Alumnus legacy gift helps acquire stunning manuscript leaf

With help from a generous bequest by the late Anthony John Edwards (BA 1952), the University Library’s Special Collections has acquired a beautiful manuscript leaf from a thirteenth-century Latin Bible. The manuscript almost certainly originated from Glastonbury Abbey, one of the greatest Benedictine monasteries in medieval England. Alumnus Mr Edwards was a History graduate who went on to become the first librarian of Canterbury Christ Church University.

Abbeys played a key role, alongside universities, in the growth of higher education in the thirteenth century and beyond and Glastonbury was especially famous for its vast library of books and manuscripts. When King Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of the abbey in 1539 and the execution of its Abbot on Glastonbury Tor, the library and its contents were destroyed, dispersed or sold.

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Theatre alumnus’ work lives on: the Kevin Elyot in memoriam award 2020

Kevin Elyot Archive at Bristol's Theatre Collection
Part of the Kevin Elyot archive

We are delighted with the announcement of Lucy Bell as the 2020 recipient of the Kevin Elyot Award for writer-in-residence at Bristol’s Theatre Collection. The award will support Lucy in creating a new dramatic work inspired by Elyot’s archive, which was donated to the Theatre Collection by his sister following his death in 2014. The archive comprises scripts, correspondence, manuscripts and publicity material, detailing Elyot’s working process from initial idea to finished product.

The Award is an annual award of £3,000 made in memory of Department of Theatre alumnus Kevin Elyot (1951-2014), and the influence he has had on writing and the arts. It has been generously funded by an endowment gift given to the University of Bristol by Kevin’s family.

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Inspirational student speakers at Class of 2020 Virtual Celebrations

Our Class of 2020, who are enjoying their Virtual Celebrations this month, had some inspirational student voices speaking at their digital events. We caught up with some of them to hear about their time at Bristol, their passions, and their plans for the future. And we welcome them into our alumni community!

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Alumni interview: Sally Earthrowl, Mission Leader at eXXpedition and Environmental Advocate

Image credit: Eleanor Church, Lark Rise Pictures – eXXpedition North Pacific Leg 1 Hawaii to Vancouver

Sally has always had a passion for our planet, graduating in 2004 with a BSc (Hons) in Geography and then continuing her studies to qualify as a Geography teacher. Over a 12-year teaching career Sally has been department lead and had whole-school responsibility for Teaching and Learning. Whilst teaching in Indonesia Sally led the charge on environmental action, facilitating the school becoming single-use plastic free, and working with the local community to raise awareness about the upstream solutions to this environmental challenge. Sally has since swapped her classroom for a sailing vessel and now leads all-female sailing voyages with eXXpedition, carrying out scientific research into plastic pollution and educating about the issue, the solutions and the role that everyone has to play in overcoming this environmental challenge.

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From the archives: alumnus meets Churchill

Seventy-five years ago [Friday 8 May], Sir Winston Churchill announced the end of the Second World War, now remembered as Victory in Europe (VE) Day. Michael Wemms (BA 1963) remembers his encounter with Sir Winston Churchill, who not only led Britain to victory, but led Bristol as its longest standing Chancellor from 1929 – 1965.

It was, I think, 1956. I was still at school and met the local MP (Humphrey Atkins). A long story, but the result was a call to meet him at the House of Commons. When I arrived, there were five of us, all from different schools. None of us quite knew why we were there.

We were ushered to a smallish room and, completely by chance, I was the first through the door. Sitting alone in an armchair was Winston Churchill. He jumped up to welcome us like long lost friends, poured our tea and offered cakes.

It took a while for even the bravest of us to get our wits together, but he quickly charmed us into a very relaxed and free flowing chat. We asked lots of questions, especially about the War, and even ventured a few views about the state of the nation and our politicians. I remember that we all held strong political views.

Towards the end he said how much he had enjoyed the chat, but we hadn’t asked him the most important question – why had we gone to War and why had it all mattered so much? If only I could remember his actual words. He spoke a little about honour and decency and how we couldn’t stand by, but then he began to gaze out the window – for a moment I think he was in some other time and place.

He explained that we had fought for our identity, our heritage and our history. He went on to talk about beauty in all its forms and I particularly remember how he described the beauty of outdoor things created by man, but changed by time and nature, how we had to preserve beautiful things as well as the way we live our lives. He talked very sadly about there being no choice, but what a terrible price we had paid.

Suddenly, he turned directly to me and asked what I was studying. ‘Literature, Economics, Latin and History Sir,’ I managed to say. ‘Do History my boy,’ he replied, ‘at Bristol.’ So I did!

With thanks to alumnus Michael Wemms. This piece was originally published in 2015.

COVID-19 Research Appeal goes from strength to strength

As we reach the end of another strange month in 2020, with the UK still in lockdown, it is wonderful to report that alumni and friends’ support for our appeal for COVID-19 research continues to be an enormous success.

If you are perhaps feeling overwhelmed by the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic, please take some comfort in the fact that Bristol’s team of COVID-19 scientists, researchers and academics – over 147 of them – are working hard to tackle this enormous global challenge. They are helped, in no small part, by the £200,000 donated so far to our COVID-19 Research Appeal, an astonishing outpouring of support and belief in Bristol.

Professor Jeremy Tavaré, Dean of the Faculty of Life Sciences, recorded a thank you message this week for the 600 donors who have given to Bristol’s COVID-19 research.

It’s important to remain hopeful that Bristol’s research, in collaboration with partners in the UK and around the world, could be key in getting us back to some kind of normality. Support from alumni is crucial, because like many universities in the UK and around the world, Bristol has had to freeze capital budgets as we wait to understand the full impact of the pandemic on higher education. The passionate interest that alumni and friends are showing for our research is certainly spurring on our COVID-19 team at Bristol.

Progress to date on ramping up our research

From the donations coming in to our appeal we have so far managed to achieve the following:

The installation of a new incubator into Drs David Matthews and Andrew Davidson’s secure laboratory, to enable their teams to scale up their research. David and Andrew’s work on SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID- 19, is focused on understanding the pathogenesis of the virus. Their work is taking place in Bristol in one of only two specialist university labs in the whole of the UK and is critical to the development of diagnostic tools, drugs and vaccines to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Setting up additional secure (Category Level 3) laboratories at Bristol University’s Langford site to facilitate research into the airborne transmission of SARS-CoV2, led by Professor Jonathan Reid and colleagues from the Bristol Aerosol Research Centre.

The purchase of a state-of-the art microscope, which will enable the rapid imaging and screening of cells, providing critical data for researchers working on COVID-19 at Bristol and much further afield.

The purchase of an ELIspot Reader, a highly sensitive instrument for measuring immune responses to infection and vaccination. This instrument can extract large amounts of data from very small numbers of cell samples, so it is key for developing new vaccines and treatments for the virus at speed.

The acquisition of an RNA extraction instrument, which prepares cell samples for COVID-19 diagnostic testing. The University will now be ideally placed to test and validate new approaches to the diagnosis of the virus, while also being ready to contribute to the national capability for COVID-19 testing.

Critical funds for the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute, which is supporting researchers across the University who are applying their expertise to the pandemic.

Bristol’s researchers in the fields of immunology, infectious diseases and public health continue to contribute to the world’s understanding and control of this shocking epidemic. It is truly an interdisciplinary project and there’s real momentum behind the work. Bristol is incredibly well-placed to take advantage of this and to use our expertise to help the world through this pandemic. You can read about everything we’re doing as it happens on our web page dedicated to the University’s COVID-19 research and on this blog.

Bristol is one of the few centres in the UK with such specialist expertise in the study of coronaviruses. This appeal is a great opportunity to make a difference in the race to unlock valuable new information about the COVID-19 virus, which we believe can result from Bristol’s expertise.

– Dr Jonathan de Pass (MBChB 1979) and Mrs Georgina de Pass, COVID-19 Research Appeal donors

 

COVID-19 appeal launched to overwhelming support from alumni

As the COVID-19 pandemic has spread around the world, a group of researchers at the University of Bristol has united to collaborate on finding ways to overcome the disease. An appeal for funding to support this work has been met with fantastic support from alumni.

The University’s COVID-19 Emergency Research Group (UNCOVER) are addressing a wide range of areas as a priority, which are explained in great detail on our main website.

In particular, Dr David Matthews and Dr Andrew Davidson, who have been working on the human coronavirus since 2002, have mobilised their teams to scale up their research. Their work on SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is focused on understanding the pathogenesis of the virus. Their work is taking place in Bristol in one of only two specialist university labs in the whole of the UK and is critical to the development of diagnostic tools, drugs and vaccines to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

To date, alumni donations have procured critical equipment and resources, including a new incubator for Drs Matthews and Davidson’s laboratory. Additionally, donations have funded the preparation of another high-security laboratory, suitable for handling SARS-CoV-2, to allow the expansion of this fundamental research. And alumni have matched the funding offered by the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute, enabling research into testing and vaccines to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Researchers around the University are now looking to quickly scale up our research on COVID-19, which includes: growing the capacity of our secure laboratories and providing our researchers with the equipment they need; early tests on vaccines that could be capable of combatting the virus; and tapping into our unique ‘Children of the 90s’ cohort to track the factors that impact susceptibility to infection and understand the true frequency of infection.

So far hundreds of alumni have donated to this vital research and for this we say a resounding thank you. We know that unfortunately many of our alumni are facing financial hardship as a result of this pandemic, but for anyone who may be able to support the research you can read more and donate online.

Bristol medical students lead the way on nutrition for health benefits

Ally Jaffee and Iain Broadley founded the Community Interest Company (CIC) Nutritank in 2017 while studying Medicine at Bristol. Jaffee is currently in her fourth year and Broadley is a member of the cohort who have graduated early [April 2020 instead of July 2020] in order to quickly support the NHS during the COVID-19 crisis.

Described as ‘an innovative, informative hub for food, nutrition and lifestyle medicine’ Nutritank is a one-stop shop for students of medicine, current medical practitioners and anyone interested in food for health. In a world where many widespread conditions such as heart disease and diabetes have contributory dietary factors, the founders are passionate about advocating healthy eating for all, promoted by those working in the health sector.

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Bristol Voices launched to support students through COVID-19

The first wave of Bristol alumni and staff have already volunteered to support remotely – via phone or messaging services – current students affected by social distancing as a result of COVID-19, through our just-launched Bristol Voices programme.

The University is home to many students and this is a particularly difficult time for them. Whilst the University has comprehensive support available, a lack of regular contact with friends, colleagues and classmates can quickly lead to feelings of isolation and anxiety.

Bristol Voices is our response to supporting students during this uncertain time. Through Bristol Voices, we are connecting students remaining in Bristol with a dedicated member of the Bristol community for enhanced, one-on-one interaction to support their social wellbeing. Bristol Voices is a collaboration between the Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO) and the Student Services team and is part of the University’s wider response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The University of Bristol already has a dedicated support system in place with free services for all students. Bristol Voices is an additional programme established with our alumni community in mind, to offer extra, informal social support for our students during COVID-19.

Our volunteers have a wide range of experience and backgrounds, and knowledge of student life at Bristol. We have alumni signed up to volunteer who studied an array of subjects and work in many different fields, including teachers, managers and researchers. But what they all have in common is a willingness to help and lend an ear to these students who may currently be struggling with social isolation.

We are very appreciative of the alumni who have put themselves forward during these difficult circumstances, and we welcome them joining the hundreds of volunteers we currently work with across a wide range of programmes.

Read more about alumni volunteering opportunities.

Your University’s reponse to COVID-19: a message from Professor Hugh Brady

Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Bristol, has a message for all our alumni and friends.

The impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt profoundly around the world. Today, I would like to update you on how Bristol is protecting its global community of staff, students and alumni. I also want to share with you how, with the support of our alumni community, our researchers are working to understand COVID-19, and combat this pandemic.

Caring for students and staff

Last week, in common with many UK universities, we took the difficult decision to end our Easter term early. This should play a part in reducing the speed of COVID-19 transmission, and it gives our academic community time to prepare for a full transition to online learning and assessment for our students from the start of next term.

We are acutely aware that for many students, this decision poses significant challenges. For some, returning home or leaving campus is not an option, while for others, learning online next term will only be possible with access to the University’s computers and internet. As many of you will already know, a lack of regular contact with friends, colleagues and classmates can quickly lead to feelings of isolation and anxiety.

The University remains open, with core facilities, staff support and regular communications available to students and staff who need them. Our Student Hardship Fund, to which alumni have generously given in the past, will be used to provide financial support to all students that need it in these unprecedented times.

Alumni events

This week, we also made the decision to postpone our programme of alumni events for the remainder of the academic year. Again, this decision was not easy for the University: our alumni events are some of the highlights of our calendar. But as with the decisions we have made to protect the wellbeing of our students and staff, so with these and other University events we are following the latest advice from the UK Government to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

Staying connected

During these times, when many of us will be using digital tools to communicate and interact more than ever before, I would encourage you to join us on Bristol Connects. If you haven’t yet set up your account for this online Bristol community, it’s quick and simple to do so. Within the space, you can connect with other Bristol graduates and current students, either to offer or benefit from careers advice; find old friends; and make new connections in your professional sector or area of the world.

Bristol’s fundamental research into COVID-19

I’d like to close by highlighting some of the critical research into COVID-19 that is taking place at the University of Bristol, and the impact that your generous support is already having on this work.

Dr David Matthews and Dr Andrew Davidson of the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine are one of just two University research teams in the UK who are working with Public Health England to grow SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. You may have seen the work of their team covered recently by the BBC on Newsnight on 5 March. Their work to understand the pathogenesis of the virus – how it causes disease, and how it interacts with our bodies – is critical to the development of diagnostic tools, drugs and vaccines to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thanks to gifts from Bristol’s alumni community, we have been able to provide immediate funding for a new incubator for Drs Matthews and Davidson’s research. In addition, your generosity has enabled the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research, based at Bristol, to act rapidly in providing funding for new research into COVID-19 that is taking place across the University.

Supporting our research and students

We are so grateful to count on the support of our alumni for this critical work. If you would like to donate to our research on COVID-19, or indeed to help students experiencing the financial impact of the pandemic, you can do so by donating online, or by contacting Rob Grimes in the Development and Alumni Relations Office.

Here at Bristol, we are thinking of you all as you and your families face this unprecedented challenge. I know that you will also be thinking of the friends that you made during your time here at the University. Please keep in touch with us and with each other, and I look forward very much to seeing you in the future.