Celebrations head to Sydney
Alumni couple Julian Russell and Mitou Pajaczowska (both EURO 1976) held a party at their home in March to celebrate the University's anniversary. Here, Julian reports on the evening:
So, on a clear balmy night just before Easter we had the pleasure of receiving 40-odd complete strangers into our cosy inner-city home. The Sydney Diaspora celebrations for the University’s 50th anniversary began and it was a wonderful success. 26 alumni plus partners and kids trooped in to be welcomed by Mitou and myself (one of the oldest living Sussex couples) and offered vast amounts of traditional British fare – curry and Heineken.
It all began 2 months earlier when I was talking to my friend Hilary Tupling who said 'My daughter Zoe is in England and she’s just finished her PhD', to which I asked 'Which university?' She replied 'Sussex', and I said 'I went to Sussex!', and she said 'So did I!' It took 20 years of friendship to discover this, so Sussex was in the air when the suggestion to host an anniversary event turned up. And Sydney, with about 80 alumni, turns out to be one of the least active alumni groups ever, so I put up my hand and dispatched an open house offer into the miracle of the interweb. Best thing I have done for years.
It was a very mixed group who responded – students from the very first years who recall Cream and Jimi Hendrix in the Refrectory to Zoe and her PhD who had landed back in Sydney only a few weeks earlier. There were serious academics, radicals who orchestrated sit-ins and those who just partied hard. Most of us had somehow migrated to Australia but we also had Australians who went to Sussex to complete their postgraduate studies.
Sussex always had a very distinct character that set it apart from other institutions, and although fate and fortune has dispersed us all into very different directions, this formative experience has proved to be a powerful bond over the decades. Benedict Brook, who graduated a decade ago, penned his thoughts:
The night is slightly foggy but I remember the guy who was there so long ago the Arts A lecture theatres had yet to go up and they are now heritage listed. Then there was the woman who had just finished her MA a year ago and the reason she was at the party was because her parents had also been to Sussex. And I can't forget the guy who came with a Brighton Rocks t-shirt filled with images reminiscent of the town from pieces of rock to Quadrophenia.
It was an interesting experience to have so many people linked geographically and academically to a place many thousands of miles away and many years apart. We all mooched around Falmer Bar or found ourselves atop East Slope probably with many of the same things on our mind – from coursework to clubbing – but there were decades between us. And somehow, we all found ourselves in this alien but oddly homely place on a barren rock in the South Pacific.
Memories flowed, conversation gushed, no one passed out and I finally handed out the Sussex showbags brimming with Brighton rock and requests for bequests (yep – zimmer frame territory around the corner for me). A short speech of thanks and all too soon the night was over.
To anyone in other far-flung parts of the world thinking of hosting an event, I can only say 'do it'. I have no idea what it all meant, but it was brilliant.