Bristol’s alumni networks spring to life: Spring Showcase

The Bristol Alumni Network Steering Group: Charles Gunter (BSc 2006, PGCE 2007, MSc 2009), Savannah Coombe (BA 2020), Linda Wilson (LLB 1982) and David Richards (BSc 1988, PhD 1995)

On Friday 19 and Saturday 20 March 2021, the Bristol Alumni Network, in collaboration with the Students’ Union, presented the Bristol Spring Showcase. The weekend brought together alumni, students, and staff, through a series of digital events including tours and talks, panel discussions, a photo competition, celebrating 100 years of Geography at the University, and our very own University Challenge.

The Spring Showcase was organised entirely by volunteers, who share their highlights and reflections:

Our plan was to showcase an eclectic range of material through different styles of delivery: pre-recorded video, live presentations, panels, and informal chat.  A particular focus for us was the support of current student groups; encouraging them to engage by working on a shared project with staff and students, past and present, from across the University community.

We kicked off the weekend with an insightful discussion about the support the University is providing students during the pandemic. The panel members included Ros Elliot, Head of Student Residential Life, Charlie Gunter, Student Administration Manager, School of Biochemistry and Robert Villain, Director South West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership. As well as this event, the School of Geographical Sciences hosted a celebration of their delayed centenary with staff and alumni from many different years.

One of the main features of the weekend was the showcase event, which brought together a selection of the University’s clubs and societies, alumni networks, and international branches. It was a real mix of people which was wonderful. The event highlighted student and alumni life and considered effective ways to stay connected and support each other.

Other activities included: a short film and Q&A about Fishmonger’s Swallet, a cave site in South Gloucestershire dating back to the late Iron Age/early Roman period, which is currently undergoing further study at the University of Bristol Speleological Society Museum; presentations from the Theatre Collection; Manor Makes a Difference – a conversation with Manor Hall alumni; and a talk by Martha Crean, University of Bristol’s Public Art Curator on the University’s varied and fascinating public art. Alumni also enjoyed a special organ recital by Dr David Bednall, Sub Organist at Bristol Cathedral, performed from the Dame Monica Wills Chapel at Wills Hall, and a curator-led tour of the University’s Botanical Gardens.

Another highlight was the hugely popular University Challenge competition. Heats were held in the run-up to the weekend and culminated in a hotly fought final between two teams of alumni from the Cambridge Branch – the Cambridge Blues and the Cambridge Anglians, with the Cambridge Blues emerging triumphant. Quizmaster Robert Villain – channeling both Bamber Gascoigne and Jeremy Paxman, brought his unique style, and fiendish questions on German literature (his specialist subject) to the occasion!

We were blown away by the level of interest and participation, with attendees from Germany, Spain, Hong Kong, South Africa and the United States as well as the UK. We are really grateful to everyone who attended and helped make it happen.

David Richards (BSc 1988, PhD 1995)

“We have only been able to meet remotely, but it has been an absolute pleasure to work as a team for the past six months to organise the Showcase.  We certainly set ourselves a challenge, with plenty of new tools for connecting, communicating, capturing memories.  For me, it was great to be able to reboot Centenary plans for Geography, with guests from each decade back to the 1950s at the event.  I was also extremely pleased to have been able to promote ways for a diverse range of student groups to connect.”

Linda Wilson (LLB 1982)

“I became involved as I think volunteers can play an important part forging these sorts of connections on a peer-to-peer basis. The event and all the prior planning were time intensive, but it was great to work with such an amazing team of people and I learnt a huge amount about networking and connecting in our current ‘virtual’ world.”

Charles Gunter (BSc 2006, PGCE 2007, MSc 2009)

“It was great to work with old friends and new to curate the Bristol Alumni Network Spring Showcase. I enjoyed helping bring different groups of alumni and students together to celebrate the good work they are already doing and to build new connections. I was really proud of what we produced and got a buzz out of the energy and enthusiasm of each of the groups involved when we “went live” and to see alumni from around the world engaging with what we planned. Volunteering is a really rewarding thing to do, you can give as much as you are able to, as often as you want to.”

The Spring Showcase was kindly sponsored by the following alumni networks: Badock Hall Association; Churchill Hall Association; Wills Hall Association; Bristol Branch; London Branch; and the School of Geographical Sciences. In addition, the event was supported by DARO, participants and the Students’ Union. Content was also provided by the Cambridge Branch and the Hong Kong Branch, who provided a film focusing on the recipients of their scholarships, with contributions from the scholars.

If you would like to volunteer to bring alumni together, find out more about getting started and contact the Bristol Volunteers team at to bring your ideas to life.


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