Georgina Wilson (DPhil in English, Chair of Holywell Manor Festival 2018) writes:
Saturday 21 April 2018 marked the third Holywell Manor Festival since 2013, in which the Middle Common Room invited 12 Balliol alumni to give a series of intellectual talks and discussions. Rounded off with a champagne reception, the Festival was well attended by Balliol postgraduates, undergraduates, Fellows and alumni, and provided a delightful environment for conversation between members of the Balliol community.
The theme of the festival was ‘Truth and Translation’, which was broadly interpreted by a line-up of stellar speakers. Dame ‘Steve’ Shirley (Foundation Fellow of Balliol) gave a talk on her inspiring life story, in which she battled against being a pioneering businesswomen in software, defeating the glass ceiling to set up an extremely successful company and donating large sums of money in aid of autism. Other speakers included ex-Praefectus of Holywell Manor Oswyn Murray (Emeritus Fellow), who spoke on his forthcoming book Love in the Blitz: an edited collection of recently discovered correspondence written during the Second World War. Politician Charlotte Leslie MP (Balliol 1997) gave some fascinating insights into the phenomena of Brexit, whilst opera singer Christine Rice (Balliol 1988) dazzled her audience with a dramatic performance of ‘Habenera’ from Bizet’s Carmen.
The range of talks showcased the academic and intellectual variety of the Balliol community: whilst Chief Executive of the National Endowment of Science, Technology and the Arts Dr Geoff Mulgan (Balliol 1979) held a captivated audience with ‘The Messy Truths of Government and Politics’, the national poet of Wales, Gwyneth Lewis (Balliol 1985), delighted everyone with readings from her own poetry. The full programme is here.
The Festival also coincided with the start of Dame Helen Ghosh’s first term of leadership. The new Master of Balliol gave a highly popular talk on ‘Authenticity and the Art of Leadership’, and current students welcomed the opportunity to listen to and meet Dame Helen for the first time. Lukas Freund, the MCR President, introduced Dame Helen’s talk, and each of the speakers was similarly introduced by a current member of the MCR, providing a good opportunity for conversation between current and past members of Balliol. Holly Armstrong-Cowley, a French Masters student, said: ‘I had the privilege of meeting Jennifer Robinson, a human rights lawyer who has defended Julian Assange. It was a fantastic day and I can’t wait to come back as an alumnae in a few years time!’ The Festival even took off on Twitter, with Jennifer Robinson (Balliol 2006) recording her ‘delightful weekend in Oxford – nostalgic return to Holywell Manor @BalliolOxford to speak at the Festival … A beautiful place – even more beautiful in the spring sunshine.’
As well as enjoying the talks, Festival attendees stretched their legs by visiting Balliol’s Historic Collections Centre at St Cross Church to see an exhibition on ‘Truth and Translation’, inspired by a recent translation by Emily Wilson (Balliol 1990) of the Odyssey (W.W. Norton, 2018). Curated by MCR members Olivia Thompson and Stephanie Kelly, the exhibition also included an illuminated 14th-century copy of Ovid’s letter from Penelope to Odysseus and the first English translation of Homer’s Odyssey (George Chapman, 1616).
At the end of the afternoon, the speakers and guests gathered in the Manor gardens for a champagne reception and entertainment from a jazz band, and to share the sunny weather, more conversation, and trips down memory lane.
The photographs below are by Julia Slupska Photography.