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Spring Showcase

An alumni-staff-student event to support community cohesion and continued engagement.

On the weekend of 19th-20th March, the Bristol Alumni Network in collaboration with Bristol Students Union presented The Spring Showcase 2021, a series of digital events including tours and talks, discussion panels, a photo competition, and our version of University Challenge. In addition, Geography celebrated 100 years at Bristol with two informal events hosted by staff and students, past and present. This event fills the gap left after the cancellation of the regular summer Alumni Weekend due to Covid-19.

The event was sponsored by the Badock Hall Association, the Churchill Hall Association, Wills Hall Association, the Bristol Branch, the London Branch and the School of Geographical Sciences. Costs incurred included financial support to each of the student groups in support of alumni initiatives and filming for the organ recital.

We were extremely pleased with the level of interest and engagement with over 500 sign-ups. We had participation from Germany, Spain, Hong Kong, South Africa and the United States, All participants have been given access to recordings of the events.

Friday Evening

Panel discussion on the University support for students under Covid, with Ros Elliot, Head of Student Residential Life, Charles Gunter (Faculty of Life Sciences) and Robert Villain (Director, South West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership), hosted by Savannah Coombe. This was a fascinating talk about the innovative ways the University and the Students’ Union have helped students in unprecedented times.

The School of Geographical Sciences hosted an informal Centenary Celebration with staff and students, past and present with short presentations on the history of the school and current student and research activity. Break-out sessions provided an opportunity to discuss past field trips and consider ways to celebrate the School’s history and map collection (in storage at Langford).

Two PhD students in receipt of Centenary Scholarships illustrated the range of research from sub-glacial environmental genomics to fashion and the making of the human. Cabot Institute for the Environment also outlined their vision and signposted future events.

Saturday morning

Two films from the University Botanic Gardens: (1) a curator-led tour of the garden; (2) the plant collections from the Mediterranean climate region of South Africa.

Saturday afternoon

Showcase event, bringing students past and present together. An introduction to the successful Global Lounge initiative, followed by breakout sessions where alumni were able to network with members of the following student societies and Hall Associations: Matrix (Maths); Falstaff Society; Chaos (Physics); Musical Theatre; EFM Society; Student Action for Refugees; Lawyers without Borders; Engineers without Borders; Basketball; Hockey; Rugby; Badock Hall; Clifton Hill House; Wills Hall; Cambridge Branch.

Students from Geography held their own drop-in session, in a separate Zoom breakout room.

These events enabled many societies to kick-start connections with alumni. We received 25 applicants for these slots, from which 15 were selected to participate.

University of Bristol Speleological Society hosted a short film about Fishmonger’s Swallet, a cave site in South Gloucestershire that has yielded a large amount of human and animal bone. There is also evidence of cannibalism.

The film, by student museum curator Nathan Cubitt was followed by an online Zoom session with Professor Mark Horton, David Hardwick (one of the discoverers of the site) and Adelle Bricking, a PhD student from Cardiff University working on Iron Age mortuary practices.

The University Theatre Collection presented illustrated talks followed by live panels on:

  • Challenging Archives, focussed on the recent successful programme of work to catalogue, conserve and make accessible the Franko B archive

  • Wake Up and Dream – Oliver Messel: Theatre, Art and Society.

Martha Crean, University of Bristol Public Art Curator, gave a talk with a live panel on the University’s varied and fascinating public art, entitled Art in Lockdown, highlighting various artworks on campus that are available for visits.

Saturday evening

Organ Recital: Dr David Bednall, Sub Organist at Bristol Cathedral recorded a special organ recital from the Dame Monica Wills Chapel, Wills Hall. A recording of this event is available by emailing 

Manor Hall hosted Manor Makes a Difference, a conversation with various Manor Hall Alumni.

The last event of the weekend was the final of the popular University Challenge competition, which had seen heats and semi-finals over the course of the previous week. A keenly fought battle between rival teams from the Cambridge Branch, saw the Blues triumph over the Anglians.

Eight teams comprising of both students and alumni entered the competition. Question master Robert Villain was a fabulous combination of Bamber Gascoigne and Jeremy Paxman, bringing his own style to the event, and some fiendish questions on German literature! We had a buzzer, a scoreboard and a very authentic TV vibe.

Over the course of the weekend, a slide presentation showcasing recent activity was made available by the Cambridge Branch. In addition, Hong Kong Branch provided a film focussing on the recipients of their scholarships, with contributions from the scholars.

There was also a Photography Competition, with winning entries from John Barnbrook, David Lane, Francis Harvey.


The organisers are keen to see this become a permanent fixture. While the online format cannot replace the character of the Alumni Weekend, we are sure that we can take advantage of online platforms and pre-prepared material to attract engagement from a wider (global) community. In time, we might consider streaming elements of the in-person event to attract a wider audience.

Spring Showcase Steering Committee, on behalf of the Alumni Network:Savannah Coombe (BA 2020),Charles Gunter (BSc 2006, PGCE 2007, MSc 2009)David Richards (BSc 1988, PhD 1995)Linda Wilson (LLB 1982)

Support the Wills Hall Association

Wills Hall is rather special. It is the WHA's privilege to make it more special, by contributing to the enhancement of the facilities that make life as a Wills student so distinctive. Via your donations, we provide support for individual students who might from time to time need a boost for special projects, career preparation, or other support, and we underpin group sporting, cultural and charitable activities for which no university or other funding is available. 


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