Back on planet earth after a week fighting the predictable post-show blues and a quick trip into University as thoughts begin to turn towards September and the start of a new academic year. It's been drizzly for most of the week and as if to confirm that Autumn is in the air Richmond Theatre sent out an email confirming the panto casting - Brian Blessed and Tim Vine. Might have to rush to squeeze a holiday in before the troops arrive.
I had a brief catch up with Siobhan, now firmly ensconced in her impressive presidential office and busy with preparations for freshers week. She seemed to have settled in well and is already looking for ways make her mark.
The first thing she's had negotiate is the papal visit - which for all the prestige is causing some problems - not least in that the rugby pitch is going to be used as a car park on the day. The potential churn up could mean no home fixtures until February. Relocating the matches has become a huge headache.
We talked a bit about broadening the appeal of the Union. 24% of students voted at the election - a high turnout in proportion to most other institutions - but still leaving 76% not really engaged. Siobhan is keen to look at welfare and campaigns as a way of reaching out. It seems a marked difference with the 'let them come to us' attitude of previous administrations. The bar and cheap drink offers will always take care of themselves, but a new principal coming in may offer a chance to look more intelligently at student services, accommodation, support and health advice (occasionally compromised by our Catholic mission.)
The last couple of years have seen the Union create it's own media outlets smuc radio and a newspaper both, if unshackled, give the possibility of a more distinct student centred voice coming through. Again it'll take brave leadership to promote.
It's also possible that a more diverse range of societies may politicise some of the activities - already a Lesbian and Gay society has been proposed and it'd be exciting to see other lobbies form to provide momentum for a diverse an empathetic campus. I hope under Siobhan the Union can become a genuine and serious voice looking to make progress, rather than a shrugging victim content with a sports club culture. She's making a start. .
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.