CD#28 – A progressive Castle community

“Excellence at Queen’s involves intellectual diversity of perspectives which, in turn, requires cultural diversity, socio-economic diversity, and racial diversity.” – Daniel Woolf

In April of 2017, the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion (PICRDI) published a report, identifying key priorities and suggesting measures that would ensure that lasting change could be effected at Queen’s regarding the issues of anti-racism, diversity and inclusion. This small group, established by Daniel Woolf, included representatives from the student body, staff, and faculty. It was tasked with reviewing past reports on these issues, and examining how and why implementation of their recommendations may have fallen short.

Principal Daniel Woolf said, “We must view this as a process which requires constant re-evaluation. Our ability to remain a top-tier university will depend on our ability to embrace change – not because we are under intense pressure and scrutiny, but because it is the right thing to do.”

The BISC, in turn, must also constantly re-evaluate its own policies and guidelines, to ensure that we live and work in a progressive campus community. To that end, the VP’s Advisory Committee on Equity, Inclusion and Diversity was established, to build upon the recommendations of the University (BISC) Inclusion Committee Report issued in August of 2017. The Committee is responsible for coordinating, reviewing and reporting on the progress of the promotion of access, equality, diversity and inclusion on the BISC campus.

The 2018 VP’s Advisory Committee on Equity, Inclusion and Diversity comprises:

  • Roxy Denniston-Stewart (Chair) & Melissa Burke – Student Services
  • Ben Martin & Diana Gilchrist – Faculty
  • Caroline Harber & Jackie Argyrou – Staff
  • Sara-Maya Kaba & Chloe Smith – Students

The committee, which will complete their work over a three year period, has been asked to submit an annual report by the beginning of May with recommendations on priorities, ways to promote the streaming of relevant policies, protocols and processes, identification of opportunities for collaboration, and ways to foster potential synergies, both internal and external to the university.

The purpose of this article is to make everyone in the Castle community aware that you may be approached by the committee members in the coming weeks as they compile their report, but the Castle Drum would also actively encourage readers to seek out your department’s representatives if you have any pertinent feedback on your experiences of these issues, or suggestions for further study.

Ben Martin told the Castle Drum, “The committee provides recommendations to SMT, which in turn will allow them to make informed decisions on issues of equity, inclusion and diversity. Equity is not a word commonly used in the UK however. Perhaps a better way to think of the committee’s focus, is that it is concerned with the concept of equality – ensuring equality of opportunity for all. A prime example would be making sure we are communicating our scholarship opportunities and financial support packages effectively and offering the BISC as an opportunity to all students, regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds.”

Diana Gilchrist added, “I’m pleased to be involved in the process for a second year. I’m confident the report will celebrate our successes, as well as provide the necessary recommendations to ensure that the BISC is inclusive and diverse as a community. On the back of our last report, we introduced a robust policy on issues of personal harassment. This time around, I think our next steps will be to establish our initial priorities, draw up policies to address them and then most importantly of all, communicate them properly to staff so that everyone understands exactly why they are in place.”

You can download the full PICRDI report here and a copy of the 2017 BISC University Inclusion Committee Report  here.

»A cymbal of equality since January 2017«

CD#27 – Walking in our visitors’ shoes

Image of Castle courtesy of Murryn MillerSo Spring is here again, and Herstmonceux Castle is ready to open to public once more. This Saturday, 3rd March, will be the first day of the new season.

In celebration of this event, why not refamiliarize yourself with the visitor’s view of the Castle, with a stroll around the gardens and grounds? There is plenty to see as plants start poking their leaves through the soil and animals begin to shake off their winter lethargy – although many have perhaps dived for cover again in this recent cold spell!

And while you’re stretching your legs, why not help Dave Brown in his creation of the Interpretours app? You may remember that Dave did a presentation back in November in which he highlighted how he was creating an interactive map of the Castle for visitors to access on their mobile phones. The project includes identifying points of interest (POIs) around the gardens and grounds, describing them, and creating routes to guide visitors around them in a logical order or, for the more random among us, in any order desired.

If you fancy getting involved in this project (and Dave is calling upon absolutely anyone who is reading this article and has a love of the Castle: staff, faculty, students, friends, visitors…), here are just some of the ways in which you can:

  • Auditing the list of POIs, to spot any that may have been missed;
  • Correcting and updating the descriptions of the POIs. (If you are a seasoned or even budding writer this is your chance to include your own stories about the Castle and its features, including providing photos, documents, and other resources.);
  • Researching individual POIs. (Are you a natural investigator and like rummaging through paperwork? If so, this may be an interesting challenge, and may involve hunting through the BISC Archive!);
  • Field-testing tours (but only if you have an Android phone);
  • Sharing anecdotes, trivia, stories, childhood reminiscences (and even gossip) about the Castle and estate – it’s the human element which makes the Castle’s history after all. History is brought to life by the stories of the people who have lived it, so now is an excellent opportunity to share your stories.

If you want to find out more about the current POIs, the information Dave has gathered to date, wish to become involved in the project or if you have any questions about how to get involved, contact Dave direct on He’ll be more than happy welcome you to the Interpretours project.

And while we are on the subject of helping the Castle in its tourism endeavours, why not pick up a handful of Herstmonceux Castle Gardens & Grounds leaflets from Castle reception and distribute them liberally at your favourite haunts (or just the doctor’s and dentist’s, if all else fails)? It would be great to raise the profile of the Castle among the local and not-so-local community.

Finally, for those of you on social media, please follow and share posts on Facebook. Sir Roger now has his own page (and if you don’t know who ‘Sir Roger’ is, simply check out his page…).

»Welcoming visitors since January 2017«

CD#26 – The CD gives you the full S.P on ‘Me to We’

The Castle Drum is proud to announce a series of leadership and educational activities for students in the run up to We Day in London on March 7th, 2018. A familiar organization to many Canadians, for the uninitiated, the Me to We Foundation is an innovative social enterprise that aims to create sustainable change in disadvantaged areas of the world by shifting from “me” thinking to “we” acting. It is part of a family of organizations, that along with WE Charity hopes to empower each of us to make the world a better place.

In 2016, charismatic Me to We ambassador Spencer West visited the Castle and spoke to the student body about climbing to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro using a wheelchair and his bare hands. It was a truly inspirational address, although the Castle had admired the work of the Me to We Foundation for many years before, as many of our students are involved with its voluntary projects prior to joining us.

Me to We organizes unique volunteer trips that allow young people and adults to participate in health, education and economic development projects abroad. The vision of the organization is to empower youth to contribute to change in a positive way, and there is obvious synergy between the organization’s values and the BISC’s own ethos of providing students with creditable community engagement projects that will enhance their learning experience while they are in the UK.

Volunteering in the local community empowers BISC students to be proactive, taking responsibility for their own learning, whilst seeking activities that will provide them with transferable skills such a critical thinking, team-work and a sense of social justice. This term, BISC students have organized volunteer placements at Herstmonceux Primary School, The 1st Herstmonceux Scout Troop and Eastbourne Cats’ Protection & Adoption Centre, to name but a few.

Jamila Skinner, the BISC’s Community Engagement SLC, successfully applied for 16 tickets to We Day in London by outlining her proposal to ask students to ‘earn’ their ticket for the event through community engagement activities. To apply, students have been asked to demonstrate community spirit in any capacity including, but not limited to student government, peer health educating, or volunteering. All applicants must have committed a minimum of 10 hours of service in their chosen field to be considered by the BISC’s Me to We Committee.

The BISC’s 2018 Me to We Committee

(From left to right: Natalie Vukusic- Global Events Rep, Danielle Lee – Communications Rep, Jamila Skinner – SLC Community Engagement Rep, Emily Duncan- Educational Awareness Rep, Sara-Maya Kaba- Local Events Rep).

A series of events at the Castle  has been planned to raise awareness of We Day and the work of the Me to We Foundation. On February 6th for example, students will highlight the struggles of obtaining clean water in the developing world and relief countries by filling a 40lb Jerrycan and asking fellow students to walk just a few yards whilst carrying it. This ‘Water Walk’ will give students a mere inkling of the physical effort required to fetch water from wells and watering holes from several miles away in a standard 5-gallon container.

The walking theme will continue in the lead up to International Women’s Week, which begins on March 9th. Students of all genders will be invited to walk the 5 minutes from their accommodation at Bader Hall, to the Dining Hall at the Castle, in a pair of high heels!

The BISC is keen that students’ commitment to volunteering and community engagement on and off campus will continue long after the We Day celebrations. Volunteering remains a key component of the BISC’s experiential learning program. Jamila Skinner, the SLC lead on student community engagement said,

“After the students’ experience with We Day, we will expect them to reflect on their experience in a critical manner by completing a journal entry for Student Services. This will allow students to think about their involvement with the organization and how they can extend their learning beyond a few events. We want them to be able to apply their learning outside of the classroom and in everyday life.”

For more on We Day, click here

»Championing the extra-curricular since January 2017«

CD#25 – February is the month to…visit

Over the coming months we will be receiving numerous visitors to the Castle, and many of them will be from main campus. The Drum thought it might interest you to know who is visiting and what they will be doing while they are with us.

Lori Stewart
Lori Stewart

During the week beginning 5th February, Lori Stewart, Director, Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal, and Megan Sheppard, Associate Vice-Principal, (Planning and Budgeting), will be working with the Senior Management Team on a number of projects, including a review of progress on implementing the space study and training us on
how to carry out the performance dialogue process at

Megan Sheppard
Megan Sheppard

the BISC. Megan will be conducting training on how to go about identifying risks (of all kinds!) as we move towards developing a risk register. Lori will also be working with us to determine how we respond to ongoing developments following the launch of the UK government’s new Office for Students (OfS).


Jill Scott
Jill Scott
Wendy Craig
Wendy Craig

Between 12th and 14th February Jill Scott, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) and Wendy Craig, Head of Psychology, will be joined by Joanne Paul, Lecturer in History at Sussex University, at the Castle. They will be carrying out their annual informal assessment of teaching and learning, which ensures we maintain an excellent performance whenever we are assessed by the Quality Assurance Agency. This year, as we performed so well last year, the QAA assessment is expected to be a light touch, but it is always a good idea to be prepared!

Sue Blake
Sue Blake

At the end of February until the beginning of March (25th February to 3rd March) Sue Blake, Assistant Dean (Studies) Arts and Science, Jill Atkinson, the new Associate Dean (Studies) in Arts and Science, and Heather Carter, Academic Advisor in Arts and Science, will be on campus to help students plan their studies in future years.

Jill Atkinson
Jill Atkinson

This will be Jill and Heather’s first visit to the BISC. The Academic Advisors will be offering students the opportunity to learn more about their options in general sessions, as well as ensuring each

Heather Carter
Heather Carter

student has the opportunity for a one-to-one discussion to explore their own individual choices. So, please expect a lot of activity in the Boardroom during this time.

Peter Chin
Peter Chin

During the same period, Peter Chin, Associate Dean Undergraduate Studies in the Faculty of Education, and James Fraser, Associate Professor in the Department of Physics will also be visiting. Peter will be meeting with the ConEd students, visiting a number of our partner schools where the ConEd students are carrying out their practicums, and doing some classroom observations. There will also be a Q&A session with the ConEd group.

James Fraser
James Fraser

We are very fortunate to have James here, where he will be consulting on the process of setting up the first year Physics program at BISC, with PHYS 106 to be launched in September 2018. James is an award-winning lecturer, having been selected as one of ten 3M Teaching Award Fellows in 2017, the highest award for teaching at the university level in Canada. He also does some rather extraordinary research with high powered lasers, that he will talk about to our science class.

At the beginning of March (5th-9th), Cathy Keates, Director, Career Services, will be at the Castle to work with the Experiential Learning Office and Student Services, as we roll out our new experiential learning programming made possible by the Career Ready Fund. Integrating workplace or simulated workplace experiences for students into the curriculum is a priority for the Ontario Government, and we expect this to be an emphasis in future quality assurance assessments and government grant competitions. Cathy will be working with the BISC as we determine how to best position our already leading experiential learning opportunities to make the most of these developments.

Also in March, Tom Gallini, Senior Admission Coordinator (BISC)

Stuart Pinchin
Stuart Pinchin

(and former Student Services and Enrolment Manager) will be visiting (date to be confirmed), and also perhaps in the same month, Stuart Pinchin, Executive Director, Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment. Both will be on site to determine how best to pitch the Castle to prospective students and to experience our fantastic learning environment afresh, although we are guessing Tom can remember it pretty well…

Zhiyao Zhang

Finally, looking even further ahead, Zhiyao Zhang, China Liaison Officer for Queen’s University, will be visiting the Castle in April. Queen’s has long-standing partnerships with many Chinese Universities, and recruits international undergraduate students heavily in China, particularly in the Beijing and Shanghai regions. Zhiyao leads the Queen’s team in China that has more than tripled the number of international students enrolled in the university over the last three years. Zhiyao is based at Queen’s Shanghai office at Fudan University. While he is a frequent visitor to main campus, he has never been to the BISC before. One of his goals is to learn more about us, so he can promote us as he works with University Admissions in recruiting undergraduate students to the BISC, to identify opportunities for research collaboration, and to increase student mobility with our Chinese partner institutions.

So, look out for some new and some familiar faces, as we welcome the chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones!

»Welcoming all comers since January 2017«

CD#24 – New Scholar in Residence

A familiar face around the Castle, Christopher Bennett joins us this term as our Scholar in Residence.

“Building on my strong experience of eating in the Dining Hall, I’m hoping to contribute to Castle life by providing some perspective on current political events. Thanks to a series of dramatic electoral results – Brexit and Trump are obvious examples; less well-known examples, at least in the English-speaking world, might include Syriza in Greece or the ÖVP in Austria – there is a glut of material. I’ll try to be as accessible as possible, holding office hours and parking myself at a cafeteria table every so often for some informal chats.

The contribution to Castle life that I am most excited to make is undoubtedly my Bullshit lecture (keep an eye out for the quality posters). There is plenty of hand-wringing on both sides of the Atlantic about the tone of political debate and the sorts of reasons to which politicians of all stripes appeal. Thankfully, significant philosophical attention has been paid to the concept of bullshit. This term, I’ll be giving a talk on the subject that hopefully will give staff and students some food for thought!

Scholar in Residence – Dr. Christopher Bennett

On a more mundane note, I am a Queen’s alumnus myself, having finished a BA and MA there, so I remember quite a bit about the various departments across the social sciences and humanities and in fact took many of the classes that are still offered today. If anyone would like to discuss some of the options available to them, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line, or come by my office.”

Having just finished his PhD at Warwick University, Christopher will be splitting his time between his teaching commitments at Warwick and a series of events planned here at the Castle. If you find your interest piqued by any of his talks, are thinking of applying to graduate schools here in the UK, or would simply like to discuss political issues from Palestinian-Israeli relations, to supply-sided interventions in renewable energy markets, please feel free to drop by Office 209, or email him at He’ll be happy to talk!

»Excusing political debate at the dinner table since January 2017«

CD#23 – Encouraging Biodiversity in the Woodlands

Rhododendron clearance near the moat
Rhododendron clearance near the moat

During the Winter, the Grounds Team, led by Guy Lucas, Head of Grounds, will be continuing their programme of improving the health, resilience and biodiversity of the woodlands, working alongside English Woodlands Forestry in an advisory role. Guy explains here what the programme entails.

The team’s main initiative this year is to remove much of the rhododendron from the woodland and moat area due to the harmful impact it has. Guy notes, ‘As a non-native and invasive species, it is capable of dominating and suppressing native flora and fauna leaving a lasting negative effect on areas, which can take years to recover. As well as playing host to Phytophthora ramorum and Phytophthora kernoviae, an infectious pathogen killing many of our native trees, rhododendron also produces a form of growth inhibiter which is secreted into the soil from the leaves, flowers and bark, leaving the ground beneath bare and toxic. Although it does produce an attractive flower, the lasting negative effects of this species far outweigh the good and will drastically impact the wildlife at the Castle if not dealt with.’

Unfortunately, for a brief period this work may seem harmful and unattractive but by intervening now the team are confident they can deal with the problem before it becomes unmanageable and irreparable, and intend restoring the woodland to a healthy environment for trees, flowers and wildlife to inhabit.

Map detailing the Grounds plan
Map detailing the Grounds plan

The map explains the work taking place in detail. In November this year rhododendron on the eastern side of the woodland (yellow area) was sprayed with a herbicide. Much of the rhododendron around the moat area (pink area) will also be cut and treated to open up the moat walk. At the same time, the team will cut the sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) in the blue area. This is to allow for easier access for the next stage of works the following year and to continue the age-old rotational cutting technique of coppicing. In Winter 2018 the team will cut the large ‘wall’ of rhododendron from the woodland (orange area) and then treat the stumps and regrowth with a herbicide application to prevent regrowth.

Finally, the area shown in dark green will form part of our parkland creation/restoration. As much of the Herstmonceux Castle estate was converted for agriculture, this area is one of the last remaining fragments historically recorded as deer park. Due to commercial forestry planting and some experimental planting the parkland has lost its way through the years. By removing of some of the non-native and prolific tree species we hope to return this area to a floristically rich, diverse, historic parkland once again.

So, that’s the plan. Over the next few years you will see fewer rhododendron, temporary bareness, but in time, and with the help of patience and nature, you will witness new vistas opening up, greater diversity in flora and fauna, and an overall healthier estate.

If you have any questions about the work the Grounds Team are doing, please feel free to contact Guy on

»Laying it bare since January 2017«

CD#22 – Have you had a Conversation yet?

The strapline of The Conversation is ‘Academic rigour, journalistic flair’. The publication describes itself as, ‘an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public’. When one is constantly being bombarded with allegations of ‘fake news’, it is reassuring to have a news source founded on academic research and thriving on academic debate. The Conversation aims to be just a source. Certainly, from the non-researcher’s perspective the content makes interesting reading – from the number of coffee shops in the UK to recognising ADHD in your child, to the fate of Mugabe. It’s now high up on The Castle Drum’s list of favourite reads.

So what about the publication from a researcher’s perspective? It’s probable that very few would dispute that research in and of itself is interesting, but research which has real-world impact has even greater value. The Conversation serves as a platform to ensure that academics, who have expertise built up through years of research, have a chance to deliver such impact, by providing data, analysis and evidence – not necessarily terms associated with today’s internet journalism.

In July, Queen’s became a founding member of The Conversation Canada. The publication launched in Australia in 2011 and has been around in the UK since 2013. Whether you publish in the Canadian or the UK edition, we would urge you to publish in The Conversation. It is an excellent, free source in which to publish your research and further your name as an expert in your field. As a moderated source there are guidelines to follow, but these are straightforward and eminently sensible in an academic environment. If you are interested in becoming an author, you can do so here.

Peter Lowe, Research Director and Associate Professor in English Literature, published an article in The Conversation UK back in January. He notes, ‘It’s an excellent forum for making academic research topical and accessible. Once your proposal has been accepted they’re very helpful with the process of getting your work up on the site, and I think there are many of us here [at the BISC] who could contribute both to the Canadian version and to the UK one, especially as Brexit-related news stories make discussions of ‘British identity’ in the world so topical.’

If you are interested in following Peter’s example, sign up as an author. And please don’t forget to tell The Castle Drum when you have published something – we’d love to tell everyone else!

»Starting a conversation since January 2017«

CD#21 – After Morgentaler – Rachael Johnstone’s new book

The Castle Drum are sure that all at the BISC will join us in congratulating Rachael Johnstone on the publication of her book: After Morgentaler: The Politics of Abortion in Canada, which was released by University of British Columbia Press last month.

The Crown versus Morgentaler was a case in 1988 in Canada in which a doctor (Morgentaler) challenged the Canadian Criminal Code’s requirement that any abortion carried out was done so in an approved hospital with the necessary certification from that hospital’s therapeutic abortion committee – a process which was inaccessible for many women. Morgentaler challenged the section of the Code in question, setting up a clinic that bypassed the process. Morgentaler won the case, and it is commonly held that the case established a right to abortion in Canada, but this is not necessarily accurate. In her book, Rachael looks at what access to abortion Canadian women have today and argues that genuine and complete access to abortion is essential for women’s equality.

Rachael teaches Politics and Gender Studies at the BISC. Both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees were in Political Studies and for her PhD she researched abortion access in Canada. This research provided the foundation for her monograph. She became interested in women’s rights, and specifically in access to abortion in Canada in her undergraduate degree, when reading about restrictive reproductive policies in other countries.

Research for the book took around five years, and from a complete manuscript to the finished product nine years have passed, a necessarily lengthy process of review, finalisation and then design. Rachael’s thrilled to finally see the book in print after such a long process, although she thinks being able to hold a copy is still a bit surreal.

For her next research project Rachael will be looking at the Canadian Drug Approval Process and its regulation of Mifegymiso – Canada’s new abortion drug. She’s also interested in the political implications of regulations on new reproductive technologies, like in vitro fertilization.

The Kindle version of the book is available on Amazon now, or if you wish to wait for the print version, this will available in March via Amazon, or you can read the copy held in the Library, if your patience is not that great…

»Published since January 2017«

CD#20 – Honouring the Fallen

On Remembrance Sunday, students from the BISC took a trip across the English Channel to Calais, to visit the nearby town of Arras and the surrounding Douai Plains. The Battle of Vimy Ridge, the bloody military engagement that came to define the Battle of Arras, took place there between Easter Monday 9th and 12th of April 1917.

The Canadian National Vimy Memorial – Vimy Ridge

It is a battle of considerable significance for Canadians as it was the first occasion that all four Canadian divisions, made up of troops drawn from all parts of their country, had fought as one.

The unified Canadian forces stormed a steep escarpment that had been under the control of the German 6th Army since 1914. It was a literal uphill battle against well dug-in defences and by the time the Canadian Corps had wrested control of the ridge, they had suffered some 10,602 casualties: 3,598 killed in action and 7,004 wounded.

Today, the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, Canada’s largest overseas war memorial, sits at the highest point of the Vimy Ridge and commemorates not only the Battle of Vimy Ridge, but all Canadian Expeditionary Force members killed during the First World War, including those with no known grave.

‘To the valour of their countrymen in The Great War and in memory of the 60,000 dead, this monument is raised by the people of Canada.’

The Castle Drum asked two students on the trip to share some of their thoughts and memories of the day:

Joshua Lu

‘I had heard of Vimy before, because we learn about it at school, so I was keen to go on the trip and see it for myself. The memorial was about a ten-minute walk from the Visitor Centre, but it can be seen from a great distance away – it really dominates the landscape! We all walked around it and took our own route, to explore and read the names inscribed there. It wasn’t until I received the pictures from my drone that I appreciated the scale of the battlefield. As it took off, I had a birds-eye view of the craters that the mortars had created. The sheer size of them cannot be appreciated from ground level. I got a real sense of the scale of destruction, and I think that will be my abiding memory of the trip.’

At the summit, the inscription reads, ‘The Canadian Corps on 9th April 1917 with four divisions in line on a front of 4 miles attacked and captured this ridge.’

Cheyenne Bates

‘I went on the trip to honour my Great Great Uncle, Lance Corporal Samuel Lyons, who died at the battle. He was 24. I went to Eastbourne the day before to buy flowers to take with me. The Visitor’s Centre was interesting and many of the staff there were Canadian students like us, on a Gap Year. It was a chilly, windy day, so as we walked along the lines of the trenches toward the top of the ridge it made me think of how miserable conditions must have been. At the memorial, I found my Great Great Uncle’s inscription and took photos for my family. In class, casualties are sometimes just a number in your mind, but seeing the long list of the names of the Fallen brought home a real sense of the human cost. Later, as I stood at the top of the ridge and looked back down the slope I thought of the Canadian troops. They must have felt so relieved to finally make it to the top and take the ridge, and yet it would have been a bitter-sweet victory given the losses they had suffered.’

The Vimy memorial dominates the landscape

The Castle Drum would like to thank Cheyenne and Joshua for allowing us to use their photos of the day. For more of Joshua’s drone footage, which also features many images of Herstmonceux Castle, please visit his Instagram page @joshualu98.


»The Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration for valour, was awarded to no less than four members of the Canadian Corps for their actions at The Battle of Vimy Ridge.«

CD#19 – The BISC Remembers

On Saturday 11th November, the BISC hosted a Remembrance themed concert in aid of The Friends of East Sussex Association of Blind and Partially Sighted People. The Castle Choir, together with BISC Musicians in Residence, Diana Gilchrist (Soprano) and Shelley Katz (Piano) performed a range of popular music from World Wars 1 and 2.

The BISC Musicians in Residence – Shelley Katz and Diana Gilchrist

Diana Gilchrist said, ‘When planning any programme for the students, both Shelley and I feel that it is incredibly important that the music has a strong pedagogical aspect as well. In the weeks leading up to this concert we challenged the students to think hard about the words they were singing and ask themselves, with hindsight, how should these songs be sung? The students accepted the challenge with a genuine sense of empathy, for those going off to war and for those that they left behind, that I think certainly shone for all to see in their performances.’

The choir began in an upbeat way with a stomping rendition of Pack up your troubles. The energy and confidence of the piece channelled the sense of fanfare, camaraderie and patriotism that would have been used to send young men and women off to war. By contrast, the Chamber Choir’s beautiful rendition of Keep the Home Fire Burning moved some audience members to tears. Sadness was just as quickly replaced by laughter however, after the Men’s Choir’s hilarious showstopper, The Quartermaster’s Store.

Diana and students from the BISC Ladies’ Choir

The connection between the Castle Choir and audience was something that brought Diana great pleasure. Speaking afterwards she said, ‘The evening reiterated that great performance is a combination of three factors – the music, the performers and the audience. What we experienced on Saturday was truly a two-way communication, with the choir connecting with the audience in a very personal way.’

Diana believes the somewhat bizarre architecture of the performance space was an important factor. Those in attendance were seated in long rows in the castle’s Ballroom, meaning every member of the choir could make eye-contact with at least one member of the audience. For students from a generation where perhaps the world wars only exist in the movies, it was a chance to perform for an audience made up of people with personal memories of World War 2 – of being evacuated, and of saying goodbye to loved ones.

The evening begins with a rousing rendition of ‘Pack up your troubles’

The special atmosphere in the room was not lost on the students. First Year student Sara-Maya Kaba says, ‘After the performance, I was absent-mindedly looking around the room when an older gentleman’s gaze met with my own, and he came over to talk to me. He said, “These songs have no meaning to you – you weren’t alive during the war. But the way you all sang tonight, you wouldn’t be able to tell. It really brought me back, it was brilliant. Thank you.” The gratitude and happiness – if not awe in his voice is something that will stick with me forever.’

Mrs Shirley Price, Vice Patron of ESAB said afterwards, ‘I’m 85 and until I heard the Ladies’ Choir sing Johnny Canuck it had never occurred to me that Canadians have war songs too! Thank you for a most magnificent evening. You could not have put together a better, well balanced and more memorable concert if you had tried!’


The ESAB is dedicated to making the lives of blind and partially sighted people in East Sussex richer and more independent. For more information, visit

»There is music in the midst of desolation. And a glory that shines upon our tears. (For the Fallen – Robert L. Binyon)«