We are really proud of each and every one of our alumni.
You are the evidence of the OU’s success. As such we want to keep you firmly in touch with your university, your subject interests, and your fellow students and alumni. This section of Platform is just one place in which we aim to do that. You'll find more on the full range of our services for alumni below and on our services page.
A road accident left Melanie Morgan-Jones with both physical and learning difficulties. She then gained an OU degree, completed the London Marathon and has set up her own medical practice...
Melanie Morgan-Jones began her degree with the OU in 1984 but because of family circumstances put her studies on hold to return to work. During the next few years she became the Head of Investment for a law firm and was then head-hunted to a similar position in a large accountancy firm.
After a road accident, however, Melanie was left unable to work due to brain damage which involved severe cognitive function problems, difficulties with the transfer of short-term memory to long-term memory, plus back and neck injuries, which stopped her runn committed Christian is what Melanie attributes to helping her rebuild her life.
She studied Ancient Greek, thought and experience: themes in the philosophy of the mind. However, it was studying Spanish to the highest level was the most exciting as it was so varied in content. The OU helped Melanie with funds to buy synthetic voice software, a Dictaphone to help her memorise things and extra help, which she explains as “someone to give me assistance with understanding how to operate technology”.
Melanie completed her BA (Hons) Open degree in 2008. This was also the year that she completed the London Marathon, raising money for the Snowdon Award Scheme. She describes her feat as a “humbling and amazing experience”, despite the physical pain the accident caused her. In addition, she has trained to be a homeopath and also studied to qualify as a Bowen practitioner, which is soft-tissue remedial therapy.
Melanie believes none of these endeavours would have been possible without the powerful healing she experienced through homeopathic medicine. In fact, she has recently opened her own medical practice in West Berkshire offering both medicines and therapy.
Melanie acknowledges she is not fully recovered cognitively but is now about “60 per cent there”. The challenges do not stop, however, as she may embark on an MSc with the OU.
Supporting the OU
The Development Office raises funds from alumni and friends through the OU Supporters’ Fund, which helps OU students in a variety of ways. The fund has a growing number of supporters who donate through regular direct debits, single donations or even by leaving legacies in their wills.
Our 40th anniversary appeal, launched in the Spring edition of Sesame, is producing a fantastic response. We’d like to thank everyone who has donated so far. If you’d like to make a donation to the anniversary appeal, please visit www.open.ac.uk/donatenow. To support students like Melanie achieve their goals, please visit www.open.ac.uk/fundraising or call Nikki Webb on +44 (0)1908 655854.
A road accident left Melanie Morgan-Jones with both physical and learning difficulties. She then gained an OU degree, completed the London Marathon and has set up her own medical practice... Melanie Morgan-Jones began her degree with the OU in 1984 but because of family circumstances put her studies on hold to return to work. During the next few years she became the ...
Violet Rock is a graduate of the OU and regularly takes part in volunteering activities. Here, she gives an insight into a day in the life of a volunteer.
One evening I stood waiting for a bus for twenty minutes in an arctic cold wind after attending a local community meeting. I had been on five buses and one train that day. I stood with my hood pull over my head trying to keep warm. Before I got the next and last bus home I went to a local shop, got a big mug of
tea and a big sandwich.
I had started my day as a community volunteer discussing the attitudes of the voluntary sector and integrated working between services. I am a School Governor and this brings me into contact with statutory officers concerned with child welfare, so I attend meetings, listening and discussing and then reporting back to my local organisation and schools. I had to leave that meeting early to get to my place of work, which involved being an Invigilator in a local college, five miles away across the city. A half a mile walk, with hair blowing in the wind, desperately hoping I would not be late and I was in the building.
A change of role, and mindset. No time to ponder, must be organised, keep the ideas and news of changes discussed in the meetings until I get home and can get to the computer and the network. Being connected to the education and health service I try to have an interest in all aspects of these topics therefore I am a member of the local LINks, the Local Involvement Network. Helping individuals of all ages with mobility problems in their daily lives is a part of my concern.
The next meeting concerned the social and health structures for older people. There was great discussion and concern and I left wanting to say more, but I did stress the aspect of an holistic approach connecting all needs. Again I had to leave early to get to the community gathering about education, a Governors Meeting at a local school. This occurs at least once a term and it is essential to attend to help the process of the future potential for the local children. I reported the news related at the Integrated Services meeting, giving any papers I had received to the Chair and Head Teacher. Most of those present were volunteers with the objective of serving their community.
When I eventually got home, I sent an email to other members of the network giving them the information I had acquired at the meetings I had attended. Being a member of the Open University Graduates Society also gives me connections with a national network. I forward useful Third Sector news on community topics to Mohammed in Wolverhampton who is also a Governor and Iffty Khan a Community Voice and a School Governor.
There are many strands to fulfilling the idea of integration, coordination and cohesion regarding encouraging participation in the community needs, being able to coordinate one´s own life is one of them.
Violet Rock is a graduate of the OU and regularly takes part in volunteering activities. Here, she gives an insight into a day in the life of a volunteer. One evening I stood waiting for a bus for twenty minutes in an arctic cold wind after attending a local community meeting. I had been on five buses and one train that day. I stood with my hood pull over my head ...
Legendary journalist John Pilger began his career in his native Australia, before moving to London in the 1960s, where he still lives. He is an impassioned critic of Western economic and military campaigns around the world, and came to international prominence while reporting from the frontline during the Vietnam war.The Open University honorary graduate talks to Platform about his uncompromising approach to his trade...
What has been your experience of The Open University as an honorary graduate, and what are your thoughts on it as an institution?
I was delighted to have been honoured by The Open University, an institution I have long admired along with Britain´s other great people´s institutions, such as the National Health Service and the National Film Theatre. What has been my experience as an honorary graduate? Pride!
Why did you become a journalist?
As a boy growing up in Sydney, Australia, I sold newspapers on trams, in pubs, at the races. And I read them from cover to cover. It was probably romance at first sight. At Sydney High School I started my own paper, The Messenger which, I hasten to say, was not the crusader the title suggests; I gained something of a reputation for securing interviews with famous people regarded then as celebrities (though the word had yet to be invented). The day I was accepted as a cadet journalist on the Sydney Daily Telegraph was one of the happiest of my life; and I have never lost that sense of privilege and, dare I say, vocation, that serious journalism bestows - the privilege to be an agent of people, never of power.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am developing a documentary on war and media, a subject close to my heart. British and American governments are ´allowed´ to invade countries when journalists do not do a basic job of keeping the record straight: of challenging authority instead of amplifying and echoing its deceptions. So I shall be looking at that and perhaps suggesting to young practitioners that an embedded state does not ordain them as journalists. I am also planning my first work of fiction - a long delayed ambition. The problem with that is every time I sit down to write I realise, yet again, that fiction barely compares with fact.
How do you avoid having your work compromised? And is it possible today for a journalist working within a large commercial news organisation to keep their integrity intact?
It is difficult to maintain the way you want to work: yes, to keep your principles. But too many journalists give in too quickly, or they are seduced by the myths of an institution that flatters them by promoting them within its structures; I am thinking of the BBC. It really is a matter of will. Nothing is more precious than one´s professional independence, however imperfect.
Do you think the collapse of the newspaper industry will eventually reinvigorate journalism?
Newspapers will never ´collapse´. As the current economic burden grows, what we may see is a return to the days when newspapers were labours of love, not merely expensive cogs in an empire such as Murdoch´s. People relish newspapers; look at the readership in the days that followed 9/11, even though it was all over television.
You’ve said Barack Obama has joined the unbroken Democratic tradition of hawkish and expansionist presidents. Do you think there will ever be an American president who will break from this tradition?
Not while the system remains as it is. Merely to become a serious candidate in the presidential primaries, you need to raise a vast fortune and to press some nasty flesh. Waging war on behalf of a hugely powerful military industry is obligatory.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about becoming a journalist?
I would not be anything else. To be allowed into people´s lives, to tell the stories of their struggles and triumphs is, as I say, a privilege. In that role, I believe serious journalists have never been more necessary.
Legendary journalist John Pilger began his career in his native Australia, before moving to London in the 1960s, where he still lives. He is an impassioned critic of Western economic and military campaigns around the world, and came to international prominence while reporting from the frontline during the Vietnam war.The Open University honorary graduate talks to Platform ...
Katherine Davison from the OU´s alumni office talks to Jo Hunt, the founder of www.universitybooksearch.co.uk.
Jo Hunt’s interest in the OU started when her mother completed a module with the university in its early years. So when she started studying with the OU herself and, at the end of each year, put her course materials up in the attic, she saw an opportunity.
“I saw in the OU student / alumni magazine Sesame that you could advertise books, but it only goes out a few times a year so I thought somebody ought to set up a way of putting people in touch with other people throughout the year. I put one advert in Sesame that just said ‘buy and sell your OU course material’ thinking that if we got no answers it doesn’t matter as it just cost me £20 for an advert.”
But as soon as the advert came out, the phone started ringing. Starting with a card index system listing those who wanted to sell and those who wanted to buy, the business grew rapidly. Jo engaged a website designer and launched the website (click here to see it) so that buyers and sellers could get in touch with each other without Jo’s intervention. You can register on the site to sell your old course materials for six months for £5. Even with around 10,000 books for sale on the site at the moment, demand for materials is high – there are more buyers than sellers.
Jo’s storage ‘solutions’ consist of a double garage stuffed to the rafters with racking holding storage boxes, all neatly organised and labelled. Jo has also had a walk-in shed built alongside the garage with yet more shelves full of material. A few years ago they were in a tiny little rented house which fortunately had a conservatory that was taken over as a storage area.
Jo has now donated over £30,000 to the OU from the sale of materials given to her by libraries, collected by OUSA or handed into the alumni office. “Every day at 4.45pm I go to the post office with the books. The postage is usually around £100 each day. One gentleman in Hong Kong buys vast quantities of material and the postage is often over £150. I even had a Count in Germany who lived on the Rhine. He used to ring me and check his address as the postman found it difficult to find his castle!”
And the most popular course materials? “Undoubtedly it’s the maths courses. The higher level maths courses, Geometry, Algebra and Calculus books. Some people sit and watch the site for these materials because I put them on and within an hour they are sold. Older discontinued maths courses, even going back to M100 in the 1970s, sell well.”
Katherine Davison from the OU´s alumni office talks to Jo Hunt, the founder of www.universitybooksearch.co.uk. Jo Hunt’s interest in the OU started when her mother completed a module with the university in its early years. So when she started studying with the OU herself and, at the end of each year, put her course materials up in the ...
Martin Willcocks graduated from The Open University in 1974. Born in London and now living and working in America he’s proud to be part of the OU’s first graduating class and wants to share his story with the next generation of students as part of the university’s 40th anniversary celebrations. Here it is…
My name is Martin Willcocks, and I graduated from the Open University on 8 May 1974. I began my studies in 1971 taking two full credits each year, in Mathematics, Science and Technology. At that time I worked as an electronics engineer (actually Chief Engineer) at Sinclair Radionics, Ltd., directly under (later Sir) Clive Sinclair. I had joined the company in 1965, having previously worked at Pye of Cambridge Ltd for five years. Before that I had spent two years at Bristol University, but failed the Physics exams (passed all the Mathematics, though!) and was unable to complete or re-take the course. My father had been seriously ill that year, and I was in a great deal of distress both emotionally and financially. He died early in 1961, aged 80.
Having been in a very good job for several years, I was aware that without a degree I would find it hard to move further up the ladder, so when Prime Minister Harold Wilson announced the plans for The Open University, I was very excited, as it would give me the opportunity to earn a degree while working full time. My opinion from that day to this is that it was the single best thing Harold Wilson ever did for Britain and the working British population. I signed up for S101 and M101 as soon as I could. For the second year I did a full credit M201 course in Linear Mathematics, coupled with two technology courses, and the third year included four third level half credit courses.
A fourth year with the OU
I studied hard, and was able to do so because I had bought a house jointly with my mother, who took care of my living needs while I spent every evening and several hours each weekend engaged in the OU coursework. During my second year of studies I began a new job with a start-up Cambridge company, Tate Audio Ltd. Although I began a fourth year with the OU, I was forced to drop out because of my career taking me to America numerous times during 1974 to 1977, there being no facilities to receive British TV programming, and postal delays that were unacceptable. However, I still have all of my OU study materials.
That first ever OU graduation ceremony took place in the Alexandra Palace, London, where many students lined up for their degree certificates. "Ally Pally" was of course the first home of the BBC TV service, and we had had a TV since 1947, when we lived in suburban London. For the occasion, we wore black gowns and mortarboards, and were photographed with what was actually a blank piece of heavy paper rolled up to simulate a degree certificate, as none had yet been awarded!
Just before the ceremony, I had been on a three week trip to Los Angeles and the San Jose areas of California, and five days before, I met a young California girl whom I later married. We had spent a day together in Disneyland before my flight back to England, and over the next few months, as my job took me to America several times, we continued dating. We were married in October 1974. After some 16 years of a childless marriage, we agreed to separate and were divorced the following year. Since then, I have been married again and living in Utah for 17 years, and we have a teenage son. Just recently, my first wife died of brain cancer, having battled breast cancer for several years, and I learned of her death from her second ex-husband. Last week, we took a brief trip to California to visit her grave, among other things.
The course work at the OU, particularly the Linear Mathematics M201 course, was just what I needed at the time, as I had some new ideas about quadraphonic sound systems. Sinclair had allowed me to design a simple quadraphonic decoder for the CBS SQ system, and we had demonstrated it to Clive, but he was not impressed by the high licensing fee that CBS was charging for the technology. Meanwhile, Wesley Ruggles had left Sinclair and started Tate Audio for the purpose of developing the technology. I had some ideas about how best to make a more effective decoder than CBS was offering, and the M201 course enabled me to develop those ideas, as expressed in my first British Patent No. 1,514,162 for a Directional Enhancement System for Quadraphonic Decoders (also patented in the USA and several other countries.) I was also able to use the OU computer system (on a company paid basis) to simulate the performance of the decoder system. The purpose of the California trip was to shop the design to a semiconductor company to have integrated circuits made.
Down a different road
During that trip, we visited several potential IC companies, but National Semiconductor Corp. became interested and for the next year or so I was working directly with their Linear IC designers to produce the IC chip set. Later, the IC´s were used by Dolby in around 5,000 cinemas worldwide for Dolby Stereo sound - you probably heard it in movies like Star Wars, ET, and many others through the 1980s. Unfortunately, no British company had taken on the IC design when we had shown it around Texas Instruments, Ferranti, etc. So although it was a British invention, the only hi-fi manufacturers who developed consumer decoders for the SQ system were the American companies Audionics of Oregon and Fosgate, which later merged. Meanwhile, the UK went down a different road with Ambisonics (otherwise known as UHJ after they combined forces with the BBC.)
Over the next several years I was a member of the Audio Engineering Society, and I met many of the major players in that field of technology, including the late Michael Gerzon of Ambisonics, Benjamin B. Bauer of CBS Laboratories Inc., and the President of Sansui Corp., among others. In 1977 we moved to California permanently, and my career continued in high end car audio systems with AudioMobile Inc., later with Advent Corp. and in the early 1990s with Fosgate, Inc. In 1993 I joined an X-Ray company OEC Medical Systems, where I designed much of the high voltage generator circuitry for their flagship mobile C-Arm X-ray systems, now part of GE Healthcare. I am still employed part time in my retirement years with GE Healthcare.
The OU degree I earned has served me very well technically and financially in my career. It has given me opportunities I would never have had otherwise. I hope that my story can inspire other young people in the UK to go ahead, take the plunge and learn in their spare time with The Open University.
Pictured above are Martin Willcocks with his wife Kaye in 2006 and Martin on his graduation day back in 1974. Picture credit: Constantine Incorporated Photographers, Birmingham
Home page photo credit: Gavin Anderson.
Martin Willcocks graduated from The Open University in 1974. Born in London and now living and working in America he’s proud to be part of the OU’s first graduating class and wants to share his story with the next generation of students as part of the university’s 40th anniversary celebrations. Here it is… My name is Martin Willcocks, and I ...
Mal Morris left grammar school in 1967 with just a handful of O-Levels. But 33 years later, and despite his many medical conditions, Mal decided to return to learning.
And now he´s scooped the Niace Dysgu Cymru Distance Learner of the Year Award, presented by Rob Humphries, Director of the OU in Wales, at a ceremony in Bangor University.
Beginning with an Open University course in Health and Social Care in 2000, Mal (pictured above) worked his way towards an honours degree, which he finally achieved in 2005.
Mal´s appetite for learning and encouraging others to learn saw him become heavily involved in The Open University Students´ Association, including assisting students with additional needs at summer schools throughout the UK. He also studied lip reading for the deaf at Manchester Metropolitan University, enabling him to teach deaf adults at locations throughout North Wales. To further his voluntary work, Mal also took a course in Voluntary Management with Lampeter University.
Mal´s nominator for the Distance Learner of the Year Award, part of the Inspire Awards 2009, Gerald Venables believes that the remarkable thing about Mal is that he didn´t even embark on any study whatsoever until the year 2000, and combined with all his voluntary work it´s amazing he has coped with so many things going on in his life at the same time.
Mal continues to rack up the honours gaining a Volunteer of the Year in Wrexham Award and The Open University Alumni Volunteer of the Year Award.
For Mal the message is simple: "There is so much to gain by returning to learning and for many it helps them to turn the corner and start a new life, get a new job and make many new friends along the way. To anyone considering starting a new course, I say go for it, it´s never too late to learn!"
He adds: "As you can imagine, I was absolutely over the moon´to receive this award, not only because it was the award for Wales, but it was also the fact that I won it in the same year as the OU´s 40th birthday. Since winning the award I have been in various newspapers, and on the local radio station, and as always, singing the praises of the OU in Wales."
Mal Morris left grammar school in 1967 with just a handful of O-Levels. But 33 years later, and despite his many medical conditions, Mal decided to return to learning. And now he´s scooped the Niace Dysgu Cymru Distance Learner of the Year Award, presented by Rob Humphries, Director of the OU in Wales, at a ceremony in Bangor University. Beginning with ...
Before studying English Literature at The Open University, Lenny Henry was “scared” by Shakespeare. Two years after graduating from the OU, he has toured the country playing the title role in Othello to rave reviews. He talks to Richard Cooper about studying at the OU and “breaking out of his comfort zone”.
In what ways did you find acting Shakespeare different from stand-up?
With a play you’re doing the same thing every night. But with stand-up there’s always that possibility there will be a little spark that will kick off with somebody in the front row. You could have a brilliant idea in the middle of a routine and take it in a completely different way, whereas you can only do it physically with this play. What has to happen with a play is that you have to get used to doing it a certain way for a while and then you say to your opposite - with me it’s Iago - ‘shall we switch it up tonight?’ and all we mean is physically, and it’s quite groovy, it’s a good feeling.
Do you think you would have played the role had you not studied at the OU?
I don’t think so. I think the OU really knocks some of the corners off a thrupenny bit for me. From when I was at the Bluecoats Secondary Modern, Shakespeare wasn’t on the cards for me. We were working-class kids. Our dads worked in factories, or on building sites. And even when we were given Romeo and Juliet we thought it was a bit silly, the language was a bit archaic, and we thought ‘what is this?’.
When I started doing my degree we did a bit of Shakespeare every year and then one year we did all Shakespeare. I really immersed myself in it. I studied Twelfth Night, Anthony and Cleopatra, Midsummer Night’s Dream, King Lear, and Hamlet. And because I was listening to a play a day, and watching as many videos as I could get my hands on, I got a really good sense of the language and I stopped being scared of it.
Then when I met Barry Rutter (the director of Othello), who thinks Shakespeare should have normal-sounding voices doing it – that was like a breeze for me. If he thinks that I can do this, being from Dudley and working-class and everything, then maybe it will work.
You like what you know. Before this, I was in my comfort zone. But now I have broken through that, it feels wonderful. So hats off to the OU.
How did you have the time to study?
I went to a couple of courses about time management, I got a Filofax and I started to schedule when I was going to study. So I set out four hours a day.
It was strange, being a comic, but I didn’t watch television for about six years – not in the evenings anyway. And if I did want to watch something, I would make an appointment. I would say to myself ‘when I get to the end of this year of my studying, I’ll get the box set of the Sopranos and watch three a night’. Terrestrial TV, like watching the news and watching EastEnders, went out of the window. I’m doing an MA in Screenwriting now and I have to find time and they expect four hours a day too. After the BA I had a year off from studying and I looked around because I wanted to learn how to do a screenplay.
What kind of memories do you have as you look back on your OU degree?
It’s been a wonderful experience. There were these incredibly enjoyable courses. I wanted to get an English Literature degree but I was very tempted to take History or Philosophy. It felt manageable. That’s the great thing about The Open University. Because it’s done in bite-sized pieces, it doesn’t feel incredibly onerous like real university does, with everything dumped on you in three years. Because it is passed down carefully over six years, you really do feel like it’s do-able.
Lenny Henry is currently on tour with Northern Broadsides Theatre’s production of Othello. See www.northern-broadsides.co.uk/
Before studying English Literature at The Open University, Lenny Henry was “scared” by Shakespeare. Two years after graduating from the OU, he has toured the country playing the title role in Othello to rave reviews. He talks to Richard Cooper about studying at the OU and “breaking out of his comfort zone”. In what ways did you find acting ...
A legacy has been left to The Open University by journalist Eve-Ann Morrin (known professionally as Eve-Ann Prentice), whose death in 2007 was described by The Times as ‘robbing British journalism of a doughty, principled and brave reporter.’
Eve-Ann (pictured) was a diplomatic correspondent at The Times for 12 years where she gained recognition for her coverage of the crisis in The Balkans.
During her life, she studied physics with The Open University, continuing her father’s fascination with science, but was unable to complete the course after becoming seriously ill with cancer.
In her final years, she moved to Ireland, a place close to her heart after spending wonderful summer holidays at her grandmother’s place there. Here, she worked at The Irish Times as a sub-editor and attended The Hague as a witness in Slobodan Milosevic´s trial. She managed to get an interview with the man himself, making her the last journalist to ever interview him just two weeks before he died.
As if all of this isn’t enough to highlight the obviously vivacious person that Eve-Ann was, she also raced rally cars in her younger years and became a pilot to get over her fear of flying.
When her husband asked her why she decided to leave a legacy to the OU, she responded: "Well, you know, the only way out of poverty is through education.”
For further information on supporting the OU through a legacy, please contact the Development Office on +44 (0) 1908 659141 or visit www.open.ac.uk/fundraising for further details.
A legacy has been left to The Open University by journalist Eve-Ann Morrin (known professionally as Eve-Ann Prentice), whose death in 2007 was described by The Times as ‘robbing British journalism of a doughty, principled and brave reporter.’ Eve-Ann (pictured) was a diplomatic correspondent at The Times for 12 years where she gained recognition for her ...
Some people plan their careers. Others happen into them. Jancis Robinson went to university to study for a degree in mathematics and philosophy but it turns out the most important thing she learned there is that there is a world of difference between the Blue Nun everyone drank at 70s parties and the glass of burgundy a friend offered her one night.
“By the time I graduated I knew I was interested in wine but it would have been seen as terminally frivolous if I had tried to pursue it as a career,” Jancis recalls.
Instead, she joined a travel company, tasted as much as she could, listened hard, and studied with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust – landing a job in 1975 as assistant editor of Wine & Spirit.
It’s foreign travel that Robinson credits with beginning to alter the public’s appetite for wine. “That and being able to pick bottles up off the shelf, whereas before you had to go into a special shop and you had to be able to pronounce the name to a potentially snooty person behind the counter.”
By the time she’d become a household name, writing about wine for The Sunday Times, editing The Oxford Companion to Wine, and picking up an honorary degree from the OU, Jancis was speaking to an audience more interested, and more informed, than those across the Channel where the wine was being produced.
Lucky dip for the palate
She says: “There isn’t a tradition of connoisseurship there; the average French person’s knowledge is less than in the UK and there are very few wine clubs.”
Indeed the existence of so many clubs – offering a form of lucky dip for the palate – demonstrates both how adventurous we’ve become, yet conversely how many of us still prefer to listen to experts such as Jancis.
“Oddly, people don’t have as much confidence in their judgements of wine in the way they are confident in making a judgement about what they eat. But that will change,” she insists.
“We have a generation who’ve grown up seeing wine routinely in soap operas, nobody making a big deal of it. It is now Britain’s favourite drink and it’s thoroughly democratised, whereas when I was starting out I was always being asked ‘isn’t it a bit elitist?’”
Hopeful signs, for her, are the burgeoning number of wine courses, and the growing number of restaurants allowing diners to choose wine by the glass rather than committing to a whole bottle – where price prevents most of us from taking a risk.
“And if you’d asked me about supermarkets a year ago I would have given you a very upbeat answer. Every time the duty goes up there’s this awful business of who funds that extra duty. They are scared to hand it on to the consumer so it’s the supplier who’s got to fund it and the overall quality has to drop. The supermarkets were just getting brave enough to say okay let’s lift prices a bit, and then along comes the credit crunch and another duty rise.”
Wrinkling her nose about the quality of what’s in a bottle of supermarket wine when £1.70 of the £2.20 cost is duty, is one of the few occasions when Jancis is unequivocal in her assessments.
The Jancis Robinson whose lively columns also played a part in the democratisation that she alludes to, and whose website www.jancisrobinson.com has members in 90 countries - with nearly 100,000 unique users a month - is much more sanguine about whether her audience shares her taste. Taking their lead from their mentor it’s no surprise to hear that those who contribute to the tasting forums on her site have been dubbed by France’s leading wine magazine “the most courteous forum on the planet”.
She says: “Wine can lift the spirits and if it’s doing that – even if I wouldn’t necessarily agree with your judgement of the wine – that’s fine. And that’s the thing about us wine critics, as with any critics - you can take it or leave it.“
- Jancis Robinson
- What does Jancis reccommend for celebrations? - listen to the podcast
- Jancis offers tips for tasting and good value
Some people plan their careers. Others happen into them. Jancis Robinson went to university to study for a degree in mathematics and philosophy but it turns out the most important thing she learned there is that there is a world of difference between the Blue Nun everyone drank at 70s parties and the glass of burgundy a friend offered her one night. “By the time ...
Margaret Burrows from Barrow is not only an MBE, a wheelchair user and a graduate of The Open University, she’s also scooped a lifetime achievement award for her local community and charity work.
After completing an Open University course in management and fundraising in the voluntary sector, Margaret has brought in more than £2m in grants for the Barrow and District Disability Association (BDDA) and other charities.
Margaret, 68, may be disabled but she dedicates much of her time to helping others. Amongst other things she is the honorary secretary of the Barrow and District Disability Association and has been with the organisation since its inception 28 years ago.
Described as a a “remarkable lady” who had been “driven her whole life to do the very best she can”, Margaret received her lifetime achievement award at the Cumbria Woman of the Year event, sponsored by Cumbria Life magazine. This was the first year the lifetime achievement award has been presented
Here, she talks to Platform…
What made you decide on the courses; Winning Resources and Support, and Managing Voluntary & Non Profit Enterprises?
In my voluntary work I am responsible for raising funds for the organisation to enable it to function. I was offered a bursary to study Management and Fundraising by the Francis C Scott Charitable Trust, who had in the past given lots of money to the BDDA for many projects that we had undertaken. I wrongly assumed that if I didn´t accept this training opportunity I would not be given further grants from the Trust. I am pleased to say that they now regard the money they spend on the bursary, about £3,000, money well spent because I have now, 13 years later, passed the £2million mark for fundraising, so far. And I have received a MBE for my efforts from Her Majesty the Queen.
Did you enjoy studying with the OU?
I did enjoy studying with the OU indeed and I found both the tutors and fellow students extremely nice and useful. I still have contact with several of them because they also now play key roles in the community.
You’re a busy lady. Did you find it easy fitting your studies around your other commitments?
At first I found it hard to return to study at age 53, however, once I got my act together I found I enjoyed studying and putting into practice what I had learned. At first I was up very early, 6am, to deal with my studies and still carry on my voluntary work with several organisations. I found the study advice given to me to me by the OU very good and practical.
Have your studies helped with your work at the BDDA?
Absolutely! I didn´t know what a business plan or project scheme looked like before and for what purpose but now I would never apply for a grant without at least preparing a mini business plan. This gives me and the funders a clearer idea of what I want to achieve, how much it will cost, how I plan to do it, and a timescale and so on.
What are your future plans and aspirations?
One day when I am less busy I would like to return to the OU and study things that life has not let me do so in the past. I love that fact that age is no barrier to studying with The Open University. There is no need to have regrets that one didn´t get the chance to study when at school because of a variety of real reasons because we are never too old or late to learn and study with The Open University. The world is our oyster!
Margaret Burrows from Barrow is not only an MBE, a wheelchair user and a graduate of The Open University, she’s also scooped a lifetime achievement award for her local community and charity work. After completing an Open University course in management and fundraising in the voluntary sector, Margaret has brought in more than £2m in grants for the Barrow ...
Got a bit of spare time on your hands? Want a new hobby? Want to get more out of life by putting something back in? Well… have you thought about volunteering?
Rebecca Wilson, assistant alumni project officer at The Open University, has been volunteering at her local hospital radio station for nine years now and says she wouldn’t be without the social aspect and the “feel good factor” it brings.
She told Platform: “I would definitely recommend volunteering to anyone who has a spare few hours every week. There are many charities and organisations that would not exist without the help of volunteers.
“I first decided that I wanted a hobby that I could do in the evenings and I looked around at the various options. Lots of local charities had volunteering opportunities including administration work in charity offices, citizens advice volunteers and hospice at home volunteers who visit cancer patients.
“With trepidation I contacted my local hospital volunteering department and much to my delight I was welcomed with open arms. I was told there were lots of different opportunities - visiting and feeding patients, reception work in the main hospital as well as the cancer unit - but I decided that hospital radio was the best one for me.”
After her initial training she was let loose on the mixing desk and beforeshe knew it she had her own show called ‘Music from the Movies’. The show lasted for an hour and she would go around the ward before the show, visiting patients to get requests.
She added: “Once I was brave enough I then got more involved by attending outside broadcasts at local fetes, carnivals and the odd store opening.”
Now Rebecca does a 90-minute show every Thursday evening. “It’s great fun,” she says. “I have met some wonderful people who all share the same interests and at the same time we are providing entertainment to people who are unfortunate enough to be in hospital. I dedicate one evening per week and also attend a couple of outside broadcasts during the year, which are usually on a Saturday daytime.”
So, what made Rebecca volunteer her time and would she recommend it to others?
“I wanted to do something in my spare time which was worthwhile as well as enjoyable. Yes, I would recommend it for the social aspect, it is a good way to meet people and make friends. Also, it has a nice feel good factor.”
If you are interested in volunteering click here for further information.
Got a bit of spare time on your hands? Want a new hobby? Want to get more out of life by putting something back in? Well… have you thought about volunteering? Rebecca Wilson, assistant alumni project officer at The Open University, has been volunteering at her local hospital radio station for nine years now and says she wouldn’t be without the social ...
In this short video Katherine Davison and Louise Watson, from the OU´s alumni office, talk about some of the latest fundraising projects, including a phone campaign to ring in donations.
In this short video Katherine Davison and Louise Watson, from the OU´s alumni office, talk about some of the latest fundraising projects, including a phone campaign to ring in donations.
Are you interested in history? Could you bring a secret World War II site to life for visitors? Are you interested in helping in education? Do you have a talent for organisation? Then Bletchley Park needs you! It relies heavily on its team of dedicated volunteers. Public interest in the Park continues to grow — and with it the workload!
Many more Volunteer Tour Guides and Stewards are urgently needed.Would you be interested in joining the team, playing your part in the future of Bletchley Park? By investing whatever time you can spare, you can help tell the story of the Codebreakers that cracked the Enigma. Full training will be given. The Trust cannot pay for volunteers’ help but can cover reasonable travel costs if needed.
If you are interested in helping out, weekdays or weekends, a few hours or a lot, please fill out the form on the
back, call 01908 640404 or visit www.bletchleypark.org.uk
Are you interested in history? Could you bring a secret World War II site to life for visitors? Are you interested in helping in education? Do you have a talent for organisation? Then Bletchley Park needs you! It relies heavily on its team of dedicated volunteers. Public interest in the Park continues to grow — and with it the workload! Many more Volunteer ...
Fundraising is vital and allows The Open University to reach more people with education, both here in the UK and across the globe.
The OU has seized a new opportunity to promote fundraising more broadly through The Big Give website at www.thebiggive.org.uk
This site offers a large and diverse range of projects that require financial support and can be accessed by anyone who is considering giving a charitable donation.
By showcasing a number of Open University fundraising projects, the aim is to not only raise the profile of the University and its mission, but also encourage support from those who otherwise might not have considered the University as a charitable organisation.
Of course the easiest way for you to see the full range of OU fundraising projects is on our own website at www.open.ac.uk/fundraising.
Fundraising is vital and allows The Open University to reach more people with education, both here in the UK and across the globe. The OU has seized a new opportunity to promote fundraising more broadly through The Big Give website at www.thebiggive.org.uk This site offers a large and diverse range of projects that require financial support and can be accessed by anyone who ...
The Rt Hon Baroness Flather was awarded an honorary degree by the OU in 1994, four years after becoming the first Asian woman to receive a lifetime peerage. Involved throughout her long career in refugee, community and race relations roles, Shreela Flather was also the first woman from an ethnic minority to become a councillor in the UK. She has served as Mayor of Windsor and Maidenhead but considers her most enduring achievement to be her work to realise the long overdue construction of a memorial on Constitution Hill to the five million ‘forgottten’ volunteers from the Indian subcontinent, Africa and the Caribbean during the two World Wars.
Below, she offers Platform a unique glimpse into the life of the House of Lords.
"When I came to the House of Lords in 1990 I was surprised to find I was the only Asian - I’d expected there to be at least one or two others. Others were surprised that it was the Tories who had brought in an Asian woman: everybody expected Labour or the Lib Dems to do that. The second Asian came the following year and he said that he was there because of me.
The House of Lords was very different in those days: more formal, more reserved and not many women. Nobody bothered about new peers. You weren’t shown around or given an induction; you just came in and became part of the scene.
Boys´ boarding school
After two or three months people became more friendly and I suddenly realised that they weren’t actually reserved, they were shy. English people are very shy, especially the hereditary peers, who didn’t really seem to know how to open a conversation with me. At the time the usual way of opening a conversation was ‘which school did you go to?’, ‘where is you family from?’ and then they would work out if you had any friends in common. They couldn’t do that with me because I didn’t fit into anything. They l kept saying to me ‘it’s like boarding school, you know’ and I said ‘what happens if you haven’t been to a boarding school, especially a boys´boarding school?’
After six months they made me feel as if I had been in the Lords for more than a generation! I think I have never had a better time in my life than those first three or four years because the hereditary peers were amazing. They were above the little pettinesses of colour or gender or anything; people just didn’t worry about those things. They took you as you were and if they liked you and thought you were good fun to be with then you had company the whole time.
People were also extraordinarily well mannered and it was an experience for me to be in that environment. I was sorry to see the hereditary peers go. There are some left but because they were selected to stay they try to do as much work as possible. When I first joined the House you had people sitting in the chamber to listen to the debates. Now we don’t, which is sad.
In those days, too, political differences were irrelevant to people. You could have an argument in the chamber but outside friendships were right across the political divide. You could join any group anywhere: male, female, Tory, Labour it didn’t matter. It just was expected that if you were on your own you would join somebody.
That has changed. I find now, if you go to the guest room – the Bar - a group of Labour peers will be sitting together talking and you can’t really break into it. The dynamics of them sitting together does not allow for people who are not part of the group to join them. There is much more a political divide.
But I still think it is a wonderful House and the Lords still tries to do things more carefully than the Commons. We take our Bills on the floor and our committee stage is on the floor of the House so everybody can participate.
In the Commons they have a Bill Committee so it is only a small group that looks at it carefully. In the Lords people take different parts of the Bill and really go through it properly.
In addition, there is so much expertise in the House of Lords. For example, the Attorney General has always been from the Commons before but now they haven’t been able to find a lawyer of sufficient standing in the Commons and have had to look to the Lords. The current Attorney, Baroness Scotland, is here, and her predecessor Lord Goldsmith. Maybe this is a little snide of me but you have to think about it: what is the professional expertise in the Commons?"
Picture credit: Wolfiewolf
The Rt Hon Baroness Flather was awarded an honorary degree by the OU in 1994, four years after becoming the first Asian woman to receive a lifetime peerage. Involved throughout her long career in refugee, community and race relations roles, Shreela Flather was also the first woman from an ethnic minority to become a councillor in the UK. She has served as Mayor of Windsor and ...
Lots of OU alumni are based overseas. On today, Australia Day (26 January), we asked those of you who are based Down Under what this day means to you. Here’s a selection of their comments:
“Myself and my family have lived in Australia (Brisbane) for nearly six years, we came here primarily for lifestyle reasons (read: escape the English weather and get some more sunshine in our lives!). We became Australian citizens in about four years ago.
The Aussies, with their natural hedonistic streak, love and cherish their public holidays. I am still convinced that the only reason that Australia did not vote to become a republic in 1999 was because they would have had to give up a public holiday - the Queen´s Birthday is a public holiday over here!
This year, there may be a difference in terms of the way Australia´s Indigenous peoples will view Australia Day - some have labelled it as ´Invasion Day´, but hopefully the recent ´apology´ by the Rudd government will have gone some way to healing that rift.
What will we be doing? We will be spending the weekend on our boat enjoying some of the best boating in the world on beautiful Moreton Bay on the Queensland coast near to Brisbane. There will be a barbeque involved (it´s pretty much a standard fixture on the back of most boats over here) and some stubbies are already chilling in the fridge.
On Monday my wife (also an OU Graduate) and I will raise a beer to the OU and to OU Alumni wherever they are in the world. We promise not to laugh too much that it´s January and you lot will mostly be freezing to death while we enjoy the glorious sub-tropical Queensland sunshine! :)” John Burkett
“During my past eight years in Australia, Australia Day for 2008 and this year hold special meaning for me. Last year, I was the recipient of a 2008 Australia Day Achievement Medallion and this year´s Australia Day coincides with (the first day of) Chinese New Year. Although Australia Day and Chinese New Year are often celebrated differently, togetherness (mateship) and food are common themes in the celebrations of both events and naturally, this year´s Australia Day and Chinese New Year celebrations will be with my friends over BBQ.” Raymond Choo
“As a recent resident and citizen of Australia I´ve come to realise how patriotic and proud Australians are. Australia Day, a public holiday, is a day of celebration as they remember the first landing by Captain Cook in 1788 and the birth of their nation. It´s a day for friends and family to get together - BBQ´s, beach parties etc - typical Aussie pursuits but with much evidence of the Australian flag. Shops are awash with towels, plates, stickers etc in the colours/design of the flag.
I would normally be going to my brother-in-law´s to enjoy a family BBQ at a Queensland beach, on the east coast of Australia but will be on holiday, staying at a resort on Moreton Island, which is in the bay off Brisbane. I imagine that there will be some sort of organised entertainment - beach games etc.” Sue Stephenson
“Well, me, my husband and daughter have our citizenship ceremony this Australia Day. We will be taking the Pledge of Allegiance to Australia and claiming proudly our dual citizenship status. We will be presented with a native tree each to plant in our back garden (back yard in Aussie speak) and will share a light lunch with the local mayor and our invited guests.
It will be the culmination of a huge amount of hard work and determination started many years ago and not so far akin to obtaining an OU degree! We´ve had lots of hurdles to overcome to get to this point in our lives.
So Australia Day this year means a celebration of a huge amount of hard work and determination paying off! Again not unlike my OU Degree I now have much more freedom to choose how I want to live my life. Working as a Family Counsellor (only possible because of my degree) for Lifeline Queensland in a country I love, happy in the knowledge I am free to stay and free to leave whenever I choose. I have the right to vote now and my daughter´s university career will be cheaper and more affordable with the status of Australian citizen! Securing her future for her when she is ready to embark on her own degree.” Julie Godlement
To read a blog about Australia Day from the OU’s resident Aussie, Head of Media Relations Jane Dillon, click here.
Lots of OU alumni are based overseas. On today, Australia Day (26 January), we asked those of you who are based Down Under what this day means to you. Here’s a selection of their comments: “Myself and my family have lived in Australia (Brisbane) for nearly six years, we came here primarily for lifestyle reasons (read: escape the English weather and get ...
During the last century, Britain has lost 98 per cent of its floodplain meadows through land development, changes in rainfall patterns and pollution. And what’s left of it is at risk from our changing environment.
Thanks to an initial contribution of £50,000 from the Garfield Weston Foundation, a new project means that work has begun on monitoring the meadows and sharing management information to ensure conservation managers follow best practice.
The project, which is also supported by £126,999 from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation towards a project officer, brings together and impressive team: the OU, the Environmental Agency, Natural England, The Grasslands Trust, the Field Studies Council, The Wildlife Trusts and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
We’re delighted to announce that we have received a grant from the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund to model the soil water regime of floodplain meadows in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire. The grant is worth £22,860, and is to investigate the relationship between the water level in the Rivers Thames and Churn and that in the adjacent fields.
The proposed soil water regime project aims to understand the relationship between the soil hydrology at two floodplain meadows sites and the sand and gravel extraction from the nearby quarries. These two sites are designated Special Areas of Conservation in recognition of the international importance of their vegetation.
To get the best out of the research the team would like to extend the survey for ten years. In 2009 a further £50,000 of funding is needed.
For further information on how you could help fund this project, please contact the Development Office on +44 (0) 1908 659556 or visit www.open.ac.uk/fundraising for further details.
During the last century, Britain has lost 98 per cent of its floodplain meadows through land development, changes in rainfall patterns and pollution. And what’s left of it is at risk from our changing environment. Thanks to an initial contribution of £50,000 from the Garfield Weston Foundation, a new project means that work has begun on monitoring ...
TV weather presenter and OU graduate Trai Anfield is setting the bar high for any of us contemplating the usual ‘new year new start’ over the next few weeks.
For Trai is hanging up her microphone to head off on a six-month odyssey, in search of what she’s terming ‘the seven relaxing wonders of the world’.
Behind the imaginative round-the-world trip is Trai’s personal battle with ME – the debilitating illness affecting sufferers’ nervous and immune system.
It was while she was still confined to bed with ME that Trai began studying with the OU. She recalls: “I was determined to get better and to eventually turn these "wasted" ME years into productive and successful ones. I thought if I could just make some small investment in my future then I might actually have one.
“The OU were really supportive both financially and with tutoring, and flexible in terms of time. Some days I felt so ill I couldn´t even sit up in bed, but I would talk into a dictaphone and write up the notes and assignments a few days later when I could get up again. This was what kept me going during the worst times, and I hated years when I had to put it on hold. I´m not ashamed to say that, studying part-time, it took me 15 years to finally gain a first class honours degree - with 8 gap years! Graduating in 2007 was one of my proudest moments."
Trai’s OU degree in environmental science led to a job as a Met office forecaster – though she’d been medically advised she would never work full-time again – and from there to BBC Look North where she’s become a well-known face on the region’s weather broadcasts.
The idea for a six month sabbatical grew from Trai’s involvement with charities raising awareness of – and funds for – ME research but in selecting her ´seven relaxing wonders of the world´ she´s clearly been influenced by her passion for the environment.
The odyssey begins with a visit to an Ayurvedic spa in Sir Lanka: “This challenge represents stopping the backward slide of health and making it our number one priority to get better. Our aim in
With companion Chris, who also has ME, she continues on to mud pools in New Zealand, and from there to Australia where the duo aim to cuddle koalas. “This challenge represents the TLC we all need along the way”.
A visit to the glaciers of South America will represent the isolation many ME sufferers feel, according to Trai, and from there, to the
Says Trai: "This is driest place on Earth and consequently with some of the clearest skies. Here we plan to lie down a lot, look up at the stars and dream of life still to come... This challenge represents the hopes and aspirations that are so important to retain when you have ME - will ours have changed because of our trip? will the secrets of the universe reveal themselves? or will we just get stiff necks and cactus prickles in our bums?
TV weather presenter and OU graduate Trai Anfield is setting the bar high for any of us contemplating the usual ‘new year new start’ over the next few weeks. For Trai is hanging up her microphone to head off on a six-month odyssey, in search of what she’s terming ‘the seven relaxing wonders of the world’. Behind the imaginative ...
Some smile, some wave – and some, apparently, moonwalk!
At least that’s how comedian Lenny Henry recalls the moment he crossed the Barbican stage at his OU degree ceremony in 2007.
Speaking to Reader’s Digest (January 2009) about his love affair with learning Lenny revealed that despite his years as a performer he was as stage-struck as any new graduate when he crossed the stage to be congratulated by OU Chancellor Lord David Puttnam and honorary graduate, Ray Mears.
“I noticed that some of the graduates were performing a little celebratory jig as they received their award…Being a professional, I vowed that I would be different. I said to myself: ‘it’s just a scroll Len – it’s not the Nobel peace prize; just go up there, get your degree and walk off with no fuss. Dignity at all times’.
“…I walked up on to the stage – and my memory comes and goes after this point. I’ve got a memory of looking out at the crowd once I’m up there – and there’s a big cheer when they realise it’s me. I remember seeing my wife, family and friends waving at me – this is where it all gets hazy. I think I may have moonwalked and I might have knuckled Ray Mears’s hair.”
Lenny took six years to achieve his OU degree, having left school in the 1970s after CSEs.
Some smile, some wave – and some, apparently, moonwalk! At least that’s how comedian Lenny Henry recalls the moment he crossed the Barbican stage at his OU degree ceremony in 2007. Speaking to Reader’s Digest (January 2009) about his love affair with learning Lenny revealed that despite his years as a performer he was as stage-struck as any ...
Hi Everyone - I graduated from the OU in 1987 (Maths & Science) and am now very happily retired. Now that I have more time I can pursue all of the things that interest me, e.g. Astronomy(I have done several OU and Jodrell bank courses), fishing, keeping fit etc. However I have recently been studying and have become facinated with history of the earth and fossils. Does anyone out there share this interest and could you direct me to the best "sites" in the NE of england? Many thanks
Hi Everyone - I graduated from the OU in 1987 (Maths & Science) and am now very happily retired. Now that I have more time I can pursue all of the things that interest me, e.g. Astronomy(I have done several OU and Jodrell bank courses), fishing, keeping fit etc. However I have recently been studying and have become facinated with history of the earth and fossils. Does anyone out there ...