2022 has simply flown by.
It seems like only yesterday we were celebrating Dame June Raine’s recognition in the New Year Honours – and yet here we are again, Christmas trees glittering in the Hall, Michaelmas dinners dined, and carol services carolled both here in Oxford and at London’s Temple Church. Togetherness, community and light are at the heart of this season and – after the Covid-enforced separation of the last few years – it is more of a joy than ever to celebrate these moments with you.
As you prepare to settle down for the holidays, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the phenomenal support you have shown Somerville this year. The challenges we faced have been many, from weathering the financial fallout of the pandemic to starting on the long road to becoming a net-zero college. Our work as a College of Sanctuary enabled us to include the excluded in a world riven by displacement and forced migration. Closer to home, we worked hard to shield our students from the cost-of-living crisis by keeping rent and food prices amongst the very lowest in the collegiate university, ensuring that financial insecurity will never be an obstacle to academic excellence at Somerville.
Now, as throughout our 143-year history, you gave us the resilience to navigate these challenges and honour our founding principles.
There are so many more things I would like to tell you about the last year at Somerville – but more detailed updates should perhaps wait until the new year. For now, I would like simply to share with you the following highlights of recent events to give you a glimpse of life in your College:
- Watch our ‘Celebration of Sanctuary’ marking two years of Somerville being a University College of Sanctuary, feat. Dr Xand van Tulleken, Natasha Kaplinsky and our Sanctuary Scholars.
- Join Professor Emma Smith (1988, English) and Simon Russell Beale for a ‘Literary Tea’ discussing 400 years of Shakespeare’s First Folio.
- Start the festive season in style with our Christmas Carol Service, featuring Christmas favourites and readings of festive poetry.
Finally, followers of our social media may have noticed that the Somerville College Choir has just released its first album in ten years. The Dawn of Grace offers a uniquely Somervillian twist on the traditional Christmas album by featuring works entirely by women composers. It is a programme both progressive and rooted in our history as a women’s college, and the results are stunning. BBC Music called it ‘simply irresistible’ and made it their Christmas Choice Album 2022, while BBC R3’s Hannah French called it ‘utterly beguiling’. You can stream The Dawn of Grace here or buy a hard-copy here.
There seems no better way to wish you a happy holiday than to share the following ‘Christmas card’ set to our choir’s rendition of ‘The Holly and The Ivy’. On behalf of everyone here at Somerville, I do hope it ushers in for you and yours a holiday season of joy, light and peace.