e-Matters 30th September 2020

Amongst our membership lies great experience, wisdom, and insight, so rather than stay silent (not a modus to which the Development & Alumni Relations Office subscribes!) we thought we should bring you some thoughts and reflections from our own broad community. These pieces are also featured in our regular e-Matters newsletter. If you would like to sign up to receive e-Matters please contact development.office@chch.ox.ac.uk

Dear Members and Friends,

We bring you another edition of e-Matters amidst an autumn backdrop and as another academic year begins. Of course, this term will be like no other and everyone at the House has been busy preparing an environment which puts student safety first whilst ensuring the experience of being at Christ Church is as normal and fulfilling as possible. Our thanks to all donors who have supported the launch of our Covid Student Support Appeal. The results of that support are being felt immediately. In this edition we offer a typical broad range of subjects and issues which, we hope, will please all palates. Do consider making your own contribution for future editions!

With best wishes, 
Mark Coote and the Development Team


News from the House

COVID-19 Student Support Fund

A huge thank you to all Members and Friends who have responded so far to our appeal to extend help for our students in the current climate. We have already raised more than a third of our target and your support would be very welcome. In case you missed it here’s what we stated last time:

Upper LibraryA hallmark of alumni giving at Christ Church has been the continuity of student support. Donations towards helping students during their time at the House - and thereby making the most of the many opportunities that we are able to offer - have led the way in the collegiate university. In fact, the House spends more on student support and on access and outreach activities than any other college. We have also helped pioneer, through significant funding, the Target Oxbridge programme, which supports talented Black students in applying to Oxford and Cambridge. 

We are now asking our alumni, friends and supporters to help us with our COVID-19 Student Support Fund. Over the long vacation, and as we prepare to reopen the college and welcome students to the House at the beginning of Michaelmas Term, it has become clear that the amount and quality of support we need to provide will be markedly different than before. For a start, a number of students’ family circumstances have changed as a result of the pandemic’s economic impact and we are already witnessing a rise in requests for financial assistance.

In areas of learning support and teaching, the pandemic has encouraged us to find new ways of engaging with our students and pursuing the scholarship for which Oxford is renowned. However, additional resources to support students both at home and in college are required.

For instance, students coming from abroad are having to quarantine for two weeks before arrival and many are likely to have to stay in residence over the vacations in future, in order to avoid further periods of quarantine. In other cases, students are requesting help to cover unexpected travel costs related to disrupted schedules. We have also had more students than usual expressing worries about meeting their basic accommodation and meal expenses.

Some Freshers have endured a substantially dislocated end-of-school experience, and it is anticipated that they may need to access additional teaching and learning resources upon arrival. We are also making provision for additional mental health support for students who would benefit from extra care at a very stressful time. And some of our Graduate students and Junior Research Fellows may need extensions in order to finish research disrupted by the pandemic.

While Christ Church already sets aside substantial sums for student welfare and support, we are anticipating additional demand of at least £40,000, and probably more depending on how long the current situation continues.

Safety within Christ Church is paramount - putting in place arrangements to allow for social distancing, regular deep cleaning and sanitising, installing special partitioning within communal areas – and this requires extra funding. Just one example is the likely need for a UV-light air-sterilising machine for the Upper Library, as the library has so many historic surfaces that ozone cleaning may be the safest way to manage sanitisation.

Arrangements have also been made to provide safe distancing within all Library areas. This inevitably results in the need for additional study space. To that end, we will be using the Upper Library, the Exhibition Space, the JCR and GCR, and possibly the Thatched Barn as additional study spaces with socially distanced seating. Additional expense comes with the need for invigilation and the regular cleaning of these areas, amounting to some £10,000 per term.

Relaxing in the Masters GardenWe are also providing safe social spaces for our students. We were one of the first colleges to address this important aspect of student life by erecting a large marquee within the Masters’ Garden with an outdoor bar. Here, Junior Members will be able to meet one another before and after meals in a well-ventilated, but protected outdoor setting. It will also allow our many student clubs and societies to have a safe place to meet given the current prohibition on holding indoor gatherings amongst students living in different housing ‘bubbles.’ Hiring and heating the marquee is expected to cost approximately £15,000 per term – and we are currently assuming that we will need to keep the marquee for both Michaelmas and Hilary Terms.

These are just some examples of where the House has had to adapt to the demands of the pandemic. We are thus hoping to raise new funds to match the extra expenditure of at least £90,000. Because the future is uncertain, Christ Church is committed to supporting our community of students and scholars at all levels. The fact that this can happen at a time when there is enormous demand on the institution’s finances, but income streams have been severely curtailed, is testament in no small way to your previous generosity. Thank you.

We are disappointed that we cannot see you, or bring you together at events at the moment, in order to explain what we are doing and thank you for your support in person. But for now, these emails must suffice. Nonetheless, the sincerity of our appeal is no less deep, and the needs about which we write no less real.

Should you be able to help support our students during this very challenging time, we encourage you to help make a difference now.

Thank you for your continued support of the House. 
Please donate here if you can.
Mark Coote
Director of Development


Judith Curthoys: Cows and Curates

Photograph of Archivist Judith CurthoysBook cover: 'Cows and Curates'The archivist's latest book will be available from the Christ Church online shop from the 5th October.


Judith Curthoys, College Archivist & Library Manager, introduces her latest book, Cows and Curates: The Story of the Land and Livings of Christ Church, Oxford.

"When Christ Church was founded in 1546, Henry VIII made the college a generous grant of land and other property. This endowment was large enough to ensure the smooth running of the college and cathedral including maintaining its buildings, educating its students and paying its staff.

From earliest days up to the present, the endowment and later gifts - in all parts of the country, from Montgomeryshire to Norfolk and Cornwall to Yorkshire - have been managed with varying success, sometimes expertly, at other times less so.

The shelves of the college archives are full of maps and plans, account books, manorial records, deeds, photographs and detailed correspondence with tenants and vicars. Drawing on this rich material, Cows and Curates recounts the history of the management of farms, urban dwellings, commercial property and industrial estates, as well as the relationship between the college and its incumbents, against the backdrop of national social change, legislation, agricultural developments and depressions, wars and modernisation.

This is the fourth book in the archivist’s ‘Christ Church Saga’: The Cardinal’s College was published in 2012, recounting the history of the college; in 2017, The Stones of Christ Church told the story of its buildings; and, in 2019, The King’s Cathedral looked at the development of the ecclesiastical foundation from its earliest days as a small priory founded by Frideswide to its role as the diocesan seat in the 21st century."
Promotional information about The Cardinal's College, and The Stones of Christ Church


Promotional information about The King's Cathedral

Cow and Curates, as well as Judith's previous books, will be available in Christ Church Online Shop from 5 October.
To visit the shop, please click here. 


Christ Church Boat Club Charity Row: In Between a Lock and a Hard Place

Members of the boat crew navigating a lockTaking on fuel whilst rowingWe are pleased to report that on the weekend of 18th September 2020, Eoin Simpkins (President), John Broadbent, Peter Kilfeather and Charmaine Lang, four members of Christ Church Boat Club, successfully rowed from Oxford to Fulham in support of the Boat Club’s partnership with Fulham Reach Boat Club. They completed the 115mi/185km in a two rower skiff (with one person acting as coxswain and the fourth member providing support from the bank) in two days.

The team set off at 5.30 on both mornings to achieve their target, slowed down more by the 32 locks they faced than anything else. Supplies of peanut butter, jam, nutella, brioche, hobnobs, and cheese and pickle sandwiches kept them going, along with a gigantic supper of fish and chips in Henley on the Friday night before falling asleep by 9pm.

Believing they might well be between a lock and a hard place, they actually met many kind lock-keepers from the environmental agency who offered advice and well wishes. The worst aspects were the terrain of the Thames Path, with a bike lacking any form of suspension, let alone comfortable design, the array of blisters they acquired across their hands, and a dose of sunburn in the late Summer weather.

The Empacher touring boat they used was a kind donation from the Le Merle family. Matthew (1981) explained the name of the boat “The Golden Gleam”:

A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky
By Lewis Carroll

A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July —

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear —

Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream —
Lingering in the golden gleam —
Life, what is it but a dream?


Club members posing for a photographThe Fulham Reach Boat Club charity aims to unlock the potential of young people through rowing. The Fulham Reach's coaches use four key aspects of rowing that help develop future life skills: Teamwork, “pull together’’; Focus; Confidence; and Ambition.

For more information about Fulham Reach Boat Club, please visit: https://www.fulhamreachboatclub.co.uk/

The Christ Church Boat Club crew has raised over £2,000, but it is not too late to make a donation: please click here to visit their Just Giving page.

Click here for more event information on Christ Church Boat Club Row to Fulham Facebook Page


Andrew Chamblin Memorial Concert 2020

Photograph of organist Margaret PhillipsWe are pleased and grateful to be able to publish this edited version of an article by Nicola Lisle for www.oxinabox.co.uk about Margaret Phillips’ music choices for the Andrew Chamblin Organ concert which took place on the 29 September.

Dr Andrew Chamblin, a theoretical physicist and Christ Church graduate died suddenly in February 2006, aged just 36. The Memorial Concert series that takes his name is now in its fourteenth year.

"As with previous recitalists, Margaret will be playing a programme that reflects Andrew’s love for Bach and other music from the baroque era. All the composers have some connection to Bach – except one, William Walond, an 18th century English composer from Oxford.

“He’s the only English composer I’m going to play, and he actually spent all his life in Oxford,” Margaret explains. “We don’t know much about him, but he might have been an organist at Christ Church or New College. I thought it was nice to include something by him because of the Oxford connection.”

All the other composers, though, are very much from Bach’s circle. First is Praeludium in C by the German composer and organist Georg Böhm. Margaret says: “He was working in Lunenburg in Germany when Bach was there, and we didn’t know until relatively recently whether he’d actually taught Bach as a young man, but a manuscript came to light recently which mentioned him as Bach’s teacher, so he definitely did teach him."

“The second is an Italian composer, Girolamo Frescobaldi, and Bach actually owned a copy of this work from Fiori Musicali. For him to have a copy of an Italian work was quite unusual, so that’s why I’ve included that.”

“Then there’s the French composer, Louis Marchand, who would have met Bach, but there was supposed to be a contest between them to see who was the best performer. Marchand obviously decided at the last minute that he couldn’t face it and he took fright and disappeared!”

The rest of the programme is devoted to the master himself, J.S. Bach.

“I’m playing three choral preludes from the Eighteen Chorales, which are pieces that Bach wrote earlier in his life and later collected together and revised, so he obviously thought highly of them."

“Then I’m finishing with one of the big Bach pieces, the Fantasia and Fugue in G minor. The Fantasia is quite solemn and severe, and then there’s a jolly fugue at the end.”

The one major difference between this recital and previous ones in the series, is that due to coronavirus, there will be no live audience. The hour-long recital will be livestreamed online.

“It’s a new experience for me,” Margaret admits. “In fact, it will be the first time I’ve actually played to people since the lockdown. I did a recording recently, but that’s obviously different. So I have absolutely no idea what it’s going to be like. I think it’s going to be rather weird, but we shall hope for the best!”"

The fourteenth annual Andrew Chamblin Memorial Concert was given by Margaret Phillips FRCO ARCM at 8 pm in Christ Church Cathedral on Tuesday 29th September 2020.

Click here to listen to the live-streamed concert.

Click here to read the full interview with Margaret Philips about her choice of programme for the concert. (Credit: Nicola Lisle for www.oxinabox.co.uk)

Click here to learn more about Andrew Chamblin Fund and make a gift.


The Christ Church Music Trust: 'The Great Life Eternal' by Ghislaine Reece-Trapp

Photograph of Ghislaine Reece-TrappOn Saturday 26th September Christ Church Cathedral Choir joined forces with the girl choristers of Frideswide Voices to perform 'The Great Life Eternal', a new piece composed by Ghislaine Reece-Trapp (2011), to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the admission of Women as undergraduates to Christ Church.

This was the first time that the girl and boy choristers of Christ Church had sung together. The combined voices of both choirs reverberating through the Cathedral was certainly a special moment within the life of both the college and Cathedral and a truly fitting way to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Women at the House.
Ghislaine, a former Christ Church organ scholar from 2011-14, has developed a fine reputation as a composer, organist and conductor, and was a finalist in the 2017 BBC carol competition. Using words from  the C19th African-American poet Olivia Ward Bush-Banks's 'Treasured Moments', Ghislaine's composition celebrates "the special union of liturgy and choral music".

Click here for a short video from Ghislaine about the composition.


Emily's Wine Blog

Five alternatives to student staples:

Buttery Manager Emily RobothamWith Freshers’ Week fast approaching, the race is on in the Buttery to find reasonably priced wines to inspire and educate young people. Here, I share with you some of the tactics and stratagems we’re using to guide our students.

1) Lambrini – It’s hard to argue with £1.80 a bottle on Tesco’s bottom shelf. Lambrini isn’t actually wine: it’s perry or pear cider made near Liverpool. Born in the year the Spice Girls formed, Lambrini has recently tried to increase its relevancy with a broad range including ‘low-fat’ and berry flavours.

Our response: every event we run for the students (under normal circumstances) begins with a reception involving a Cremant de Bourgogne. Rich and brioche-y, this traditional-method sparkling doesn’t claim to be fat-free, but rarely does anything good in life. We import our Cremant by the pallet directly from the Cave, so you don’t often see it elsewhere. Taking fewer but larger deliveries is part of our effort to improve the cellar’s carbon footprint.

2) The one with the foot on the bottle – you know the one.

Our response: our bar range of wines includes a Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux, a Spanish red from Castilla y Leon, a Languedoc Syrah and a Romanian Pinot Grigio. For wines with a bit of sweetness, we stock a reasonable Vouvray and an array of mature Riesling. We try to vary familiarity with the unexpected in the range; sometimes great value can be found in the most premium of regions. We also don’t expect to condescend to students: you don’t need to be a wine connoisseur to enjoy great German Riesling, and some of the prejudices of recent decades are thankfully absent in new generations.

3) Buckfast: tonic wine made by the monks of Buckfast Abbey in Devon, and associated with numerous acts of hooliganism.

Our response: the historic House response is to drink Port instead. Port may make you behave no better, but taste-wise there’s no comparison. In Summer, we stock white and pink Port; in the Undercroft, our bestselling cocktail is Port-based.

4) Blossom Hill flavoured wine-drink – not really wine, not really fruit juice, but somewhere in between.

Our response: try a wine that actually tastes of fruit. Chilean Sauvignon Blanc will give you gooseberry, melon and even guava; Viognier will give you juicy peaches. Syrah has flavours of blackcurrant and black pepper; Cabernet Sauvignon of blackberries with old school-room (if Old World) or eucalyptus (if New World). The world of taste is so much richer and more exciting than confected strawberry flavouring.

5) Pre-drinks. 

Our response: embrace apéritif instead. Dry Provence Rosé with some green olives. Manzanilla sherry with salted almonds. Soave with garlic flatbreads. Treat yourself right.


Dr Carissa Véliz: Privacy is Power

Photograph of Dr Carissa Véliz in the upper libraryCover of Privacy is PowerDr Carissa Véliz’s (2014) new book Privacy is Power’ is now published and available to order.

Dr Carissa Véliz will be joining two book launches held by The Institute for Ethics in AI (1 October) and Oxford Martin School (6 October). Both book launches will be streamed online and details of the events can be found here.

To learn more about Dr. Carissa Véliz’s research, please visit her personal site.



News from Alumni

An Abolitionist at Christ Church: Sir William Dolben by Dr Nigel Aston

Photograph of Nigel AstonNigel Aston (1979) recently retired from twenty years teaching in the School of History, Politics and International Relations at the University of Leicester to take up a Residential Research Fellowship for 2019-20 at Durham University, that was curtailed by the coming of Covid-19.

His Enlightened Oxford? The University and the cultural and political life of eighteenth-century Britain and beyond is to be published by OUP in 2021. Here, in a fitting introduction to a number of articles which will be published in e-Matters during October, Black History Month, Nigel writes in honour of  Sir William Dolben:

Sir William Dolben (1727-1814), the sponsor of the legislation to which he gave his name: Dolben’s Act, 1788, is a figure little known to House men and women. But Dolben undoubtedly deserves better.
Portrait of Sir William Dolben, Christ Church, Oxford by Mather Brown

Eighteenth-Century Oxford is still commonly misrepresented as sunk in port and prejudice, a deeply regressive institution out of tune with the Age of Enlightenment, and ready to embrace whatever reactionary cause was to hand. Dolben was one of the many Oxonians who gives the lie to the appealing caricature. He came up to Christ Church from Westminster in 1744 from both a clerical and landed background. Later, as one of the University’s two MPs continuously between 1780 and 1806, Dolben strenuously served Oxford’s interests and was one of the most respected members of the House of Commons in his day.  But he also put his abundant energies into causes other than those that concerned just the University and the Church of England. Black lives certainly mattered for Sir William Dolben, so much so that even as Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson and company began to organise and mobilise public opinion against the Slave Trade, Dolben was independently pushing legislation through Parliament to end the right of slave owners and captains to cram as many slaves into a ship’s hold as they possibly could. He wanted action, he wanted government backing, and he wanted abolition of the trade. Before his death in 1814 he got all three.

Dolben was an unlikely reformer. He was a baronet, the squire of Finedon in Northamptonshire, the grandson of an archbishop of York, the son of a canon of Durham, a graduate of Christ Church, Oxford. Had there been a Bullingdon Club at Oxford in the 1740s he might have been invited to join (and he would probably have refused). He matched his high Anglicanism with high Toryism and was as opposed to giving in to the rebellious American colonists as he was to the French Revolution. But he was also proud of his independence in Parliament and his vote could never be taken for granted by ministers. If there was going to be an attack on the vested interests of the slave trade then someone like Dolben was just the man you might choose to lead it: an establishment figure with the right sort of contacts in Church and state, unbribeable, beyond intimidation.

It was above all Dolben’s Christian humanitarianism that drove him. He was horrified after seeing for himself  what conditions were like for the human cargo below decks aboard some slave transport ships anchored in the Thames. Dolben acted. In spring 1788 he introduced a bill that stipulated minimal conditions of comfort for carrying them and steered it on to the statute books as the Slave Trade Regulation Act – Dolben’s Act - principally through his own determination and a lot of help from his friends, led by Prime Minister Pitt the Younger. It was a very modest measure. It proposed that the number of slaves permissible on any vessel must be in proportion to its tonnage. And it would be only for a trial period of a year, to be reviewed and renewed in Parliament. Additionally, all British slave ships were to have a doctor on board who was required to keep records of sickness and death on the voyage. Modest it may have been but it attracted a storm of criticism from the slavery lobby plus their allies in government and Parliament. Abolitionists like Dolben knew full well what they  were up against. But he also knew a start had to be made and he doggedly persisted. Wrecking amendments were successfully moved in the Lords, Cabinet ministers counselled caution and postponement, and Pitt was forced to step in. He went straight to White’s club to get his recalcitrant supporters back into line and back into Parliament and told opponents that if they persisted and Dolben’s proposal failed he and they could not continue members of the same government. It did the trick. Dolben’s bill, though much amended, passed into law in July 1788.

It was a start, an encouraging start for the abolitionists. If the resistance to be expected from the slavery lobby had been underlined, so had the support of a vigorous young Prime Minister. As for Dolben himself, every year he acted to prevent his legislation from expiring, and he was also regularly the chairman at the committee stage of successive slave trade abolition bills. Dolben was a realist. He knew that the slave trade would not be abolished in one fell swoop, but what he had enacted had a huge symbolic importance that contemporaries recognised, for which he received much acclaim.  They included former slaves such as Ottobah Cugoano, the African author of Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of Slavery, who predicted that in time Dolben’s ‘noble name shall be revered from shore to shore’. Instead, Sir William Dolben has been largely forgotten. Christ Church should be proud of him, and there’s no better time in which to give this modest man the recognition that he shunned in his own lifetime.


Richard Crowder: Détente: The Chance to End the Cold War

Photograph of Richard CrowderIn September Richard Crowder (1992) published the second volume in his historical series about the Cold War – Détente: The Chance to End the Cold War (I B Tauris, 2020). 

The first volume - Aftermath: The Makers of the Postwar World (I B Tauris, 2015) – covers the period between the signing of the Atlantic Charter by Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in 1941, and the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949.  Détente picks up the story twenty years later, covering the period between 1968 and 1975, when Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev tried to find a way to ease tensions between the superpowers at the height of the Cold War.

Cover of Aftermath by Richard CrowderAftermath thus covers both wartime, and the period immediately after the war.  It tells the story of the grand alliance between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, who hoped to translate their partnership into a force for peace after victory, through the creation of the United Nations.  For a short period, such high aspirations seemed within reach.  But by 1947, it became clear that east and west were sinking into hostile confrontation.  It fell to Roosevelt’s successor, Harry Truman, to find a new path, through the Marshall Plan which revitalised European economies, and the creation of NATO.

The book traces the efforts of statesmen, but also those who supported them as public servants.  Alongside well-known figures like John Maynard Keynes, Ernie Bevin, Dean Acheson and George Marshall, we meet others such as diplomats Alexander Cadogan, Gladwyn Jebb, Oliver Franks, Charles Bohlen, George Kennan, Pierson Dixon, Leo Pasvolsky and Andrei Gromyko, whose story has received less attention in the past.  Eleanor Roosevelt stands out for her remarkable contribution in corralling agreement in 1948 over the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, even as the onset of the Cold War was closing down the space for consensus.  The link between Truman, Secretary of State George Marshall and Arthur Vandenberg, Republican chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, offers a striking reminder of the power of bipartisanship in times of trouble.

San Francisco Conference on the United Nations, 1945 - Vyacheslav Molotov, Edward Stettinius and Anthony Eden debate a point.  Clem Attlee sits in the background, reading a book (Credit: UNPhoto/Rosenberg)A serving diplomat himself, Richard tells the story of these defining events from a human perspective.  Drawing on diaries, memoirs and official records, he weaves the narrative episode by episode, with colour and detail which take the reader into the heart of the action.  Thus we see Churchill fussing over a seating plan for the dinner that he hosts at the Potsdam Conference after the defeat of Nazi Germany, even as he and Truman contemplate use of the atom bomb to end the war with Japan.  Cadogan, normally an articulate and poised permanent secretary at the Foreign Office, is momentarily lost for words when addressing a group of chorus girls at an evening’s entertainment in New York during negotiations on the Charter of the United Nations.  At key moments, the protagonists wrestle with the self-doubt and strain of high office.  An exhausted Franks, who crafted the European response to the Marshall Plan and went on to be Britain’s ambassador in Washington, takes a day off to recharge amidst the glories of Chartres Cathedral, followed by a good lunch.  Vyacheslav Molotov, longstanding foreign minister under Stalin, continues to set a place at supper for his wife, even after she has been imprisoned in a labour camp.

The period depicted in Aftermath is well-known.  But, as we mark this year three-quarters of a century since the end of the Second World War, the book offers a perspective on these events which is both fresh, and conveys how, to contemporaries, their course seemed far less clear-cut than it does in retrospect.  For many, their guiding purpose stemmed from the deep sense of failure among a generation who had experienced the First World War.  “This is the second great chance we have had”, writes the American diplomat George Kennan to his sister in 1943.  “We muffed the first.  If we muff this too, can we be sure that we will be given a third?”  Discovery of the concentration camps at the end of the war, and the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, reinforced that moral imperative.  When it becomes clear that an internationalist approach through the United Nations will not work, Europeans and Americans realise that a more muscular alternative is required.

Richard writes about these times with a personal touch. In his introduction, he refers to his family’s experience of wartime, and his own childhood in Portsmouth, growing up with those memories still alive among an older generation.  The need to learn from the past, in pursuit of peace for a new era, runs as a subtext throughout.  “I recommend this book wholeheartedly to anyone involved in handling present problems”, commented former foreign secretary Douglas Hurd, “as so often we shall not succeed in handling those problems unless we understand how and why they came about”. 

Click here to order Détente: The Chance to End the Cold War.


Shaan Libby (1993): A Perspective from Madras

Photograph of Shaan Libby and her family.We are living through some of those moments in history which will be spoken about for generations to come - when life as we knew it changed. One has read about the great pandemics of the past, but actually facing one is extraordinary.

When Simon asked for a few lines on what it’s been like in India this year, it got me thinking about all that has happened here - both the negatives and the positives.

The virus has wreaked havoc on a personal level in millions of families across the country. The numbers are currently at just under 6 million persons who have had Covid19, and nearly 100,000 deaths so far. The curve has not even begun flattening here - yet.

India had a relatively early response, with the Prime Minister giving a speech on television in late March asking everyone to stay home from the next morning for three weeks in order to combat the virus. This was well-received by the middle classes, but for those who don’t have homes, or whose homes are far away, this lockdown was a complete shock to the system. 

India is unique in that approximately 37% of the population are internal migrants - having travelled away from their home states for work. The percentage is actually significantly higher in the urban areas - closer to 50% or more. These people were stranded as the companies they worked for chose not to pay them and they tend to be daily wagers. Without this security, they eventually gave up their rented rooms and began a long walk home. The news followed their plight as they walked for weeks going into months. 

This whole thing played out on our television sets, but still somehow the numbers getting Covid seemed hypothetical until we started to hear of people we knew and then losing people well known to us to this wretched virus. Also, when dear friends lost a parent we could not do what people here tend to do - which is to immediately congregate at the home of the bereaved. This may sound odd to a Western reader, but it is meant to be a well-meaning distraction, I think, and it emphasises how many people are mourning with you in solidarity. These condolence visits have not been possible during the pandemic and that makes things all the more difficult - not being able to reach out and hug someone and say you are sorry for their loss.

There are a few positive things that have come out of this phase. For one thing, this pandemic has brought us closer together as a family - we have all been bubbled under one roof for months now, with my parents next door as well. We have played board games after ages, and enjoyed cooking together. Both Jim and I have been in touch with College friends again - via Zoom calls - so also with family in the UK.

Another positive is that there are so many virtual courses and conferences on offer at the moment, and students are experiencing opportunities well beyond these shores. Our son Adam has been doing various programming and Science courses from his desk in Chennai! Online schooling has also opened up some time for school students to do these things. Our daughter Zai did a course in photography on Zoom!

Fortunately for us we have been able to adapt and work online, but we are aware that we are fortunate in this regard. I pray more now than I did before - and we literally take things by the week and try not to look too far ahead as nobody really knows what the future holds. Carpe Diem.


Dr Seb Falk: The Light Ages

Cover of The Light Ages by Seb FalkDr Seb Falk's (2000) latest book The Light Ages is now published and available to order.

If you would like to know more about Dr Seb Falk's research, please visit his personal site.







Other News

Alumnae Poetry Competition

Congratulations to our Alumnae Poetry Competition winner, Polly Halladay (2016)!

The judges enjoyed the variety of poetry sent in by Christ Church alumnae for the competition. Our winner, Polly Halladay, shows deftness in handling form and a vertiginous depth of image in her deceptively minimal work. We would also like to commend Hattie Morrision for her strong and exhilarating approach, full of provocation and surprise. We hope to see more from them in future, and we encourage other Members of the House, past and present, alumni and alumnae, to share their poems with Christ Church e-Matters.

By Polly Halladay (2016)

patter patter

Not the slate-tapped toe
of the trail no, not a trail at all but a stairway
scarred instead, so quaint, so walkable,
we run them – off the edge but stop
before the off follows fall.

Rail-hung, I want nothing but to turn,
ascend it web-strung, so fleeting then,
my eight legs curled into none.

The necessary scale reopens; though the land
may forgive our footfall, bleeding passage,
we force when we needn’t to.


40th Anniversary Silk Scarves

Lodge Manager Mandy Roche wearing one of the 40th anniversary scarvesA reminder that our limited-edition 40th Anniversary silk scarf can be ordered through the new online shop. To visit the shop please click here. 










Poem for the Fortnight 

Acceptance will Last  
By Professor David Parker (1974)

Distance shall not keep us apart,  
The journey of time we await,

Believe the feelings in your heart, 
Rise again to embrace your fate.  

Life has granted us an extension,  
Review, reflect and meditate,  
Step outside without apprehension,  
Make peace within to contemplate.  

Enter the cathedral of your mind,  
Marvel at the lessons of the past,  
Sing with joy for love is kind, 
Trust in yourself, acceptance will last.  

Release the locks where you belong,  
The day shall come; we are strong. 


All members of the House are welcome to submit poetry. If you would like your poetry considered for feedback from the judges of our poetry competition, then please send your poems to development.office@chch.ox.ac.ukA poem will be selected every fortnight from St Frideswide's Well and the poet will receive feedback via email. Poems will also be featured on our website.


Poetry Prompt

Photograph of structural elements of a buildingThe judges of our poetry competition are providing fortnightly poetry prompts to pique your thoughts. 
The House is eager to see the results. Please send poems for possible inclusion in e-Matters to development.office@chch.ox.ac.uk.

This week's prompt:


Alumni Photography

We encourage all alumni and friends to submit photographs to us inspired by the poems featured on our Alumni Poetry Page. Poems and photographs will be collected together in the coming months and will eventually form an online exhibition celebrating alumni creative work. 

To submit your photograph please: