The Best Student Life. Bristol SU

Past Talks

Talks from 2017/18

Richard Fortey: 'My Trilobites and other animals'

Richard Fortey tells of the adventures and misadventures he experienced during his working life at The Natural History Museum, as he travelled the world in search of long-extinct trilobites. His books and television series draw on a long life as a naturalist and palaeontologist.

Richard Fortey joined us on November 10th to deliver his Richmond Lecture.


Jennifer Saul: Dogwhistles and Figleaves

Dogwhistles and Figleaves: Techniques of Racist Linguistic Manipulation

Until recently, it was widely believed that explicit expressions of racism would doom a political candidacy in the United States. Yet nonetheless racism was a frequently used tool that won many elections. This talk examines one of the methods, the dogwhistle, that allowed such racist electoral victories. It then turns to the present day, in which explicit racism is proving remarkably successful. Here I explore a different linguistic technique, the fig leaf, which I take to have enabled this success.

Jennifer joined us on the 8th of December to deliver her Richmond Lecture.

David Nutt: Why we should put science at the centre of UK drug policies

David Nutt joined us on 25 January to present his Richmond Lecture entitled “Why we should put science – not nonsense– at the heart of UK drug and alcohol policies."

His talk explores the negative impacts of current UK and international drug policies on people, on health, on society and on research. He explains how illegal drug laws are the worst censorship of research in history and how they must be changed for the good of us all.

Stuart Milk: Global LGBT+ Rights and the Power of Your Story

Stuart Milk joined us on February the 22nd to deliver his Richmond Lectur "Global LGBT+ Rights and the Power of Your Story.”

Stuart is an international human rights activist and youth advocate. He is the co-founder and Executive Chair of the Harvey Milk Foundation. As the nephew of the iconic civil rights leader Harvey Milk, Stuart has taken his uncle's message of courage and authenticity to the global stage. As a passionate advocate of civil rights Stuart has supported local, regional and national human rights in over sixty nations on six continents.

Talks from 2016/17

Will Dean: Founder of 'Tough Mudder'

Will Dean left Harvard Business School with two things: confusion as to why it's called a business school, when most of the class wanted to work in Finance; and an idea for an event that had not made it past the semi-final stage of the business plan competition.

7 years later, Tough Mudder has grown into a brand which has over 2.5M participants, its own TV show and 4000 people with the logo tattooed on their body.

Will Dean, the Founder and CEO of Tough Mudder and University of Bristol alumnus tells the story of how a stuck wetsuit zip led to a $100M business, and what lessons he learned along the way.

Will joined us on the 31st of January 2017 to deliver his Richmond Lecture.



Walter Kammerling: Holocaust Survivor

Walter Kammerling was born in 1923 in Vienna. He was 14 when Nazi Germany occupied Austria in 1938.

The 9th-10th November 1938 saw Jewish synagogues, shops, businesses and homes brutally and violently attacked across Germany and Austria.

Walter’s parents decided to send him to Britain, leaving two of his sisters behind due to the age restrictions for children being allowed on the “Kinderstransport”. A year later his eldest sister was able to join him in the UK on a work permit, leaving his remaining sister to eventually be sent to Auschwitz along with his mother and father.

On arriving in Britain Walter was sent to a camp for refugee children at Dovercourt in Essex. This is his story.

Walter joined us on the 6th of February 2017 to deliver his Richmond Lecture.

Lord Nicholas Phillips: Former President of the Supreme Court

Lord Nicholas Phillips, British lawyer and former President of the Supreme Court, came to Bristol to give a Richmond Lecture on his experiences of a career that spans over 35 years.

He will used his own experiences as a framework for explaining the separation of powers, the growth of judicial review, the Human Rights Act, the creation of the Supreme Court and its role, culminating in the Brexit decision.

Nicholas joined us on the 3rd of March to deliver his Richmond Lecture.

Hilary Benn MP: MP for Leeds Central

In a fast-changing world in which voters are looking for more control and certainty, how can we find the right balance between this strong political force and the continuing need for international co-operation.

In this lecture, the Rt Hon Hilary Benn reflected on this new global challenge.

Hilary joined us on the 16th of March to deliver his Richmond Lecture.

Intermission Bristol

Sir Roger Scruton

What is the real curriculum of the university, and how are the humanities to be taught, in an age that is suspicious of all forms of learning other than the hard sciences?

Eminent writer and philosopher, Prof Sir Roger Scruton has for over three decades taught at institutions on both sides of the Atlantic including Birkbeck College, Boston University, and more recently, the University of Buckingham. He is an author of over forty books. In his work as a philosopher he has specialized in aesthetics with particular attention to music and architecture. He has written several works of fiction, as well as memoirs and essays on topics of general interest. He engages in contemporary political and cultural debates from the standpoint of a conservative thinker and is well known as a powerful polemicist. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the British Academy. He has been officially honoured by the Czech Republic, by the City of Plzen and by Virginia’s General Assembly and was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Roger joined us on the 26th of April to deliver his Richmond Lecture.


Dame Carol Black

Dame Carol Black is Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge, and from 2006 to 2016, advised the British Government on the relationship between work and health, the primary focus for her Richmond Lecture.

The evidence is consistent and fairly strong that work – as long as it is ‘good work’ – benefits physical health, mental health and overall wellbeing. That is no less the case for most people who are not wholly well or fit. Indeed most people with long term health conditions do in fact work. And it is certainly true that good work can enable people to live lives that are fulfilling personally, socially and economically – helping to ensure their sense of wellbeing.

Unfortunately for some people there is no prospect of a normal free working life; they must be supported to live in the fullest possible state of wellbeing that a humane and caring society can provide.

Put plainly an important societal goal is to minimise and remedy the personal, social and economic costs of impaired health and well-being in relation to work and working life. There are social and economic imperatives to ensure that the links between health and work and work and health are recognised by all, with a need to avert the consequences of ill-health.

For almost 31 million adults in the UK around a quarter of their wakeful time each week is spent in employment, where they are subject to the workplace environment. Besides occupational health support this offers a major opportunity for health improvement. We should grasp this.

Carol joined us on the 27th of April to deliver her Richmond Lecture.

Michaela Hollywood

This talk by Michaela Hollywood explored why, from birth to death, disability rights are important for all of society, and the positive impact they have. She explained their importance to everything from navigating the education system and going on holiday, to everyday life with a disability. It will also covered campaigns such as the Muscular Dystrophy UK Trailblazers campaigning group and how groups like these are essential to creating a better society.

Michaela Hollywood is a Campaigns Officer for the Muscular Dystrophy UK's Trailblazers. Since she was 16, she's worked hard to advance Rights for disabled people, and in 2015 was awarded a Points of Light Award by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and was named by the BBC on their 100 Women list - a list of 100 of the most inspirational women in the world.

Michaela was born deaf, and advocates for the inclusion of Sign Language in the national curriculum as she feels marginalised from the deaf community because she never learnt to sign. She was also born with spinal muscular atrophy type 2, a muscle-wasting condition which she describes as meaning she relies on others for everything but expressing and using her mind.

Michaela joined us on the 3rd of May to deliver her Richmond Lecture.

Talks from 2015/16

George 'Jonny' Johnson: The last Dambuster

On 16 May 1943, an RAF squadron of 133 men dodged anti-aircraft fire, power cables and mountainous terrain to drop a number of four-tonne skipping bomb on dams in the Ruhr Valley.

Eight of the 19 planes were lost, 53 men died and three were captured.

The story of the dambusters is one of the most famous of World War II, and was even made into a popular film in 1955.

Jonny joined us on the 16th of February 2016 to deliver his Richmond Lecture.



Wendy Darke: Head of Natural History at the BBC

The mission of BBC Natural History is to build relationships between people all around the globe and the natural world. To make people see the value in nature conservation. The genius of Sir David Attenborough is to take scientific data and analysis and get the public to by into his story. This is the theme of Wendy Darke's lecture.

Wendy Darke, Head of the BBC Natural History Unit, will be explaining how the NHU tells its stories through 6 never seen before clips from the BBC archive. BBC Natural History is the most successful of all of the services offered by the BBC. They are, quite simply, the pre-eminent producers of Natural History documentaries in the world.

Wendy joined us on the 8th of March 2016 to deliver her Richmond Lecture.


Prof. alice roberts: anatomist and broadcaster

Alice Roberts is a clinical anatomist and Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham. 

She is also a broadcaster and has presented several landmark BBC science series including The Incredible Human Journey, Origins of Us, Prehistoric Autopsy and Ice Age Giants. 

She has also presented several Horizon programmes, on BBC2, and Wild Swimming, on BBC4. She occasionally presents Inside Science on Radio 4. She writes a regular science column for The Observer, and has authored five popular science books. 

Alice joined us on the 17th of March 2016 to deliver her Richmond Lecture.

Shami Chakrabarti: Director of liberty

This millennium has been dominated with a presence of terrorism. Reacting to this fear, governments around the world have been forced to balance national security with the freedoms of their citizens. Terrorism is something that, in a very real way, affects each one of us in our every day lives. It is this theme that Shami will be exploring.

Shami Chakrabarti is the former Director of Liberty: an organisation that dedicates itself to the protection of civil liberties and the promotion of human rights. If any of us looks around the political world at the moment, with the conflict in Syria, the aftermath of the attacks in Paris on Europe and an increasingly destabilised world, due to terror or the fear of terror, it could not be more appropriate to speak on the impact of terrorism on our society and democracy. 

Shami joined us on the 13th April 2016 to deliver her Richmond Lecture. 


Mark Goldring: CEO of UK Oxfam

Oxfam is perhaps the most famous global charity in the world tackling global poverty today. Through running charity shops to facilitating sponsored water pumps Oxfam's mission remains to find new solutions to tackling poverty and inequality.

Since its founding in 1942 Oxfam has grown to consist of 17 organizations working in countries around the globe. Despite its global profile, Oxfam was founded in Oxford where its global HQ remains to this day. Mark Goldring has the responsibility for the running of the oldest of the organisations - Oxfam GB. 

Oxfam GB is considered to be one of the top employers in the UK with 5,955 people employed by them around the world in 2008. Mark became their chief executive in 2013 and is tasked with bringing the problems faced by the world's poorest to the attention of governments and businesses, lobbying them to tackle global poverty. 

Mark joined us on the 19th of April 2016 to deliver his Richmond Lecture. 


Bob Marshall-Andrews: QC and Former MP

This was a fantastic opportunity to listen to Bob Marshall-Andrews QC, a practising barrister and Bristol alumnus, who was called to the Bar in 1970 and took silk in 1987.

Bob also joined the Labour party in 1971 and has served as an MP alongside developing a distinguished reputation at the Bar. Bob will be bringing together the two dominant themes of his working life in his lecture - politics and the law.

Such a title is not surprising for Bob who throughout his career has always identified closely with the libertarian wing of the Labour Party.

Bob’s presence and his ability to “command the attention of the jury” meant that this lecture really was one of the highlights of the 2016 Richmond Lectures.

Bob joined us on the 4th of May 2016 to deliver his Richmond Lecture.

Prof. Marcus Du Sautoy OBE: Author

Marcus is Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford. He is known for his work popularising mathematics. He has been named by The Independent on Sunday as one of the UK's leading scientists. In 2001 he won the Berwick Prize of the London Mathematical Society, which is awarded every two years to reward the best mathematical research by a mathematician under forty. 

He has also written numerous academic articles and books on mathematics. 

Marcus joined us on the 9th of May 2016 to deliver his Richmond Lecture.

The Baroness Hale of Richmond

The University of Bristol's outgoing Chancellor, The Right Honourable The Baroness Hale of Richmond, made her final official engagement in her 12-year tenure.

This fascinating first-hand account touched on Lady Hale's rise to eminence, her life as the first and only female judge of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, and of course her experiences as our University's Chancellor.

Lady Hale joined us on the 2nd of December 2016 to deliver her Richmond Lecture.