Over 120 Univ Old Members, current students and their guests gathered for the 12th Annual Univ Society London Dinner on 4th February 2016, which this year took place at the Institute of Directors, Pall Mall. Univ Old Member David Cooke (1974, History), Director of the BBFC, delivered the after dinner speech: 'What the Censor saw: from Univ to The British Board of Film Classification'.
Tom Cole (2010, History) has kindly provided this report:
The alumni of University College, alongside a selection of current students, found themselves in a new location this year. The comradery and conviviality across over 60 years of Univites remained, but they were now gathered at the Institute of Directors. The move along Pall Mall was in order to accommodate guests, an unprecedented move by the College, with former students no longer needing to sneak partners in under the cover of darkness.
The evening began with the Master hosting members of the 1249 society for drinks and nibbles, to show the College’s continual support of the generosity of former students to the College. Special thanks should be reserved for Paul and Caroline Marriage who sponsored the reception. Soon after this, the group were joined by the rest of the guests, all eagerly reminiscing about their Univ days and noting with interest the varied jobs that people had taken since leaving the College. One of the most interesting professions was held by David Cooke (1974), currently Director of the British Board of Film Classification.
Perhaps in homage to David’s job of age rating, the younger Univites were sat together in a separate table to draw further attention to the Young Univ network that has recently been created by the College. The creation of this group is heavily indebted to the work of the Development Office who have made the College’s alumni relations the envy of colleges across Oxford. William Roth, Fellow and Director of Development, acted as compère for the evening. He was able to give all guests an informative update on the work being done by the College, but done in a concise way as he was the man that stood between the guests and a three course meal.
The Master followed the starters (but not as the entrée, unlike some of the films David saw as the censor). A rousing update by Sir Ivor informed the guests of the continuing success of the College; with more Blues than 1920s Memphis, successes in music and drama, and the Univ Rowers sitting so high up the river that they may as well be in Thames Head. Two items dominated the agenda, the Goodhart Building and Cecil Rhodes – one perceived as an isolated individual unpopular with students across the College, and the other being Cecil Rhodes. The Master explained the case for the Rhodes Computer Room’s name remaining due to the room being a gift from Rhodes Scholars, as opposed to the man who died 70 years before the invention of the PC. Meanwhile, the Goodhart building has been fully refurbished, with current students being treated with the luxuries of guaranteed College accommodation in their final year and an en suite…neither of which can be guaranteed down the Cowley Road.
After a delicious main course, David Cooke spoke to his fellow Univites about his role as the Director of the BBFC. He dispelled the unfounded myth that his role was to watch all the films in existence and used two films to demonstrate the nature of his work – The Hunger Games and a Serbian Film. The less said about A Serbian Film the better (please do not google this at work), but his handling of the film had him walking the tightrope of artistic licence, political commentary and moral outrage. His work classifying The Hunger Games as a 12A, as opposed to a 15, highlights the ongoing changes in British society. The content of the film sits at the apex of change for what it is appropriate for children to watch.
The night ended with Sir Ivor and David answering questions from the floor which covered a plethora of topics from Britain’s role in the EU to their most embarrassing moment at College. Luckily David did not have to remove any footage from the night, with the liberal amount of port providing a slight haze to the guests at the end of the night.
Photography by Ian Wallman