The great wheel of time is turning… always at the same speed, we know, but it feels as though it has speeded up.  Only in Cambridge could we have – on the same street  (albeit sporting three different names along its length) – the Corpus Clock that has been built with absolute accuracy yet quirky unpredictability, the phenomenally reliable gravity-escapement Trinity College Clock, a pair of vertical sundials on adjacent buttress-faces of St Botolph’s Church, and the faint remains of a 14th-century Mass Dial  on Little St Mary’s Church.

Here at Madingley Hall, the headquarters of the University’s Institute of Continuing Education we have a choice of the faded charm of the clockface on the Courtyard  tower, a sundial in the gardens, and another sundial on the south-east wing (pictured) to check as we head to planning meetings or to see visitors. Although we are more likely these days to be checking hi-tech gizmos to keep us on time, just in case the sun is not shining.  Incidentally, we’re hoping for clear skies on Monday 9 May, for the Transit of Mercury which should be visible -  please note, Science Summer Programme participants! - for anyone living in the America, Europe and Africa. (If it is cloudy, we all have to wait until 2032, I understand.)

Time is relative, as we are reminded (particularly, this year, 100 years after the publication of Einstein’s Relativity: The Special and General Theory). Grasping the meaning is a bit of a struggle for this non-scientist, but the joy of the Summer Programme community is that I will find several people in the teaching team who can explain it very eloquently, no doubt.  Einstein is never out of the news for long: I gather the French have just launched a satellite about to test one of his theories. (As a forgiveable aside, I hope, during the internet search for the satellite news I found myself diverted by a rather splendid Albert Einstein cake!)

One benefit of the passage of time is that is appears finally to have warmed up here in Cambridgeshire. The pairs of birds (woodpeckers, jackdaws, rooks, chaffinches, blackbirds….) outside my office window have an urgency, a purpose, and leaf-lets are bursting from twigs and branches. The daffodils are perishing (hurrah!) and fresh-faced narcissi have taken their place along the Madingley Hall drive, and the blue/purple ajuga (carpet bugle) looks stunning next to the lake. (We took the newly opened Capability Brown walk in the Madingley grounds at lunchtime.)

Clearly, nature is saying: ‘we’d better get on with it’, and – although we haven’t really stopped  all year - there’s a new urgency as May begins, so that same message is on our minds, too.

We’ve recently added another 55+ plenary titles to the web, and are working on the rest. As swathes of courses meet their minimum target (on their way to higher enrolments over the next 10 weeks), we have started to confirm them with the Course Directors. The conversations between accepted students are already in full swing on the Student Forum (What’s the dress code? Who else is doing this course?  Who else is travelling from the same country as me? Australia/Canada/France/Ireland…?) 10 Cambridge Summer Assistants (CSAs) have been hired, and will be ready to help as you arrive.

The clock is ticking: I will return to planning plenaries!  I hope – if you have not already signed up for one of our programmes - that you will consider spending time with us this summer.

Sarah J Ormrod, 6 May 2016

Spring blossom

Despite a chill in the air on many days, our ‘summer’ has begun, with our first bespoke group of the year, taking a two-week programme of classes in art and literature, and living first at Madingley, and then at Gonville and Caius. It’s a cheerful reminder of the summer ‘buzz’ of activity, and of seeing teaching plans come to fruition. It also means that I have visit places I have never seen in Cambridge: the College chapels at Trinity Hall and Pembroke, and Little St Mary’s Church, next to Peterhouse.  Pembroke’s chapel was Christopher Wren’s first architectural commission, before he became famous as the architect of many of the London city churches and St Paul’s cathedral, rebuilt after the Great Fire of London in 1666. (The Museum of London has a major exhibition marking the 350th anniversary of the fire, opening this summer, and I’m hoping we shall have a talk about the Fire and its influence on the appearance of London thereafter.) And in checking sources about the 1666 fire, I have discovered for the first time the ‘Great Fire of Southwark’, the original Great Fire of London fire of July 1212, in which up to 3,000 people died on London Bridge.  (There are only 6 recorded deaths from the 1666 fire.) 

Back to our visit in Cambridge to Little St Mary’s, I discovered it has a connection with George Washington: a wall-plaque dedicated to a his great uncle (Godfrey Washington) shows the Washington coat of arms, which apparently influenced the design of the stars and stripes on the American flag. 

One of the highlight’s of the group’s stay was a visit to Stratford to see Hamlet, and it reminded me what a superb institution the Royal Shakespeare Company is.  Hopefully, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Cymbeline will be just as exciting for our students this summer, and I shall definitely have to see plays more frequently!

My own ‘lifelong learning’ journey continues to benefit from the courses we put on for our students.

Invitations are on their way out to a great many plenary speakers, as we try to catch academic colleagues between the busy end of one term and the busier start of the next.

We have just had the Institute’s Open Day at Madingley Hall, with a Hall full of visitors, taster sessions, advice on courses and a wonderful sense of anticipation of good things to come.  On the International Programmes table, we spoke to a goodly number of people who are now considering joining us this summer (and many were signing up for other ICE courses throughout the year).

We have been interviewing Cambridge candidates for the IARU Global Summer Programme, for students who are enrolled in that consortium’s member organisations, and are in the process of shortlisting for the Cambridge Summer Assistants who help us ‘front of house’ every summer.

On a sunny day like today has been, with trees beginning to blossom in earnest and British Summer Time starting on Sunday, Summer seems very close indeed.

Sarah J Ormrod, 25 March 2016

Stonehenge cropped

The weeks are flying by! As it only happens once every four years I ought to give a swift mention to February 29th and the Leap Year. I found this explanation of leap years and even leap seconds and why they happen rather interesting, and enjoyed the reference to Stonehenge (pictured), which came up in conversation over this last weekend, when I was talking to students taking short residential weekend courses at Madingley Hall whilst acting as Duty Warden. (I discovered one person who’d been a frequent attender at the Medieval Programme, and another who has signed up for this summer’s Ancient and Classical Worlds.)

Those pesky daffodils (readers of earlier blogs will remember my antipathy) are back again, and the East Anglian weather oscillates between practising for Spring, and hanging on to the idea that it is still acceptable to be frosty. Cambridge has certainly not been quiet this month. The city has had another of its ‘e-Luminate’ festivals, with lights brightening up the Senate House, the Old Schools, Gonville and Caius, the Guildhall, Old Addenbrookes, and the Fitzwilliam Museum. (See a selection of images here.) I was lucky enough to go to the ‘Death on the Nile’ exhibition on Monday evening at the Fitzwilliam Museum. Magnificent. The bad news for those attending Summer Programmes is that it will be over before then. The good news is that the vast majority of the items on show can be found in the Egyptian section. (And there will still be copies of the wonderful catalogue.) There will be a major exhibition celebrating the Museum’s first 200 years, that runs right through the summer. It was good to bump into Summer Programme contributors, and I came away having planned a couple of plenaries and a course for 2017! Next month, Cambridge has its Science Festival, and we have already gleaned some inspiring ideas for talks by reading its programme.

We participated in a virtual College Week Live fair earlier this month, hosted by the North American Association of Summer Sessions, and organisation we’ve known for over 20 years. Those of you checking in to our website today for our own second Virtual Open Day and going to the programme pages will find that we’ve just added the speakers’ names (and in most cases, the titles) for over 60 planned plenary talks. There are more to add in the coming weeks, but we thought you would be interested to see these now. There are also new ‘focus on' sections to add to our existing Creative Writing video: we’ve added Literature and Shakespeare, Science and Interdisciplinary. (We’ll add new sections later.)

An update on last month’s announcement that we would be heading to Norwich as one of our weekend excursion venues: we’ve needed to make a change to that, as access to the cathedral for a group proved impossible on that particular Sunday. So, an exciting new excursion is planned, to ‘medieval Suffolk’. Details of this and all of the other excursions open to students accepted for the programmes appears on our new Weekend excursions page.

A number of our courses are filling fast, and we approach March and April (peak months for applications) with eager anticipation.

Sarah J Ormrod, 24 February 2016



I realise it is far too late to wish everyone a Happy New Year for 2016, but send that message, anyway. At least I’m comfortably early to wish Chinese friends a Happy New Year for 8 February.

2016 marks a number of anniversaries, including - alas - many major battles and uprisings: 950 years since the Battle of Hastings and the start of the Norman Conquest of England; 25 years since the end of the Gulf War; 100 years since the Battle of Verdun and the Battle of the Somme, which saw between them the loss of over 550,000 lives; 100 years since the Easter Rising in Dublin; 80 years since the Spanish Civil War; 75 years since the attack in Pearl Harbor. It is important to keep such anniversaries in our memories.

Anniversaries of major UK and international events include: 30 years since Spain and Portugal joined the European Union; 90 years since the UK’s General Strike; 200 years since Argentina’s declaration of independence from Spain; 50 years since the Chinese Cultural Revolution; and 25 years since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It’s also 20 years since the cloning of Dolly the sheep; 50 years since England won the World Cup in football; 350 years since the Great Fire of London; 100 years since Einstein published his theory of relativity; 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare, and – on an entirely different track – 50 years since the first episode of Star Trek. Closer to home, the Fitzwilliam Museum is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge its 250th, and the Cambridge University Library, it’s 600th!

Of these anniversaries, our talks in the summer will mark a number, but not all.  

Looming large among these will, of course, be Shakespeare. We’re already excited about the tickets we have purchased for the programme of optional weekend excursions: to see Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe, and Cymbeline at Stratford.

Still on excursions, the medieval town of Norwich, which boasts a cathedral (founded 920 years ago), a hospital (founded over 760 years ago) and a medieval trading hall (completed over 580 years ago), features in our last excursion of the summer.

Bletchley Park, used from 1938 as a World War II code-breaking site and featuring in the film The imitation game, doesn’t celebrate a specific anniversary this year, but was always concerned with counting! We have a course on Cryptography in the Science Summer Programme, and will once again hope to have Dr James Grime give his popular evening talk on the Enigma code-breaking machine.

We’re also excitedly checking the accepted application count at the end of each week: numbers are looking very healthy so far, and new applications come in daily. It’s an exciting time of year!

We’re planning another Virtual Open Day, on Wednesday 24 February, and would be very pleased if you could alert potential new students to that.

We’re delighted to see how many people come as a result of recommendations by former (or continuing) participants. Please do help to spread the word if you have been to our programmes and enjoyed them: you’re in a great position to be able to answer questions that potential students might have. You might also know of people who cannot attend themselves, but who might be willing to support a family member: our Gift vouchers scheme will now be extended throughout the registration cycle, to enable anyone to give all or part of a Cambridge Summer Programme’s experience as a gift.

A belated Happy New Year, everyone. Clusters of snowdrops are already out in the Madingley Hall gardens, so – particularly for those of you struggling with harsh weather conditions - here’s to Spring!

Sarah J Ormrod, 29 January 2016

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As the year ends here with unseasonable warmth but rather a lot of grey cloud, it’s been cheering to look at some of the sunny photos from our 2015 photo competition, as we celebrate the winners.  

It’s that time of year when we take stock of what we have managed to achieve in the past year, and also realise there is always more on the ‘to do’ list for next year. My ‘to do’ list for January is growing rapidly. Far from winding down at the end of Term, we’ve been busy up to the last with our first Virtual Open Day, which attracted participants from over 25 different countries, and, hopefully, brought us to the attention of many new audiences.

We’re already planning the second iteration of this, and will let people know the date in due course. Most of the videos for the Virtual Open Day can still be watched on our pages. Many thanks to all those who agreed to be filmed, whether we were able to use your interview this time around, or not. We’ve still some footage we hope to incorporate next time.

Whilst responses were coming in, we were also receiving and processing applications. Some 133 have already been accepted since we opened for registrations on 1 December, which is great news.  More applications are pending, awaiting a little more information before they can be accepted. Our returning students are always quick off the mark, as they’ve got a good idea of what they want to study and where they want to stay, but we’ve a lot of applications from people coming to us for the first time.

If you had time to visit the site on Wednesday you may also have noticed a new entry on the front page: Gift Vouchers. Click through to the relevant page and you’ll see there is now the option for you to give all or part of a Cambridge Summer Programmes experience as a gift. It’s your call as to how much your voucher is for, and we’ll make the process as easy as we can.

In my most recent blog I mused on which courses might begin to fill first. There are many applications to go, of course, and with 200 courses, there is still plenty of space on each. First off the mark include: International politics in a global age (in each of the three ISP Terms); Exploring Ancient and Classical Worlds – Cambridge Collections; Elizabeth I: the age of Gloriana; The CIA in Cold War historical perspective; The medieval palace; Courts and courtiers in medieval Europe, 1200-1500; Post-war Europe, 1945-65; How does your immune system work?; Shakespeare in love: the Romances; Writer’s art, writer’s world: essential skills; Philosophy of literature; and International development: key issues in today’s world.

As the International Programmes team takes a brief respite over the festive season, we hope you will consider courses and send in an application, to greet us on our return to the office early in the New Year. Applications will be accepted in order of receipt, and we’ll be in touch with you as quickly as we can once we return.

Our best wishes to you over the festive season, and Happy New Year, everyone!

Sarah J Ormrod, 18 December 2015

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The links on the website have gone live! We are poised and ready to receive your online application for the 2016 University of Cambridge Summer Programmes. The 2016 brochure has just arrived, too, and is already on its way to those of you on our mailing list.

If you are new to our programmes we hope you find the website easy to navigate, and discover a host of exciting courses to choose from. If you prefer, you can look at the brochure online, or request a hard-copy version here. Although we are mindful of environmental issues, we continue to print a limited number of these, knowing that many people still enjoy making their course choices from a brochure. It’s also easy to share with family and friends, and has been the reason - we are told - why a number of intending participants are joined by family members, who read it and decide they want to come to the Summer Programmes, too!

You may want to find out a bit more about our programmes before you apply. We know you can’t come over to see us just to find out more, so we will be holding our first ‘Virtual Open Day’ on Wednesday, 16 December. The Virtual Open Day will be a good opportunity to tell you a bit more about us, about who comes, who teaches, and what students get out of the programmes. We’ll use this day to launch some video footage of student and lecturer responses to their 2015 experience. We’ll also have all hands on deck at specific times that day, so that there will be a swift answer for anyone emailing or calling in with a specific question. You don’t need to register in advance: just log into our website on the day and follow the links.

This year’s brochure cover, poster and home-page image is an amazing long-exposure photograph by James Appleton. It shows one of the iconic Cambridge landmarks (Bridge of Sighs, St John’s College) at night, set against star trails – the apparent movement of the stars resulting from the spinning of the Earth. It’s an image that works for us on so many levels: Cambridge’s fabulous historic setting for our programmes, the opportunity for reflection, and the excitement of ongoing discovery, from the microscopic to the edges of the known Universe.

Our plenary theme for the Science programme Life at the Limits will – no doubt – include discussion of the life (and death) of stars. It’s also likely to look at the infinitesimally small (stem cells, bacteria), as well as improbable survivals (life below zero). Now that our courses are set, and the application period open, one of our main activities for the coming weeks will focus on building the timetable of plenaries for each of our programmes. We’ll add titles to the website as these are agreed.

Our Virtual Learning Environment, for accepted students, will open in February.

As I write, we enter the closing phase of 2015. Our programmes this past summer marked a round of anniversaries: Magna Carta (1215), Agincourt (1415), the Battle of Waterloo (1815), 70 years since the end of World War II (1945), 150 years since the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), and 60 years since Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, to list but a few. It has also been a year which – sadly – has seen many parts of the world ravaged by poverty, war, migration, tragedy and violence. It is not an easy place to be, and it may seem hard to focus on planning for a programme of intensive study in Cambridge when there are so many other things vying for our attention and support. But education is paramount. Whether your course is one which focuses directly on international politics in a global age, or on something seemingly far removed: novels, paintings, the Ancient World, just by being here and studying on an international programme, you are opening your mind, expanding your horizons, living and learning alongside others. There is a humanity in all of this that is essential. By doing our best to improve our minds and communicate face-to-face with others from different countries I think we are paying respect to those whose lives have been lost or damaged by acts of inhumanity.

We are always intrigued to see which courses begin to fill first. Will it be one of the seminars for English Legal Methods: Civil procedure or Private international law? Will it be Courts and courtiers in medieval Europe? Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown: transforming England’s great estates or Galileo and his world? Democracy in India, 1935-2002? Shakespeare’s evolving comedy? City of Athens? The physics of optical illusions? Writing character or Romantic madness?

With a range of subjects covering everything from Greek drama and ancient engineering, through to academic writing, fluid dynamics, and children’s literature, we’re hoping there is something for everyone.

Join us on December 16th to find out more.

Sarah J Ormrod, 2 December 2015

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2015 is a year of anniversaries: the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, the 70th anniversary of VJ Day, and we’re still in the midst of the centenary commemorations of WWI. Archaeologists have been marking these anniversaries in the best way they know how: by excavating war sites.

Conflict Archaeology – the archaeology of 20th and 21st century conflict – has been a growth area in the discipline since the year 2000, and more and more archaeologists have been developing an interest in the subject and defecting from their previous specialities in other areas of the discipline. This is also true for me: in 2006 I moved from Iron Age and Roman Archaeology to Conflict Archaeology, and have been spending much time analysing the archaeology, heritage and memory of the German occupation of WWII.

As my students will know, I spend a lot of time in the Channel Islands, where I have been doing fieldwork for nearly a decade now. In fact, I have just returned from a pilot project to explore the WWI POW camp in St Brelade in Jersey. After receiving seed funding from the Société Jersiaise, I invited my colleagues Professors Harold Mytum and Nick Saunders to join me in Jersey where we had a lot of fun wandering around the site in the rain, spotting the foundations and barrack hut stilts of the former camp.

We also excavated a test pit in an area which might have been the rubbish heap of the camp. It always amuses me how ridiculously happy archaeologists can get about rubbish pits! We spent an exciting afternoon getting soaked to the skin excavating a test pit and exclaiming over the old Jersey stoneware cider bottles we found.

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In the spring of this year I directed the second season of excavation at Lager Wick, a forced labour camp in Jersey, dating from 1942-1944. Although the rubbish pit of this camp was not accessible, my team explored the camp latrine and what I reckon was the mess hut of the guards, which burnt down in 1944. I found (among many other things) the base of a Nazi mug complete with eagle and swastika, the button from a guard’s uniform, a schnapps glass, a cuff-link, and a spoon handle.

Excavating is incredibly addictive. In some ways it’s like panning for gold – once you start scraping away at the surface of the soil, you can’t stop! I hope that students on the ICE Diploma in Archaeology discovered the same sense of discovery in their summer excavation module.

This coming year, the Diploma in Archaeology will offer a course in Conflict Archaeology, and I look forward to showing the students the results of my excavations in addition to work being done by other archaeologists in the field. We also run an Advanced Diploma in Archaeology at ICE, and I always look forward to welcoming students with a project in Conflict Archaeology. The deadline for signing up for our courses is 7 September 2015 – see you in October!

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Dr Gilly Carr, ICE University Senior Lecturer and Academic Director in Archaeology

Sunset blog

The time has flown. As I rather anticipated, the whirlwind of the Summer enfolded us all, and before I had a chance to write a ‘mid-term’ blog, the Summer Schools were over for 2015.

Looking back, we had grey rainy days, and sunshine, and six fast-paced weeks of plenaries and courses. I have been compiling statistics for our Annual Report, and taking stock reminds me why we seemed to have plenty of activity to fill each day. On any one day there were up to 40 teaching sessions and 8 plenaries. Over 180 people were involved in the delivery of over 170 plenary sessions and 184 courses. Courses embraced a great swathe of subjects, including new ones such as: animal behaviour; media theory and practice; modern fantasy fiction; the modern graphic novel; and Greek drama. Workshops, practical sessions and visits included palaeography, ecology, geology, zoology, astronomy, palaeontology, botany and the history of science.

I’ve been very fortunate to hear a good number of those 170 plenary sessions, and come away from each summer with a pile of notes I take to help the information sink in.. As a ‘fringe benefit’ of chairing these talks, I have considerably extended my understanding of Charles Darwin’s circle of influence; the importance of Magna Carta; poisonous plants; Aztec sacrifice; Leonardo da Vinci’s understanding of the anatomy of the human heart. (I must go back to notes taken on the history of English and on dialects, to be reminded of the definitions for words which have fallen out of use: ‘curglaff’, ‘torfle’ and (in its original meaning) ‘skype’.)

Science plenaries explored Curiosity through topics as wide-ranging as Egyptian mummies, bees, black holes, stem cells and evolution. Plenary lectures on Tragedy and Comedy for the Literature programme have embraced the Greeks and Shakespeare, photography, and satire. Students on Ancient and Classical Worlds investigated the parallel lives of Alexander and Julius Caesar, Achilles and Oysseus and ‘noble Greeks and Romans’. The Shakespeareans have been treated to lute music and very fine acting, as well as a host of interpretations of their theme: Truth and Fiction. Medievalists heard about criminal gangs, criminal justice under Henry V, and punishment and pardon. The Creative Writers heard from novelists, poets and agents, wrote copiously, and produced some very fine pieces of their own. Our IARU GSP students tackled communication milestones, the rise and fall of empires, Darwin’s influence and major wars in their understanding of Our changing world.

Oh yes: the first stick insect, python, giant millipede and trainee guide-dog made guest appearances for our animal behaviour courses (on Science and ISS Term I).

A great many people have volunteered to be ‘film stars’, recording their response to the Summer for us to use in future publicity.

At Closing Dinners we asked for everyone to fill in an online feedback form (thanks, these are still coming in) and to send entries for the photo competition. We gave out attendance certificates and exchanged ‘au revoirs’ rather than ‘goodbyes’. We spoke of friendships: new ones just made, and ones re-kindled by returning students and lecturers. I admitted that I have been greatly influenced by my own first study abroad experience, and since then, a sustained friendship with a great mentor whose example has reminded me how you should surround yourself with people who make the best of every opportunity, who love travel and learning, and who have open minds… other words, precisely the type of people who come to Summer Schools. It has been rewarding to do this great job for so many years!

It’s the uplifting sense of group achievement (something satisfactory for teachers, students and organisers alike) at the end of a really good, vintage summer like this one, which sustains the International Programmes team as we begin all over again, working with our Programme and Course Directors to plan a new round of fascinating courses and intriguing plenaries for 2016.

Watch this space!


Sarah Ormrod

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Well, our first 300 students are here: another 40 arrive next week, for the second half of the first programmes: Ancient and Classical Worlds, Science Term I and Science Term II. Interdisciplinary Term I students are just completing their first week of two, and the IARU Global Summer Programme (GSP) students are finishing their first week of four.

It has been exciting to welcome the representatives of 40 countries. The UK immigration requirement that all by EEA students have a visa to study has an upside: my colleagues and I meet everyone on arrival and check passports. It has been exciting to see so many different passports – including (to my recollection over many years) my first sight of a UN passport, and of a San Marino one.

True to form, we have already had hot sunny weather, cooler, more overcast weather, and pounding rain.

We’ve had stormingly good plenaries, and a very well-received set of 38 week 1 courses across the five programmes. Joint talks have introduced people to Cambridge ceremonials, the BBC, Cambridge architecture, and dyslexia. I’ve been fortunate enough to hear the ISS I-specific talks on Illuminating the future, The Lady Chapel at Ely, A Renaissance ‘who dunnit’ (about the current thinking on whether bronzes on loan at the Fitzwilliam are by Michelangelo), and Richard III’s funeral. I’ve also seen one on Transformations with image and light, from high definition projectionist team Ross Ashton and Karen Monid, having missed their work this winter at the Cambridge e-Luminate festival. I’ve heard great things of talks on the Ancient and Classical Worlds, Literature and Science programmes, covering a vast range of topics, from Boudicca and Agrippina, Eudoxus and Ptolemy, and Plutarch, to Wordsworth’s notebooks, Music’s War Poets and Dickens and disorderly laughter, and Rainsforests, Genome-sequencing and The physiology of exploration. There are so many intriguing titles!

We’ve good weather -so far- for the weekend trips to see Othello in Stratford and Oxford, and students not on the excursions are exploring Cambridge before classes start again – with our new arrivals – on Monday. Domenic Ronconi’s great picture from last year shows that there are quiet green spaces to explore in College gardens, as well as the bustling city centre.

Here’s to week two!

Sarah Ormrod

Sarah 5 agapanthus

The yellow daffodils for which I have such an unfair dislike are done, and made way for May and June’s whites, blues and purples of narcissus,  iris, ceanothus and ajuga.  It's almost time for the great blue Agapanthus (pictured), which will appear in several College gardens during the summer. April saw warm sunny days, and a few overnight and early morning frosts. May has seen trees come into full leaf, and heralded the great Chelsea Flower Show (which I managed not to visit again, this year). Madingley Hall (our Institute HQ) has its own Open Gardens as part of the National Gardens Scheme this Sunday (May 31st), and the gardens here are looking magnificent. (Although the Hall is not open, you can visit the gardens during your stay if you wish.) As to the weather, it hasn’t become consistently warmer and drier as my elderly tortoise will attest, but then, this is England. It is at least staying lighter very much later into the evening. In short, it's June already (well, very nearly so, at the time of writing). Cambridge is preparing itself for the spectacle of full summer, and for your arrival.

We are making the last-minute preparations to the University of Cambridge International Summer Schools, too. The very last titles for plenary talks are coming in, our Cambridge Student Assistants (CSAs) have been appointed, and the countdown to the start of the programmes has begun. Exciting times!

Enrolments have grown rapidly since my last blog, with new enquiries and applications arriving daily. Bookings for excursions are mounting too. Several accommodation options are fully booked, but space is still available in the others. With regret, a very small number of courses has had to be cancelled: we can never predict application levels for particular courses. Everyone involved has been contacted, and places in alternative course choices have been assigned. Other courses are filling, but there are still places available for anyone who now finds themselves able to join us this summer. Latest news: we’ve been able to extend deadlines for the online booking option, for your convenience: full details appear on our ‘How to apply’ page.

Some very exciting plenary speakers and titles have been added since the last blog and the titles have now been added to the relevant plenary sections of the programmes accessible via the links below. There are too many to list them all here, but they include: Professor Sir Colin Humphreys on Illuminating the future and Dr Seán Lang on The BBC: broadcaster to the world (ISS I) Dame Barbara Stocking on How to change the world – climate change and food security (ISS II); Professor Chris Abell on Changing the way drugs are discovered and Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill on Herculaneum: a new light on the past (ISS III); Dr Judith Croston on The curious behaviour of black holes and Professor Andy Woods on Curious fluid flows (Science); Dr Frank Woodman on King’s College, still influential after 500 years; Professor David Carpenter on The texts of Magna Carta: new discoveries (Medieval Studies); Kelly Grovier on Word and image and Rachel Calder on The literary agent’s view (Creative Writing); Dr William Foster on Bill Colby and the CIA and Dr Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite on The Iron Lady and her enemies (History); Dr Joe Moshenska on “You’re laughing at yourselves!": the tragedy of laughter In Shakespeare and Cervantes (Literature); and Professor Catharine Edwards on Parallel lives of Boudicca and Agrippina the Younger (Ancient and Classical Worlds).

Aside from completing the list of c165 talks to complement the 186 courses we’re running this year, we’re just tightening the nuts and bolts, and oiling the cog-wheels of the machine that is the Summer Schools (that is, getting the logistics in place and cross-checking lists to make it all happen as it should).

And then we’re planning for 2016! Anyone coming to us this year plays a part in our future planning: we’ll be providing a feedback form for each programme, and we’ll want to hear your views before we make some of the decisions about the next cycle.

We’ll hope to see you here in Cambridge, very soon.

Sarah J Ormrod



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