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The Durham Union Society Alumni Newsletter Issue 2

The Alumni Network Welcome

to the second edition of the Durham Union Society Alumni Newsletter. Having spent the previous year establishing a formal position for this alumni network, it is only now that we greet you again. As such, much has happened in the previous year and once again the Society has excelled in providing enthralling and educative speeches and debates for its members. As well as this, themed socials throughout the year have provided a way for the thousands of members at Durham to meet together to relax and enjoy themselves alongside their degrees. This newsletter aims to give to give you a short but comprehensive view of the

Society’s happenings this last academic year from the perspective of several of our most prominent members. As is evident from their articles, the Society remains at the centre of their ‘Durham-experience’ and its importance is summed-up no better than in the words of PDA Campbell , President of the Society in 1951: “When a young [person] comes into residence in Durham, in seven cases out of ten he decides to become a member of the Union Society... And he is then in the succession of many whose first experience in oratory and official administration, gained in the Union Debating Hall and club-rooms, has stood them in good stead for the rest of their lives.”

Easter term 2012

Katharine Thane, Assistant Sponsorship Secretary We have recently established ways for alumni to be in contact: On our alumni facebook group we post information on each term’s debates so that you may take the opportunity to join us (remember that members may stay in the President’s room in 24 North Bailey Club). Also, If you have not already done so, please sign up to our alumni database on the alumni page of the DUS website so that as our capacity grows, we are able to contact more directly. Your feedback and ideas are incredibly important for us as a Society and we would love to hear any suggestions or experiences that you wish to share. For these purposes as well as any more information, please email

Review of the Durham Union Society 2011-12

Sam Upton, Secretary


Union Society has continued in its long history of bringing Durham University students the very best speakers. This year we have enjoyed addresses from a former foreign secretary, a notable atheist and philosopher, and the editorin-chief of The Economist. David Miliband, while deflecting questions about the atmosphere at the Miliband family Christmas, offered an insight into decision making at the very heart of government as well as an outsider assessment of the current state of the Coalition's performance. Professor Grayling tested those in the chamber with faith and provided some answers, but often more questions, to those unsure in their beliefs. John Micklethwait outlined the UK's hopes for recovery and the impact of the current downturn on the global economy.

The best address for me, however, was not a politician, great thinker or journalist but was in fact a lawyer. As a law student it was Marilyn Stowe, one of this country's best family lawyers, who most captivated me. I think that the reason Union speakers receive such a warm welcome is that each one has multiple appeals. An address will both fascinate enthusiasts within a particular area but also students with a passing interest or simply those wishing to sate their thirst for knowledge. In all categories Marilyn Stowe satisfied the demands of her audience. Whether she recounted personal anecdotes relating to senior judges or gave her own opinion on contentious issues in contemporary family law such as gay marriage and prenuptial agreements she gripped the crowd throughout. As a women at the top of her profession she spoke with knowledge and confidence on an area of the legal system that will inevitably affect all of us at

one time or another. Marilyn spoke of a footballer's wife who, mid-divorce, didn't know where she lived nor which house she was fight for ownership of. At the other end of the spectrum she talked of her fight for justice in a heartbreaking case, the facts of which were similar to that of the notorious Dingo baby case. Her blend of legal and career advice combined more conceptual topics of discussion offered an interesting mix of information for those members present. Marilyn's talk demonstrated the real value of an address where interesting people are given an undiluted opportunity to share their experiences with the audience with no requirement to pursue an agenda or score points against a rival speaker. With the wealth and variety of individuals appearing in this forum it is clear that the Union's tradition of hosting fine speakers is as strong as ever.

Epiphany Term 2012

Nick Freeman, President

2012 at the Union Society got off to a lively start. The first Friday Night of term opened with students cramming into the Debating Chamber for an 'emergency debate' between the Klute Manager and our own debaters. After a heated discussion of Durham's most notorious nightclub's controversial renovations, the night took a more cerebral turn, as we co-hosted the Editor-in-chief of The Economist, John Micklethwait, with the PPE Society. Mr. Micklethwait's insights into the Arab Spring and economic crisis were then followed by a somewhat 'cheeky' debate on whether marriage was outdated, ending the evening with a flirtatious defence of fidelity from best-selling author Adele Parks. The term also featured an illuminating investigation into medical ethics from Professor

Anthony Grayling, and an irreverent take on social media from Jeremy Vine and local Professor Lord Robert Winston, a discourse on philosophy from headmaster Dr. Bernard Trafford, debating the motion "This House Fears Facebook" against competitively witty journalists James Ball of the Guardian and Willard Foxton of the Huffington Post. Between these events and many others, the Union succeeded in recruiting more new members than in any other Epiphany term since 1982. There is still much to do to restore the Union to its pre-recession glory, but 2012 has turned out to be a great year nonetheless. Some of this content is available on our YouTube channel, including interviews with our speakers in collaboration with Purple Radio.

Meet the Freshers

Antonia Ansell, Member of Social Committee

The Durham Union Society has been the backbone of my year as a fresher. Initially I was attracted to the debating side of the Union, but as soon as I got to know the people I could see that it would become a large part of my university life. Although a clichĂŠ, my first experience at the Union was genuinely breathtaking. As I walked into the chamber to 'audition' to be on the debating team, I marvelled at the shields and architecture - I could really feel the Union's prestige and history. Without doubt one of the most memorable experiences with the Union was my first debating competition, NAMDA Novices IV. It seemed that I was going to have to get used to 3:30am starts as I witnessed the sun rising whilst walking to the train station. On arrival I was met with members of my college coming back from a night out in Newcastle - it was at that point that I realised what I had let myself in for, and I loved it! In my own crazy way, I was living the student life. Another memory that will stand out for a long time to come was the moment I and my debate partner, Ed Hauschild realised we had broken to semi-finals in the National Mace Competition. I can remember vividly the exchange of panicked words: "Durham C... that's us?", "but I put my pen and paper away!" For me, it was a testament to the excellent debating tuition I had received that term and it showed what could be achieved in only one term! However, the Union has more to it that simply debating. I am a member of the Social Committee and attend General Committee every fortnight. I have also been sure to make the most of the excellent parties and socials, the highlight being the prestigious balls. It seems to be an excellent excuse to dress up and enjoy a beautiful evening with lovely people. I cannot believe that a year has passed since I joined the Durham Union Society. I have made friends for life, gained incredible memories and listened to engaging debates. I now look to my second year to provide me with yet more exciting experiences.

Simon Tunnicliffe, Director of Debating

Debating 2011/2012 has been a very successful year for competitive debating at the Union Society. At the World Championships this year, the two Durham teams competing both performed fantastically with Durham A (Pam Cohn and Guy Miscampbell) finishing 10th and reaching the Quarter-Finals whilst Durham B (Simon Tunnicliffe and Benjamin Dory) finishing 26th reaching the Octo-Finals (or last 32). The great performance was well deserved after a very successful domestic build up after great squad performances at the most competitive inter-varsity competitions in the UK. Durham sent teams who went on to make finals at the intervarsity competitions held at University College Dublin, Oxford University, Newcastle University and at the English National Championships (hosted by the English Speaking Union). In addition to this, teams also reached the semi-finals at competitions held at Edinburgh, Cambridge and Sheffield. Internal Debating also continued to grow with the Union able to host the largest Novice Cup ever hosted, and the Inter-Collegiate Cup this year was more popular than ever. In particular one of the best things about Durham’s competitive debating squads this year is how many beginner debaters started to come through to take their place among Durham’s best debaters. In addition to competing with success around the country (and world) the Durham Union Society hosted three competitions. The Durham Inter-Varsity competition was a great success and was able to attract the chiefadjudicators of the World Championships later that

year to run it. Durham Schools was the biggest schools competition on record again with 128 teams competing and the competition needing to have quarter finals for the first time in order to sort a highly competitive field. Finally the Durham Open fulfilled its traditional place in the circuit as one of the most fun competitions on the UK debating circuit where teams could run their own motions and debate out of the ordinary ideas. Overall, 2011/2012 was one of the most successful years of debating the Union Society has seen and much of the groundwork for future success has been laid.

24 North Bailey Club During much of the Union Society’s history, the 24 North Bailey Club has remained the social centre of the Society. As well as being a thriving bar boasting the best cocktails on the Bailey (including the infamous ‘Jelly Baby’ at only £2.50), this year has remained popular for sports bar crawls as well as providing a great back-drop for friends to discuss current affairs over a quiet drink. Various illustrious speakers have also been hosted in our Reading Room, complete with wine and the return of nibbles after Friday night debates, providing the perfect opportunity for speakers to learn about our great university and for our student members to learn much from their areas of expertise also. The Union’s diverse social events are too hosted in ’24’ throughout the year. From ‘Freshers’ drinks’, providing freshers with their first taste of the Union Society, to wine and chocolate tasting evenings, St. Patricks’s day celebrations and an annual summer Garden Party. The Jubilee themed garden party this year was a great success with plenty of Pimms, a barbecue

Rebecca Livesey, Custodian and to our great surprise in the North, sunny weather! This provided the a perfect end to exams, for friends to great each other after weeks of hermitage whilst revising with the added celebration of the Queen’s 60 years of reign. More recently we have hosted nights for special occasions such as featuring five new cocktails to celebrate May Day, which as a free event to members, was of course well-received. Big changes are underway in 24 North Bailey Club to renovate and make better use of our quirky building. Changes have started earlier this year with the removal of incredibly heavy snooker table which was making the floor bow under its weight. Some alumni may remember this previously as the President’s office. In its place we hope to re-introduce a Union library for the benefit of members as well as improving facilities for a members-only lounge downstairs which has been initiated with the addition of a television. In the future we hope to buy a glass cabinet to display all our debating trophies and ‘Union stash’. Funds at the moment, however, are the biggest barrier to our renovation of 24 NBC with income from the bar being unsteady throughout the year due to the closure of Prebends bridge and road works on the other side of us, outside St. Chad’s College meaning the annual donation from the bar to the Union Society has had to be curbed. For more information or suggestions regarding the work on 24NBC, and if there is any particular event that you remember fondly from your time in Durham please do email us and tell us as we are currently looking for ways to further the 24 experience and would love to hear your views.

Reflective thoughts from a long-timer...

David Wells, House Committee: Epiphany 2008-Michaelmas 2008; Steward: Michaelmas 2008- Easter 2010; Rules Committee: Michaelmas 2011-Easter 2012

My experience at University over roughly half a decade would have been remarkably dull without the Durham Union Society. It presents a unique opportunity, shared perhaps only with the Oxford and Cambridge Unions, to broaden one’s horizons. In few other places can you hear Members of Parliament such as David Miliband and David Davis, Bishops and other religious leaders, former foreign heads of state like Bertie Ahern, ambassadors from all over the world, famous actors such as Sir Patrick Stewart and Imelda Staunton, great scientists like Lord Robert Winston and other people of note like Sir Ian Blair in the context of free speech and debate over the most contentious issues of the day, vote on these issues via the ever reliable method of acclamation and then be able to talk to these distinguished speakers amongst fellow students from very different backgrounds to your own in a relaxed environment in the Reading Room at 24 North Bailey Club afterwards. Similarly in few other places do you get the opportunity to be trained to such a high standard of competitive debating should you choose to do so and thus be able to


Andrew Lloyd, Sponsorship Secretary

The Union is more of a home to many students in Durham than their own colleges. People come here to engage in debate watch celebrity speakers or even just to go to its social events in 24s. However the Union only exist thanks to its generous sponsors and benefactors. Each Friday Night Celebrity Debate costs the Durham Union roughly £800 and the cost of our internationally renowned competitions can be even greater. The support the Union receives from the companies and alumni who donate to our society ensure that these events

travel over the country and indeed the globe to compete against the world’s finest in the field. If you choose to become involved by joining a committee and becoming an officer you can learn vital skills through the running of the society be it in helping to organise and run the fantastic social events such as the Michaelmas Ball or looking after the bar. In getting involved with the Durham Union society my horizons were opened up to a whole new realm of possibilities and the skills that I learned by becoming involved will stand me in good stead for the rest of my life. In my time in Durham I have seen many changes within the Union Society with new constitutional annexes and new officer positions changing how the society is run but those core values of discussion and debate within an open platform have never changed and it is those values coupled with the wonderful social aspects of the Union Society, with their opportunities to forge lifelong friendships amongst those from different walks of life, that will continue to benefit future generations of students as they have benefitted us. renovating our private reading room in 24North Bailey.

can continue and that the Union can still provide its excellent services to members present and future. Large companies such as KPMG, Clifford Chance and even Klute (most Durham Union member’s favourite nightclub) support the Union by placing adverts in our Brochures and Term Cards or by Sponsoring the Union’s Debates and Events. Alumni, many of whom still come to our events support us with generous contributions and donations often in aiding a specific project such as myself and the Assistant Sponsorship Secretary work to maintain the links between the Durham Union Alumni and the companies that support the Union. If you have any questions on how you can support the Durham Union Society please feel free to email me at I would like to thank those of you who have helped the

Michaelmas Term 2012 Elise Trewick, President

After a very successful year here at the Union, I’m very much looking forward to our Michaelmas term. To welcome our new members, and welcome back our old ones, I’m planning a term that should be packed with engaging debate and brilliant socials. We will be debating the War on Terror, the upcoming US election, the place of Britain in Europe, and even the fashion industry. With numerous speakers already confirmed, including Paralympian Tanni GreyThompson, and Institute of Economic Affairs Chief Mark Littlewood, the intellectual side of the Union promises to be as exciting as_ever. . We also have some great social events planned. Michaelmas will kick off with our freshers’ drinks party, so that our new members can get to know each other, and get to know the Union itself. The annual Michaelmas ball, this year a Masquerade affair, will be hosted in November in the beautiful setting of Lumley Castle, and should be the highlight of the Union social calendar.


Remember that membership of the Union doesn’t end with graduation, and we’d love to see some of our alumni back in Durham. Whether it’s in our charming chamber for some healthy debate or for a drink in 24, our life members are always welcome!

For more information, queries or requests:

Produced and Edited by: Katharine Thane. With Thanks to: Sam Upton, Nick Freeman, Antonia Ansell, Simon Tunnicliffe, Rebecca Livesey, David Wells, Andrew Lloyd, & Elise Trewick. The Durham Union Society Pemberton Buildings Palace Green Durham DH1 3EP Tel: 0191 3843724

Alumni Newsletter 2012  

Durham Union Society Newsletter is out now!

Alumni Newsletter 2012  

Durham Union Society Newsletter is out now!