Indeed, it was followed a few months later by the announcement that this year’s intake of black students was up by almost 50% compared to last year, a result of the so-called ‘Stormzy effect’. Suddenly her emphasis throughout our discussion on nurturing Jesus’ ‘community spirit’ doesn’t feel wishy-washy at all. It’s great to not have to worry about being good at something”. Sonita began her ten year tenure as Master of Jesus College in October 2019. I ask her how we can justify not immediately repatriating this stolen artefact. It’s actually one of the things that came up when I was being interviewed. But it’s a great insight into a brilliant mind. No need to stop it – when you have finished listening just click “Home” at the top of this page to go back to our main menu. Born in Barbados, she came to England aged three and grew up in East London, the youngest of three children. “It’s been 523 years, but for these ten years, I am the guardian of that community spirit…because I think that’s what the essence of a college is, whilst you’re here”. Sonita Alleyne is the Master of Jesus College, Cambridge, the first woman to hold the post and the first black master of any Oxbridge college. And so I like that, I thought ‘Ok I can do this all the time. Sonita Alleyne Start of term: 1 November 2012 End of term: 31 October 2016 Last reviewed: 18 October 2012 Last updated: 18 October 2012 Organisation Position Details Positions of employment The Yes Programme Ltd Chief Executive Officer Other remunerated positions Archant Non-executive Director British Board of Film Classification Board Member London Legacy Development Corporation Board … Amen to that. “I think quite rightly there’s a real emphasis on [recruitment teams] going to look at the most underrepresented areas, the areas with the most deprivation, so there’s a real focus on that. Sonita stepped down as CEO in 2009 to concentrate on other boardroom roles. Please apply.”, “As I’ve got older, I realise that my moments of joy are when I help people”. James McCarthy is a London based screenwriter. Jokingly telling me “you can say I got most animated in this part of the interview!”, Alleyne reveals her love for Tom Waits, recommending that I “go in at the early stuff, because it all gets a little bit darker later on in his career. She also joined CUSU as its anti-racism officer. Sonita Alleyne is the Master of Jesus College, Cambridge, the first woman to hold the post and - more significantly - the first black master of any Oxbridge college. In 1989 she joined the radio station Jazz FM. Alleyne argues that “we have a great story to tell…I’ve been speaking to a lot of the ambassadors and listening to their stories, and it is kind of a perpetuating story because a lot of them came on an access visit and are now here”. 1968, the year she was born, was also the year in which Enoch Powell delivered his infamous ‘rivers of blood’ speech, decrying the immigration policies without which Alleyne’s family would not have been able to move to the UK. “No it isn’t awful! Pausing for thought, she says “it’s an interesting one because your experience as an undergraduate is your experience as a black person in any walk of life.” Elaborating, Alleyne tells me about an occasion recently when she was speaking to a young black personal trainer at her local gym (“you can say I’m quite svelt!”, she jokes) who had left his job as a brick layer because of the racism he experienced. That is not to say that Alleyne is afraid of modernising change in areas where “we haven’t caught up with the fact that people in 2019 are living their lives differently”. In this Radio 4 Desert Island Discs from earlier this year Sonita shares the eight tracks, book and luxury she would want to take if cast away to a desert island. Required fields are marked *. DISC ONE: I’ve Known Rivers by Gary Bartz & NTU Troop DISC TWO: Les Fleurs by Minnie Riperton DISC THREE: Key To The World by … First published in 1947, Varsity is the independent student newspaper for the University of Cambridge. In her previous career in the media, she was the co-founder and former CEO of the production company Somethin’ Else. When she was made redundant a couple of years later, she and two former Jazz FM colleagues set up a production company they called Somethin’ Else. Copyright © 2020 Apple Inc. All rights reserved. But Alleyne’s appointment is undeniably part of a real moment of change for the university on the issue of racial inclusion. Alleyne arrived in Cambridge just 4 years after the 1981 Race Riots. Sonita stepped down as CEO in 2009 to concentrate on other boardroom roles. She lives in Cambridge with her partner, the screenwriter James McCarthy, and their teenage son. Born in Barbados, her family settled in the diverse, working-class area of Leytonstone in East London when she was three years old. On the question of being ‘the first’, she says “I don’t mind it”. Varsity is the independent newspaper for the University of Cambridge, established in its current form in 1947. “I didn’t come here thinking ‘hey, I’m gonna be the first’”. Having spoken in her luxurious college office, the ivory tower definitely still exists. I think, as I’ve got older, I realise that my moments of joy are when I help people. On her favourite novel, Michael Ondaatje’s ‘Coming Through Slaughter’, which she reads nearly every year: “it’s one of those books where I go back to it and think, did he really say it like that? They elected me and they voted and I feel like, yeah, I’m the best person for the job…who turned up and applied” she adds with a laugh. She is a fellow of the Radio Academy and a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts. You can pause at any time by clicking on the same button. I ask whether this context of racial tensions was reflected in her own experience as an undergraduate. But, three years on, it is still held in storage. It was only after a sustained student activist campaign in 2016 that the cockerel was removed from display in the college’s hall. We just recently had a strategy day at Jesus looking at that. And that’s been amazing”. When Sonita Alleyne was announced as the new master of Jesus College in May, it made national headlines. In fact, she’s keen to point out the positives, particularly the close friendships she forged amongst the cohort of Black students that she got to know well during her time at Cambridge. Sonita Alleyne, Master of Jesus College, Cambridge. British Board of Film Classification . I promise to listen. In this Radio 4 Desert Island Discs from earlier this year Sonita shares the eight tracks, book and luxury she would want to take if cast away to a desert island. If it encourages people to think it’s accessible, absolutely fine. I did get most animated when talking about Tom Waits didn’t I?” Slightly nervously, I ask her if it’s awful that I’d never heard of him. Other remunerated positions Archant . She served on the BBC Trust for nearly five years, sits on the board of the London Legacy Development Corporation, and founded the Yes Programme to show primary school pupils their future career options. You can do things that you don’t have to be good at. “It’s great when you see someone who’s like you who’s there, so that was a real inspiration in terms of me applying”, she tells me. WHAT TO DO. I put it to her that even amongst those accepted from state schools, highly selective grammar schools like Henrietta Barnett and comprehensives in affluent areas still dominate. Alleyne begins by describing the 70s and 80s as a “really, really tough” time in terms of race. Organisation Position Details Positions of employment The Yes Programme Ltd . This is really great. Or you can move the circle in the middle to go forwards or backwards. Sonita Alleyne is the Master of Jesus College, Cambridge, the first woman to hold the post and - more significantly - the first black master of any Oxbridge college. She read philosophy at Fitzwilliam College and, after a brief and unfulfilling spell selling life insurance, she followed her passion for jazz by starting to write for music magazines. “Everyone went through it, but what Cambridge did for them was set them up for life. Your email address will not be published. Born in Barbados, Sonita Alleyne came to England aged three and grew up in East London, the youngest of three children. Following years of student activism and intense criticism of the tiny numbers of black students admitted to the university, this move is, it seems, part of a long-overdue, broader institutional push for greater representation and inclusivity. When Sonita Alleyne was announced as the new master of Jesus College in May, it made national headlines. With Lauren Laverne. Its occupant, however, seems to have a refreshing new approach, one that marks her out as a very different kind of master quite as much as her background. This is where we begin our conversation, early on a chilly Friday morning (“I’ve got fresher’s flu!”, she jokes) at the end of her second week officially as the head of Jesus College. Yet she is quick to stress that “to me, Cambridge is a bastion of excellence, and I like that. She visited the college she now leads as part of a trip to visit a girl studying there who had been two years above her in school. In order to maintain our editorial independence, our print newspaper and news website receives no funding from the University of Cambridge or its constituent Colleges. Sonita Alleyne is the Master of Jesus College, Cambridge, the first woman to hold the post and the first black master of any Oxbridge college. Does this openness to modernisation extend to some of the central issues of student activism in 2019? Yet she does not describe an undergraduate experience marred by racism. “It’s very much in my in-tray, after two weeks of being here. After the photos have been taken and we’ve said goodbye, she only walks a couple of metres before I see her deep in conversation again, this time with two elderly fellows. “I didn’t come here thinking ‘hey, I’m gonna be the first’, she explains. Good. Make sure that your volume is turned up. She tells me that she’s recently taken up oil painting and creative writing, unexpectedly ending with a lesson pretty much every Cambridge student could probably do with remembering: “It’s nice when you get to a kind of settled stage. Her skill, it seems, lies in an ability to put people at their ease, a desire to exist in the thick of college life, not just observe it from on high. I am an Uighur who faced China’s concentration camps. How has she, barely two weeks in, already managed to establish a relationship with so many college members? In her previous career in the media, she was the co-founder and former CEO of the production company Somethin’ Else. I also really like helping people. But I don’t care. In her previous career in the media, she was the co-founder and former CEO of the production company Somethin’ Else. Stopping to consider, Alleyne begins by describing the 70s and 80s as a “really, really tough” time in terms of race. I’m not going to pre-empt any kind of outcome, but we’ll be looking at it and there will be a college wide discussion about it”. Born in Barbados, she came to England aged three and grew up in East London, the youngest of three children. Even writing up this article in the college cafe, I see her chatting easily to a group of students waiting in line to order a coffee. There, Alleyne attended the local comprehensive school, and was one of three students in her year to go on to study at Cambridge. Warm and approachable, Alleyne is absolutely free of the airs and graces we normally associate with those in her position. Founder . You can read our Privacy Policy page for more information.You can unsubscribe at any time by either clicking the unsubscribe button in all of our communications or sending an email to guy@weboftheweek.com marking the subject UNSUBSCRIBE. In spite of this situation, we are going to look at inventive ways to look at serving our readership with digital content and of course in print too. We won’t share, sell or swap your information with other organisations for their own marketing purposes. He particularly likes creating thrillers with tight, twisting plots, but also enjoys developing ideas that will play to a wide range of audience emotions.