On Friday I attended a very interesting event on the University of Sussex campus. This was arranged to mark the forthcoming end of the term of office of the current Chair of Council of the University of Sussex, Simon Fanshawe (left). Simon Fanshawe OBE is, of course, a well-known radio and TV broadcaster, award-winning comedian and co-founder of the campaigning organization Stonewall. He also has an interesting taste in suits, and provided evidence of that in his outfit on Friday. But enough of matters sartorial. Simon has been Chair of Council for six years, and served as a member of Council for as many years before that, so really has contributed a huge amount to the University over that period. I think it’s safe to say that he has had a much higher profile in his role as Chair than most of his counterparts in other UK universities, so the idea of having a special event in his honour was thoroughly well justified.
First we had a series of three short lectures by Sussex on various issues relating to equality and diversity and how their relate to power and governance. More specifically these were talks about female islamic religious leaders, the nature of political corruption and attitudes to it in different countries, and a particularly fascinating talk by Robert Livingston that touched on many things, including how facial features seem to correlate with success in leadership positions.
After that there was a wine reception and a nice dinner with lots of stimulating conversation. For some reason a major topic on my table was bell-ringing, and why English church bells sound so different from those in continental Europe. I wrote some stuff about that years ago, while I was teaching probability, and may blog about it in future. Everyone else seemed to head home via taxi after dinner, but I wobbled off to the bus stop and got the trusty No. 23 back to Kemptown.
Anyway, I may post later on about some things that popped into my mind as a result of the talks and the subsequent discussion and conversation but for the time being I’ll just mention a very tenuous link with Simon Fanshawe that involves taking a little trip down memory lane. The picture below was taken in either 1988 or 1989 (I’m not very good at dates). It shows me and my partner at the time, Roger, preparing to act as volunteer waiters at a fund-raising dinner (somewhere in Lewes if I remember correctly) organized by the Communist Party of Great Britain:
I wasn’t involved very much in campus politics when I was a graduate student at Sussex (from 1985 to 1988) or a postdoctoral researcher (1988-90) because I found most of it depressingly puerile and short-sighted, that being especially true of the sizable lunatic fringe which also had a disagreeable taste for mindless vandalism. Sadly, times haven’t changed in that respect. I did, however, during that time become an avid reader of magazine called Marxism Today which I thought contained the most incisive political writing of the time and which therefore prompted me to join the CPGB, and eventually became Branch Secretary until I left for London in 1990. Incidentally the Cee-Pee-Gee-Bee decided to dissolve itself as a political party in 1991 and became a sort of leftist think-tank called Democratic Left.
Anyway, the point about that photograph is that the after-dinner speaker on that occasion was none other than Simon Fanshawe, although I doubt if he remembers!Follow @telescoper