Oxford University Society East Kent Branch

The East Kent Branch organises several events each year, including a spring lunch, a summer garden party, the AGM and a pre-Christmas lunch, as well as an outing to Oxford if there is something going on that appeals to members. Often we have informal talks on these occasions, given by members. These are all daytime events, normally on a Saturday or Sunday.
Many of these events support our student grant scheme.
Pre-Christmas lunch 2019
This year, at the suggestion of our committee member Andrea, on December 14th we went to the Turner Contemporary gallery at Margate for a guided presentation of the winning entries for the 2019 Turner Prize, followed by buffet lunch at the Sands Hotel.
Two of the Turner entries were videos: one concerning interpretation of sounds, “earwitnessing”, centred on the experiences of inmates in prison in the Middle East; the other considering victims and perpetrators of violent acts of “terrorism” or “resistance”, especially women. Femininity and feminism were the subjects of a room-sized installation of sculpture with an accompanying audio text; and, finally, we had papier mache versions of the workers of the world – brought down from London seated on the High Speed train – facing the bleak prospect of a black curtain obscuring the view of the sea, with just a torn crack allowing a glimpse of the brighter world outside. So, all political and all needing the insights that the guides provided. The four short-listed artists, by the way, requested that their work should be regarded as the product of a collective, so were awarded the prize jointly.
Afterwards we fought our way against a westerly gale to the recently refurbished Sands Hotel – owned by an Oxford graduate – where our private room had a dramatic view, looking straight out over the breaking waves.
OUS East Kent AGM 2019
The meeting took place on Sunday 20th October at St. Augustine’s again – many thanks to the King’s School for excellent service and catering.
It was chaired by our President, David Freud, in the absence of the Chairman, and began with a minute’s silence to remember John Simpson, our former President, and Terry Wheeler, both of whom died since the last AGM.
Four members of the Committee, Peter Morgan, Peter Berg, Gail Swainston and Jayne Cohen were re-elected nem con (note use of Latin, vide presentation below).
Peter Morgan’s report, which was read out, included thanks to the members of the Committee, in particular to Talbot Penner who served as Secretary for many years and was instrumental in setting up the Grants Scheme. The Alumni office in Oxford had also been very helpful during the year, sending out letters about our group to all alumni in our area. An area of concern is the lack of large houses and gardens for future fundraising events, so that subscriptions will have to be the principal support for grants in years ahead, implying that we need more subscribers and, possibly, raised minimum donations – see below.
The Treasurer, Nigel Beevor, presented the accounts for the year (full details under History and Accounts). The figures demonstrated very clearly that in order to maintain grants current levels and numbers, increased subscription income will be vital – a motion was immediately proposed and carried to raise the minimum from £10 to £20, due on 1st November.
Gail Swainston gave an enthusiastic account of the volunteer groups conference that took place in Oxford in September together with our Secretary, Jayne Cohen – and delegates from all over the world. The Alumni office clearly now sees groups like ours as important for the future of the University, and we can learn much from one another.
We awarded six grants this year, costing £3550.  The recipients were:
Megan Bell. Trinity. Chemistry. Took part in a 6 week project at Imperial College London with a research group investigating the solar-driven splitting of water to produce H2 and 02 as a fuel source. This is intended as a more efficient way to ‘store’ solar energy.
Ben Smart. Worcester. Engineering. A project with Cleen in Uganda helping to research the heating element in solar panelled ovens and then doing on the spot market research checking the satisfaction with the performance of the stoves and interviewing further potential customers.

Augustine Allain-Labon. Corpus. Classics. Attended a month-long summer school at the Academia Vivarium Novum in Rome in immersive Latin, the aim being to attain near fluency in Latin.

Robbie Whittaker. St Hugh’s. History. Undertook primary research in the archives of the Venerable Collegio Inglese in recently catalogued documents regarding the foundation of various overseas training establishments set up by the Jesuits in the 16th century, Rome, Seville, Douai etc. Robbie is learning Latin for this, the documents having not yet been translated.
Oliver Stapel. Worcester. Geography. Travelled to the Netherlands to undertake research into the integration of immigrants into Dutch society, specifically Anglo-American immigrants from a culture not deemed ‘different’ thus contributing to the understanding of the extent that immigration is a function of difference or a less binary process.
Ramani Chandramohan. St Anne’s. Classics and French. We helped Ramani with the fare to the ‘Warwick Translates’ Summer School.
Three of the grantees were present at the meeting and gave presentations about their projects:


Augie was introduced by our President with a few words in Latin – what else? – though most of the account was in English. Who’d have thought that Latin could be so much fun? A month spent with formal classes, tours of Rome, games and music, all in Latin. And Augie, by popular request, finished with a rendering of a short song to a text by Catullus.




Ben’s time in Uganda was spent with a small volunteer project looking at environmentally friendly ways of improving daily life for ordinary people with few financial resources. The traditional method of cooking, burning wood or charcoal in a pottery oven inside the hut, often leads to breathing and other problems. The aim of Ben’s group was to develop a solar-powered electrical oven. The first problem was to find components that were up to specification – not easy, but they were able to demonstrate how the set-up would work using mains electricity. The rest of the time was spent looking at ways of marketing and financing these systems – banks were remarkably flexible in their approach to providing the necessary, modest, sums.





Hydrogen may well be the clean energy source of the future, but the classic way of producing hydrogen by electrolysis using carbon electrodes is very inefficient and, therefore, costly, but Megan told us that the process can be improved dramatically by coating electrodes with various chemical compounds. Her project was to synthesise a complex compound including barium and niobium – quite a challenge, as it turned out to be dramatically sensitive to moisture, air and almost everything else. Success at the third attempt, and tests on the electrical properties turned out most promising.

Ben, Augie, David Freud, Megan


Spring Garden Party 2019

Many thanks to Julia and Anthony Stanton for hosting this event in their beautiful garden – wonderful weather, record numbers, some welcome new members – and for the first time at one one of our events – some children! Thanks, too, to those who helped with the food, not least to the Stantons’ regular helper for a delicious spinach cake, and to Andrew Joynes for his frittata…

Unfortunately I have no photographs, but contributions welcome, to

Spring Lunch 2019
Forty-three members enjoyed lunch at the Cafe du Soleil in Canterbury on Sunday 3rd March – chairman Peter Morgan noting that the committee had bowed to the wishes of members in an informal referendum at the AGM, when equal numbers voted for Saturdays or Sundays, by holding events alternately on the one day or the other – hence a Saturday for the Summer Garden Party. Many members commented on the excellent quality of the food.
After lunch our in-house Viking, Peter Berg, gave a talk entitled ‘The Vikings in Canterbury’, though it took a while to get here, with diversions including Proto-Norse languages, Olympic football, a Swedish ship aground off Southend – Basket Babies in Stranded Ship Thrill – eventually coming to the Great Siege of Canterbury in 1011 and the death of Archbishop Alfheah as described in the poetry of Jan Montefiore.





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