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