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)«

CD#18 – Talking, walking, living history

Dave Brown

The new term is now under way, and there are many new faces to welcome to the community. A more familiar face is our new Scholar in Residence, Dave Brown, who was around during the summer, but who has recently joined us in earnest for the coming year. So if you are wondering what Dave is up to at the Castle, read on, as Dave explains about his work and what it means for tourism and research at the Castle.

“It’s not unusual to see people wandering about on the grounds of Herstmonceux Castle peering intently into their smartphones” says Dave. “But you might notice me doing it a bit more frequently than most, accompanied by a chorus of dings, beeps, and disembodied voices.

Despite appearances, however, I’m not a tech addict; I’m a prof in the Dept. of Geography and Tourism Studies at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. My apparent obsession with digital devices stems from my work on Interpretours, a mobile digital interpretive platform that uses smartphones to automatically deliver multimedia information on many topics to users, based on their current physical location.

The diverse and storied Castle estate provides an ideal location to create content for the platform. Though there’s no substitute for a real-life, knowledgeable tour guide, the platform can enhance the experiences of visitors and Castle community members by providing wayfinding information, interpretive routes of the extensive grounds, and specialised thematic information about the history, architecture, natural history, and evolution of the Castle and its grounds.

Delivering site-specific, GPS-triggered multimedia content to your mobile.

Like Herstmonceux, many places have unique heritage features, rich histories, and wonderful stories – but it’s not always easy for visitors to fully appreciate what an area has to offer without doing a lot of research beforehand. Interpretours is designed to address this challenge – by being a kind of ‘knowledgeable GPS unit‘. Based on your interests and physical location, the app guides you to your chosen points of interest and back again – by car, bike, public transit, or on foot – with automatic turn-by-turn directions using one familiar, portable, and easy-to-use device – your smartphone. You can visit individual destinations, explore areas at random, or follow custom or prepared tour routes. But unlike a regular satnav, it also tells you thematically relevant stories along the way, and provides automatically-triggered interpretive information for each point of interest you visit when you get there. It also works in many different environments, from dense cityscapes to remote rural locations where the Google cameras have never visited. No street address or pre-existing mapped route is required.

The platform’s authoring tools also allow users to easily create and share their own geo-located interpretive blurbs for points of interest, as well as custom route itineraries keyed to their own needs and interests. As an educational tool, the platform uses a full spectrum of multimedia tools allowing instructors to create self-guided learning walks for field studies on any topic, and researchers to create specialized geo-located research utilities to share with their peers. And students can complete media-rich field assignments, the best of which can live on as interpretive resources for other students and the public.”

Dave will be working with BISC faculty and partner institutions on digital interpretive materials for locations in London and elsewhere in East Sussex. If your interest has been piqued, find out more about the Interpretours platform from the website or from Dave himself. And if you have your own ideas or opportunities for the platform, or just want to say ‘hello’, feel free to track Dave down in his office (209) or email him on He will happily tell you more about the project!

»Telling stories since January 2017«

CD#17 – Shakespeare al fresco

Here is an event for those of you who enjoy Shakespeare. Tomorrow evening (10th August) the touring company Illyria will be staging their version of The Comedy of Errors at the Castle – so if you are a fan of the Bard, this is literally right up your street!

Comedy of Errors – a Mexican version

Illyria has been round a number of years – 26 years in fact. Julie (in a previous role as an events organiser) booked them in their very first season all those years ago. The company have gone from strength to strength and now tour around the UK with a number of productions. If you would like to know what to expect from this Mexican version of the Bard’s shortest and funniest comedy, read this review from the company’s Penzance performance (click on the image to make it legible).

Tomorrow night’s performance will be staged in front of the Castle. It starts at 6pm and lasts 2hrs, including of a 20-minute interval. As a member of the Castle community you can buy tickets for a discounted rate of £10. Simply arrive and purchase your tickets ‘on the door’ (although that will actually be under the gazebo in the visitors’ car park – due to the absence of an actual door!)

Don’t forget to bring a chair or rug, warm clothes and something to nibble on. The forecast is fine for tomorrow evening, so you may wish to be brave and leave the umbrella at home.

We hope you will join us to experience a laughter-filled evening of entertainment.

»Not quite the Bard, but trying hard, since January 2017«

CD#16 – Feeling the benefit…

Visit the Science Centre at a discounted rate

There are more rewards from working at the Castle than just pay and a pension. There is the community spirit, the chance to hang out with a great group of people, the beautiful location…and a number of hidden benefits which you may not even be aware of.

For example, did you know that, as a staff or faculty member, you can gain free or discounted entry to a range of places, events and activities? So, if you are wondering how to keep your family or friends entertained at the weekend, here are a few suggestions:

  • Visit the Castle gardens and grounds with up to four family members or friends for free, during the open season.

    Explore the grounds with your family
  • Borrow the staff passes for Sussex Top Attractions, which will give you free entry to selected local attractions for two people.
  • Visit the Observatory Science Centre at a discounted price of £5 per person, for an unlimited family members or friends if you accompany them carrying your BISC/HCE ID card.
Attend the Medieval Festival
  • Take advantage of the 50 free tickets to the annual Medieval Festival in August – tickets are issued on a first-come, first-served basis, limited to 2 per member of staff, so be quick with your requests!
  • Stay at Bader Hall for a reduced rate, if you fancy getting away from it all.

And don’t forget some of the perks for when you are at work. The challenge is finding the time to take advantage of them:

  • Join the Dining Hall meal scheme and experience great value at £2.40 per meal.

    Take afternoon tea at Chestnuts
  • Buy discounted hot drinks from Chestnuts Tea Room. Just mention that you work at the Castle at the counter and your discount will be applied.
  • Don’t pay a fortune for gym membership, use the Bader Hall gym for free. It has an open floor space for games (team mates not provided) and aerobics, free weights, exercise bikes, running machines and rowing machines (to make you into that mean machine).
  • Attend a range of interesting talks and activities organised as part of the BISC academic program.
  • Want a quiet night in? Borrow a movie from the Library’s DVD collection (many not available in Netflix!), or grab a book.
  • Always fancied learning photography or some other skill? Sign up for courses on

These are just some of the tangible rewards of working at the Castle. For a full list contact Nicola, Administration Manager.

»Benefiting the Castle Community  since January 2017«

CD#15 – The BISC – an inspirational setting

Steven Bednarski

The BISC, its location, and its history, have garnered international praise through an award recently made to Steven Bednarski for innovation in teaching, the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education’s 2017 D2L Innovation in Teaching and Learning Award. The STLHE recognized Steven for his “collaborative, cross-disciplinary, hands-on” approach to teaching, as evidenced at Queen’s University’s UK campus of Herstmonceux Castle and at Waterloo, Ontario.

Many of you will know Steven as a former Scholar in Residence and faculty member, regular on-site researcher, and long-time partner of the BISC. In 2011, Steven began a formal partnership between the BISC and Queen’s University and his home institutions, the University of Waterloo and St. Jerome’s University. The purpose of this relationship is to research the relationship between East Sussex’s changing environment and climate, and the ways in which inhabitants of the Castle estate and surrounding medieval village lived and adapted to their landscape. In 2013, this research received generous funding through a Partnership Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), which included funding from Queen’s University.  The most visible part of this work happens each summer, when students from the partner institutions come to Herstmonceux to further work on the various archaeological sites across the grounds. A regular member of the archaeological team has been the recipient of Undergraduate Summer Student Research Fellowship (USSRF) funding made available by Queen’s in recognition of the importance of the partnership.

Hands-on experience

Steven’s approach to teaching is inspired by a core principle of the BISC programming: learning by doing. Students who participate in the program and who study, live, and work at Herstmonceux have the opportunity to engage with the past by actively seeking evidence of it, both in the ground and in the archives. Finds from the digs have been cleaned, analysed, catalogued and are now archived on site. Primary sources from the archives have been catalogued and digitised. The cross-disciplinary nature of the project has enabled students to acquire knowledge, training and transferable skills in archaeology, history and archives.

A number of students, having left the BISC, return to Waterloo to continue working on the project in new ways, for example, through the creation of a digital repository of information that ultimately could support research in similar areas of climate change. Just last year Steven established the D.R.A.G.E.N. (Digital Research Arts for Graphical and Environmental Networks) Lab to continue exploring the role of technology in helping us understand and visualise the past. By blending programming, Steven’s students acquire hands-on training, experiential learning, and internationalization at the BISC which they then bring back to Canada and put to work, for credit, in transferrable settings. In this way, the BISC and Queen’s helps provide high-quality research training to students who are at the forefront of emerging technologies and research approaches.

Engaging with the past

You can learn more about the project, including viewing an interactive map showing how the sea reached the Castle’s South Gate, by visiting the Herstmonceux Project Website.


As Steven says, “BISC programming is transformative for my students and junior research partners. It enables them to return to Canada with new skills and a real appreciation for collaboration, hands-on learning, and the creation of original research. The Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education’s D2L Innovation in Teaching and Learning Award is affirmation that the partnership between Waterloo and the BISC is truly unique and beneficial. I was honoured to accept the award on behalf of the Partners and delighted to know that what we are doing together is gaining recognition by our peers, nationally and internationally.”

»Inspirational since January 2017«

CD#14 – Summer visitors

A comma butterfly – one of our many summer visitors

Have you noticed that it has got a little hotter recently? If you haven’t, well done. You must be sitting in the shade somewhere. If you are a hardy individual and are tempted to brave the heat, now may be an excellent time to enjoy a trundle around the Castle estate.

Yellow rattle

Guy, the Castle’s Head of Grounds, recently got in touch with The Drum about some of the interesting visitors to the grounds we have been welcoming in recent weeks – and not of the human kind! Here’s Guy’s update on what you may be able to see on your estate travels.

“Thanks to the glorious weather the Estate Team have been busy mowing and strimming around the grounds. However, the summer is the best time to see the fruits of our labour from the previous winter’s work.


(Left to right: common spotted orchid, plant and flower, yellow rattle)

On a short walk with keen naturalist Ian Standivan, we identified a fantastic array of the wildlife that benefits from our work on the estate. These include dragonflies (broad bodied chasers); mammals (pygmy shrews); birds (goldfinches, whitethroats, blackcaps, chiffchaffs,great spotted woodpecker, long-tailed tits, coal tits, reed warblers, garden warblers, mallards, moorhens, swallows); butterflies (common blues, meadow browns, small tortoiseshells, red admirals, white admirals, painted ladies; moths (silver Y).

(Left to right: ragged robin, knapweed and mallow)

The wild flower meadow is starting to show great signs of improvement and species diversity and, with ongoing work, we hope it will develop year on year.

Foxglove regeneration

Through the woodland thinning we are now seeing some fantastic signs of regeneration with elder hazel, honeysuckle, bluebell, wood anemone and foxglove making a strong appearance in the understorey.

Later in the summer we hope to start a barn owl ringing program to keep track and monitor breeding barn owls on the estate.”

Bumblebee feeding on common vetch


So now is your chance to grab your Spotter’s Guide to… and head off into the meadow and woodlands!

All photos in this post were taken by Guy.

»Publishing hot topics since January 2017«


CD#13 – Welcoming Hugh to the Castle Community

Hugh Horton
Hugh Horton, our new Vice Provost and Executive Director

We are pleased to welcome Dr. Hugh Horton to the Castle Community this month. On 12th June Hugh will be joining us as Vice Provost and Executive Director. Many of you will already know Hugh, as prior to being appointed our new VP&ED, he has for a number of years been our academic liaison with main campus and has made regular visits to the Castle.

You may have had a chance to meet Hugh when he last visited us briefly in April, and shared with us his vision of the future BISC. If you did not get the chance to chat to Hugh first time round, then now’s the time to brush up on your ‘elevator pitch’, as Hugh will no doubt be taking every opportunity to chat with his new colleagues and to find out how the organisation functions and what we all do! If you, in return, want to know a little more about Hugh and his journey to becoming VP&ED at the BISC, you can visit his current web page or, better still, ask him!

We know Hugh’s first few days with us are going to be busy, so if you don’t have a chance to deliver your carefully prepared pitch on day 1 (or 2 or 3), don’t despair. There will be opportunities aplenty in the six weeks Hugh will be on campus this summer. From 22nd July Hugh will return to main campus for a brief spell, and then will be back with us at the end of August to take up permanent residence before the start of Fall term.

I’m sure you will be happy to echo the The Drum when we say, ‘Welcome, Hugh! We look forward to working with you.’”

»Drumming in the changes since January 2017«

CD#12 – The shop finds new purpose

You are no doubt familiar with ‘The Shop’ behind Chestnuts tea room. It has been there for a number of years, and has taken on several guises – originally a gift shop for tourists, it was then transformed into a book store for students. Since April 2016 it has had a sad existence, acting as a storeroom for secondhand books or standing empty. But no longer!

The shop has been transformed into an art gallery, Castle Arts, offering for sale the work of local artists, including some from the Society of Eastbourne Artists. The artists, both amateur and semi-professional, have come together to create a wide range of paintings and craft items which will appeal to many different tastes. Landscapes, abstracts, glass work and paper crafts are all available at affordable prices.

This weekend the Gallery will be open for the first time as part of Castle Connections, when we celebrate the Castle at the heart of the community. Do visit and have a look around – you may even be tempted to buy something. As you can see from the photographs, you may not recognise the place!

As mentioned, Castle Connections is this weekend. Don’t forget, entry to this event is free to you as a member of the Castle Community. Come and discover the ways in which the Castle is involved with its community and take this opportunity to find out more about the roles of the many organisations that work alongside us.


»A work of art since January 2017«