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St Chad’s – volunteering in South Africa

What’s more terrifying? A cheetah 5 meters away from you or teaching 50 13 year olds? We ponder this whilst we recover from leading a 3 hour maths lesson at 8am on a Saturday morning. (Yes, 8am lectures, one thing Keiskammahoek and Durham University now have in common). But our time in South Africa did not begin here.

As three students, weary from a 10 and half hour flight, stumbled out of Port Elizabeth airport they were met by a knight in shining armour, Tim Bernard. Tim is a grizzled veteran of the South African education system (though he is not yet 51, Happy Birthday for Tuesday Tim!) and he would be our primary life support as we found our feet in South Africa. One could say we had a gentle start, braais, beaches and bitches (shout out to Molly, Tim’s dog). Tim and his wife Michelle gave a great insight into both the history and culture surrounding South Africa and the expectations upon us on the classroom.

By Sunday we were back in a small town dominated by a large Church and a university, yes we were back in Durham or something quite like it – Grahamstown (soon to be renamed Makanda – locals are joking that the government wanted to tie the town to Wakanda of the Black Panther films).

The first job was to learn isiXhosa. We bet you pronounced that wrong, we are still learning to perform an ‘aspirated lateral click’ to give but one example.

Wednesday and Thursday mornings saw our first taste of teaching. We observed some incredible teachers who showed us how it could be done, but our first attempts were perhaps less than inspiring, Ermos forgot what a verb was, Andy let a cow loose in his classroom and Sarina somehow lost the number between 7 and 9 – I would ‘eight to be her.

Fortunately, Tim’s son Eric took pity on us and rewarded our efforts with a game drive. This is where the cheetah became involved, we got a once in a lifetime opportunity to be next to a cheetah and him not want to bite our heads off, thanks to Steve the Wildebeest for taking one for the team.

After that it was time to go to St Matthew’s, where we will be spending the remaining 6 weeks volunteering. The drive here was rather uneventful, for once, no pedestrians were in danger from Andy’s driving, no passengers were in danger from Ermos’ and no driveways were in danger from Sarina’s driving.

Having met the staff and already started teaching here we are all incredibly excited for what the next 6 weeks will bring. Not missing you guys at all, for the final time Mum, I’m fine! (from Ermos)

Epiphany 2017: what’s on in college?


Another term promises another host of noteworthy events in college. We’re just approaching the end of the second week, and already we’ve had Ladies and Friends’ formal, complete with wonderful food and even more wonderful singing; the first Perspectives talk of the year, a riveting discussion on the importance of class in a modern society; and Burns’ Night, a triumphant occasion with Chad’s’ very own chaplain, Ashley Wilson, performing the Ode to the Haggis with such fervour that Robert Burns himself might have been in the dining hall. The natural hearth of every Chadsian, the college bar, is rarely without handfuls of students regaling one another with stories of their holidays, or their achievements already this term – so far, Epiphany has been a great success.

The green army preparing for the annual ‘Palace Green dash’ on Chad’s day 2016


And, aside from the perilous dissertations facing the third-years, it looks to continue in the same tenor. Candlemas Launch is next week, a chance for everyone to see what the Candlemas Committee have in store for our biggest college ball of the year; the event itself follows a week later, with a dinner, ‘ents’, and dancing set to continue well into the early hours. Before that, we have Gents and Friends’ formal, and soon after, Chad’s Day, the craziest and greenest day in the Chadsian’s calendar (perhaps in any calendar). Also on this term, another wealth of fascinating Perspectives talks and the JCR officer elections for next year. The term will round off with more formals and a final megaformal before we welcome the prospective next generation of Chadsians to college for the post-offer application days in March. Good luck to all this term, as summatives loom: however, it would be an understatement to say that there is certainly a lot to look forward at 18 North Bailey.

Showcasing the breadth of talent in college at Chad’s got Talent 2016.


Green Door Theatre Company presents: The Flint Street Nativity

Green Door’s Michaelmas production of The Flint Street Nativity was a festive treat. Aside from the hot chocolate and warm mine pies served during the interval, the production ticked all the heart-warming boxes expected from a play about the iconic and much-loved British ritual of the school nativity.

The cosy and nostalgic atmosphere, accentuated by staging in the chapel, was in large part achieved by the creative flair of the production team, the heads of which include many of Chad’s own: Hannah Smith as co-producer, Alex Greenen as Technical Director and Teresa Cherubini as Costume Manager. Their costume and prop creations could not have been more authentic in their charmingly makeshift feel—the ass-head and giant star were especially impressive—transporting us back down memory lane to the days of bed sheets and tinsel.

Aside from all the visual delights, the hilarious, endearing, and at times very touching, performances given by the cast affected to heighten the play beyond cuteness and frivolous fun. Well done to Chadians Mikki Redhead (Wise Gold), Richard Penny (Star), Mary Lord (Ass) and Marcus Dell (Inkeeper) who formed part of the super-talented cast. Massive congratulations to everyone involved for making the play such a memorable success. All the hard-work and passionate attention to detail really paid off.

Perspectives 28/11: Is Democracy working?


Perspectives last week was on a really interesting and vitally relevant topic. We all know the famous Churchill quote, ‘democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried’; to be honest, I think our political system is something we tend to take for granted. All the more relevant as the final Perspectives event of the term, considering recent events – it is too easy to simply assume this system is the norm and is faultless because it is the only one we have ever been exposed to.

Professor Fred Robinson

Chad’s hosted Professor Fred Robinson (Professorial Fellow of St Chad’s College), Dr Anna Rowlands (Theology and Religion), and Lily Botrous (Alexandria School of Theology, Egypt), who put forward their very interesting views on the question of democracy – Prof. Robinson and Dr. Rowlands focussed mainly on Brexit, while Ms. Botrous talked about the Arab Spring. In classic form, after their thought-provoking talks, we broke off into small groups, with discussions ranging from the virtues and vices of political correctness to the problem with modern voting systems to how politics is all too often boiled down to basic ideas and ideologies. Some really stimulating discussion, which certainly left us with a lot to think about.

Lily Botrous

All in all, a very successful evening, and a great relief from the summative stress which tends to drown students in the last few weeks of term. I hope that next term’s lectures are as thought-provoking as the fantastic schedule put together already this year.

Dr Anna Rowlands addresses attendees

Man Booker reading group

The Man Booker Prize is a prestigious literary prize awarded every year for the best original novel published in English in the last year. Three British authors made the this year’s shortlist, including David Szalay’s All that Man. Szalay’s exploration of manhood is presented through a series of linking stories, each centring on a different male figure.  The work is currently being enjoyed by first year student Julia Atherley.

A personal favourite from this year’s titles was Graeme Macrae Burnet’s second novel, His Bloody Project. It details the murder case of Roderick Macrae, set in a 19th century Scottish crofting community. Second year student, James Kerr, praised the work for its form as a historical novel that presents the reader with a selection of documents including a murderer’s memoir, witness testimonials and medical reports.

The winning novel was announced on Tuesday 25th October at London’s Guildhall. American author Paul Beatty took this year’s title with contemporary satire The Sellout. Fiona Meads, a first year student, praised Beatty’s work, explaining that the novel’s satirical tone ‘doesn’t overshadow it’s sombre and serious message’. A novel in which the central character wants to bring back slavery and segregation, it was a hit with this year’s judging panel.

Shadowing the prize has been a great washortlist group-picutrey for the group to delve into contemporary fiction. Next term we have plans to shadow the Costa Book Awards which runs into the new year.

Perspectives: Safe Spaces

Headed by Dr Eleanor Spencer-Regan, the new Senior Tutor, St Chad’s’ new college module “Perspectives” was successfully kicked off on Monday night, with a fascinating discussion on ‘Safe Spaces’. Over 100 Chadsians were joined in the Cassidy Quad by several visiting academics: Dr Mark McCormack, Dr Sara Uckelman and Dr Ben Douglas. Dr Douglas gave a brief talk on the legalities of freedom of speech, followed by Dr McCormack and Dr Uckelman offering their opinions on the issue, specifically regarding the right to offend, “trigger warnings” and the practicalities of safe spaces.

Dr Masson introduces the talks.

Having heard these views, we were encouraged to share our thoughts with those around us and to engage with each other’s opinions. It was really interesting; a chance not only to listen to perspectives you might normally disagree with, but also to discover why people held those beliefs.

The evening was a great success; what struck me the most was that in true Chad’s style everyone gave each other a fair hearing, everyone was respectful, and there was no bitterness or acrimony whatsoever. I’ve only been at Chad’s for two weeks, but Monday made me proud to be a Chadsian; I look forward to attending more Perspectives talks in the future.

Cheese and wine helped make the evening a great success.

Chad’s Welcomes New Freshers


At the beginning of every new academic year, Chad’s becomes a hubbub of excited activity as the Exec, the committees and the Freps prepare to welcome a new crop of Freshers into the college.

This year’s Frep team

Freshers’ Week this year did not disappoint; the Freshers enjoyed a fantastic range of events, including a night on the Princey B, a day trip to Newcastle, a ceilidh, a light-hearted sports day, the classic ‘Around the World’ themed formal, two champagne receptions, the chance to visit five of the best night-clubs in Durham, cards and poker nights in the JCR, and a brilliant Disney-themed bop to round off the week and to welcome the returning second and third years back to college.



It was a whirlwind welcome to the university and to the college and to a vibrant city. This week, lectures begin, and though the facepaint has been put away, the banners and pots and pans have been stored, and the students are beginning to settle into their everyday routines, it will surely remain a fond memory for these new Chadsians as they start their lives in this special institution.


This year’s SocComm
The Freps at the end of the week


Photos courtesy of SocComm. Report by Harriet Barsham

Green Door hosts fresher’s showcase


St. Chad’s College Green Door Theatre company held its debut fresher’s showcase on Sunday, 9th October.

The event introduced fresher’s to the theatre group, and displayed the range of musical, poetic, artistic, and comical talent the JCR has to offer. The successful evening was reflected in its high attendance – a cheerful number for its first show of the year.14691901_655508014612404_2048378808342599027_o

The evening began with a melody by the college’s Chazz Band, which finished with their iconic rendition of ‘County Roads’, a college classic! The audience were serenaded by Wales’ pride, Dewi. Jess, Hilaire, and Craig recited poetry. Griff and Harry performed sensationally on the piano, and Cormac acted out a Spike Milligan classic. David, Alex, and Fergus performed compelling monologues. Izzie and Milly respectively gave phenomenal performances on the pole and violin.


Green Door’s President, Christie Clark hosted the evening, introduced each act, and mentioned a little about their college presence.  They had a successful fresher’s fair uptake, but are always continuously looking for new members. You can view their page at www.facebook.com/GreenDoorTC.

Green Door will next bring to the stage Tim Firth’s ‘Flint Street Nativity’. Interviews open 17th October.



Chad’s students round up their time in South Africa

From Issy Davies:

It’s always intimidating walking along the corridors in front of the classrooms. The way I deal with it is by alternatively flicking through my textbook and staring at the floor, vaguely smiling at nobody in particular from time to time. Kids see us as responsible adults and, reasonably, this impression goes hand in hand with age and it’s assumed we’re mid 30s, even though we feel closer to their age – and we are God damn it. Anyway, all this creates a clumsy in-between feeling where you don’t know what you are and consequently bemuse everyone with awkwardness.keiskammahoek1

I practically fall into the Grade 9 class and remember just in time to be bright and commanding. “Good morning class” yell I, over the din of screeching chairs and gossiping. About three people respond which I deal with by placing my textbook down on someone’s desk and flicking through and shuffling papers and eventually address a child to ask where we got up to last lesson and maybe they’ll stare back at me, gaping, so I make open-book gestures with my hand and appeal to the rest of the front row until someone begrudgingly draws their book out from their bag and I stab my finger at the page and mumble “ah yes, we got up to here” by which time, hopefully, the rest of the class has noticed my presence and slid into their seats. “How are you” I shout over the din and depending on how many people respond I may shout it again but this generally quietens them down a bit. “Right class, please open your Geography books to the last work we did. Open your books. Make sure you have a pen ready.” Here someone, usually a boy, will be staring at me with his mouth open and his book insolently in his bag. I approach him and repeat the instruction, this could take time depending on the general classroom mood. Turning to the board I ask “what’s the date today” and they tell me, even though I know the date. This is because I once forgot to do this and found the class almost insulted that they hadn’t been consulted. Then I’ll wave some chalk around and deliver the topic as dictated by the textbook – I really have no idea which topics are on the syllabus, I’m just working through the chapters – and scrawl it on tiptoe on the board. Whenever I do this the script ends up bending upwards, every time. The rest of the lesson consists of 50 minutes of diagram drawing, note taking, quizzes, questions about where I’m from, whether I will take them to England with me, signs held up reading “I love Issy” or my favourite, “I smurf Issy”, and boys scrabbling for their neglected books and pens as I advance menacingly towards the back of the room.keiskammahoek2

I had four lessons that day and when I emerged, post traumatically stressed, from the last I found the school absolutely devoid of teachers. I shuffled some papers around in the eerie staff room, dodged some miscellaneous low flying objects in the playground and paced it across no mans land to our house, where we were that afternoon hosting a braii. Every member of staff, from the hostels to the bin men, had perched themselves on furniture in the slim shade of our small house. A fire had been made and the R700 lamb we’d bought was sizzling over the coals. Kieran, Sinead and Phoebe had been rubbing braii spice onto chop after chop all day and we still had the biggest sausage you’ve ever seen to sling onto the grill. The hostel had conjured up an enormous amount of chicken and the teachers had brought some pork too, the only irregularity was the lack of anything that hadn’t once been alive.keiskammahoek3

The meat was delicious and despite having about four tonnes of it was polished off by those congregated. In fact, there was remarkably little left over – by this I mean absolutely nothing apart from washing up – a mystery that was explained by the amount of tuppaware bulging from pockets and by the discovery of a teacher draining the wine box into a 2 litre Sprite bottle. Quite remarkable. We thought we’d throw a little Englishness into the mix and so Phoebe did an acapella rendition of Jerusalem – only joking – we just provided Pimms which we shamelessly hogged and consequently ‘came out of our shells’. So much so that we woke up on the grass as the sun set, parched and bleary eyed, and stepped cautiously into the house which looked like a bomb had gone off, meat sliding off the walls etc. As we lounged in squalor, Luxolo and some girls visited us from the hostel and we ended up with the car pumping music at full volume while Phoebe and I flailed and the girls tried to teach us to dance. Luxolo stayed for a few hours and we all chatted and snoozed. Braving the fridge later, I deduced that approximately zero food was left apart from a squashed half loaf of bread so we settled in amongst the mess and watched Toy Story.keiskammahoek4

This morning we were honoured in assembly and given red St Matthews ties and made a few speeches and waved and hugged and had photos taken and said good bye to the teachers. Packed the house up, said goodbye to Luxolo, and headed off down the treacherous Keiskammahoek road, for the last time ever. So here ends the St Chad’s volunteer trip for 2016, it has been a riot and a huge learning experience, actually, and I hope the trip continues in future years.  At the beginning I wasn’t so sure what we could really achieve, whether we could ‘give anything back’. But not only have we been learning and experiencing crazy things but we’ve been able to provide answers to lots of people’s questions. I think its fair to say that the help we’ve given – through teaching and even just interacting – has created a small impact that has made it worth it, completely.