e-Matters April 30th 2020

Dear Members and Friends,

Welcome to another e-Matters, on the eve of May day. In previous editions of e-Matters, we have featured some of our alumni involved in tackling the COVID-19 crisis, including Dr Evan Edmond, a clinical researcher with medical training who is currently being accommodated in College whilst redeployed to the John Radcliffe Hospital. Tonight he will have the honour of switching on a bright blue light that will illuminate Christ Church’s iconic Tom Tower as a visual reminder of our enormous gratitude to all NHS staff and other carers. Tom Tower will be “going blue” every Thursday night during Trinity Term as part of the weekly #ClapForOurCarers initiative across the country, thanks to a new lighting scheme organised by Steve Brown, our Clerk of Works.  Keep an eye on Christ Church’s news websiteTwitter and Instagram feeds for the official launch later this evening. 

Many of you might well have been on Magdalen Bridge if it were not for Covid-19 so we start this edition with news of a virtual May Morning. Set your alarms and be there in spirit! The House has its link with Magdalen Tower of course, as it was our own Thomas Wolsey, who as Bursar of Magdalen from 1499, raised the funds to complete the Tower. He was also one of the first Masters of Magdalen College School, a position currently held by Christ Church alumna Helen Pike (1991), the first woman Master.

In this issue we are fortunate to have thoughts from Dr Rowan Williams, Honorary Student of the House, and one time Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity; further news of work at Oxford on combatting the virus; our first wine blog by the Buttery manager; a piece on the musician Dorothy Howell by Dr Leah Broad, and a whole host of other pieces.

Remember too to keep sharing your own pictures to help the Christ Church community stay connected at this challenging time, tagging your posts #ChristChurchTogether on social media. Please also keep in touch with us in the Development & Alumni Relations Office, sending us any news that we might share with everyone, whether to educate, help, or entertain!

With best wishes,
Mark Coote and the Development Team

Archive: News from the House - April 30th 2020

Tom Tower to Light Up Blue for the NHS

View of Tom Tower at duskIn previous editions of e-Matters, we have featured some of our alumni involved in tackling the COVID-19 crisis, including Dr Evan Edmond, a clinical researcher with medical training who is currently being accommodated in College whilst redeployed to the John Radcliffe Hospital. Tonight he will have the honour of switching on a bright blue light that will illuminate Christ Church’s iconic Tom Tower as a visual reminder of our enormous gratitude to all NHS staff and other carers.

Tom Tower will be “going blue” every Thursday night during Trinity Term as part of the weekly #ClapForOurCarers initiative across the country, thanks to a new lighting scheme organised by Steve Brown, our Clerk of Works. 

Keep an eye on Christ Church’s news websiteTwitter and Instagram feeds for the official launch later this evening. 


May Day 2020 - A Message from The Choir of Magdalen College 

May morning view over Magdalen CollegeThe Choir of Magdalen College will not ascend the tower on Friday morning as it would ordinarily have done, but the May Morning tradition thought to stretch back more than five centuries will be presented online instead.  

Over the past few weeks, the Choristers and Academical Clerks have been rehearsing and recording their individual parts at home, and at 6am on 1st May, the sum of all their work - a ‘Virtual May Morning’ - will appear on the Choir’s Facebook page as a live event.  We hope that some of the many thousands who ordinarily gather on the bridge and in College for this event might celebrate in their own way at home, and watch the video at 6am.  

The short presentation will feature the College bells, the Choir singing the Hymnus Eucharisticus and the traditional madrigal ’Now is the month of Maying’, and a prayer from the Dean of Divinity.  It will also be broadcast at 6am on BBC Radio Oxford, Radio Cherwell and JackFM and will feature as part of a longer celebration being run online by Daily Info. The video will also be available from 7am onwards on  FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube. It will also be shared by the University of Oxford and Oxford City Council. You can see a short video, ‘Making a Virtual May Morning’, which gives a glimpse of how we’ve been preparing for this. 

Although sad not to be able to sing from the top of the tower this year, the Choir hopes that this unusual take on the May Morning tradition might bring something of the spirit of the event into people’s homes during this time of isolation.

Mark Williams
Informator Choristarum


Reflections on COVID-19 - Dr Rowan Williams 

Portrait of Dr Rowan Williams. Photo by Paul Rogers.My first thought as things began to shut down in mid-March was ‘This must have been what it felt like in 1939 – a great disruption to “normal” life and no sense of how long it would last.’  Well, we’re not facing bombing or conscription, not even rationing in the strict sense; but there is a real echo.  And it’s quite important to recognise it: it’s a reminder that post-war generations have been remarkably lucky, and that our parents and grandparents had to find their way in even more uncharted territory, with even more risk to life and livelihood.

Something about that wartime experience undoubtedly fed into the post-war social revolution.  People had been forced to think not just about winning the war but about what it took to create a society that had more genuinely human priorities than had been on show in the twenties and thirties.  What mattered most was to make sure that society made people safe – and the difference between making people safe and making (some) people rich was at the heart of that quiet revolution, the Welfare State, of which most of us are the unconscious heirs.

We’re told regularly that our society and politics will never be the same again.  Unfortunately, we’ve heard that rather a lot in the last two decades – after 9/11, after the financial crash – and perhaps our reaction will be a bit sceptical.  But for once this just might be true.  We have had a taste of the potential tsunami that could be released by the combination of globalised trade and travel, reactive and ungenerous funding of public services, un-coordinated international policies of crisis management, and political complacency.  Many have been warning for some time of the risks of global pandemic, and many are now stressing that the present challenge is a kind of foreshadowing of what intensified climate disaster might look like.  It’s harder to deny the problems when they are quite so visibly on our doorsteps.

And – not really surprisingly – we see yet again the resilience and generosity of so many, especially those who’ve been volunteering to keep the health services going, and the inventiveness of all those who are finding new ways of connecting and supporting in the digital world.  Often it takes a crisis to make people focus on what and who really matters to them; and the answer seems to be, encouragingly, that what matters is people – relationships, a steady background of affection and trust, the ability to nourish love and friendship by shared activities and shared enjoyment.

Such a very basic thing! Yet our politics and our working patterns have stifled these matters pretty successfully.  If we find time on our hands for thought during this strange period of disruption, perhaps one question we can be pondering is how we connect our politics once again to what we think really matters.  If we – or a lot of us – are cynical about politics, isn’t it partly because we can’t see that our public life reflects things that matter to us, like the safety of those we love, the future of our children, the sheer stability of our social fabric? 

Human priorities: that’s what we need to think through at this time: how we make a society that is genuinely secure for everyone, especially those who currently have little leverage or room to manoeuvre when things get difficult.

And in the meantime, with all the anxiety, and – for a good many – the reality of physical illness and the acute pain of loss – can we keep asking, quietly but persistently, ’What are we going to learn from all this?’ Business as usual won’t actually be possible; so we’d do well to think about what kind of ‘business’ will make us more rather than less human in the future.


Wine Blog - Emily Robotham 

Butter Manager Emily RobothamHello from the Buttery!

Many of you will have passed through the Buttery and Undercroft bars at some point in your Christ Church careers; fewer of you will know that the Buttery holds the college’s wine cellars, where we stock wines for college events, Gaudies and other banquets (the SCR have a separate stash). My name is Emily Robotham, and I run the college wine cellars on behalf of the House. I studied Classics at St Hugh’s before training my wine knowledge with Majestic Wines. While the college is closed and I am prevented from serving my favourite tipples, I hope to share them with you here instead.

One of my suppliers contacted me this week with an appeal: The Wine Barn are a small importer of fine German wines into the UK who have supplied many excellent wines to our cellars. Like many small businesses, they have been impacted heavily by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. May I humbly recommend that alumni of the House check them out and explore their tasty selections?

There’s a white-only and a mixed case; I would particularly endorse the latter, because it contains an absolutely stonking Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir to you and me), but both cases are an interesting mix of older vintages, special plots of vines and less usual grape varieties (I have a soft spot for a Scheurebe). If you’re running low on wine, interested in exploring vinous horizons or keen to support small businesses, give them a go.

Celebrating beer quality

On the 23rd April, here in England we celebrated St George's Day and the birth/death-day of William Shakespeare: but that day is also notable as the date in 1516 that a famous law to protect beer consumers, the Reinheitsgebot, took effect in the Kingdom of Bavaria (part of modern-day Germany). By limiting the ingredients of beer to just water, barley and hops, the Reinheitsgebot is widely seen as the first legal regulation on the quality of alcoholic drinks. While some mainstream lagers pad out their mash with pappy carbohydrates like corn or rice, even the cheapest German beers are held to a higher standard. Though the wording of the original law has changed (for instance, to allow delicious wheat-beers), the spirit of the law was adopted by Germany and controls the purity of German beer-making to this day.

If you try a case and particularly like a certain wine, email us and let us know: bars@chch.ox.ac.uk. We love hearing from alumni.


Cathedral News and Events 

Following Church of England guidance Chapter had to take the painful steps of suspending public worship in the Cathedral and closing to visitors. Our rhythm of prayer nonetheless continues and we have a growing range of material online, including worship each Sunday, a daily blog, and a weekly musical reflection. These and much more are available on the Cathedral's web page. You may also like to make use of the special booklet of Prayer Resources we have created. Interior of the Cathedral. Photo by Matt Scutt.

The College Chapel is also continuing to run this term with a range of services using Zoom and Vimeo. You can see details of our events and services here.

Chapel events include: 

House Evensong for Ascension Day 
‘Gazing Upwards’ - Thursday 21st May at 6pm (released on Vimeo on the day)
Sermon: Revd Canon Adrian Daffern, Vicar of Great St Mary's, The University Church, Cambridge
With the College Choir and voices from across the Christ Church community.
Faith and Politics Lecture - with Dr Austen Ivereigh:
 ‘How Pope Francis is Guiding the Church through the Corona Crisis’ - Wednesday 3 June (6th Wk) at 5.30pm

Dr Ivereigh is an author, journalist, Fellow in Contemporary Church History at Campion Hall, Oxford, and author of The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope and his latest Wounded Shepherd: Francis and his struggle to convert the Catholic Church.
This will be a webinar and the link will be on the Christ Church chapel page of the website. 

The most recent services from the Cathedral can be found by clicking here. 

Lent and Easter services can be found through this link and all audio content can be accessed through SoundCloud. Click here for Church at Home content from the Diocese.

Regular updates can also be found on the Cathedral web pages. 


COVID-19 Research - Dr Robin Thompson

Dr Robin ThompsonDr Robin Thompson has been continuing to conduct research on mathematical modelling of COVID-19. 

Robin is leading a section of the rapid review of Covid-19 modelling studies for SPI-M and SAGE as part of the UK government’s “Rapid Assistance in Modelling the Pandemic” initiative. He has also been working with researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on a mathematical framework for estimating transmissibility of the novel coronavirus in different countries worldwide. Estimates are available by clicking here.

If you missed it, you can listen to Robin's public lecture about mathematical modelling of infectious disease outbreaks, which he gave two weeks ago.


Oxford University COVID-19 Action Plan 

Photo: The Oxford Foundry, University of Oxfordhas news of the myriad of initiatives that are occurring at Oxford at the moment. Members may be particularly interested in current research.

The Oxford Foundry has also developed an action plan which will focus on two initiatives including; the scaling of OXFO ventures who are directly responding to COVID-19 and also the delivery of OXFO COVID-19 Rapid Solutions Builder. This Rapid Solutions Builder will involve bringing together the best of Oxford’s multi-disciplinary student and alumni talent together with industry, academia, and government to build quality, rapidly-scalable solutions in four areas:

1. Healthcare
2. Education
3. Inclusive Social Engagement and Mobility
4. Operations, Logistics and Supply Chains.

An international panel of judges will select the four most promising solutions (one solution per theme) who will receive £10,000+ and be enrolled on to a 2-month programme. The official announcement can be found here.

The plan has a dual focus:
1. Supporting existing Foundry start-ups that are directly addressing the pandemic and its challenges to healthcare and infrastructure.
2. inviting students and importantly alumni to submit solutions to the Rapid Solution Builder, which is addressing the pandemic’s anticipated secondary and tertiary effects on our society and economy.
The Foundry is urgently looking for alumni from all sectors to get involved, and there are multiple ways for them to do so – either by supporting ventures, submitting a solution, volunteering their time and expertise, or donating to the Action Plan Grant Fund.


Celebrating Dorothy Howell - Dr Leah Broad 

Portrait of Dr Leah Broad. Photo Steve Haywood/AHRCDr Leah Broad, Junior Research Fellow and Lecturer in Music at Christ Church, is currently researching a number of women composers and musicians. Here Leah writes about the composer, Dorothy Howell: 

Stowed away in dusty attics and moldy basements are the hidden histories of British music. The music and documents of familiar names of British music history — Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Benjamin Britten — are held in public libraries and dedicated archives. But the lives of their female colleagues are less easy to access. Composers like Dorothy Howell and Freda Swain were extremely successful during their lifetimes, but you’d be forgiven for walking into the Bodleian and leaving thinking that they contributed little to music history.

Portrait of Dorothy HowellStep into the homes of their friends and relatives, however, and a different story emerges. In the cavernous kitchen of an ancient house on the Welsh border are the newspaper cuttings that reveal Howell as the woman who took the music world by storm in 1919 with the premiere of her symphonic poem Lamia, so popular that it had to be repeated multiple times. Boxes piled up to head-height in a family home in Switzerland contain Swain’s sonatas, quartets, and concertos, a soundtrack to twentieth-century British life that is waiting to be re-heard. 

To hear the aforementioned Lamia please click here.

Leah's blog can be found by clicking here.


Tower Poetry Competition 

Tower Poetry logoThe Tower Poetry Competition celebrated its 20th Anniversary this year and the winners were announced virtually.

Information about the winners and their poems may be found on the website.





Opening Up The Soane 

Interior detail of the John Soane MuseumAlumna and Inspectress of the John Soane Museum, Helen Dorey MBE (1982), has extended an invitation to alumni to the premiere of Opening Up The Soane, a three-part series charting the restoration of the museum and the craftsmanship and research that enabled it to happen. 

Opening Up The Soane can be viewed at soane.org/outs.





Stargazing with Professor Roger Davies 

Photo credit NASA, Hubblesite.orgThis May is a month for early risers. In the early morning (4.30am!) on May 12th those with a good SSE horizon will see a conjunction of Jupiter and the Moon at an elevation of just 16°. The Moon will be 2¼ degrees south of the giant planet – that’s a separation of just over four Moon diameters. Conjunctions are juxtapositions of the Moon and planets as they move through the heavens on their monthly and yearly cycles. They have no particular meaning for astronomers but they can be spectacular sights. Perhaps some of you saw the waxing crescent Moon and Venus close together just after sunset in the western sky on April 26th? By the way - if you have not yet spotted Venus in the western sky after sunset yet don’t miss it – June will be too late!

If you are up early you might see meteors from the Eta Aquarid shower that peaks this month. We expect a  maximum rate of about a dozen meteors in the two hours before dawn (that’s 2.45 - 4.45am) on 5th and 6th May (although these rates are notoriously hard to predict). Unfortunately this will not be a particularly good occasion to see the Aquarids as the Moon is close to full. The name Aquarids refers to direction in the sky from which the meteors appear – in the constellation of Aquarius. The meteors themselves are small fragments of debris from the tail of comet Halley that the Earth passes through twice per year in May & in October when we see the Orionids. 

On June 4th Mercury (a tough planet to spot) will be at its greatest angular separation from the Sun (23.6°) and so you’ll have your best chance to see it in the western sky just after sunset. From these latitudes the few days around the end of May (26th May - 4th June) are the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon - 16° - in the evening sky at sunset (~9.00pm).

Help with locating these events can be found using the interactive sky map at: https://in-the-sky.org/skymap2.php

Something we will not see this month is Comet Atlas. Discovered on December 28th 2019 it reaches its closest approach to Earth on May 23rd when it 72 million miles (116 million kilometres) from Earth.  Excitement that this Sun grazing comet might be a spectacular naked eye object was dampened when it started to break up in April as it approached the Sun. It will not be visible to the naked eye.

I can’t close this month’s diary without mentioning the 30th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope which lifted off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on 24th April 1990.  To celebrate NASA have released a new picture of two nebulae in the Large Magellanic Cloud – a satellite of the Milky Way 163,000 light years away. The red nebula is the result of the birth of a cluster of stars 10-20 times as massive as the Sun. The blue nebula is the result of the birth of single star more than 20 times as massive as the Sun that has blown off its outer envelope. We learn much about how stars form from these images but equally they illustrate what a spectacularly beautiful place the Universe is.

Happy stargazing!!


Dr John Hale Announced as Honoured Scholar for 2021 by the Milton Society of America 

Dr John Hale. Photo by Christine O'Conner, The Otago Daily TimesWe were delighted to hear that alumnus, Dr John Hale (1957), has been named as Honoured Scholar for 2021 by the Milton Society of America. This honour is awarded annually in recognition of a life's work on the poet, John Milton.

John is based at the University of Otago, New Zealand and has produced seven books on Milton since 1997. He read Classics - Literae Humaniores at Christ Church before completing a doctorate in English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. 





Alumni Virtual Reunions 

Virtual reunion via ZoomAlumni continue to hold 'virtual reunions' and we are delighted to receive pictures and accounts of these! 

Paul Butler (1970), reported on his 'virtual reunion'. This was held on April 3rd, the date originally intended for the 50th Anniversary Reunion Dinner. 

The picture right shows Old Members who joined in for this virtual reunion (click for a lager version): 

Top row: John Card (1970), Peter Hale (1970), Paul Butler (1970)
Middle row: Ron Holding (1969), Andrew Carter (1970), Hugh Williams (1970)
Bottom row: Jeremy Western (1970), Eugene Chang (1970), Colin Silk (1970)

Paul reports that they have continued to meet every two weeks to share news and stories. He writes: "We are great friends after 50 years and this is an indication of the significance of our time at The House together."

Please keep sending us photos of your virtual reunions. You can also post a picture on the Alumni Facebook Group or on your Twitter page with #ChChVirtualReunion.