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Another successful year for the Departmental Staff Common Room Association

Annual report on the year’s activities 2001-2002

Day trips still form the major part of the Summer programme and the days in the Capital City are still as popular as ever; two coaches were needed for both the Summer and Pre-Christmas trips to London! 

Last year the trip to The Gardens of the Rose/Capel Manor Gardens had to be curtailed en-route due to mechanical problems with the coach, but the repeat visit was well worth the wait. The scent of many rose varieties hung of the RHS gardens and there were magnificent displays in the vicinity of the house, but due to staff shortages some of the outer areas were badly in need of attention – nevertheless, it is certainly a place to go if you are a rose lover. 

After seeing a garden devoted entirely to one species it was a complete contrast at Capel Manor to see a huge variety of display gardens, plants and trees. The two different gardens and the excellent weather combined to make a fascinating day out.

Two of the trips were based around theatre matinees: one to Birmingham to enjoy the many attractions and shops in the city centre and then to the Alexandra Theatre and the touring production of the raunchy musical Chicago; the other to Milton Keynes for the opportunity of morning shopping and to the wonderful new theatre to see Susan Hampshire in Noel Coward’s subtle and funny treatment of class snobbery in Relative Values.

The Pre-Easter venue was Lincoln, and, on a lovely early Summer’s day, the occupants of two coaches visited the Cathedral, the Castle and precincts, and wandered up and down Steep Hill to Brayford Pool and the many specialist shops/department stores. 

A welcome return to the Peak District found us enjoying the delights of Ashbourne, the Gateway to the Peak, and then onto the Sudbury Hall with its Museum of Childhood, but sought after by the ladies for its connections with Mr D’Arcy in the TV version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. A full day was spent at Harewood House near Leeds. Luckily the early morning rain gave way to afternoon sunshine. Harewood is a magnificent treasure trove of paintings and artefacts all beautifully displayed, and members who hired an audio tour were treated to a clear and interesting commentary by the Earl of Harewood (whose voice was much appreciated by the female members of the party!). An additional attraction was the superb Bird Garden, stretching down to the lake.

The Royal Air Force College at Cranwell can only be visited on weekdays, but the required number of members and guests signed up and were given a fascinating tour of the main building by an ex-RAF Regiment Sergeant who provided a brilliant and anecdotal commentary on the history of the RAF and the many mementoes, paintings and other items on display. After a leisurely lunch in Sleaford the day was completed by guided tours of Grimsthorpe Castle, hereditary home of The Willoughby de Eresby family, and finally a short visit to the church at Edenham to see all the family tombs.

The final visit of the season was to the attractive village of Hemingford Grey, to The Manor, a complete contrast to the stately homes and castles. Reputedly the oldest inhabited house in England it certainly displayed its historic architecture inside, and Diana Boston gave us a most interesting tour which featured her mother-in-Law, Lucy Boston, who had lived in the house in 1939 and had written her Green Knowe stories (children’s books) there. She had also completed her famous patchworks there and these had to be seen to be believed – all hand sewn and worked on in not very good lighting conditions by a lady in her eighties and nineties. 

The Manor stands in a very attractive garden, well known for the topiary, and has a lovely riverside setting. After lunch at St Ives (of Chapel on the Bridge fame) the day was completed with a visit to the Raptor Foundation at Woodhurst, where we later shared bench seats with several small owls.

There were four evening visits. The Kitchen Garden as Osbaston Hall, situated in attractive countryside to the west of Leicester, is an organic garden, and it was very interesting and enlightening to hear how this was achieved. The extensive walled garden is looked after by one person and we were left amazed at how this could be possible with such a large area and vast array of vegetables and plants.

The Firs at Bardon Hill has been developed over the years from practically next to nothing by the present owners (one of whom surprisingly had worked in the Chemistry Department at one time). They had turned it into a very attractive garden with many plant varieties and an unusual, inner feature, water garden.

We have been to Orchards at Walton by Kimcote several times, for many of us know the owners, Graham and Jenny Cousins (Graham was formerly Manager of the University Bookshop). This series of small gardens designed and developed by Graham over the years is always a delight to visit and we were made so welcome. Since out last evening visit there three years ago there have been some major changes creating new open vistas with, in addition, a redesigned rectangular pond.

The weather gods have been kind to us throughout the year but unfortunately on the night we went to Glendon Hall, near Kettering, the 'heavens opened'. Nevertheless the majority of the intended party made it through the rains and flooded roads to the gateway and gravelled drive that led down to the Hall in its extensive grounds. With rain still falling, Ms Rosie Bose served us with wine and coffee in her large kitchen before the rain abated and she showed us round her part of the garden. This contained a good selection of mature trees and a variety of shrubs and plants, with lawned areas and box hedging, plus part of the large walled garden. Luckily what could have been a disastrous outing turned out to be a really enjoyable occasion.

Throughout the Summer we were blessed with good weather on nearly all of the outings and the two Saturday afternoon visits were no exception. One was to an exceptional garden and the other to a stately home; both in Northern Northamptonshire. In Sudborough, a typical middle England village with mellow stone houses, stands the old Georgian Rectory in a classic country garden. A delightful time was spent in these three acres amongst the roses, herbaceous borders, fine trees and many rare and unusual plants. Deene Park is the lived-in home of the Brudenell family containing many rooms of different periods, plus memorabilia of the Earl of Cardigan (a family member) who led the famous Charge of the Light Brigade. It was a memorable guided tour surpassed only by the unforgettable homemade cakes and tea that we enjoyed afterwards.

We made evening visits to the Haymarket Theatre to see four musicals, one musical Studio evening and three other plays.

The Christmas Musical Peter Pan lived up the expectations with wonderful staging. The flying scenes were well done, Captain Hook was suitably villainous and over the top and it was all entertaining with good supporting roles from the crocodile and Nana the dog. 

The fans again turned out for the 10th anniversary of Hot Stuff, the most popular musical to have been staged at the Haymarket. All the old favourite songs from the 70s were there and the regulars were not disappointed. 

Five Guys Named Moe was a great bargain at a one-off promotional price of £1 for a midweek matinee. It was a West End and Broadway production that really lived up to its name, with the five guys giving an infectious and toe-tapping performance, performed with gusto, of the 40s hits from the Jazz Great, Louis Jordan. 

The classic American Musical Comedy On Your Toes by Rogers & Hart had wonderful songs supplemented by both tap and jazz dance numbers. The sets were innovative and memorable – who will forget the large dining table, fully laid, lowered down from the flies? 

The Studio was a setting for a much more intimate contact between performer and audience when Elizabeth Mansfield brought to life with feeling and great passion the story and songs of Edith Piaf and Bertold Brecht in Portraits in Song.

The Pilot Theatre Company returned with Unsuitable Girls, a lively tale of lonely hearts, dancing and film stars in one girl’s search for a bridegroom. The scene was set on the West Coast of Ireland, in Donegal, with Dolly West’s Kitchen, a funny and moving play by Frank McGuinness, one of Ireland’s greatest playwrights. 

Only a very small party booked for Bali – The Sacrifice but they were enthralled by probably one of the best pieces of dramatic theatre seen at the Haymarket for a long time. There were memorable performances from two acclaimed Bollywood actors.

At the De Montfort Hall the flat floor seating layout is always used for the annual visit of the Band of HM Royal Marines. The regular supporters turned out again and were treated to a varied programme of military and big band music plus the customary highlights of solo performances on selected instruments, which this year included the xylophone and violin. 

Tiered seating was used for the other three events. Hollywood & Broadway – The Musicals was a celebration of the golden era of stage and screen with songs from over twenty-five different shows. This musical extravaganza starred Dave Willetts & Grace Kennedy with full supporting singers and dancers.

On a cold night in January a small band of ardent followers went to see Ken Dodd, the wonder man from Knotty Ash. Doddy was in his usual sparkling form and everyone went home with their sides aching of laughter after another marathon performance.

Evening lectures form a major part of the winter programme and still manage to attract a reasonable average attendance. Barry Kendall returned in November with his 16 mm projector and a compilation of film excerpts from silent pictures and talkies, in The Life and Times of Laurel and Hardy, complemented by comments on their early life and their comedy friendship.

Tony Budd from the Geography Department came along and surprised us with information about the numerous British connections with Las Palmas and the Island in Gran Canaria – Between Three Continents. Las Palmas ranks among the largest ports in the World and is very important as a free port. Noted for its tourism, the main tourist areas are along the South Coast whilst the landscapes of the interior are almost unexplored. Apart from the holiday boom, two of the most industries are tomatoes and bananas.

Roy Millward, leader for many years of the Landscape & Geography excursions, made a welcome return to explain the landscape history of Raasay, how he came to have a second home there and his continuing fascination with the island. Art in Science – Science in Art was the title of a lecture by Professor John Holloway, Pro- Vice-Chancellor. A keen watercolour painter himself, he gave us a thought-provoking insight into patterns (often microscopic images) in Science & Nature and how these influenced artists and sometimes appeared in their work.

The Programme Secretary spoke twice during the year. Return to South Australia was reflections on a second holiday down under based at Montacute, near Adelaide, staying at the home of Roger and Sue Richards (Roger was formerly a Technician in Geography and first Head of the newly-formed Central Photographic Unit), with extended visits to Kangaroo Island, Burra, Hahndorf and The Barossa Valley. 

To mark the 80th Anniversary of the University, Terry Garfield gave a talk, Then and Now – University College to University, which covered a working life spent in the Fielding Johnson and Bennett Buildings and the physical expansion on the site from 1946 to 1992, concluding with the story of the DSCR and some reminders of trips from the last few years.

As the festive season approached there was the usual flurry of orders from the aficionados for the famous Leigh Toaster Cheese that was once more kindly made available by Maurice Bann (a former Catering Manager at the University).

On the Wednesday lunchtime before the Christmas term ended, about one hundred members enjoyed the Wine and Mince Pies get-together in the DSCR. This annual event attracts members from departments throughout the University.

During the year, with the permission of the Catering Manager, Birthday Club invitations to the Garendon Carvery Restaurant were sent out to retired members.

During the year four members retired: Geoff O’Connor, Engineering (29 years’ service) – Geoff was an enthusiastic member in the early days and took part in all our sporting and social events; John Jasper, Chemistry (6½ years); Charlotte Selby, Post Room (23 years) and Janet Bradford, Classics (22 years). We wish them a long and enjoyable retirements.

Unfortunately we have to report two deaths during the year: Barbara Roberts, Social Sciences (10 years’ service) and Doreen Butler, Sociology (20 years’ service) Doreen was a regular supporter in the early years - she retired in 1979.

At the end of the year it is time for thanks, especially to the Porters and Catering Services in the Charles Wilson Building, but also to the Committee and other members and colleagues in the University who help in so many ways; plus of course the members who support the activities and make the Association worthwhile.

Barbara Wright (Pro- Vice-Chancellor’s Office)
Terry Garfield, Programme Secretary
October 2002                                        

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Last updated: 15 November 2002 10:55
Created by: Rachel Tunstall

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