Reunion Weekend Durham

Durham University Convocation Middle Temple Hall, London Dunelm Society Annual Dinner Middle Temple Hall, London




Dunelm Society at Henley Henley Regatta

Hatfield Association Winter Dinner Durham


Hatfield College Chapel Choir Reunion Durham SATURDAY 18TH – SUNDAY 19TH

Josephine Butler Alumni Weekend Durham


The Sixty-sixth Annual Reunion of the Durham Castle Society Durham


The Grey Association Reunion and AGM Durham


Trevelyan College Society Alumni Event London FRIDAY 21ST – SUNDAY 23RD

College of St Hild & St Bede Association Reunion Weekend Durham (TBC) FRIDAY 21ST – SUNDAY 23RD

St Aidan’s College Reunion Weekend – 1947-62 Matriculates Particularly Welcome Durham St Aidan’s College warmly welcomes any King’s College alumni to their Reunion Weekend FRIDAY 21ST – SUNDAY 23RD

St Mary’s College Society Reunion Weekend Durham

For more information, please see or telephone +44 (0)191 334 6305

Profile for Durham University Alumni Relations

Durham First issue 31  

Durham University's alumni magazine - Autumn/Winter 2011

Durham First issue 31  

Durham University's alumni magazine - Autumn/Winter 2011