CD#11 – Library opening 24/7 from Summer term

From the beginning of next term the Library will be extending its opening hours to 24 hours a day 7 days a week. And no, they are not recruiting a small army of librarians to staff the desk around the clock. Instead they are buying just one machine – a self-issue machine (SIM). The new machine will sit in the corridor between the two Library rooms, and will be awake and willing to issue a book whenever it is called upon to do so.

Practically there will be a few changes to how the Library operates once the SIM is installed. The most obvious will be the change to the Library’s staffed hours. From Monday 8th May regular staffed hours will be 9.00am to 6.00pm Monday to Thursday, 10.00am to 5.00pm Friday, and unstaffed at the weekends. There will be a staff presence in the Library the weekend before the start of classes each term, as this is a busy book-buying period, and as you know, our campus bookstore The Book Stack runs out of the Library.

The other significant change will be that you will no longer need a key to get into the Lending Library ‘out of hours’. This is because, firstly, there will no longer be such a thing as ‘out of hours’ and, secondly, both Library rooms will simply require a code to enter (and it will be the same code for both doors). The books and DVDs in both areas will be available to borrow 24 hours a day, with a few exceptions. ‘But what’s stopping the books just disappearing off the shelves without being issued, if both rooms are essentially unlocked?’ we hear you ask. Along with the SIM comes a new set of security gates and CCTV. If anyone inadvertently tries to leave the Library with an item they’ve not formally borrowed, the gates will alert the Library team, and they’ll be able to track the book down using the gate record and the CCTV. All very hi tech.

‘So, if you have a new machine, why do we need librarians any longer?’ you may well also be asking. While the new machine will be very good at issuing books, and even accepting them back (assuming you press the right buttons and can remember your PIN!), it’s not so good at ordering books, cataloguing them, making sure they are available on the shelves, answering student queries, explaining search skills and directing students to information online, checking reading lists, scanning items for onQ, running a bookstore selling books and stationery, and restructuring and cataloguing the Archive – in fact there are quite a few tasks that, put simply, the SIM is rubbish at. And for this reason, the Library team of Sarah, Louise and Jean will continue to be part of the Castle community for some time to come.

»Written by a human since January 2017«

CD#10 – Celebrate with the Musicians in Residence

Diana and Shelley with the Symphonova in 2016
Diana and Shelley with the Symphonova in 2016

You may have heard already the exciting news that Diana and Shelley have been awarded a significant grant from Bader Philanthropies. This is also the year in which our Musicians in Residence are celebrating 20 years at the Castle. The Castle Drum caught up with Diana, and asked her to tell us more about some of their many achievements in the past two decades…”

20 years ago this fresh-faced young Canadian couple arrived at Herstmonceux Castle with their two little boys. Opera singer Diana Gilchrist and pianist and conductor Dr. Shelley Katz thought that Queen’s University at the Castle would be an excellent platform to engage in musical activities with students and the local community. They were looking for some balance to their busy international careers and Herstmonceux seemed the perfect family base. So it proved to be. They are still here, celebrating their 20th anniversary with a grant from Bader Philanthropies to continue bringing musical enrichment to the BISC and wider community.

Diana performing at the 'Prom'
Diana performing at the ‘Prom’

The Musicians in Residence have offered a variety of musical events and experiences over the years, for students and community. One of the most exciting early concerts was an open air ‘Prom’ with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – complete with fireworks. Shelley led the lucky Summer Term students and the audience singing, while Diana featured as soloist providing her own vocal pyrotechnics!

Ladies Chamber Choir rehearsal in the ballroom (2012)
Shelley and the Ladies Chamber Choir rehearse in the ballroom (2012)

For several years, top international performers joined Shelley and Diana in their Castle Concert series. The concerts were hugely supported by the local community and often played to wonderfully appreciative, sold-out audiences. The new Bader Philanthropies grant will facilitate a welcome re-launch of the Castle Concert series.

A highlight of each term is the chance for students, staff and faculty to sing in a choir. Choir and various other ensembles perform at the Castle, in the community and further afield, sometimes partnering with other institutions such as Cambridge and Oxford. Over the years, concerts have included major works, such as the Mozart, Brahms and Fauré Requiems.

A visit to the Symphonova research facility (2013)
A visit to the Symphonova research facility (2013)

Shelley, who holds a PhD in Music Technology, develops cutting edge inventions which he uses in research, demos, concerts and recordings. When students visited his lab at the University of Surrey they got to try their hands at conducting, using a digital wand. One especially talented violin student was able to trial a concerto with Shelley’s digital orchestra technology.

Glyndebourne Opera House

As well as providing students with opportunities to participate in exciting UK cultural events, Diana and Shelley also take students and staff to off-site performances. Over the years, the Glyndebourne Opera Festival has generously given tickets to summer dress rehearsals. Diana’s opera trips to this iconic venue typically include prep lectures and ‘posh picnics’. Other favorite cultural highlights each year include going to London to see operas, ballets and concerts.

The Musicians in Residence are delighted that the very generous Bader Philanthropies grant will enable them to continue offering concerts, lecture-recitals, masterclasses, choir trips and a wide variety of musical events designed to enrich the Herstmonceux Castle experience.

Celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II (2012)
Celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II (2012)

Watch out for the re-launch of Castle Concerts this coming autumn –  Saturday, October 14th in the ballroom!

»Celebrating successes since January 2017«

CD#9 – BISC tips

If you could offer new students one piece of advice for their time with us, what would it be?

Isabelle Brent, Student Success Coordinator, is compiling a list of ‘BISC tips’ for inclusion in a new academic planner which will be provided to all incoming students in September. The tips will be used as page headers and are intended to support students throughout the year.

Your tips for the students don’t necessarily have to be practical. They can also be inspirational, supportive, or motivational. All tips should be relevant to the students’ experience at the BISC though for example their life at Bader Hall, travelling in the UK or Europe, or getting the most out of their studies.

To submit a tip, please email Isabelle on

»Sharing words of wisdom since January 2017«

CD#8 – Castle Connections coming soon

East Sussex Falconry

On the weekend of 20th-21st May we will be celebrating the work of those who ensure Herstmonceux Castle occupies a place at the heart of our community. For two days, societies, associations and charities with whom the Castle has some form of connection will be showcasing their work to visitors at this event. So often, the work of the those connected to the Castle is known to just a few, and this event is the chance to raise awareness among all who work at or visit the Castle. For example, did you know that we work alongside local beekeepers and have beehives on site to encourage ecological diversity?

Eastbourne Beekeepers Association

The societies so far signed up include Forest School, Archers of Herstmonceux, the Eastbourne Beekeepers Association, Bexhill 100 Motoring Club, Knights of Herstmonceux, East Sussex Falconry. And there are so many more! All activities on offer, such as the archery, are included in the entry fee.

To ensure that the weekend is a success we are seeking your input. Are you a member of a society or association which would relish the opportunity to share their work with the wider community? If you are, and you can commit two days to the event, we would love to offer you a stand.

Bexhill 100 Motoring Club

The purpose of the event is to celebrate and support the work of the community of which the Castle is part, so there will be no candy-floss or cake stands, but if you work alongside, say, horses at a local horse sanctuary and you want to sell badges in support of your charity, then we would support that.

To request a stand at this event, please contact Julie Ryan on or ext. 4470. We look forward to seeing you there!

»Connecting all at the Castle since January 2017«

CD#7 – Just like a bus…

Buses. You wait for ages and two come along at once! Well, it seems TV programmes featuring our favourite Castle are no different.

So, did you catch the stunning performance of Herstmonceux Castle in yet another TV programme? If you missed it, here’s a quick heads-up about the programme, which is due a repeat but is also featuring on BBC iPlayer, Gravity and me: the force that shapes our lives. It’s a documentary about, well, gravity (the clue’s in the title), but this is the gravity of the everyday rather than of the impenetrable academic textbook.

Professor Jim Al-Khalili
Professor Jim Al-Khalili

The presenter is Professor Jim Al-Khalili, a physicist well known for his ability to help non-scientists connect with science (if you need proof of this, you can borrow some of his titles from the Library). Because gravity affects how much we weigh, our posture and height, Jim plus volunteers spend part of the programme finding out ‘where in Britain gravity is weakest and so where we weigh the least’. One way to lose a few pounds before the chocolate spree and stand a little taller – wherever it is, we are tempted to move there!

If you missed it first time round, the programme is being shown again this Sunday (2 April) on BBC4 at 10.00pm. If that’s a little late for you (and for some of us it is!), it’s also on iPlayer for 1 month, so you have a little bit of time to see the Castle in action once more.

»Gravitas, levitas et scientia«

CD#6 – Gambol through the Grounds

Sarah McKenzie will lead the walk

This Friday lunchtime (17th March) Biology professor Sarah McKenzie will be leading a nature walk through the Castle’s grounds – and she would very much like you to join her. The walk will wend its way via the Orchard up to the Ponds, where Sarah will talk to you about the wildlife lurking there and the ways in which the habitat is being managed. You will then follow the path to Birch Walk and then on to Chestnut Walk.

A nimble visitor at rest

En route, with some luck (and a bit of stealth for the benefit of the more nimble inhabitants of our grounds) you will see butterflies, birds, evidence of the odd mammal (if you are really lucky, maybe even the odd mammal itself!), plus an assortment of fungi and flora. Sarah will help you identify the various species around you, and will explain how all you see before you lives harmoniously (or not so harmoniously) in their shared environment.

So, if you fancy a ramble in the sunshine (the weather forecast is currently sunshine, but, hey, who knows at this time year!), meet Sarah this Friday at 1.00pm outside Castle Reception. Wear some stout shoes (or wellies if the forecast is wrong and it tips it down!) and some sensible clothing, and you’ll be ready for anything.

Ducking out…

The walk is scheduled to last 90 minutes, but if you can’t spare that amount of time, join Sarah for whatever time you do have and you can always ‘duck’ out when it suits you!



»Ducking and diving since January 2017«

CD#5 – Which Antiques?…Witch Antics

Some of you may remember the queue of people stretching across the South Gate bridge and encircling the Castle on a sunny day last March when keen individuals patiently waited to share their prized possessions with Paul Martin and his Flog It! team. We’re delighted to say that the episode recorded that day is about to make it to the small screen – and not just the one episode, but two!

Paul Martin and his team reveal the treasures of Herstmonceux

Both episodes will be aired next week on Tuesday, 14th March at 4.30pm on BBC1 and on Friday, 17th March at 4.30pm, also on BBC1. If you are around, why not join us in the Conference Room at 4.30pm on Tuesday, when we will be celebrating the screening. Refreshments will be provided. All being well, the Castle’s performance on Flog It! twice in one week will tempt many more keen individuals to experience this spectacular location for themselves.

It was almost certainly the spellbinding nature of our location and the oft-heard comparison of the Castle to a famous fictional school for wizards that resulted in us hosting the Bothwell School of Witchcraft this August. For 3 days (11th to 13th August) budding witches and wizards will have the chance to role-play a character specially created for them based on their answers to a questionnaire when they register for the event.

Witches and wizards in August

With unique settings and story lines, the participants will be able to interact with other characters to contribute to an exciting adventure, as in popular murder-mystery weekends, (but this time with magic, and perhaps without the murder…) There has been quite a buzz on social media about this event and a number of news articles but, to find out what all the excitement is about, visit the School’s website. All we will say is, be prepared to see black gowns and wands aplenty for a brief ‘spell’ in summer!

»Working its magic everywhere since January 2017«

CD#4 – Reinvigorating and rejuvenating for the reopening

On Saturday 4th March the Castle reopens to the public – considerably earlier than in previous years. In celebration of this event we thought you might like to learn a little about what has been going on in the Gardens and Grounds over the Winter months while the rest of us have been desperately trying to keep out of the wind and rain (and avoiding the chaos caused by Doris), although Gardener Supervisor Jackie does assure us that we had a mild, dry Fall – too long ago to remember!

Gardens and Grounds Team February 2017
The Gardens and Grounds Team proving that for at least one day we had sunshine!!

You may have noticed that, despite this latest spell of rain, things in the borders have definitely shifted into Spring mode, with many of the herbaceous perennials already daring to show their green. This bravery is in part spurred on by the two truck-loads (18 tonnes) of compost that Jackie and her team have spread over the borders during the Winter.

Jackie, Tom, Fiona and George have also between them planted 3,000 bulbs, which should put on a fantastic display of colour soon. You probably will have also seen the Gardening team hard at work scarifying, pruning, dividing and generally renovating all round. This will have a huge visual impact as the plants are rejuvenated and reinvigorated, plus will provide sale items for the plant stall. No garden has been left untouched, with the Azalea, Elizabethan, Shakespeare, Butterfly and Folly gardens all undergoing some form of renovation. The Herb garden is next on the team’s hit list.

Gardens and Grounds Daffodils and Castle February 2017
Early signs that Spring has sprung

In the Grounds, Guy, Adam and Kallum have been keeping warm by renewing the chestnut fencing, using in part chestnut coppiced from the estate. Over the coming year they will be tackling the invasive and potentially disease-spreading Rhododendron ponticum, eradicating it from the estate. So much of the clearing work that the team has undertaken has opened up new vistas not seen for many years. For our younger visitors (and maybe the not so young too!) the Estate team will be devising a tree trail and an ‘I spy’ trail. We are sure they would welcome all who wish to trial the trails!

So, if you enjoy fresh air, tranquillity and a chance to escape your office once in a while, the fantastic gardens and grounds are there for you. And if you enjoy them, do spread the word – encourage your family and friends to visit too!   As a member of staff or faculty you can bring up to four family members or friends into the gardens free of charge. You will also be able to take advantage of our complimentary tickets for friends and family, which means they can enjoy the Gardens and Grounds even when you are unable to be with them.  And all we ask in return, is that you take with you on your travels a handful of our leaflets and leave them wherever they are likely to encourage others to visit the Castle!

Do you have a question, comment or suggestion for an article to feature in the next Castle Drum? Email: 

»Storming ahead with a Spring in our step«

CD#3 – Let’s get technical!

In this issue we embrace our techy sides.

We can all improve our IT skills! The majority of us are self-taught, and while that’s absolutely fine, it often means that we’re not realising the full potential of all the fantastic software we have available to us.

Queen’s has recognised this and is piloting a three-year project that will allow staff and faculty to access literally thousands of step-by-step tutorial videos on hundreds of topics.


Lynda is a training website for anyone looking to improve their knowledge of common software packages, learn a new skill (for business, or just to be a little more creative) and stay informed of the latest technological changes. The site is usually only available through a subscription fee, but can be accessed 100% free of charge by anyone with a Queen’s Net ID.

If you do not currently have a Net ID and would like one, don’t panic! Please contact and they will be more than happy to get you started. A Net ID is merely a username and a password, similar to your email account, and all staff and faculty are entitled to one.

The BiscIT logo. Biscuit? Cookies must be enabled.

Once you are logged in, Lynda will save the videos you have watched, suggest playlists based on the topics that interest you, and even allow you to create your own playlists so that you can design your own learning path. You can learn at your own pace, at work, at home, or even on the bus via Lynda’s mobile apps.

The left-hand column of this screengrab gives an idea of some of the areas of interest covered by Lynda:

Faculty members might be interested to note that there are a range of teaching tools and entire playlists dedicated to professional development for educators. Whatever your role at the Castle however, we recommend you click here for a comprehensive list of every subject covered.

Learn to be a better photographer, how to animate your drawings, or just how to get started with Microsoft Office. The Castle Drum simply cannot recommend this resource highly enough… and did we mention, it’s completely free? If you have a Net ID, click here to get started.

Do you have a question, comment or suggestion for an article to feature in the next Castle Drum? Email: 

»Keyboard not found. Press [Enter] to proceed«

CD#2 – The difficult sequel

A Happy Friday from everyone at The Castle Drum – especially if you’re a newbie! The first issue, as a well known politician might say was rather ‘Yuge’, so we promise to keep CD#2 short and sweet.

First up – an apology. At the end of our last, The Castle Drum provided links to the castle’s social media accounts, but we neglected to mention the Experiential Learning program’s pages!

Experiential Learning Opportunities (ELOs) are a key component of the BISC’s academic experience and are an important element of every single course that we offer. Our students have taken some really interesting photos, not only on their travels overseas, but right here in Sussex. It is well worth exploring the links at the bottom of this page, which includes a link to a new BISC Photography Club that has really taken off on Instagram this semester. Check out what our students have been up to on their expeditions beyond the castle grounds.

Which leads us on nicely to the subject of the 1066 Staff Pass

If the students’ adventures have inspired you to get out and about, did you know that any member of staff can sign out a pass granting complimentary entry for two people to a great number of local attractions? A comprehensive list of these attractions can be found here, so if you and a friend wish to do some exploring of your own this weekend, for free, simply sign out the card from the Admin Office.

Back on the estate itself, the SMT have decided to reintroduce photo ID badges for all staff and faculty. Emails will be sent notifying you of the times available to come and sit for your head-shots, with plenty of notice, so you’ll have lots of time to practice the perfect Blue Steel. A room will be set aside in the ED’s apartment, to give the sitter some privacy and to ensure that the backdrop and lighting is consistent for each photo. If you are nice to Brian, The Castle Drum has been informed that you are welcome to pose for as many shots as it takes to get a picture you are happy with!

The ID badge will simply consist of a photo of the holder on a card with their name, job title and department. It will be displayed inside a plastic holder, which can be clipped onto a breast pocket, or secured around the neck with a lanyard.

As an educational institution we have a duty of care to take steps to ensure the safeguarding of our students, and a photo ID badge will help both students and Campus Security identify a member of staff at a glance, whilst simultaneously drawing attention to any adult on site that is not carrying identification. Your co-operation would be appreciated, as wearing your badge will not only make our community safer for all, but improve interactions between employees and legitimate visitors to the castle estate. Your badge will identify you as someone who can help if they are in need of assistance.

Do you have a question, comment or suggestion for an article to feature in the next Castle Drum? Email: 





»Rolling with the alternative facts since January 2017«