Beyond the Seminar: Shakespeare Week

A belated Happy Easter to you all!

The Easter break is slipping past us at a shockingly fast pace, but with so much to look forward to over the next few months that isn’t an entirely bad thing.

Although we have the final mountain of essays to surmount in the next few weeks, English Literature students can look forward to an exam free third semester. This means that we have plenty of time for end of year shenanigans such as the annual ‘Pimp My Barrow’ Day (more on that closer to the time) – although sadly, unlike last year, we don’t have Radio 1’s Big Weekend on our doorstep.

Before we reach the promised land of third semester however, there are a few exciting things on the calendar…

As some of you may know, next month will be the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death (and his 452nd birthday). To celebrate this the Drama Society (whose committee I am on) are organising a whole week of activities – including lectures, film screenings, a monologue slam, and a very special production of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’.

I’m very much looking forward to the week (18th-24th April), but I have also surprised myself with how much I have enjoyed helping to organise the different events. All of the week’s activities have been dreamed up and organised by students for students. There have been meetings upon meetings and numerous emails, phone calls and brain storming sessions, all of which culminates in something tangible that is enjoyed by hundreds of students. Watching something that was once just an inkling of an idea in your head become a campus wide campaign is so rewarding – it shows how with work and effort you can have a real effect on the world around you.

A shorter way of putting it is simply that it’s amazing to be standing on this bridge between being somebody who things just happen to, and being a ‘proper adult’ who can make things happen. I’m beginning to realise that the things you learn at university aren’t just things you pick up in your seminars and lecture halls, but all of the extra opportunities it provides. It may sound like a cliché, but it’s true.

Anyway, for now I shall leave you with our exciting festival line-up. As always feel free to email me with any questions you may have.

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Brexit: A Disaster for Higher Education

Brexit – almost two months to go until the referendum but already the public are getting sick of the word, and rightly so. Neither side of the argument seems to have been able to tap into the public interest as of yet. For most of us it remains a distant but aggressive buzz, like a particularly annoying housefly.

However, when we take the time to stop and consider what is actually at stake it becomes clear that this is a historic vote.

The EU is the legacy of the terrible conflicts of the 20th century. It is a flawed, bureaucratic, administrative mess – but honestly, I believe that it’s the best that we can do.

We live in a world which is growing smaller by the day. Social media and better access to phone lines are bringing people across the world together like never before. It is now as easy to contact someone in Lisbon as it is London, and so it seem to me that attempts to distance ourselves from imperfect international communities are as reductive as Donald Trump’s suggestion that the answer to immigration problems is to build a wall.

Of course, I am coming at this referendum from the perspective of a student in Higher Education. Every day I meet and work with people from across the globe, from within the EU and beyond, and these people are an intrinsic part of what makes UK universities some of the best in the world. There are 125,000 EU students currently studying in the UK, and not only are they bringing important money into our HE sector but they are part of the vital networking groups that we need to help resolve the global problems we currently face.

Problems such as Global Warming and the clean energy crisis aren’t going to be resolved by a small handful of experts in one university, in one country – they can only be faced by a global co-ordinated effort. When we try to isolate ourselves from Europe we cut ourselves off not only from the EU market, but from the very people who can work with us to find solutions that benefit us all.

And it’s not just the people but the EU funding which is vital to our universities. Funding from Brussels is worth around £1bn a year. How can UK universities hope to continue generating world leading research when we turn our backs on the very organisations which make this possible?

I can’t hope to cover every aspect of the Brexit question in one short blog post. What you see here is merely a fragment from the tip of the iceberg. But what I do hope I can convey in some way, is that for all its flaws the EU is an opportunity to come together and work to solve the problems which affect us all. It’s not perfect, in fact it’s very problematic. But I truly believe that leaving will not solve any of our problems, but like the many headed Hydra, will only produce a dozen more.

But don’t just take my word for it. Whatever your opinion is, make sure it’s an informed one.

Days Out in Norwich: The Castle

It has been a point of embarrassment for some time now that as someone who claims to have a particular interest in the Middle Ages, I had yet to visit Norwich Castle.

Thankfully, this wrong has finally been righted.

I had hoped to go to Cromer last weekend but sadly a storm rolled in from the North Sea, as they are want to do around our exposed bit of coastline, and we had to call the day off. However, Norwich Castle turned out to be a far larger complex than expected, and rather than just filling an hour or two, my family and I spent almost our entire day there.

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Initially as you approach the castle it seems very squat and unimpressive compared to the later medieval castles you may have seen. Built initially around 1067, the castle has overlooked Norwich’s market area, known as Tombland, for almost a millennia. However, once you have entered via the bridge which crosses what remains of the moat, you will be astounded to see just how extensive the complex is.

Besides the castle keep, which contains the exhibits about medieval life in Norwich, there are a warren of other galleries ranging in focus from the history of the Iceni tribe in East Anglia to Ancient Egypt. There is also a natural history museum area in which the taxidermy collections of eccentric Victorians are kept – they even have a stuffed polar bear.

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Getting into the castle may seem a bit expensive at first but there is so much to do that it is a whole day’s worth of entertainment, and for younger family members there are often activities and special events to keep them amused; my visit happened to coincide with a workshop run by UEA Drama students in which they dressed up and re-enacted Viking life in Norwich.

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Overall, I would thoroughly recommend checking out this piece of Norwich history during your time here – but maybe wait until your parents visit and can buy the tickets…