Should it seem too ambitious, we can soar lower,
but I believe a bold flight to be the safest
and the better
- CHARLES THORP,
A CONTINUATION OF THE POSTGRADUATE & CASTLE MCR COMMUNITY
BEYOND THE MAURICE TUCKER ROOM
HELLO & WELCOME!
After years of devoting our time to the Castle Middle Common Room (MCR), we have been passionate about sparking life back into the longstanding group on the fringes of Middle Common Room. You may have never heard of 'Thorp Club' and that is exactly why a fresh lick of paint was needed!
Thorp Society or ‘Thorp’ is a postgraduate focused alumni association in University College, Durham University. Our operations, communications and events aim to improve and ensure ongoing community for all generations of our postgraduate alumni and former Castle Middle Common Room (MCR) members.
Please keep an eye out for updates from the Thorp Society team which will be featured in University College alumni emails.
Please drop us an email at any point if you have any questions or want to get involved! We welcome thoughts and ideas so we would be delighted to hear from you!
Rachael Rhoades & Sophie Draper
1) WHAT IS THORP SOCIETY?
Thorp Society or “Thorp” aims to become an extension of your time spent in Castle MCR: an alumni society which will be open to all former members of the Castle MCR and University College Postgraduate community. Thorp Society was formerly known as ‘Thorp Club’ until its reformation in 2022. Thorp now represents a continuing sense of community created by and felt within Castle MCR via a variety of traditional and not-so-traditional events at Castle and beyond. Crafting new memories, supporting with careers and networking, and rekindling old friendships are some of our core goals.
...AND WHAT IS THE SOCIETY HISTORY
Thorp Club benefitted select members of the Castle Postgraduate community and provided good networking opportunities. However, its structure prevented it from being open and accessible to all members of the Castle Postgraduate community. Additionally, Thorp Club's function of thanking enthusiastic members of the community was already covered in some part by College Colours. So Thorp Club was only accessed by a relatively small group of Castle MCR students and alumni (it might be why this is the first time you have heard of it).
In late 2019, the purpose of Thorp Club and how it was funded was discussed by the Castle MCR Executive Committee (Exec). The Exec started to consider ways of reforming the Club to make it more accessible and transparent. Unfortunately, discussions and potential for reformation were halted by the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
After a dormant period, Vicky Fawcett took over as President in 2021, with Dean Slack as Steward, who worked with former Internal-Affairs Officer Anton Ivan-Botha to carve out a future for the club which was more inclusive and with greater reach. So 'Thorp Club' was renamed to 'Thorp-Powers Society' as to recognise positive change within University College and its Principal Wendy Powers, also the first woman as College Principal. The purpose of the Society in this iteration was to bring together current and past Castle MCR members to critically engage on timely issues. A highlight event included 'In Conversation with Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell' (world renowned Astrophysicist) who was invited to speak at the Castle in March 2022.
In Summer 2022, Vicky asked Sophie Draper to replace her on the committee. Working as Co-Presidents with the support of Vicky, Dean and Sophie re-examined the Society once more to put a stronger focus on alumni and providing lasting community. With Wendy's blessing, the name was shortened to 'Thorp Society' and Rachael Rhoades joined the committee to support a thoughtful restructure.
Thorp Club was founded in 1960 by a group of postgraduate students wanting to differentiate themselves from the Junior Common Room. Therefore, Thorp Club is believed to be the precursor of the Castle Middle Common Room. Following this time, the history is not entirely clear, although 2010 has been pinpointed as a year that 'Thorp Club' may have been sparked back into life.
Thorp Club's former function was to host termly gowned formal dinners to acknowledge the achievements and contributions of active members of the Castle MCR community and College staff. Once a Castle MCR Member was invited to join Thorp Club, they were a life member who could come back to future meals. The Society was not openly advertised, being structured similar to 'Van Mildert Clubs' (which can be found in a number of other common rooms in Durham University colleges). Thorp Club had a President and a Steward, roles often passed down to former Castle MCR Presidents.
Extract on the founding of The Thorp Club in Issue 13 of Castellum magazine (1960)
If you know anything about our founding or history, please get in touch!
Unfortunately, there is a lack of records and documented history which has been passed along about groups and Societies within Castle MCR. So we are hope our alumni can help us learn more about our past!
2) WHAT MIGHT AN AVERAGE YEAR IN
'THORP' LOOK LIKE?
Honest answer, we aren’t quite sure yet! We have not wanted to rush the relaunch of this long established Society and setting things in stone early-on is something we are avoiding. We aim to trial various events and opportunities in differing locations to engage the breadth of postgraduate alumni over generations. We must also work around the Castle works in 2023 and beyond which may limit possibilities in the Castle particularly. Although, facilitating differing events is our priority but that's not all we have in store!
We hope that this may give you an idea of key events for an average year:
January: Supporting Winter Graduation Celebration
March/April: Postgraduate Re-union in Durham with event in Castle
May/June: London event
June-July: Summer Supporting Summer Graduation Celebration
August: Castle event and networking for outgoing postgraduate students
September: Castle Society Re-union Weekend with Postgraduate alumni specific opportunities
December: Christmas event in Castle or other North East location
3) WHAT EVENTS WILL THORP SOCIETY PUT ON?
We will use our event planning experience to host weekend events (daytime and night time activities) on occasions distributed throughout the calendar year which we hope will provide something fresh but with a generous pinch of Castle MCR nostalgia!
We aim for these events to advertised with ample notice and at minimum of two-months notice. It is important we plan events and networking opportunities that can be enjoyed by everyone in our diverse alumni community, so balance in event types is very important to us.
Historically, Thorp Club hosted small-scale dinners with formal attire dress codes in addition to offering of wine (or port) with cheese and biscuits. These events were incredibly popular so we hope to plan some events which inspired by our roots that have this more traditional experience.
Food orientated events such as high tea are highly requested year on year, as are picnics by the River Wear and BBQs in the Castle grounds in summer months.
Talks, workshops and panels on engaging topics or with a careers focus will arranged too. It is important to alumni that there is diversity in these and there is not just academic an focus. Keep an eye out for an announcement of a December 2023 event in Castle of this nature...
In general, we have been building an extensive list of exciting London and North-East venues to make future experiences truly memorable! So tours and experiences are also on the cards.
Do let us know if you have any ideas or have contacts in hospitality or venues!
We welcome suggestions!
4) IS THERE A MEMBERSHIP FEE?
CAN I BECOME A MEMBER?
There is no sign-up or membership fee for Thorp Society at this time. Although a number of events will require sign-up and some may have a ticket cost. We operate on the same basis as Castle Society where events and opportunities are accessible to all University College alumni, as well as current students in the college. Although we have a focus on the Castle Postgraduate experience and Castle MCR community feel, there is no requirement for those engaging with Thorp Society to be a current or former member of Castle MCR!
5) HOW WILL THORP SOCIETY EVENTS BE FUNDED?
Thorp Society will receive funding to support its running costs from Castle Society and the University College Alumni Relations & Development Officer. Funding for events will be permitted on a case by case basis and so some events will be run at cost price. Thorp Society has a limited amount in reserves in the Castle MCR bank account from an early Castle Society donation from 2022.
6) I'M A CASTLE MCR MEMBER, DOES MY CASTLE MCR ORDINARY MEMBERSHIP FEE FUND OR SUPPORT THE SOCIETY?
No, Thorp Society currently receives no funding from Castle MCR levies/membership fees. However, Thorp Society can accept funding from Castle MCR if deemed that it will benefit the wider Castle postgraduate community and current alumni relations with the common room. It is important to us that financing from Castle MCR is not assumed, automatic or privately arranged. So any funding will be at the discretion of the Castle MCR Executive Committee or agreement from a majority vote method, or equivalent, from members of the common room.
7) WHAT IS THE DEMAND FOR A CASTLE MCR SPECIFIC ALUMNI SOCIETY?
Rather large! Many alumni who are former members of the common room (going back years and years) have been asking for opportunities to:
Relive Castle MCR inspired events
Come back to see the Castle
Hang out in the Maurice Tucker Room and hear about updates to the space
Meet and network with postgraduate alumni from different generations
Get to know University College Postgraduate alumni who are in their area of work
Learn the latest from Castle MCR and its political affairs
Give back to current postgraduate students in the college through financing or mentoring
Reunite with old friends and committee members!
Currently, there is no scope for Castle MCR to accommodate alumni as they are required to serve and focus on their current membership. So this is where we come in!
8) WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO DURHAM CASTLE SOCIETY (UNIVERSITY COLLEGE ALUMNI SOCIETY)
Thorp Committee have been having frequent meetings and exciting discussions with the University College Alumni and Development Manager and other college staff since Autumn 2022 and we have a good working relationship. It was important to us and to Castle MCR membership that we partner with Castle Society to ensure strong and mutually beneficial collaboration for all parties. We are working alongside Castle Society committee members who are enthusiastic about our history and future; our commitment and ideas we have for improving postgraduate alumni relations in the college has been commended.
Thorp Society does not exist to replace Castle Society opportunities; Castle MCR and postgraduate alumni will be welcome to participate in any combination of Castle Society and Thorp Society specific events and opportunities! Working together is important to create the best opportunities specifically tailored to postgraduate alumni. From now onwards, we will have features in Castellum (Durham Castle Society's official magazine) so look out for us in the 2023 issue! Furthermore, Thorp Society are seeking permanent, or ex-officio, positions on the Castle Society Committee, which we hope will be ratified in an upcoming 2023 AGM.
9) WHY THORP SOCIETY WHEN WE HAVE CASTLE SOCIETY?
Durham Castle Society coordinates the annual alumni reunion, oversees the production of Castellum, the University College alumni magazine, and supports current students by distributing grants to clubs and societies. It is a huge asset to the college! Nevertheless, for many years, the society has had limited reach and primarily serves select groups of University College alumni. Thorp Society has a focused purpose which will facilitate alumni events, opportunities and and communications specific to those who have been a part of Castle MCR.
Thorp Society has the knowledge to facilitate community and events for former Castle Postgraduates and members of Castle MCR because Thorp Committee are themselves the alumni! We are passionate about the community and have the experience in running the events that alumni want to experience once again!
We want to provide reassurance that Thorp Society is not replacing or restricting alumni access to Castle Society for postgraduate alumni in any way. We are providing additional services and focused opportunities which only add to Castle Society and the reach of University College alumni activities. Castle MCR and postgraduate alumni will be welcome to participate in any combination of Castle Society and Thorp Society specific events and opportunities! Working together is important to create the best opportunities specifically tailored to postgraduate alumni and Thorp Society are seeking permanent positions on the Castle Society Committee, which we hope will be ratified in an upcoming 2023 AGM. Even with this mutual collaboration, Thorp Society will still remain autonomous in a number of ways so that the Thorp organising committee can maximise creativity and efficiency in executing operations and unique plans.
10) WILL THERE BE THORP COMMITTEE ELECTIONS?
Thorp Society does not have plans to use an election process to fill its committee. Instead, we are implementing a fair and accountable application process to ensure the organising committee of Thorp Society (Thorp Committee) always features a committed team who work effectively as a group, whilst progressing the society in a positive and inclusive direction. It is important we keep momentum in the society and it is requested that committee members serve a term of 9-months of minimum duration.
Additionally, we want to ensure that there are external stakeholders who can ensure that Thorp Society is being managed effectively and ethically, meaning there are powers to remove and replace Thorp Committee members. We meet with the Alumni Relations Co-ordinator in College Office at least once per month and stay in contact frequently to ensure continued collaboration with the college.
Castle MCR Ordinary Members may raise concerns regarding the management of Thorp Society to the Castle MCR Internal Affairs Officer and/or directly to the University College Alumni and Development Manager, or in absence of these roles, the Castle MCR Convenor (University College Principal). For instance, in the case of negligence.
11) CAN I JOIN THORP COMMITTEE?
We are about to expand our committee and we will be announcing Thorp Society Committee applications very soon with full details we will announce by email and through Castle social media platforms. Expected in late Spring/early Summer of 2023.
We are excited to grow and hope you might consider joining the committee of this exciting relaunched society!
GOT FURTHER QUESTIONS?
DROP SOPHIE & RACHAEL A LINE AT:
Last updated: 01/06/23
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