At the moment I’m balancing regular web editing shifts at the Telegraph with my own writing and a digital archive project at Oxford Brookes University.
For a hack who’s spent her whole career on newspapers, higher education is a whole new world. Not only is Brookes not on an industrial estate with a kebab van as the nearest source of sustenance if you forget your lunch (fresh deli salad counter anyone? Starbucks? Menu put together by Leon co-founder Allegra McEvedy?), but its newest building won a RIBA award and it has stuff like a gym, dentist and its own bus service. It’s pretty fancy compared to newsroom life.
I’ve been curating, collating, writing, researching and generally putting together content for a digital archive of the university’s history. It’s really exciting to be working on something so different to what I’m used to, and it should launch later in the year to mark Brookes’ 150th anniversary. While Brookes only became a university in 1992, it’s been going in various incarnations since 1865, when it opened as a tiny art school operating out of just one room in the Taylorian, right next door to the well known Ashmolean.
My feature writing skills were called upon recently to do the main interview for Brookes’ annual magazine, with the university’s Chancellor, Shami Chakrabarti.
I dare you not to be impressed by Chakrabarti. The five-foot-nothing director of Liberty started out as a barrister before taking over as head of the human rights organisation when she was just 34. A regular on Question Time, she’s no stranger to fending off brickbats and wading into political debates, and in 2005 Radio 4’s Today Programme named her one of 10 people who ‘may run Britain’. In person, she’s calmly spoken with a warm manner, but a core of steel. We did have a giggle, and it was a fascinating interview, but I was struck by her almost feline-way of calmly watching, listening and absorbing before responding.
Anyone who fancies a read can click on the link below for a PDF:
And if you need a taster, here’s her on the concept of liberty:
“When I say the word liberty, I’m talking specifically about post-war human rights. It’s not about unfettered freedom – freedom for the wolf would be tyranny for the lamb – but the underlying human rights values; dignity, equality, security, protection from torture and unfair trials, the bundle of rights and freedoms that harness everything you need to flourish as a human being.
“Perhaps most of all, it’s equal treatment, that’s what makes us protect other peoples’ rights and not just our own. You could call it empathy, and without it there is no liberty.”