Whatever Happens in Norwich?

There is an old stereotype about Norwich that nothing ever really happens here; I remember when I told my Dad that I wanted to go to UEA he was delighted because, being such an out of the way place, it was one of the safest cities in the country.

Now it’s true that due to our location in the odd bump of the east of England that very few people ever just happen to be passing through Norwich, but we’re far from a provincial backwater.

In the last month, I have met not one but two of my personal heroes at events in Norwich. A couple of weeks ago I attended one of the Dragon Hall debates (regular open to the public discussions on varying topics hosted by the Norwich Writers’ Centre in their medieval Dragon Hall) and had the excellent fortune to have a chance to chat with Cambridge Classicist and TV historian Mary Beard.

The event had been a discussion on the topic of internet censorship and how we can protect those targeted by internet trolls. Dr. Beard has talked extensively about women and their treatment in social media and it was amazing to get the chance to speak to her about it in person. Luckily this was one of those instances where meeting people you admire doesn’t diminish your opinion of them.

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This week I then had the opportunity of attending the launch of the poet Simon Armitage’s new collection. Anyone who has done English GCSE’s will have come across Armitage’s work but what really got me hooked on his poetry were his translations of Medieval texts such as ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’.

It’s a mark of just how well regarded Norwich is in literary circles that a poet as famous and celebrated as Armitage chose to launch his new collection here with a local Norwich printing press rather than in Oxford for example, where he currently works at the university.

I was perhaps slightly less eloquent when I had the chance to meet him at the end of the event but he was still very kind and I came away happy with my signed book.

Now, I realise that a classicist and a poet are perhaps slightly niche interests but they demonstrate that Norwich is a place where great thinkers and artists want to come to discuss their works – but they are by no means the only people either. The music scene in Norwich is also flourishing; Laura Marling performed at the Waterfront this week and Little Mix will be here later in the year.

Norwich is a safe city, but we’re by no means a sleepy one.

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The wonderful Book Hive which published Simon Armitage’s new collection (the Michael Gove quote is my favourite)

Quick Life Update

There’s been an awful lot going on lately so I thought it was probably time for a brief update on what I’m doing and what my plans are post-graduation.

Without wishing to blow my own trumpet I am delighted to say that I got a high first (which is the highest grade band for university work) for my dissertation. Obviously, this is a massive relief anyway but I am particularly delighted that I did well because I had been worrying that perhaps I hadn’t worked hard enough on it.

Now, before you think I slacked off for a semester and got lucky I should just clarify – one of the most important lessons I’ve had to learn at uni is when to stop pushing myself. I used to feel that if I wasn’t panicking and working all hours on an essay then I wasn’t working hard enough; if I didn’t feel like crying after finishing it had I really given it my all?

This kind of attitude can wrongly be celebrated at uni sometimes. People compete to complain about how many hours they spent in the library, how many coffees they had to drink to make it through. Of course, I don’t wish to suggest that you shouldn’t give an essay your best, but we need to be careful that we don’t regard burning yourself out as a sign of success.

Thanks to the amazing advice and support of my supervisor, Dr. Rebecca Pinner, writing my dissertation was a far less stressful and more enjoyable experience than I imagined it could be. (I could probably write a whole post on the importance of finding the right supervisor for you, but don’t worry I won’t) And at the end of the day, although uni is meant to be hard work it’s also supposed to be working hard at something you love and are interested in.

Lastly, I have applied to two Master’s degree programmes; one at York University and one at Oxford University. I’m still waiting to hear back from York but I was delighted (and very shocked) to receive an offer from Oxford for a place on their Mst. English Literature (650-1550) degree.

I’m still not a hundred percent certain which uni I will go to yet, and I’m still waiting to hear back from York, but it’s good to know that I will still be studying next year.

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Photos I took on my Applicant Day at Oxford

With Easter coming up hopefully I will have time to do a few more posts about Norwich before I graduate and leave this fine city.

Do Something Different Week: ‘The Art and Science of Murder’

If you are a UEA student then you will be very aware that we are currently in the midst of ‘Do Something Different Week’ – a campus wide off timetable week in which students are encouraged to, as the name suggests, do something different.

A variety of different taster sessions have been on offer from cookery classes to Introduction to Arabic, but perhaps the most well-known event is the week long interactive murder mystery: ‘The Art and Science of Murder’.

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The event was planned and written by crime fiction author Ian Rankin along with a cohort of UEA Creative Writing students. It runs across the week and follows the investigation into the (fictional) murder of UEA academic, Dr. Bland.

The first event of the week was an intro into crime scene investigation. Students who had booked onto the course were invited to come and examine the site where Dr. Bland’s ‘body’ was found, to look for DNA samples and to speak to an ‘eye witness’. It was also a good opportunity to talk to professionals who actually do these kinds of investigations for a living and they were very keen to dispel some of the fictions created by tv crime dramas (apparently detectives rarely get to see the body as it was found which ruins most detective shows I know!). I also learned that to examine a mobile the police have to isolate it in a Faraday Cage (aka, a metal bag) until the battery runs dead so that they can be sure that it remains exactly as they found it. A solution to a problem I didn’t even know existed.

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The following day included a trip to the Pathology lab where we were shown what kinds of evidence the pathologists looked for on a murder victim and were shown x-rays which helped us to identify the cause of death. The key question of the investigation is; did Dr. Bland fall from the walkway or was he pushed? Blood which had run down his face suggested that he had been upright when a blow was struck proving that he had been attacked before falling… in short, it was almost certainly homicide!

The most recent event was a dramatization of the police interviews with the one eye witness and then two suspects who were known to have seen the victim on the night of his death. This was where the event began to combine narrative along with actual science – and it was also very odd for me as I happen to know the ‘suspects’  through Drama Society. But I still very much enjoyed it and look forward to the Police Press Conference tomorrow.

The event will eventually culminate in a full trial on Friday which will be hosted by UEA Law School.

Whilst it is a bit of fun it has also been amazing to see the kind of work that people from other schools are involved in at UEA. It can be easy to get blinkered to anything beyond your own school (in my case Literature, Drama and Creative Writing) but it’s a great reminder that so much else does go on here.

I will let you know more about the investigation as it unfurls, but if you would like more immediate updates be sure to check the #somethingdifferent tag on twitter (Concrete and UEA TV will also be covering it extensively.)