Skip to main content

A picture of a carved owl at a college formal

In the best tradition of Blitz Spirit, Southies demonstrated an inspiring capacity to keep smiling and making the very best of College life despite the growing challenge posed by the pandemic. As a majority of our households entered precautionary lockdown, we began to face the unintended consequences of a decision that was designed to enhance community cohesion.

We have large households - usually sixteen students in the cluster flats and twelve in each Town House staircase. Similar arrangements exist throughout Durham's colleges. These arrangements were made to maximise possibilities for safe social interaction while complying with social distancing. Plainly excellent friendships have been formed, but the perverse consequence in South has been to place many students under lockdown despite low levels of actual infection. I can only thank you for putting up with it with such cheerful stoicism and abundant good humour. It is wonderful to see you waving from your kitchens and bedrooms every time I walk from the Pitcairn Building to The Hub. 

Early in the week, Lee. Lynn, Steven and I met with our good friends from the Altitude Foundation. Many of you will already have read about the partnership between Altitude and South College. For any who have not, Altitude is a Newcastle based charity led by Durham alumni. It exists to help young people with a talent for technology to achieve their potential, get their first job, and inspire others. Altitude provides all sorts of support to help people succeed at University and beyond. It seeks your help. Student mentors can do tremendous work to support, inspire and guide. Altitude and South College have an agreed mentoring programme which offers tremendous opportunities to promote social inclusion. If you are interested, please apply. You can find out more about Altitude here Steven has shared details of the mentoring scheme via email. I encourage you to get involved. 

It has been tremendous to see our excellent facilities in The Hub come to life. My thanks to Lynn Preston and Joe Goulding, our Gym rep, for their great work to get the Gym open and working. The facilities in the gym are among the best in the University and it is good to see them being used. 

I enjoyed Friday a lot, and not simply because I was looking forward to the weekend. In the early afternoon I led the second of my weekly current affairs seminars. As most of you know, before I became an academic, I was a journalist and editor. I worked for the BBC in the UK and abroad. I was a leading member of the team that launched BBC Radio 5 Live and later Editor of The Scotsman. At my seminars I combine my experiences in journalism and academia to explain how journalism works, its essential contribution to our understanding of the world and its central role in democratic societies. If you are interested in news, journalism or politics please join us.

On Friday evening, we enjoyed our final College Formal for new Southies. It was a tremendous evening and Oswald was flattered by the rousing toast to 'Libertas, Aequalitas, Citvitas Totius Mundi' from the students of Gillard, Lorde and Scorpius houses. Our great regret was that Steven and Becca could not join us as expected. Self-isolation has multiple consequences. We were delighted to know that the Beckett household dressed for dinner at home and were with us in spirit. This is a great South tradition and a marvellous example of the optimism of which we are all so proud. Nevertheless, it will be even nicer when we can all dine together without interference from this pesky virus. That said, my thanks to all who have attended our first formals in person or in spirit. These crucial communal events will be recorded in South College's history. They are the first of many occasions, some of which will be combined with lectures by visiting speakers. More news soon. 

I have already been impressed by enormous range of skills that exist among Southies, but I was particularly pleased to be contacted this week by first year South College student Charlotte Ward. Charlotte is a trumpeter and she asked whether she might help to mark Remembrance Day on November 11th by playing the Last Post, the bugle call traditionally played by regimental musicians of British regiments at military funerals and ceremonies commemorating those who have been killed in war. I am delighted that Charlotte will play in the Plaza at South College just after the period of silence at 11am that marks the precise moment at which the guns fell silent on western front on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. Please join us on this important occasion. Until then, please keep safe, keep calm, and carry on looking after yourselves and others.