CD #34 – Shedding light on the BISC’s brand new Science lab.

On behalf of everyone at The Castle Drum, welcome to Summer Term at the BISC. Whether it’s a by-product of the recent pleasant weather or not, energy levels are high and there’s a tangible sense that the Castle community is happy and well and truly back into the swing of things after a month without students. Just to reiterate our standard call to action, whatever your plans for the coming term, if you are spending the Summer doing something that you think is of general interest to the wider community, be sure to email us at The Castle Drum so we can feature you in the next issue.

Today we are proud to announce the completion of the new Science Lab on Maskelyn Road. (Hands-up who actually knew it was called Maskelyn Road?) Situated on the site of the old Physics Lab, next to the David Smith Building, (you know, the one on Maskelyn Road?) this stunning new facility will be the new home for Science students at the BISC. If like us, you’re itching to have a nose around and see what the men and women in high-vis vests have been up to, then we have some great news for you – Sarah Butler has offered to host two drop-in sessions and give guided tours of the facility. Absolutely everyone is welcome, no appointment is necessary, but please wipe your feet to keep it looking as pristine as possible!

Satisfy your curiosity on Friday 24th May between 10.00am and 12.00 noon, or Thursday 30th May between 1.00pm and 3.00pm. For those that can’t wait, here’s a couple of teaser pictures to whet your appetite:

BISC Dry Lab
The ‘dry’ lab is a maker-space and will be the new home of Geology and Physics at the BISC.

The new Science Lab (the building’s formal name is still tbc at the time of writing) will be the focal point of Science at the BISC, but it will also play an important role in the Castle’s ongoing remit to engage in community outreach projects. In partnership with our local branch of Men’s Sheds, the labs will provide arguably the most state-of-the-art ‘Shed’ for many miles around.

BISC Wet Lab
The ‘wet’ lab can comfortably accommodate 24 students at a time. Biology and Chemistry practicals will take place here.
Fume Cupboards
State-of-the-art fume cupboards will remove potentially harmful gases and make them safe via a series of scrubs and filters.

Men’s Sheds is a charity organisation which aims to provide the means for local men to meet, make connections and indulge in a shared passion for woodworking, mechanics, mending, whittling and all manner of other activities that are traditionally the domain of the garden shed. While these hobbies are usually solitary in nature, Men’s Sheds seeks to create quite the opposite – a sense of inclusivity and togetherness. Its members are given a place to meet up, share practical skills, swap knowledge and chat with like-minded tinkerers. In this way, the charity builds communities and reduces feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Members of the Herstmonceux branch of Men’s Sheds share a passion for woodworking and will be given access to the large, wide-open space adjoining the lab on fixed days of the week. (Exact schedule tbc, but when we know, you’ll know!) They will work on their own projects and create items that are then sold to raise funds for the charity, as well as be on hand in this maker-space to assist BISC students with their own hobby projects, or practical scientific assignments.

For more information about the charity’s work, visit the Men’s Sheds website.


» UnabaSHEDly chipper since January 2017 «



CD #33 – A word in your ear

In 1980, The Buggles famously sang, “Video killed the Radio Star”. Such lies! The Castle Drum can name not one, but two utterly vivacious radio stars in our midst at this very moment.

Rob Hyland – Presenter of PODCASTle

This January, FILM 104 prof Rob Hyland launched a new Castle initiative, called PODCASTle – a weekly online podcast detailing news and happenings on our Castle campus. At approximately 12 minutes running time per episode, it was created to give students something quick and easy to listen to on their daily commute to and from the Castle.

Rob will be keeping the content of these podcasts quite simple – the format will follow that of a typical magazine show.  Each episode begins with the news headlines, updating listeners on what is happening on campus and in the context of the UK as a whole. These could include upcoming events, guest speakers, or a national holiday, but could also include a selection of topical British and Canadian news items that will resonate with the students.

Shameless pun alert!

The PODCASTle then moves to an interview or discussion with a member of the Castle community to highlight their work, or recent achievements.  Rob is also aiming to conclude each episode with some sort of literary component – which could be in the way of an audio recording of the Castle Reads chosen text, a poem or short story that connects to the topics of the week, or an audio recording of a recent student work.

Rob will constantly be on the lookout for new content – so if students, staff or faculty have anything they would like to contribute – whether it be an interesting factoid discovered on a recent ELO, or an update on their current research focus, for example, then he would love to hear from them.  Of course, for legal reasons, The Castle Drum should point out that the contents of their discussion may be recorded.

Placecloud narrator Peter Lowe

Next up, our ENGL 100 prof Peter Lowe has been contributing to an online digital art project called Placecloud, which also went live towards the end of January. Peter answered the call for volunteers for the project and has already produced several short podcasts about points of interest all over London.

Placecloud uses GPS co-ordinates to anchor 5-minute audio recordings to specific places, so listeners can hear quick, interesting facts and background stories about places that might not necessarily feature on the sort of open-topped bus tours that have become the norm. Peter has complete freedom to pick his own places of interest, so he has been using the opportunity to research areas of London that pique his curiosity.

Quo Vadis restaurant – Deans Street, Soho

“When we scratch beneath the surface, there are often interesting histories behind even the most unassuming buildings,” says Peter.  One of Peter’s recent podcasts features the Quo Vadis restaurant in Dean Street in Soho. “There has been a strong Italian community in Soho since the 1920s,” Peter recounts. “Staff at the Italian Embassy socialised in the area after work, but while the politicians laughed and joked in the restaurant, I discovered that just a few yards away, the owner of the nearby King Bomba grocery store is believed to have directly funded not one, but two assassination attempts on former dictator Benito Mussolini.”

The Castle Drum has been reliably informed that recording just a few minutes of stutter, stumble and cough-free audio narration can take many hours of toil, so please visit the links below and show Rob and Peter your support.




» A face for radio since January 2017 «

CD#32 – The Gardens & Estate Team’s Winter Report

By Barry Howse:

The Castle Grounds

The Elizabethan Garden

The Estate Team have had a productive winter with the usual seasonal tasks of hedge cutting, pruning and leaf clearing, whilst also making time to enhance and develop other areas.

This year we have increased the size of the wildflower meadow, putting in new gates and a stile allowing ease off access and more space for native wild flowers.

A Furry Friend (to all but would-be housing developers)

Before the dormice began to hibernate in October, we carried out a dormouse survey which we will be continuing over the coming years, to monitor their population.

Several deer exclosures have been erected around the estate. These are 4m x 4m fenced off plots that will exclude deer from grazing in these areas. This will allow us to monitor and compare the intensity of grazing and the effects it has on the plant communities.

In some areas we have been focusing on the reduction of conifer tree species, to encourage uptake and development of native hardwood trees and increase flora and fauna diversity through increased light levels in the woodland. We are embarking on the final stage of forestry commission conservation work to reduce the amount of rhododendron ponticum – an invasive non-native plant with allelopathic and disease-carrying properties. Areas of woodland have been restored to their pre-Victorian state to enhance ground flora and enable the woodland to begin the recovery phase of its life cycle.

After many years of service and countless amounts of footsteps, the bridges and steps in the woodland have been renovated, largely using materials sourced from the estate.

We hope to add a labyrinth/maze in spring this year, located in the field at the east gate of the Rose Garden. It will be a trial at first, being mown in and marked with rope and posts. If successful, this will be something we can develop the following year. During your visits this summer you might notice the estate team has grown, incorporating some new members of the mowing fleet. We hope to use a number of our winter resident sheep to graze some of the amenity lawns and cut down on the amount of mowing needed around the estate.

You work here. How marvelous!

Along with all the other winter tree work undertaken by the Estates Team, it was a sight for sore eyes to see the removal of a leylandii screen previously known as ‘The Stage’. This has opened views of the newly created ‘Autumn Colour Avenue’ mentioned later in the Gardens section. In this area we will install a curved bench for visitors to enjoy the picturesque scenery, with several cherry blossom trees either side leading on from the apple orchard.

The Victorian Cascade is a hidden rough jewel of the estate to the east at the back of the Folly Pond. It has been left to gather silt and stagnate for many years, but following an ecological survey, we are now able to restore this feature to a cascade once again.

The Castle Gardens

The dry and sunny start to the New Year is certainly helping us with the winter tasks in the gardens.

Since the end of October, we have been busy finishing hedge cutting – which we managed to complete in record time by the end of November. Bulbs have been planted in the Elizabethan, Sundial and Rose and Shakespeare Gardens. We also made a start on the massive task of mulching the gardens in the autumn. Thanks to the large compost bays built by the Estate Team in 2017, this year most of the gardens will be lucky enough to be mulched using ‘home-produced’ compost, or leaf mould.

Beautiful autumnal colours on the Castle estate

Largely due to kind donations, new tree planting has been possible this winter. We hope that the ‘Autumn Colour Avenue‘ along the slope in front of the Magic Garden will be a riot of colour this year.

In the Apothecary Garden, the soil has been replaced in all the planters along with the gravel. We are continuing to develop the planting in the Lower Garden and new, butterfly-friendly plants will be added this winter and spring.

We are now in the process of winter pruning, with the wisteria and climbing roses already complete and we look forward to the shrub roses in February.

In the meantime, we will begin cutting back the perennial plants, dividing and weeding – the warm weather has certainly kept the weeds growing – ready for mulching the borders. If this summer is as hot as last year, then mulching will be even more crucial for the plants.

The Cloisters – Castle Courtyard

We have improved the accessibility in the Elizabethan Gardens this year by creating a path around the steps to the Rose Garden, meaning visitors will be able to enjoy the whole of the Elizabethan Garden without going back on themselves.

We will be replacing the Boules court with a bench/picnic area this coming spring to provide a quiet, comfortable place to relax and take in the surroundings.


»Laying the groundwork since January 2017 «

CD#31 – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

The Castle Drum would like to welcome two rather unusual new members of staff to the ranks. Neither has an official given name (yet), but the first hails from Sweden and goes by the designation Husqvarna 430X.

The Husqvarna 430X – complete with headlights so it can continue cutting grass while all the humans are safely a-bed.

You may have already spotted this automated electric lawnmower in the Courtyard recently while the Gardens and Grounds Team used a trial period to put it through its paces. The Castle Drum is pleased to report that the Husqvarna 430X will now join the team on a permanent basis, covering the Courtyard in the first instance, before adding the lawns of the Elizabethan Gardens to its regular duties.

Computation leads to circumnavigation. A metal grate is no match for the 430X.

Sadly, the 430X is incapable of the sort of lawn stripes that would shame Wembley Stadium, but this is not to say that it is not an utterly ingenious machine. Thanks to built-in GPS, it is capable of learning its terrain and even remembering the exact positions of obstacles and particularly tufty areas of grass. While the path it chooses may appear rather erratic to the casual bystander, by cutting the grass a small bit at a time, its three razor-sharp blades should deliver a lawn quality that conventional blades could never achieve. As it rolls along, it will also create miniscule clippings that will provide a constant source of fertilization for our lawns, and help to keep them healthy, lush and green. Best of all, this electric mower is silent, so it is good for both the environment and anyone trying to work in peace.

The Mavic Pro Platinum takes off on its maiden flight – 13th December 2018
Straight to work. A bird’s-eye view of Herstmonceux Castle on a bright December morning.

Our second new addition is the Mavic Pro Platinum. This camera drone has a range of around 4 miles and can shoot photographs and videos in exceptional 4K quality. While the rather exciting potential for use in our marketing and promotional activities immediately springs to mind, it will also carry out important duties for the Maintenance Team. The clarity of the images it records are such that the drone can be used for high-risk surveys of the Castle’s exterior brickwork, roof and battlements. It should practically remove the need for sending brave folk up ladders and allow the team to maintain a photographic record of the Castle’s general state of repair. It represents a truly 21st century way of ensuring that our 15th century castle complies with Health and Safety regulations.

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While The Castle Drum recognizes the very real threat of instigating another Boaty McBoatface-style debacle, we figure we can’t go around referring to our new additions as Husqvarna 430X and Mavic Pro Platinum forever. If anyone in the Castle community has any inspired ideas about what to christen a fully automated Swedish lawnmower, or a sophisticated quad-copter camera drone, please drop us a line. We could always put the question to the students next term of course, but then why should they have all the fun?

»’I think I’ll just take another walk,’ he said.
‘Don’t blame you,’ said Marvin and counted five hundred and ninety-seven thousand million sheep before falling asleep again a second later.«

CD#30 – A memorable journey of remembrance

A group of 110 students, faculty and staff from the Bader International Study Centre  travelled to the French town of Vimy on a cold, wet, and windy Nov. 11, as the world marked the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

Today, the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, Canada’s largest overseas war memorial, sits at the highest point of Vimy Ridge and commemorates not only the Battle of Vimy Ridge, (April 9-12, 1917) but all Canadian Expeditionary Force members killed during the First World War, including those with no known resting place.

While students from the BISC have been travelling to the memorial on or around Remembrance Day for the past several years, this is the first year that the BISC Chamber and Open Choir has been invited to participate in the Remembrance Day ceremony itself.

Members of the BISC Chamber and Open Choir lead a procession of pipers and local dignitaries to the memorial site. (Photo by Pascal Brunet)

The BISC’s 40-member choir, robed and sporting their BISC scarves, was afforded the honour of leading a procession of pipers and local dignitaries to the memorial site. The choir sang two moving excerpts from Requiem by Eleanor Daly, a Canadian composer and Queen’s University graduate. As the rain came down in earnest, soloist soprano and BISC Musician-in-Residence, Diana Gilchrist also sang Mozart’s Laudate Dominum from his Solemn Vespers.

BISC students Harriet Wright, Wyatt Mann, and Sarah Dulmage lay a wreath on behalf of Queen’s University at the Vimy Memorial. (Photo by Samantha Brown)

Three first-year BISC students, Wyatt Mann, Harriet Wright, and Sarah Dulmage, laid a wreath during the ceremony on behalf of the BISC and Queen’s University. They were chosen from dozens of applicants for their outstanding submissions on the subject of what laying a wreath at the Vimy Memorial would mean to them and their families.

Wyatt says, “I just recently got my first voter card, and to me, it symbolized the freedoms that I have today because of the sacrifice of our soldiers one hundred years ago, and every year since, that so many people take for granted.”

Harriet agrees, “It is not just about wearing a poppy for Remembrance Day, it is about understanding the sacrifice of our veterans and those currently serving. I am so proud to have worn the Royal Canadian Air Cadet uniform as a Drum Major, saluted the veterans, and worn the poppy over my heart and for these reasons, laying the wreath at the Vimy Ridge Ceremony was an absolute honour.”

“With this opportunity, I take great pride in being able to represent those who have come before me. My great-great grandfather Charlie Wright fought in World War One and took part in the Battle of Vimy Ridge,” says Sarah. “My family is composed of many military personnel, so to me, laying the wreath meant giving the ultimate thanks to my family who have served and allowed me to be who I am and where I am today.”

Members of the BISC Chamber and Open Choir perform during the Remembrance Day Ceremony (Photo by Samantha Brown)

Choir member and BISC 100 lecturer Beth Richan says she was proud seeing such a mix of generations and a sea of Canadian red in the assembled crowd as the bugler played The Last Post.

“What struck me from speaking to the students afterwards was just how many of them expressed that being present was not only very important to them personally, but would be hugely significant for their parents and grandparents too,” she says.

BISC student Jake Kidd takes a photo of his great uncle’s inscription after locating it on the Vimy Memorial. (Photo by Diana Gilchrist)

Student Jake Kidd was one of many who searched the thousands of names etched into the Vimy Memorial on behalf of their families and found a relative, his great uncle. Diana Gilchrist, who took the photo of Jake says, “That was an unexpectedly touching moment. We were just walking up the monument after the ceremony to the official photo shoot when Jake suddenly discovered his great uncle’s name and was so moved.”

Following the ceremony, each student was presented with a commemorative Vimy pin and poppy. The students then had the opportunity to visit Ypres and the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, before returning to Herstmonceux Castle.

Members of the BISC Choir pose with Johanne Gagne, Program Manager, Canadian Vimy Memorial (Photo by Pascal Brunet)

The trip to Vimy was the culmination of an entire term’s worth of opportunities to learn more about the history and experience of war. On Nov. 7 and 8, approximately 125 students attended performances of Lest We Forget at Hastings’ Stable Theatre. This contemporary production is based on stories from survivors of the Great War from East Sussex and weaves readings, poems, and songs from the era into the narrative. In addition, the Castle Reads group, which encourages members of the Castle community to come together through a shared love of literature, has chosen the First World War novel Strange Meeting by Susan Hill as their book for the fall term.

Back in the UK, the students will have the opportunity to reflect further on their experiences with a concert at the Castle on Sunday, Nov. 25 in honour of the 80th anniversary of Alfred Bader’s participation in the Kindertransport of 1938. Dr. Bader, along with some 10,000 other Jewish children, was evacuated to the safety of the UK from Nazi-occupied Austria.


»Lest We Forget«


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#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#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#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)«