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Photo: Sabine Schneider
In this issue:
• The Alumni Network • Epiphany Term 2011 • Union Society Socials
• Debating • 24 North Bailey Club • Meet the Freshers
The Alumni Network The Durham Union Society has had over 100,000 alumni members since its establishment in 1842 and it is therefore the aim of our newly founded alumni project to maintain a relationship with all life members. Our vision is ambitious and we soon hope to have a fully functioning network of alumni who have the chance to read termly newsletters and attend alumni events. This network has been created to keep you up-‐to-‐date with the daily running of the Union society as well as support and look
• Second Chance Project • Sponsorship • Easter 2011
Katharine Thane Secretary
to the Union’s future success. As a Durham student and Union member, the Union remains a hub of one's University life – and we hope to convey this to you in our newsletters. Through your increased involvement, we hope to establish strong links between you as alumni and the current students. This will ensure your awareness of Union events, whilst at the same time ensuring current students learn how your time in the Union may have had an impact on your
life and career choice including the opportunities it may have given you. This newsletter, we hope is a first step to providing a way to once more become involved with the Union Society, and as such we extend to you our warmest invitation to any of our Friday night debates and addresses. For further information and answers to your questions: please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Epiphany Term 2011
Rishi Mansigani President This term at the Union we will be exploring some fascinating topics from Politics, to Religion and even Reality Television. We will be listening to some world-‐renowned speakers, drinking some fine wine and dancing with Itchy Feet until the early hours. Our first debate of the term looked at the success of the Coalition Government. The motion was opposed by former Union President Robert Buckland MP who strongly countered the points put forward by the Labour MPs proposing the ‘no confidence motion.’ However for the students that packed the chamber students the fear of the impact of tuition fee hikes and budgetary cuts was enough to provide the proposers with a solid victory. The following week Lt Gen. Brims, who inspired and led the coalition troops into Iraq, led his proposing side to a very successful victory in
the Queen and Country Debate. Students in the chamber voted to pass the motion and would take it as their duty to fight for Queen and Country. In addition to our usual programme of Friday Night Debates, this term the Union has at least eight high profile addresses scheduled with speakers including ex-‐secret service agents, former extremists, historians, Olympic athletes, diplomats and even the ex-‐head of the Army. Our first address from Norman Benotman a former Islamic extremist, who now works to disband extremist groups, was open to everyone at the University and very well received by the fascinated audience who asked the speaker some very challenging questions to uncover the true depth of the issue of Islamic Extremism that confronts us in Britain. One of my key aims for the term is to start an alumni network that will be mutually beneficial to all
involved, whether you want to stay in touch with old friends, keep in touch with current news at the Society or if you simply want to visit Durham and need somewhere to stay we want to be able to provide you with this. Union Members and Officers often go on to have very successful and interesting careers in varied fields and current students are always keen to hear about the profession their predecessors have entered. Membership of the Union Society is for Life and your affiliation to the Union does not need to end once you’ve adorned your gown and graduated from Durham. I was very pleased to welcome former Union Members and Officers to dinner on the first Friday night of term and I really do look forward to hosting you at one of our events in the future or seeing you back at 24 North Bailey Club.
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Union Society Socials
The Union promotes thought-‐provoking debate to all its members, no matter how or to what degree they want to become involved. So after the intellectual rigours of Friday night debates, novice workshops or intermediate and advanced competition training, an opportunity to relax over a drink at 24 North Bailey Club is much deserved. As Social Secretary it is my job to organise such opportunities on a wider scale, facilitating our members to get to know each other at exciting festivities modelled on calendar events and the inventions of the President and Social Committee’s collective imagination. So far this academic year we’ve enticed members to 24 with the seductively titled “Night of Devilish Sin”, lavishing them with chocolate fountains, fine wines and all manners of decadent delights. A less extravagant but certainly engaging “Think and Drink” session was also held, before members donned all manner of ghoulish outfits to answer the Halloween summonings of the reading room. However, none of these great events could hold a candle to the spectacular Venetian Ball, courtesy of the elegant Michaelmas term President Anna Holt and previous Social Secretary, the effusive Chessie Kettle. Their hard work paid off wonderfully, featuring a champagne reception, lavish three-‐course meal, ceilidh dance and quick-‐witted magician at the
magnificent venue of Lumley castle. I couldn’t decide whether it felt more like being a member of Italian royalty or a Harry Potter novel. The term ended with a suitably intimate “XXXmas Social”, where copious quantities of winter Pimm's and mulled wine were served alongside seasonal snacks in the comfortable location of the reading room. The fumes generated while brewing the libations were dangerously close to incapacitating those working in the kitchen and shuttling pitchers back and forth, but the event came to a successful end. Comically costume-‐clad lads dressed up as Christmas presents attempted to get unwrapped, and a handful of super-‐keen freshers, of whom I was one, were tricked into performing a Thatcher-‐themed dance routine on the balcony. It was a light-‐ hearted end to many new members’ first phase of Durham life and attracted large numbers, consolidating the Union as one of the focal points of the student social sphere. Members returned from the holidays to be treated to a wine tasting session, training their noses and palettes in the art of sniffing out a refined bouquet and relishing the vintage itself. Tickets are currently selling well for the Epiphany Ball, which will feature another champagne reception and delectable feast
Nick Freeman Social Secretary at Durham’s Victorian Town hall, before continuing to the Market Vaults for jazz-‐ house entertainment from the renowned Itchy Feet DJ. I was elected at the first General Committee of term after Chessie decided to retire in order to focus on her degree, and am making the finishing touches to tonight’s Free Members’ Social as I write. I can’t stress enough how excellent and encouraging a Social Secretary Chessie has been -‐ it will be a difficult legacy to live up to. The theme for tonight is “Cocktails from around the World”, and will exhibit Cosmopolitans, Moscow Mules, Pimm’s, Siam Sunrises and Cuba Libres among others, not to forget the ever-‐popular debater-‐drink of Yakka, a lemony South African cocktail infamous from numerous World University Debating Championships that currently sits brewing at an undisclosed location in 24. Union Socials provide the context for relationships to be forged that often last a lifetime, and are always remembered with fond nostalgia after graduation. We are very lucky to be able to host them. Furthermore we count ourselves as one of the most fortunate societies in Durham for being able to offer both the challenges of an education in analytical discourse as well as a place to discuss the outcome of debates in well-‐attended receptions with welcoming atmospheres.
Guy Miscampbell Director of Debating
Durham Debating is in a good place and on the up, continuing the climb we’ve been on for a few years. Last year’s European rankings placed us 4th, below only Oxford, Cambridge and TCD, and ahead by a large amount compared to the next institutions. This year we’ve been building on our competitive successes, with teams in the finals of the Oxford IV and the Cambridge IV, as well as having the top-‐ breaking team and reaching semi-‐ finals at the SOAS IV, making the semi-‐finals of the ESU Mace, and having additional teams reach the quarter-‐finals of the Trinity IV and the Cambridge IV. Success has also come to our Freshers squad, with a team in the final of the NAMDA Novices competition, and in the semi-‐finals of the Scottish Novices competition. This success was continued at Worlds in Botswana this year, where we broke our first team 3 years, and had our speakers placed 14th, 23rd, 41st and 69th respectively. On the judging front, our members have also been building up a reputation for
Congratulations to Guy Miscampbell (St Cuthbert’s Society) and Pam Cohn (University College) for breaking 9th at the World Universities Debating Championship 2011 and to Jonathan Worgan (University College) who broke as a judge and judged a main semi-‐ final of the WUDC. The Durham Union Society continues to be among the top-‐ranking debating societies in the world, with Guy ranking 14th individual speaker in the world, Pam ranking 23rd, Fletch Williams (St Mary’s) st th ranking 41 and Peter Doughton (Trevelyan) ranking 69 .
themselves, including Jonathan Worgan judging a Worlds’ semi-‐ final and leading the dissent on a 4-‐ 3 split for Cambridge A. In terms of competitions, the Durham IV ran with Newcastle this year smoothly, and had over 40 teams. The annual Durham Schools competition is filling up fast, and looks set to be one of the highlights of the schools debating calendar as always and the preparations for one of the most competitive events on the current British circuit, the Durham Open in Easter term are full under way. We’re confident to build upon our current successes, and move forward with competitions such as Warwick, Leeds, York, LSE Open, and many more coming up, and hopefully further advances at Euros in Galway this summer. Alumni are always welcome to get involved with Durham Debating – with our adjudication team for Durham Schools being almost entirely reliant upon our past members.
Photo: Pam Cohn
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24 North Bailey Club
Mhairi Campbell Custodian 24 North Bailey Club continues to be a key feature of Durham’s social life, living up to its university-‐wide reputation as a welcoming, friendly bar, situated perfectly for escaping college life. Students often comment on the unique atmosphere in 24, the result of a close-‐knit and enthusiastic team of bar staff, and the fact that 24 is still just that bit different from any other bar in Durham. One of the big draws for students frequenting 24 is the wide range of cocktails and shooters, wider, in fact, than any other bar in Durham, as well as the recently introduced later opening hours, meaning the bar remains active until gone 12am at weekends. During the summer weeks after exams, 24 becomes THE destination for Pimm’s and relaxation in the beer garden. Bar crawls still enjoy the traditional Jelly Baby, while students looking for somewhere quiet to have a drink and chat frequently end up at 24 because it provides somewhere distinct from the standard college bar. The bar staff in 24 are well known for being among the happiest and friendliest in the university, and it’s true that part of what makes 24 continue to be so distinctive is the fact that a job behind the bar isn’t just seen as a money-‐maker, but is just as much, if not more so, a social activity. Despite a high turnover of staff at the beginning of Michaelmas 2010 due to
so many staff graduating in the summer, the new employees have maintained this ethos, and it’s testament to the fun atmosphere that so many staff stay working their entire three or four years of study. Additional to this, the appointment of a full-‐time employed bar manager two years ago has also greatly benefitted not only how effectively the bar is run, but has also provided the Union Society with a very popular bar manager, Gordon Wright. Since 24 North Bailey Club is not just a bar, the Union Society is constantly seeking new ways to use the unique facilities it enjoys, for DUS socials and themed-‐bar nights -‐ from utilising the Reading Room for intellectual discussions of current affairs to turning the entire building into a Haunted House for Halloween. These events are consistently popular and increase the reputation of 24 and the DUS. A successful Snooker Tournament during 2010 drew many members to 24 who had not known previously of the facility and who continue to use the room. Open Mike Nights have also proved popular, and have established links with Durham performance groups such as the Durham Revue, as well as individual performers. The Reading Room and the bar are also used as a very popular venue for
society events, being used not just for socials, but also debates and for guest speakers. It has also become a popular place for new society’s to hold launch party events, such as the recent launch of the Durham University Travel Society. This benefits not just the Union Society’s bar, but also helps new society’s gather members and gain momentum. The student rooms in 24 continue to be highly popular and sought after, with many more application letters than rooms every year. As well as providing the same very reasonably priced accommodation as ever, the house remains a very sociable place to live; a focus for the social side of the Union Society where people can drop by the kitchen for a cup of coffee, or to hang out in the evening. Many freshers comment on their very positive first experiences of finding 24 after the usual Freshers’ Week focus on their college bars, and continue to frequent the bar throughout their university career. Maintaining publicity about the bar, as well as working to retain the aspects that make it unique is a priority for the Union Society, but it is no surprise that when it pays off, 24 NBC remains one of the most popular destinations for students in Durham.
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Photo: Ursula Ambrose-‐Simpson
Meet the Freshers
As a fresher, I have been lucky enough to have taken part in the big three activities that go on in the Union: Friday Nights, Competitive Debating and Socials. The Durham Union Society’s Friday nights are somewhere you go after a long week full of work, stress and drinking, they are somewhere you go where you know you don’t have to read emails or trawl through endless case studies or try and make sense of complex ideas that your lecturer has decided it’s the right time to teach you. Yes, the life of a Fresher is hard, but it is made better by the Friday nights, because it reminds you that no matter how silly your ideas are, there is always some crazy speaker who makes you seem like Albert Einstein, or a first-‐time floor speaker who’s had a bit too much Dutch courage. It is an almost unique place that way, because you never know exactly what is going to happen, who is going to extend that running joke or who is going to embarrass the speakers most. To give you an example, the running joke of calling for a division finally came to its conclusion thanks to a tipsy Rules Committee and a traditionalist speaker. If we have anything to show from that Friday it’s the inclusiveness of Union jokes; they begin at the start
of every meeting with the regular chorus of ‘noes’ ringing from the benches when asked if we’d like to take the minutes as read, this goes on all year, from the first meeting to the last, letting everyone in on a private joke. As for the speakers themselves, we’ve had some truly spectacular arguments, to name but one, the Secretary General of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-‐ Leninist) brought us the hypothesis that democracy should not be imposed by the West because Capitalism is evil and everything is owned by monopolies! That really says it all, the quality of speakers is good, and the inevitable appearances of Tom Ball help to enliven what might have been some distinctly average debates. As for competitive debating, from a fresher’s perspective there is a lot to say. From the first Monday of term, we had novice practice, going through the basics of competitive debate and some skeleton arguments. The novice trainers were experienced, engaging and had the patience of saints; they needed it. On the following Sunday, some of us were trialled for more advanced practice, being lucky enough to have debated at school I managed to find myself in IDP (the intermediate group). Thanks to this, I spent every
Edward Hauschild St John’s College weekend of Michaelmas term (bar two) out on competitions, as close as York and as far away as Cambridge, managing to break to the final of a novice competition (my best result so far). This term has slowed down a little (despite the impromptu four-‐day holiday in the middle of term to go to Trinity College Dublin) but the competitions are mounting up slowly. As a competitive debater I have had the odd experience of debating against post-‐graduates, world’s winners and finalists and the even stranger experience of coming back to Durham and assisting to coach and judge other freshers in the novice group. Finally the Socials, all I can say about these from a fresher’s perspective is this. Until I got to Durham, I didn’t realise that something that tasted like bitter lemonade could be so very alcoholic; that is the curse of Yakka. In seriousness, I have enjoyed the socials no end; performing in a raunchy freshers dance at the XXX-‐Mas social (we were told it was traditional), making cocktails, snagging the free pizza and going along to balls, all have become part of my everyday life at Durham, and in the Union Society. I can say I’ve had the full fresher’s experience; it’s still great.
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The Second Chance Project
Mei Leng Yew Photo: Mei Leng Yew
The fourth Second Chance debate was held on Friday 3rd December 2010 and was the result of eight weeks of hard work from participants, staff and volunteers. The project has now run for four years and is an ongoing partnership between Team Durham, the Durham Union Society and the Cyrenians. Hosted by the Durham Union Society in their debating chamber, the topic of the debate was “This House would re-‐ introduce National Service”. All the participants had been homeless and had joined the project to improve their self-‐confidence and to learn new skills.
Sponsorship Danny Langley Sponsorship Secretary Although the Union Society gets a large amount of money from membership, we rely heavily on our corporate sponsors to make sure we have sufficient funds to continue running high-‐quality events for our members.
Over an eight week period, students from the University’s debating society led the workshops and through a combination of games and exercises, participants were encouraged to voice their opinions loudly, clearly and logically. By the end of the course, eight participants volunteered to form the Proposition and Opposition teams for the final debate while others chose to make floor speeches after the debate. The event was well-‐attended by university students and by members of the public, many of whom praised the participants for their courage for
speaking before such a large audience. The debate was preceded by a black-‐ tie reception and four course dinner in Durham Castle, kindly hosted by University College. Following the workshop, the successful participants were presented with a certificate of achievement, a written reference and photographs. The Second Chance debating course runs every year from October to December and students are welcome to volunteer.
Information Currently we enjoy a number of strong relationships with a variety of organisations, but we are always on the look out for new opportunities. If you have any relevant contacts or know of any organisation that may be interested in sponsoring the society, or if you are interested in discussing ways in which you can support the Union Society as an individual, please don't hesitate to get in touch at email@example.com.
Newsletter produced by Sabine Schneider, Katharine Thane, Rishi Mansigani, Alexander Mellis and Robert Botcherby. Photos reproduced by kind permission of Michael Plygawko except where otherwise indicated. The Durham Union Society Pemberton Buildings Palace Green Durham DH1 3EP Telephone: 0191 3843724
Easter 2011 Ben Lewis President-Elect Easter is always a challenging term to prepare for at the Union Society, but I like to think what I am planning strikes a healthy balance between serious debate and comedy. I plan debates on motions such as ‘THBT America’s time has passed’, ‘THW legalise assisted dying’, ‘TH never wanted to go to Oxbridge anyway’ and ‘THBT Wales is just a little piece of England’. Confirmed speakers include the Rt. Hon. The Lord Hurd of Westwell, who (as Douglas Hurd) is a former Foreign Secretary in Thatcher’s government. A forum shall be held on the Alternative Vote, one of the more pressing political issues currently. Socials are planned for the Royal Wedding, our annual Garden Party and a ‘Pimm’s O’clock’ free social.
The first issue of the Durham Union Society Alumni Newsletter, for Epiphany Term 2011