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Mingling the old and the new

UCL Geographers from 1969 reunite in 2019

Mingling the old and the new

Former UCL Geographers, reuniting exactly fifty years after they had first arrived in the College, found themselves mingling with the latest student recruits during the first week of the 2019-20 academic session.

They were greeted on 27th September by Hugh Clout, Peter Wood, Andrew Warren and Anne Oxenham, each departmental denizens fifty years earlier, and joined by Claudio Vita Finzi for their evening supper at the October Gallery.

Of course, there were many reminiscences about past personalities and events. Much has changed since 1969, when there were fewer than 10,000 students at UCL compared with more than 40,000 today. UCL Geography has also followed the trend in staff, undergraduate, and especially in postgraduate numbers.

The Bloomsbury Campus has also seen a transformation, especially in recent years, but many survivals were recognised from student days, including Foster Court, the cramped former book store which was the home of Geography in 1969 and until the move to Bedford Way ten years later.

Afterwards, David Emerson who, with Jeanette Bolton and Steve Williams, masterminded the arrangements, reflected on the common experience of such reunions:

I am still trying to absorb it all, and the thoughts arising from such a reunion after so many years. Perhaps it is the same for all year groups, but we were certainly all struck by the ease with which we dropped back into conversations and exchanges. There seemed to be no frictions or tensions … and my sense from the feedback is a combination of how much better and enjoyable it was than many anticipated, as well as … how fundamental UCL Geography and the family feeling at the time had been, and continues to be, for all of us.

There was also some reflection on the employment profile of the 1960s generation, with many careers in education, public service and non-profit organisation, compared with the additional opportunities for geography students today, including in business and finance, the cultural industries and environmental research and management.

Some of the group planned to meet again, perhaps on the basis of shared interests, or even because of their unexpected current proximity, discovered after 50 years!


1969 geographers