Message from the President of St John's - December 2021

College and Alumni News for December 2021


Dear Friends,

What a difference a day makes!  I started this letter just before the Prime Minister announced new COVID-19 measures and our Vice-Chancellor told us that all Christmas events were to be cancelled. Prior to this, I was going to write to say how wonderful it is to have everyone back and to be able to share some of the joy with you all via our Alumni Carol Service!  Alas it was not to be.  But, nevertheless, College is in good spirits and thankful that a very busy Michaelmas term is over; formally term ended on 3rd December but interviews for next year’s cohort are ongoing – online!

This term has possibly been the busiest I have ever known. The reasons are varied but include doubling-up of welcome events back in October when we had restrictions on the numbers of people we could host in Hall, catch-up events, ‘refresher’ dinners to compensate this year’s second years for last year’s disruption, and simply much celebration of the fact that we were back together in person.  Indeed, it was impossible to get into Hall for formal dinner and a ballot system had to be introduced – and it was the first time it really came home to me how small our Hall is for the almost 800 people who have the right to dine there!

We also enjoyed some wonderful events and significant moments.  One of the highlights was the inaugural lecture given by our new Hillary Rodham Clinton Chair of Women’s History and the accompanying events all attended by Secretary Clinton.  We are delighted to have Brenda Stevenson with us and I look forward to introducing her to you in person.  In October, we also formally welcomed six of the honorary fellows we had elected during 2020 and 2021: Myles Allen, Alexander Bird, Dorothy Bishop, Christopher Schofield, Jane Lightfoot, Lionel Tarassenko and, on separate occasions, Peter Phillips and Boon Hui (Paul) Koon.  

More recently, Alistair Burt came back to College to talk with the MCR about the Middle East and the JCR about domestic politics.  Fellows also enjoyed an ‘in conversation’ between Alistair and Mohamed-Salah Omri, our tutor in Oriental Studies.   We are fortunate to have so many distinguished alumni: another, Mike Jacobs, has just been elected as Warden of Keble College. Finally, we have now taken possession of a collection of letters from our esteemed alumnus and poet, Robert Graves, to his lover Margot Callas, together with a diary from the same period including an unpublished poem (more on this next term)! 

So, no one can say this term was not busy and I am looking forward to a restful break before embarking upon my penultimate term as your President.

With best wishes to you all,

Professor Maggie Snowling, CBE, FBA, FMedSci


Snapshots of College Life in Michaelmas 2021

College Choir

We were delighted to restart our in-person Evensong services this term as the Choir returned to full voice. For those who aren't able to make it back to College for these services, you can enjoy listening to some of the Choir's recordings at any time here (you'll need a SoundCloud account): 

You can keep up with Choir news on Facebook:

Fantastic Mr Fox

Throughout term the JCR ran a 'Fox Challenge' for the best picture of our new and most regular College visitor - compliments to Felipe Nuti (2nd year, Computer Science) on this lovely shot!

College Works

As always, the works in College continue to progress - this term especially focused on Canterbury Quad and the Laudian Library. The works continue to fascinate, including the use of semi-circular polystyrene blocks which were used to assist with the temporary propping of the arches to the colonnade in Canterbury Quad to prevent damage while damaged columns are replaced. 

Recently, Glen Hiles and other members of the Works team were to be seen on a cherry-picker, putting up the Christmas tree that is now glittering outside the front gate! 

Student Events

Michaelmas saw a return to more normality as students were able to organise and attend in-person events including our termly international dinner – on this occasion it introduced us to the cuisine of Brazil!

Students also had the opportunity to hear from alumnus Rt Hon Alistair Burt (1974, Jurisprudence), former MP for North East Bedfordshire,  which was a rare chance to ask a recent MP directly about being at the centre of political events. 

Alumni Requests

Jack Bradley-Seddon (2009, Jurisprudence) is currently studying for his Masters in Business Administration at Cambridge. He is completing the ‘Individual Project’ element of the course on buy-to-let property and, in connection with that, would be very grateful to speak with any alumni who are either mortgage brokers or buy to let landlords.

If you might be able to assist Jack, please email