'A promising start': Oxford's history shared at the launch of OUS Cambridge

Oxford historian and former BBC journalist Alastair Lack helped get the OUS Cambridge alumni group off to a promising start with an animated talk on Oxford’s colourful past.

It was a joy for me to be able to join the 30 alumni at the event at Cambridge’s Darwin College on Friday (29 July), in what was a fitting launch for the group – the UK’s 46th alumni group.

Cambridge boasts one of the greatest concentrations of Oxford alumni in the country after Oxford itself – with more than 3,000 residing in the city on the Cam.

And Friday’s event was a celebration of the strengthening of Oxford’s presence in the city, the enthusiasm throughout the evening truly infectious.

Alastair’s (pictured right) illuminating potted 800-year history of Oxford’s world-renowned university touched on all aspects – from Duke Humfrey’s donation of texts boosting the University’s then 28-title collection, to Oxford mathematician Charles Dodgson’s (aka Lewis Carroll) inspiration for his much-loved Alice in Wonderland novels.

He also spoke of the role of the church and monarchs in the University’s development and Thomas Bodley’s ambition to create the world’s best University library.

Afterwards, it was wonderful to see alumni regaling one another with anecdotes of their Oxford experiences over drinks and nibbles.

Among those were Somerville alumna Jacqueline Watts, a Cambridge-based poet and novelist.

“It was a very enjoyable evening. I came along to network and see where the group is going as I met with Michael [Lynch - OUS Cambridge Secretary - pictured far right] and Michelle [Toleman – OUS Cambridge co-founder] previously,” she said. “After this evening’s event I’m really keen to remain involved.”

Speaking afterwards, Alastair (University) said the evening was ‘good spirited’ and he was optimistic the group had a bright future.

“My advice to the group would be to walk before you can run but I have no doubt a place like Cambridge should be very fertile ground for an active group.”

 Michael (St Edmund Hall), who opened the evening, said he was encouraged by the enthusiasm from those who attended.

“Alastair’s talk went down very well with the audience and provided an interesting insight into what makes the University special,” he added.

“This is a really promising start – especially given that there are people who are very interested in helping the group to function.”

Joby Mullens - Alumni Networks Officer, University of Oxford Alumni Office

OUS Cambridge Secretary Michael Lynch (left) and speaker Alastair Lack, in the grounds of Darwin College, Cambridge