Neurodiversity and Archaeology: A Personal Perspective

by Connie Buckingham, BA Archaeology, Part 3

 

An image of Connie Buckingham in the trenches

 

People with neurodiverse conditions (raging from dyslexia, ADHD to autism etc) are drawn to and thrive in archaeology. Over 8.5% of students currently in the Archaeology Department at Reading are registered as neurodivergent, me being one of them. This is higher than the university average of 5.3%. After facing my entire schooling ‘not thinking the right way’, I have found a home in archaeology as a place which actively encourages ‘outside the box’ thinking. Archaeology requires the ability to see patterns in data, formulate novel ideas and challenge assumptions in ways that come naturally to those with neurodiverse conditions. Such capabilities are valued just as highly outside archaeology degree programmes as within them.  For example, some employers like GCHQ specifically seek to recruit graduates with neurodiverse conditions because they have been proven to be better at code cracking: https://www.gchq.gov.uk/information/daring-to-think-differently-and-be-different

The University has various systems in place to support neurodiverse students to achieve their full academic and personal potential.  This includes the support channelled through the Disability Advisory Service (DAS) and the ‘green sticker’ system which helps to create a level playing field in the assessment of academic performance by exempting spelling, punctuation, and grammar in the marking of coursework submitted by registered neurodivergent students. While these mechanisms are certainly beneficial, they do not provide a universal panacea, nor has their effectiveness been evaluated.

Over the past 10 months, I have been employed on a project led by Dr Gabor Thomas in Archaeology that has been probing into these issues, drawing upon the rich experiences of its neurodivergent undergraduate and Masters’ students.  Supported by a grant from the Teaching and Learning Enhancement Projects (TLEP) scheme and conducted in close partnership with the Disability Advisory Service, the project has evaluated the effectiveness of current teaching and feedback practice with regards to supporting neurodivergent student, enacted short-term recommendations and paved the way for future improvements.

Through a series of student focus groups, we have evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of the current department practices from the perspective of neurodivergent students. We have used this feedback, as well as that from a more targeted online survey, to enact positive change in the department. A key lesson from this consultation is that most neurodivergent students want constructive feedback on writing style to enable them to become better and clearer writers. The green sticker system partly works against this because, despite its good intentions, it tends to disincentivise staff from commenting on these aspects of work.

As a result of all the feedback received, Archaeology has implemented new ‘quick-links’ set in Turnitin enabling markers to point students in the direction of specific on-line resources and tutorials contained on the university’s study advice webpages. We have also undertaken a more in-depth review of written feedback and shared strategies for formulating clearer, more consistent feedback, including on written skills, that is easier for neurodivergent students to process. This will allow for more constructive feedback for all students, not just those with neurodiverse conditions.  Additionally, the department has revised its enrolment process to encourage early conversations between students and academic tutor about possible struggles with academic writing. Promotional material for the department has been added to focus on neurodiverse conditions, including clips from an interview with University of Reading alumni and dyslexic, Professor Duncan Sayer, showing prospective students that a highly successful academic career is very achievable for those with neurodiverse conditions. In the longer term, Archaeology will apply the lessons learnt from the project to redesign the study skills sessions embedded in Part 1 teaching to make them more digestible and engaging for neurodivergent students.

I have been involved in all areas of the neurodiversity project and have found the role hugely rewarding. I have always viewed my dyslexia as a strength as well as a challenge and it has been very self-affirming to be able to help others with similar difficulties. The more the university can do to make those with neurodiverse conditions feel supported the more inclusive it will become.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July: South Asian Heritage Month

https://www.southasianheritage.org.uk/

 

South Asian Heritage Month logo

 

South Asian Heritage Month (SAHM) in the UK starts in July! Running from Monday 18th July to Wednesday 17th August, this is the third year of South Asian Heritage Month in the UK. The theme for 2022 is Journeys of Empire.

Meet the team behind SAHM: https://www.southasianheritage.org.uk/team

South Asian Heritage Month is a month-long celebration (similar in spirit to Black History Month in October), to celebrate the heritage of people with roots in South Asian countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, The Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. SAHM aims to commemorate, mark and celebrate South Asian cultures, histories and communities. It seeks to understand the diverse heritage and cultures that continue to connect South Asia with the UK.

Read more about the history of the British empire and South Asia here: https://www.southasianheritage.org.uk/britishempire

 

A full calendar of events is planned for South Asian Heritage Month 2022, with both in-person across the UK and online events taking place. There will be 31 events over 31 days, as well as specific Focus Days for each of the 8 countries of South Asia.

See events here: https://www.southasianheritage.org.uk/events-information

 

 

 

 

 

Further Resources:

University of Reading BAME Network: https://www.reading.ac.uk/diversity/getting-involved/networks#bamenetwork

 

SAHM Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/southasianheritagemonth_uk

SAHM Twitter: https://twitter.com/SAHM_UK

South Asian Writers Articles:

The Hidden History of the Ayahs of Britain: https://southasianwriters.com/2020/08/12/the-hidden-history-of-the-ayahs-of-britain/

Poetry and Memory: The Bridge Between My Grandfather’s Memoirs & Me: https://southasianwriters.com/2020/08/08/462/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(image source: https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/60aea818f5e3633f493fec9a/1622325047641-C2KYLQ1NYIC3F0PR3PP4/SAHM+square+logo+2_black+%282%29.png?format=1500w)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IDAHOBIT 2022

17 May is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBiT). Every year UoR marks this occasion and in May 2022 we were able to do so in-person.

The main event took place on the Whiteknights campus on Tuesday 17 May at lunchtime. The event was open to all colleagues and students. The aims of IDAHOBIT day are to engage with staff and students about LGBT+ issues and inspire LGBT+ allyship amongst our staff and students. We flew the rainbow flag on our campus flag pole and had some speeches from both staff and student representatives.

Pride flag flying on Whiteknights Campus.

 

Dr Ruvi Ziegler (he/him), Chair of the LGBT+ staff network

Ruvi, Chair of the LGBT+ Staff Network standing in front of the flying Pride flag on Whiteknights Campus.

The official site for IDAHOBiT explains that the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia was created in 2004 to draw the attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex people and all other people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics. May the 17th was chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

What does Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia mean today?

While we have witnessed significant legal advances in LGBT+ equality in parts of the world, there remain many places where LGBT+ persons are not free to live, thrive, and be partnered to whomever they wish. LGBT+ persons’ experiences are shaped globally by criminal sanctions and oppression, social barriers, intolerance, and unwillingness to accept and recognise them for they are.

Of 194 countries surveyed by International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex association, over 2 billion people live in 70 countries where consensual same-sex sexual acts between adults are illegal. In 11 of those countries, it carries the death penalty.

On the other side of the recognition/protection scale, only 68 countries offer broad legal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation. And, of those, only 29 enshrine marriage equality in their laws.

Some of those seeking refuge from persecution on grounds of sexual orientation come to our shores. As the recently enacted Nationality and Borders Act makes it harder for LGBT+ asylum-seekers to ‘prove’ who they are, and as the Memorandum of Understanding with Rwanda puts them at risk of being sent to harm’s way, I am proud that the university, jointly with Reading city of sanctuary and the Reading Refugee Support Group, offers a sanctuary scholarship scheme at all study levels designed to enable 12 students who are asylum-seekers or who have received a protection status in the UK to come to study here. I hope some of the recipients will be LGBT+.

BUT, lest we forget, our society is hardly in a position to rest on its laurels. Last year’s Yougov survey suggested that 26% of UK adults would be ashamed to have an LGBT+ child.  Jack Daniels’ coming out this week as the first active male professional footballer to do so made major headlines. In a fully accepting and inclusive society, it would not.

Home Office figures show that hate crimes against people based on their sexual orientation have risen every year in England and Wales from 2016/17 to 2020/21. In 2016/17, there were 8,569 such crimes recorded by the police, rising to 17,135 in 2020/21. My husband and I have experienced homophobic verbal abuse twice during lockdown for daring to hold hands in Oxford. Like probably many others, we have not filed a complaint, so this scary figure is based on under-reporting.

Hate crimes against trans people have risen more than twofold, from 1,195 to 2,630 in the same period, no doubt fuelled by a toxic and often hostile public discourse.

Therefore, IDAHOBIT is fundamentally important wherever you are, as it is a day that gives the LGBT+ community and its allies the world over the opportunity to celebrate the social and political advancements in LGBT+ equality but also to reflect on the work that remains to be done to make our communities truly inclusive.

It is, also a great opportunity for employers like ours to help raise awareness about tackling LGBT+ discrimination and show support by being visible allies. At Reading, some members of our community have recently questioned whether this campus is a safe and welcoming space for them: this cannot stand. Our continuing mission must be to make this university as inclusive a space as it can be.

As Chair of the LGBT plus staff network, I would like to invite all our Staff and PGR students who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, asexual, intersex, non-binary or any other sexual and gender identities– as well as LGBT+ people with multiple identities, and indeed everyone else who sees themselves as an ally – to join us. We are stronger together.

 

 

 

Thank you to all our speakers and to all our staff and students who came along!

 

 

Further Resources:

IDAHOBIT: https://may17.org/

Get Involved with D&I work: https://www.reading.ac.uk/diversity/getting-involved

Join the LGBT+ Staff Network as a member or ally: https://www.reading.ac.uk/diversity/getting-involved/networks#LGBTPlusNetwork

RUSU LGBQ+ Officer: https://www.rusu.co.uk/representation/student-reps/part-time-officers/lgbq-plus-officer/

RUSU Trans Student Officer: https://www.rusu.co.uk/representation/student-reps/part-time-officers/trans-students-officer/

RUSU LGBT+ Student Society: https://www.rusu.co.uk/organisation/11536/

 

If you have any queries, please get in touch with diversity@reading.ac.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LGBT+ History Month 2022 – Round Up

A UoR branded graphic with 'LGBT+ History Month' written on it and a heart with the LGBT+ progress flag designed in it.

LGBT+ History Month – ‘Round up’

There was a lot of activity across the University in February for LGBT+ History month. Here are some of the highlights to keep your LGBT+ inclusion going beyond the major celebratory months.

 

What is LGBT+ History month and why is it important?

LGBT+ History Month happens in February every year in the UK. It is important that we celebrate LGBT+ history to recognise and celebrate the contributions and achievements of LGBT+ people throughout history. Some historical figures could not be openly ‘out’ in their own time (Oscar Wilde, for example) and for this reason it is important to celebrate them today and recognise them as their whole selves.

The LGBT+ community also have a long history of having to fight for human rights. Still today, 70 countries criminalise same-sex relationships. This map shows the stark reality of current global rights for LGBT+ people, which makes it even more important that we critique, as well as celebrate the community’s history, and by doing this, we can look ahead to the future.

 

The Library’s D&I resources  

A message from Tim Chapman, D&I Lead, Library.

“Our online reading list system, which is widely used by academic staff for most taught courses across the University, has been of huge benefit to students since we adopted it in 2015. It gives direct links to the library catalogue and instant access to any material available to us online.  

We are also able to develop bespoke reading lists such as this one - highlighting some great YA and Children’s material that we hold in the library, covering a range of LGBTQ+ issues and themes. Check it out.   

Our online reading lists enable us to get the broadest reach possible and they help us to widen readership, which from a diversity perspective, must be a positive thing.  

We also produce a reading list that keeps track of all the material purchased from our Diversity Fund. Anyone can suggest a purchase that relates to any of our diversity and inclusion themes (LGBTQ+, race & ethnicity, disability & inclusion). It’s a great way for you to help us to shape your Library’s collections.  

If you want more information, or to suggest a book for purchase, contact your School Academic Liaison Librarian here.” 

 

Prepster: PrEParing and HIV

Dr Will Nutland, co-founder of prepster, talked about why testing for HIV is important, who should be thinking about testing, and how frequently. He talked to us about how testing has changed over time and in addition, talked about the available options -including PrEP for those who are negative and new options for those folks that test positive for HIV.

Re-watch the event here: Prepster:PrEParing and HIV

 

 

‘Ice and Fire’ – a rehearsed reading and Q&A 

Brought to us by Dr Ruvi Ziegler, Chair of the LGBT+ staff network on Wednesday 02 February. Prior to the reading, between 2-2.45pm, there was also an asylum mapping workshop open to interested law students and staff.

The event was a rehearsed reading of LGBT+ asylum testimonies by Ice and Fire followed by a Q&A moderated by Sebastian Aguirre, Director of Actors For Human Rights (a queer human rights activist and theatre practitioner from the Chilean refugee diaspora in the UK), with Ruvi Ziegler and a representative of the Reading Refugee Support Group.

Here is tweet about the event as well as some photos

 

 

LGBTQ+ Britain through Bishopsgate institute collections

Stef took participants at the university on a virtual tour of the collections at the Bishopsgate Institute, talking about the history of LGBT+ Britain. Covering many topics and moments over last 50 years in a light-hearted fashion for all the University Staff and Students.

Watch it again below:

LGBTQ+ Britain through Bishopsgate institute collections

 

 

the Pride in STEM logo

LGBT+ History Month Whiteknights Campus trail

The Central Diversity and Inclusion team released a University of Reading ‘talking or walking tour’, in collaboration with the LGBT+ Staff Network.

We reached out to the Diversity and Inclusion leads across the University and asked for an LGBT+ figure who they associate with their School, Function, or field of study. We collated these figures and mapped out a route through the University’s Whiteknights Campus.

Some departments are not located on Whiteknights campus, and these have been added at the end so that you can learn about the historical figures, without travelling to those locations physically.

Colleagues can listen to an audio version, read about the icons, use the ‘map’ to physically familiarise themselves with Whiteknights campus buildings and departments (and LGBT+ History).

 

Listen to/watch the presentation here: Whiteknights_campus_LGBT_tour_2022.mp4

Whiteknights Campus map here Campuses Map & Key (reading.ac.uk)

We also ran training including an LGBT+ Ally recruitment and information session. You can still sign up to our Trans inclusion training, as it is at the end of March:

A Trans flag being held up against a blue background

Trans inclusion training 

Thursday 31st March 2022 – 10am-12pm (via Microsoft Teams)

Register here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing… Mary Turner Wolstenholme

During Women’s History Month we often focus on great women and women pioneers. But for Women’s History Month 2022, here at the Department of History, we are privileged to be able to concentrate on one of our own, Mary Turner Wolstenholme. Mary represents so many women who might have considered themselves ordinary but whose achievements tell us so much about women’s lives and opportunities.  With the kind permission her daughters Gilly Pinner and Julie Wolstenholme and through their generous donation of their mother’s documents and photographs from her time at Reading we present:  Mary Turner Wolstenholme.

Mary Turner completed a BA Hons in Geography and graduated on 1st July 1948. She graduated in the same year that the eminent historian Doris Stenton received her doctorate in History. 1948 was also an auspicious year that saw the founding of the NHS. After graduating from Reading in 1948 with a BA Hons in Geography, Mary (known as Molly) went on to complete her teacher’s diploma at Manchester Victoria University. She subsequently became a teacher at a local high school in the Rossendale Valley, Lancashire, known as Whitewell Bottom. She married Robert Wolstenholme in 1952 and her daughter Gilly was born in 1956 and Julie in 1959. Mary retuned to teaching when her own daughters started school, as a primary school teacher, first at Stubbins County Primary then Edenfield CofE Primary. She continued teaching at Edenfield, later becoming Deputy Head, until taking early retirement in the 1980s. Through the kind gift of Mary’s personal papers we can see her journey to becoming an educator herself though her time at Reading.

 

An image of female staff and students posed together outside a university building in Reading.

Female undergraduates and academic staff at Reading, 1947

 

Rag Week 12th March 1947

Rag week is almost a lost tradition, it was a designated week when the university and the town came together; students organised fayres and a procession of floats to raise money for local charities.

An image of a horse drawn carriage and people surrounding it An image of people marching in the streets. An image of a float going down a busy street. An image of people driving a car.

An image of Kimber, Bill Ashton, The Mayor, Brian Robinson, Roger Williams in the Berkshire Records Office.

Kimber, Bill Ashton, The Mayor, Brian Robinson, Roger Williams
Students attempt to kidnap Phoebe Cusden, first female mayor of Reading and eminent peace campaigner. Read more about Phoebe Cusden at the Berkshire Records Office where her papers are held The Berkshire Record Office

 

Final Examinations

BA Geography examinations consisted of eight 3-hour papers.  How would you have done?

An image of a scanned geography final exam paper from June 1948

Other papers included: Human and Historical Geography, Geography (PRACTICAL), Physical Geography, Regional Geography (EUROPE), Regional Geography (BRITISH ISLES AND FRANCE), Economic Geography, Cartography

 

Graduands for presentation

When Mary graduated there were a surprising number of women gaining a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Faculty of Letters.  For the Bachelor of Science degrees however the number of women dwindles hugely!

An image of a scanned graduands for presentation document.

Doris Mary Stenton (Lady Stenton), was awarded her doctoral degree D. Litt. from the Faculty of Letters at the same presentation.

An image of a scanned graduates document.

An image of graduates in 1948

Graduation, July 1st, 1948 (Geography Group):
Mike Banyon, Shirley Jones, Frank Pierce
Isobel Ayers, Sheila Knight, Mary Turner, Ron Waters
Ron Stone, Margaret Lawes, Mags Johnson, Frances Pilling

 

 

Reference in application for Education Methods (modern PGCE)

What Mary made of her reference from Professor Austen Miller in 1949 we do not know but it is eye-wateringly misogynistic by C21st standards! While Mary was of a ‘frank, cheerful and warm-hearted disposition’, she might not make ‘a great scholar’. In fact

‘The qualities that recommend her are the more

 personal ones of appearance and presence…’

 

An image of a scanned letter dates 1949

In 1878, the University of London was the first to award degrees to women. Both Oxbridge universities were among the last to grant women degrees on the same terms as men: Oxford in 1920 but not until 1948 at Cambridge, the same year that Mary Turner graduated from Reading. The granting of degrees by Cambridge caused a huge amount of unrest with male undergraduates burning effigies of women students and throwing fireworks at the windows of women’s colleges. Even then, the university was allowed to limit the numbers of female students relative to men and continued to exercise that power to the full. The University of Reading awarded degrees to women on the same terms as men from its inception in 1926.

 

Mary Turner, BA Geography, 1st July 1948

An image of Mary Turner, BA Geography on 01 July 1948

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National HIV Test Week 07-13 February 2022

a blog piece by Quincy Bastow (they/them), Technician – Teaching and Research at UoR, in collaboration with Jessica Harding (she/her), Deputy CEO at TVPS

Background on TVPS: Since 1985, Thames Valley Positive Support (TVPS) has worked hard to make a significant difference to people living with HIV across Berkshire. Originally an amalgamation of several different HIV support groups in the area, TVPS now stands proudly as the only HIV charity in Berkshire and in January 2020, expanded to include HIV support in North Hampshire. Our work spans prevention, testing, and post-diagnosis support. Their goal is to make people are aware of their HIV status, have the right level of support if they are positive, and are sufficiently informed to protect themselves if they are negative.

 

 

 

7th-13th of February marks National HIV Test Week. This week aims to encourage as many people as possible to test for HIV and know their status. It also highlights the many different methods of testing for HIV. A quick, easy and discreet method is the free postal test scheme that runs throughout the testing week. You can order one from freetesting.hiv 

 

Last year marked 40 years since the first official reporting of five cases, of what would later go on to be named Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). We have come a long way in the past four decades, so let’s explore some of these advances…

 

PrEP 
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a drug taken by HIV-negative people before and after sex that reduces the risk of getting HIV. Taking PrEP before being exposed to HIV means there’s enough medication inside you to block HIV if it gets into your body. PrEP is available free on the NHS in England. If you would like to learn more about PrEP or how to access it, contact your local sexual health clinic

 

PEP  
Post-exposure prophylaxis is a combination of HIV drugs that can stop the virus from taking hold. It can be used after the event if you’ve been at risk of HIV transmission. It must be taken within 72 hours, but ideally, it should be taken within 24 hours. It is not guaranteed to work, and it is meant as an emergency measure to be used as a last resort, such as if a condom fails during sex.

 

U=U
Undetectable equals untransmittable – this means that if the levels of HIV antibodies are so low in a person’s blood they cannot be detected. We call this an undetectable viral load. If you have an undetectable viral load, you cannot pass HIV on. People achieve an undetectable viral load by consistently taking their HIV medication and this is where the phrase ‘medication = prevention’ derives from in terms of HIV.

 

“While we have come so far in terms of testing options and advances in medication and prevention strategies, sadly attitudes towards HIV have not kept pace. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigmas that surround HIV due to misconceptions and lack of knowledge. The best way to help diminish stigma is to get HIV educated and pass that education on to those around you. A really easy way you can start to get HIV educated is to head over to iTunes or Spotify and listen to our HIV podcast – HIV, Hope & Charity. We share the stories of positive people, activists, and HIV history, and all in around 25 minutes!” – TVPS (Thames Valley Positive Support)

 

 

At the University of Reading this week, Friday 11th, 13:00-14:00, we will have Dr. Will Nutland, co-founder of prepster, will be talking about why testing for HIV is important, who should be thinking about testing, and how frequently. He will also talk to us about how testing has changed over time in addition, to how there are options – including PrEP for those who are negative and new options for those folks that test positive for HIV.
To register interest click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating the Year of the Tiger 2022

We’ve received a collection of photographs and contributions from some staff and students across UoR sharing how they celebrate lunar new year with friends and family!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“My wife said for this Chinese New Year, she will put a red packet under the pillows of me and my daughter. It reminds me of my childhood memories of looking forward to receiving Yasuiqian (the red packet or lucky money) from my elders in the village in the Chinese New Year and we children needed to kowtou (kneel down with head touching the floor in front of the elders to show our respect) to receive it as part of the ritual – well, only symbolically as far as I can remember. Nowadays, kowtou is truly a thing of the past, but the folklore and the tradition of giving and receiving Yasuiqian (the lucky money) during the Chinese New Year have been passed on from generation to generation.

Why a red packet for the Chinese New Year? What does it symbolise?

I found the following brief story on the Yasuiqian (lucky money) shared by Cindy on Travelguide an interesting read:

https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/festivals/red-envelop.htm

I look forward to my red packet! Wishing everyone a very happy, healthy and prosperous Chinese New Year of the Tiger!”

Dr Daguo Li, ISLI

 

 

“Chinese Lunar New Year (CLNY) is the most important festival for all Chinese in China and overseas. CLNY, of course, includes celebrations, delicious food, fireworks, visiting relatives and friends, while, more importantly, it is the time for family gatherings. A famous Chinese poem says “独在异乡为异客,每逢佳节倍思亲。” (All alone in a foreign land, I am twice as homesick on this day) During the year, I may be too busy to contact some relatives and friends. However, it is important to call all of them and give my 拜年(New Year Greetings) to them. With the development of social media, I can easily see them and 拜年 on WeChat. 2022 is the Year of Tiger 🐯. I wish all my relatives, friends and colleagues in the University of Reading 虎虎🐯🐯生威 (Forge ahead with the vigour and vitality of the tiger) in 2022.”

Dr Hong YANG (He/Him)
Associate Professor in Environmental Science

 

 

“Before the outbreak of COVID-19, Lunar New Year’s Day left me with many memories. Family and relatives gathered to thank our ancestors (“Chalye” in Korean), ate “tteokguk”, bow to adults with saying ‘Happy New Year'(“sebae” in Korean), and played traditional games such as “yutnori”. Since the spread of Corona 19, it has become difficult for family and relatives to gather on Lunar New Year’s Day, but I hope that we can get together again from this year and have a good time. Also, I wish all the students and staff at Reading University become a Happy New Year.”

YoungWoo Shin
Student at UoR Law School

 

“A Chinese New Year Meal” – Yang Zhong

 

“Children enjoy this festival most” – Yang Zhong

 

“Making dumplings during the new year eve is a family activity we all love” – Yang Zhong

 

“Door decoration of FU means good fortune usually goes with the spring festival couplets” – Carrie Zhang

 

“Spring Festival Couplets are essential Chinese New Year decorations”

 

“Writing Spring Festival Couplets” – Carrie Zhang

 

“Dumplings are an essential dish in the family reunion meal” – Carrie Zhang

 

“Giving Yasuiqian (red envelopes) is a very traditional practice and continues being popular among young and old”

 

“Red lanterns in all shapes or sizes are another type of essential decorations for Chinese New Year” – Carrie Zhang

 

“Visiting a temple fair or a local park with festive decorations is a popular way of spending the Chinese New Year holiday”

 

“A glimpse of street scene in Chengdu” – Yang Zhong

 

“A local park in NingXia” – Peilan Zhang

 

“Hanging new year decors” – Yang Zhong

 

 

“Street scene in Ningxia” – Peilan Zhang

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holocaust Memorial Day 2022 – Thursday 27th January 2022

 

An image of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. We see concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern. A beam of sunlight enters the image from the top right-hand corner, and beautiful light shines onto of the memorial pillars.


Holocaust Memorial Day
in an international day that is marked to remember those who were murdered for who they were.

By ‘visiting’ Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center digitally, you can explore digital collections including  ‘The Online Photo Archive – Visual testimony of Jewish life before, during and after the Holocaust.’, ‘The Righteous Database’, featuring rescue stories, photos, and information.

 

The founders of Holocaust Memorial Day UK have provided a variety of different resources designed to enable you to mark Holocaust Memorial Day together, from home. Some ideas they suggest include:

Cook together – “Food is a great way to learn about other cultures and share a new experience, even while apart. Use these resources to organise your own online cook-along event.”

Inspire together – “Make a moving film from your home by each reading lines from a poem about the Holocaust or genocide. Alternatively, your group could put pen to paper and write your own poem, which you could then film.”

 

 

Gal Jackson, a current 2nd year Biomedical Engineering undergraduate student at UoR andnd the Secretary of the student Jewish Society, has translated a small section from her grandmother’s testimonial for us to mark Holocaust Memorial Day this year.

“I was born in Tomaszów Lubelski, Poland. When the war started, we were three kids: my sister Leah was the eldest, my brother Arieh, and me. I remember the bombing, it was midday, around noon. Mom was just about to leave to bring dad his lunch to the store; my family had a small grocery store on the main street. My sister Leah, who was already mature, started crying and didn’t let my mother leave. While my mother was deciding whether to go, dad already closed the store and came back home because there was a massive bombing on Tomaszów Lubelski, it seemed they bombed the Jewish neighbourhood. People ran to the fields for cover, I know because our house was on the outskirts of town. And since then, I think life never returned to how it was before.”

– Sarah Jackson

 

These images have been created by student representatives from the student Jewish Society, alongside our UoR social media team to be shared today.

 

 

 

Reading Council is hosting an in-person event which will also be livestreamed:

Holocaust Memorial Day
An evening of reflection to commemorate victims of the Holocaust will be held on Wednesday 26 January. The free event will be a mix of live and online elements, including speakers, choral performances, and candle lighting.

The event will begin at 7:30pm in the Council chamber, and will also be live-streamed on the Reading Council Facebook page. 30 free audience places are available, booked in advance and first-come, first-served. No walk-ins on the night will be accepted. For further information and to register for a place at the event please contact events@reading.gov.uk.

 

 

The UK Ceremony for Holocaust Memorial Day 2022 will be streamed online on Thursday 27 January at 7pm:

The Ceremony will run from 7–8pm. Register here to watch the Ceremony online.

 At 8pm, get ready to Light the Darkness with us. Households across the UK will be lighting candles and safely putting them in their windows to:

  • remember those who were murdered for who they were
  • stand against prejudice and hatred today

Light a candle and put it in your window at 8pm on 27 January 2022 (if you are able to do so safely).Use hashtags #HolocaustMemorialDay #LightTheDarkness

 

 

 

Welcoming the Year of the Tiger!

(This post includes Chinese traditional characters and phrases with Cantonese 粵拼 jyutping and Mandarin 拼音 pinyin pronunciations respectively)

 

Lunar New Year / 農曆新年 (nung lik san nin / nóng lì xīn nián) is on Tuesday 01 February this year. This is the Year of the Tiger.

When is Lunar New Year?

Lunar New Year falls on a different date each year as it follows a traditional lunisolar calendar whose dates indicate both the phase of the moon and the time of the solar year. This coming Lunar New Year is on Tuesday 01 February 2022.

 

Why is it the Year of the Tiger?

Each year is represented by one of the 12 Zodiac animals. The zodiac system was originally connected with worship of animals and has existed in Chinese culture since the Qin dynasty which was around 2000 years ago! As such, the zodiac signs play an integral part in Chinese culture. Each animal has different characteristics and meanings which is often used to determine a person’s fortune and luck for the coming year and even their compatibility with other Zodiacs. For instance, those born in the Year of the Ox are said to often be decisive, honest, dependable, and hardworking.

The order the animals come in are:

rat (鼠 – syu / shǔ )
ox (牛 – ngau / niú)
tiger (虎 – fu / hǔ)
rabbit (兔 – tou / tù)
dragon (龍 – lung / lóng)
snake (蛇 – se / shé)
horse (馬 – maa / mǎ)
goat (羊 – yeung / yáng)
monkey (猴 – hau / hóu)
rooster (雞 – gai / jī)
dog (狗 – gau / gǒu)
pig (猪 – zyu / zhū)

(Image sourced from: https://img.meijingku.com/d/file/2020/02/25/3b1eb3eb6572fcbec8b09e9b01f1d605.jpg?x-oss-process=style/w_450-h_auto)

 

You can find out more about the Chinese Zodiac on this TED talk: The Chinese Zodiac, Explained – ShaoLan and on this Ted’Ed video: The Myth Behind the Chinese Zodiac – Megan Campisi and Pen-Pen Chen

 

Celebrations and Decorations

Lunar New Year is celebrated by more than 20% of the world! Many parts of Asia, including China, Hong Kong SAR, Singapore, South Korea, and Vietnam celebrate Lunar New Year as a national holiday. Usually, celebrations begin on Lunar New Year Eve and can last around 15 days.

Before celebrations begin, it is tradition for people to clean their houses thoroughly, almost like having a big ‘spring clean’. Decorations are then displayed once the house is clean.

Decorations for Lunar New Year are predominantly red – the colour represents happiness and good fortune. People often decorate by hanging up art and calligraphy illustrating certain words and phrases. The most common is 福 (fuk / fú) – meaning happiness and good fortune. It can be written with calligraphy onto a square piece of red paper like in the image below. 福 (fuk / fú) is commonly put up on doors, windows and walls around homes, offices, schools, and stores.

(Image sourced from: https://img.meijingku.com/d/file/2020/02/25/3b1eb3eb6572fcbec8b09e9b01f1d605.jpg?x-oss-process=style/w_450-h_auto)

 

If you have studied or worked at the University of Reading for a little while, you may remember seeing or even picking up one of the 福 (fuk / fú) badges that were created in celebration of the Year of the Pig in 2019.

 

Paper Cutting Arts (窗花 – coeng faa / chuāng huā)

The Chinese character 福 is often incorporated into other decorations such as paper cutting arts. This is a folk craft that is usually seen on windows with the literal translation meaning ‘window flower’. The images on these decorations often include fish (a pun for blessings), grains (representing hope for a good harvest) as well as dragons and peaches (symbols from folktales and legends). The zodiac for the year is often the image on these decorations too.

Lanterns ( – dang lung / dēng lóng)

There are often different activities for each day of the Lunar New Year holidays, often including the lantern festival. Some places still release lanterns for the festival, but for environmental reasons, many people choose to simply display their lanterns at home. There are many different styles of lanterns that are displayed ranging from red spheres to dragons!

Red Packets

(Image Sourced from: https://marketingweek.imgix.net/content/uploads/2018/02/15170414/chinese-new-year-750.jpg?auto=compress,format,&crop=faces,entropy,edges&fit=crop&q=60&w=750&h=400)

 

Red packets (red envelope / Lai See 利是/ Hong Bao 紅包 / Ang Pao) There are many names for these little red gifts! But all of these contain money. It is tradition for many in the ESEA (East and Southeast Asian) community and diaspora to exchange these as a symbol of good luck. It is tradition for elders to give them to children in hope of passing on good fortune and blessings for the year to come. Younger generations also commonly give their elders red packets as a sign of gratitude and as a blessing of longevity.

 

Online Activities and Events
Lunar New Year is a time for family, and this is seen as the most important part of the holiday.

With the ongoing pandemic and various restrictions on travel, many continue not be able to see family and loved ones in-person. Nevertheless, where possible, some celebrations continue to take place in-person and some online!

See below for some of the online events we have come across!

 

  • Celebrating Chinese/Lunar New Year 2022 at SACLL

Friday 28 Jan 2022, 12:30-1:30pm

Online

You’ll be able to:

watch how UoR alumni celebrate the biggest festival in various places of China

play games

show talents

have fun

and hopefully win some dumplings

Sign up here to join us at SACLL to celebrate Chinese/Lunar New Year and the arrival of spring or contact SACLL Director Carrie Zhang:c.x.zhang@reading.ac.uk

Download the Celebrating Chinese/Lunar New Year 2022 at SACLL flyer here.

 

  • The Lunar New Year Early Years Learning Resource

Free resource accessible online here

(https://www.besean.co.uk/resources-posts/the-lunar-new-year-early-years-learning-resource)

In collaboration with Early Years and Primary education experts with a combined experience of over 25 years, besea.n have created a learning resource that takes the work out of lesson planning.

There are two packs available to download. One contains all the information and activities, the second is an image resource to support learning.

The packs are free to download, however, we encourage a donation towards our non-profit organisation in order to continue our work advocating for East and South East Asian communities, including the creation of educational resources.

 

Wednesday 26 Jan 2022 at 10:00 | Eventbrite

Part 2 – Chinese New Year Virtual Celebration (10:38-11:00)

Chinese New Year Cooking Show

Performance 1: Chorus (tbc)

Performance 2: Traditional Chinese dance (tbc)

Performance 3: Music ensemble “You Are the Miracle”

 

Friday 29th January 2022 – Daytime

Join in online with the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich for a fantastic new year celebration

 

Saturday 5th February from 5:00pm – 7:00pm

Chinese New Year celebrations, online again from Birmingham Chinatown! Celebrate Chinese New Year in the comforts of your own home yet again with an online celebration on

 

 

 

 

Is there religion in your Christmas?

By Rowan Watson, Chaplaincy Assistant, University of Reading  

A picture of three dolls depicting the nativity scene

Through working at the Chaplaincy, we experience a great variety of world views. Some students explain their strong belief in monarchy as the best form of government, others assure me that all life on Earth is evolving into crabs. One of our favourite topics of conversation is simply asking ‘What do you believe God is like?’. 

A popular answer is the description of a distant and uncaring being, living in the clouds. Occasionally God has been described to me as apathetic to our pain, watching His creations suffer and disdainfully refusing to do anything about it. It is no surprise that people with these views see Christianity as easily separated from the Santa Claus, Christmas Movies, Turkey and Roast potatoes parts of Christmas, but I don’t think this is entirely true. 

At Christmas, we Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, who we consider to be God on Earth. The key part of this for me is that God did not choose to be a distant being in the clouds – He saw His creations suffering and refused to ignore it. 

Christmas is about the incarnation. This means part of the indescribable God-ness of God being funnelled into human form. Jesus was fully God whilst also being fully Man. In easier terms, the incarnation is about God taking a human shape and moving into our neighbourhood, right next door. God draws near to us.  

Over the centuries, this idea has morphed into traditions about being generous to one another, opening our homes to guests and giving them the best we have. God is a close friend and treats us better than we deserve, so let’s treat others that way too!  

This part of Christmas has something more to say to those who experience a less joyful Christmas. When the night draws in and the cold confines us to our houses, winter can leave some of us withdrawn from our social circles. International students can find this time particularly challenging because of their UK friends returning home and campus shutting shop for the holidays.

A stained glass window depicting an angel and the Star of Bethlehem

Those with difficult family relationships face a different sort of loneliness. Being estranged from those who are meant to support you unconditionally can cause a lot of pain at Christmas. In the UK our cultural focus is around families and generosity, but these are not a light in a dark time for everyone. 

Not to mention that ‘isolation’ has taken on a whole new meaning recently. As I write, it is uncertain to what extent this will be a feature of our collective Christmases. I personally experience some of these issues, albeit not as severely as some, and so Christmas time can bring about a feeling of loneliness.  

I find that Christmas, at its core, sets out to tackle issues like these. We believe that God is so fond of His Creations that He chose to walk among them, and that this love continues. When I find myself feeling isolated, afraid and pessimistic about the future, I remind myself of that God comforts me by sitting beside me. I am loved by the Creator of everything in existence.  

And it is not only through God that we can find this comfort. Many Christians take this time to reach out to those in the community who are struggling. Some members of our community are offering places at their Christmas table for the most important meal of the year in this spirit, details on how to take a place at a local person’s table, are below. 

Beyond that, participating in Christmas festivities can bring opportunities to meet a new side of the community. If family cannot be part of your Christmas celebrations, a ‘friends’ style family embodies the spirit of the season and is just as joyful and fulfilling. I find that online celebrations can feel distant, but when a loved one is the other side of the world, it can bring them into your living room and allow you to celebrate together. 

Check out the University Chaplaincy list of What’s On in Reading this season, and go and seek God while He is near, either through religious ceremony or through a bottle of mulled wine with a friend on Facetime. He’s in both places. 

 

 

What’s on this Christmas? 

Events collated by the University Chaplaincy and shared in good faith. For more events see: https://www.whatsonreading.com/ 

 

Market Yard 

When: 26th November – 23rd December  

Where: Reading Printhouse 

What: Market Yard is transforming into a unique space to socialise, eat and drink 

Cost: Free 

More information here: https://www.marketyard.co.uk/ 

 

Winter Wonderland 

When: 13th November – 3rd January 

Where: Hills Meadow by Reading Bridge 

What: An exciting Christmas adventure for people of all ages that includes ice skating, Santa’s grotto and a variety of food and drink 

Cost: From £12 

More information here: https://www.facebook.com/outdooricerink.co.uk/ 

Book tickets here: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/ice-skating 

 

The Invisible Dress Exhibition 

When: 28th November – 5th January  

Where: HUMOS, Caversham 

What: ‘The Invisible Dress’ refers to the scents that we use to complete our look. This exhibition combines fashion illustration, perfume and floral arrangements. 

Cost: Free 

More information here:
https://whatsonreading.com/venues/humos/whats-on/invisible-dress 

 

Twilight Trail: Biscuit Town 

When: 3rd – 31st December 

Where: Abbey Ruins and Forbury Gardens 

What: An accessible open-air light trail experience 

Cost: From £8 

Book tickets here: https://web.livingreading.co.uk/twilight-trail-2021 

 

The Snow Queen 

When: 3rd – 24th December 

Where: South Street Arts Centre 

What: A new play, based on the original story by Hans Christian Anderson about two best friends and a dangerous journey across Scandinavia  

Cost: From £12 

Book tickets here: https://whatsonreading.com/snow-queen 

 

A Christmas Carol 

When: 3rd – 31st December 

Where: Reading Rep Theatre 

What: A live performance of the Christmas classic, A Christmas Carol, performed by Reading Rep Theatre 

Cost: From £14 

Book tickets here: https://www.readingrep.com/a-christmas-carol/ 

 

Forgetful Elf Trail 

When:4th – 23rd December 

Where: Reading Museum 

What: Help the Elf find his lost belongings around the museum. Includes writing letter to Santa and Christmas craft pack 

Cost: £3 per pack 

More information here: https://www.readingmuseum.org.uk/holiday-fun-reading-museum 

 

Beauty and the Beast 

When: 4th December – 3rd January 

Where: The Hexagon 

What: An exciting pantomime featuring Justin Fletcher, also known as Mr Tumble 

Cost: From £15 

Book tickets here: https://whatsonreading.com/beauty-and-beast 

 

Student Christmas Day Lunch 

When: 25th December, 1-2.30pm 

Where: Our Lady of Peace church hall 

What: Turkey lunch hosted by Chaplain, Sister Vivian (10 spaces). Booking essential: email with food allergy details before Friday 17th December 5pm to: v.onyeneho@reading.ac.uk 

Cost: Free 

 

For times of (free) Christmas and Carol services, Google your nearest church. 

 

General

Reading Museum 

What: Archaeology, Art, History and Natural History. Café and shop. 

Cost: Free 

Opening times and more information here: https://www.readingmuseum.org.uk/ 

 

Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) 

What: History of English farming and country life. Garden, café, and shop 

Cost: Free 

Opening times and more information here: https://merl.reading.ac.uk/ 

 

Want to be hosted for a meal or receive hospitality from a local family during the break? 

Friends International connects international students with local hosts. Download the App: https://www.friendsinternational.uk/international-student-app/ click on “Local Link”.