People are more important than places

At the end of Thor Ragnarok (and I never thought I’d begin a blog post with this words), Idris Elba’s character reminds the hero that his country is ‘not a place but a people’. It’s a bit of a cliché in a film which is full of them (but for my money enjoyable nonetheless), and it does remind us all that people are indeed more important than places. That’s not to say places aren’t incredibly powerful of course (hence universal pleasure at being back on site for those who now can be), but communities find ways of being together if they are strong. I’ve long been a big fan of Extended Project Qualifications (EPQs), and last week’s EPQ celebration evening was an illustration of this. Ms Cooper had lined up some of the best L6 speakers – Jan Olucha Fuentes, Jesse Boulting, Jack Carter, David Lawrence and Arjun Gobiraj on subjects as diverse as film-making, macro economics and medical ethics - and, the technology allowing staff and students to share the evening’s thinking, presentation and discussion, the outcome was invigorating. 

This period has allowed independent learning to thrive, and though it’s had plenty of challenges, this really is a wonderful result. Though we won’t be able to come together as a community of 2000 souls as we traditionally do, for the ‘Celebration of Whitgift Life’ at the end of term, we will still of course award prizes and mark the end of the year in a recorded celebration, with, I’m delighted to say, a message from OW Tim Davie, newly appointed to the top job in UK media, as Director-General of the BBC. 

Of course even without Covid-19, the last weeks have not been good ones for many in society. Events in the USA have highlighted the importance of all organisations’ fight against racism, and this week also sees a special meeting of our own Afro Caribbean Society, to air and discuss openly the issues we all face. I’m looking forward to being there. Again, it’s people who matter. I like the story of the Oxford academic who corrects a visiting government Minister who says how happy he is to be at the university: ‘we are not AT the university. We ARE the university’.