UoR inspires new novelist

Meet alumna Linda Trafford, who owes her recent success as a published author to her days in the Classics Department at Reading.

lj-traffordI can safely say that it was my time at Reading University that led me to becoming a writer of historical fiction.

I was perhaps an unlikely candidate for an ancient history degree. I’d never studied Latin nor Greek and I didn’t possess a GCSE in History, let alone an A Level.

But what I did have was a passion, some might say obsession, with ancient Rome. I suspect it was my devotion to the emperor Augustus, an explanation of which filled most of my personal statement, that landed me my place at Reading University.

The Classics department at Reading in the mid-90s was peopled by lecturers who seemed barely older than me, the likes of Ray Laurence, Maria Wyke, Edith Hall and Tim Duff. Certainly not the tweed covered, fusty old professors I had been led to believe haunted faculty buildings randomly quoting Virgil. .

University is a time to widen one’s horizons so I deigned to take odd module on ancient Greece. But my love was always for those Romans. Of all the modules I took during my degree the one tPalatine 2015hat sticks most in my memory is The Roman Life Cycle. This was a course that looked beyond dates and events, beyond emperors and generals. Here the emphasis was on the thinking of the average ancient roman; what their views were on their own bodies, on birth, on the gods, on reaching adulthood, on children. This truly opened my eyes to the ancient experience beyond the palaces and battles that had consumed me previously.

Studying ancient history at Reading was invaluable to my writing.  It taught me how to evaluate sources, weighing up their worth and credibility before the novelist in me decides; ‘blow it, it’s just too good a story not to use!’

Linda’s first novel Palatine, a dramatic account of the final days of Nero, was published in June. Volumes II, III & IV of the Four Emperors series are to follow.




The Privilege and the Pain

Meet motivational speaker Grace Quantock, who struggled with health problems at Reading but, with our support, refused to let that stop her from becoming the successful woman she is today.

Grace Quantock HeadshotI loved Reading so much, I stayed an extra year.

Well, that’s not quite true, but I did study for four years rather than three and would have stayed longer if I could.

I had dreamed of going to university since I was very small. I even have a drawing I did when I was five years old planning out my university dorm room. Where I would have my desk, my books, my beloved time to dive into subjects I loved among world-class professors. I had a plan, and I worked to achieve it. Arriving at Reading was the culmination of all those dreams and determination.

My experience of Reading was of a privileged yet painful time. I was studying a subject I loved (I read History, with an emphasis on medieval women’s history and the working lives of women in Reading in the medieval period). I had the best tutors, an amazing library and access to a sensational records office for research. But it was also a time of becoming increasingly ill, lessening independence and rising pain.
However the staff were wonderful; things were adapted; I felt accepted and together we navigated to make it possible to achieve my degree, a BA Hons. In this way, I was able to keep my identity, to achieve something so long dreamed of it had, in its own way, become a part of me.

Students recorded lectures for me when I was too ill to come to campus.

Staff got books from the library for me when I couldn’t stand to reach the shelves.

A tutor brought a camp bed into the exam room for me so I could take my finals, even when very ill.

I couldn’t have asked for a better support team.

My favourite thing about Reading was the classes, (and the cereal cafe!). I loved working on my dissertation on the life cycle of women in business in medieval Reading. I also enjoyed Reading town itself, the social centre, the food coop, Cafe Iguana and Angan.

By the end of my degree I was nearly housebound. I lived for letters that connected me with the outside I could only just remember, that gave me something to focus on and hope for. I made up Healing Boxes – gifts of information, support and healing goodies for friends and family. I tried to buy healing gift boxes for friends and found none in the UK, so I just continued to make my own and more and more people requested them. After a cancer scare at 22, I decided to stop being scared and start living my dreams and so my entrepreneurial journey began.

It comes full circle as I studied women running businesses hundreds of years ago and how the women worked around challenging circumstances to grow those businesses. Now, I am a woman in business myself and teaching other women about living well and working even in challenging circumstances like dealing with diagnosis or grief.

I am grateful for my amazing experiences at Reading and for the opportunity to share my story here.


Grace is an award-winning international wellness expert, coach, author, and motivational speaker. She is the founder of Healing Boxes CIC and The Phoenix Fire Academy and a recipient of the Future Young Leader of Wales Award, Entrepreneur Wales Awards, Great British Entrepreneur Awards as well as Britain’s Top Real Role Model finalist and featured in The Hay Festival, Positive News, Gala Darling, TEDx, Huffington Post and The Times of London.

Grace Quantock – Wellness Expert, Motivational Speaker, Author, Coach
gracequantock.com | healing-boxes.com
Twitter: @Grace_Quantock | @Healing_Boxes

Meet Lizzie Hug – our new the CASE Graduate Trainee

Lizzie Hug has joined us at Reading as a CASE Graduate Trainee. While she is here, she will be hoping to get to know you, our alumni, and tell you about the opportunities to get involved with the University. Lizzie is very enthusiastic about her role and has already fallen in love with Reading. Read her story below…

My name is Lizzie Hug and since September 2015, I have been settling into the University of Reading as its very first CASE Graduate Trainee.


I have really enjoyed my first month here. There are so many things that make Reading a special place.

  • The beautiful campus. I am forever getting lost around the HUMSS building, and always finding new little pockets of the campus to explore.
  • How it embraces culture, fosters creativity and isn’t afraid to stand out.
  • The quality of the research into many global issues. I jumped at the chance to work here after seeing the calibre of research in areas that I am passionate about (such as mental health).
  • It is so friendly! The people of Reading have been nothing but welcoming to my newbie needs!
  • There is so much to do. I’ve joined the gym and also I’m really excited to have my first Reading Film Theatre experience! Every day I find a new reason to feel good about being here.
  • The inspiring stories of our alumni. I am very excited to be here and looking forward to getting to know you all.

That is why I am excited about the work I will be doing here. Over the coming year I will be working on lots of projects that involve you – particularly some of the exciting plans we have for our 90th Anniversary next year. Look out for more news on that over the coming months. I am primarily here to meet and speak with you, to let you know how you can reconnect, support and engage with the University and the departments and projects you feel passionate about. It’s a job that I am really excited by every day, and I am keen to connect with more of you in the near future, and learn all about your experience with Reading.