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Thursday, 28 September 2017

Welcome speech 28th September 2017

Good evening, everyone! I hope you're having a great time. If we haven’t already met, I’m Adrian, your Warden. Since this is billed as a welcome speech, allow me first to extend you a very big, warm welcome to the Hall, and let me introduce some other members of the team here with us tonight. Alice is our Hall Manager. She looks after our Hall and everything in it, as well as most of the services like catering, cleaning and security. My Senior Members are Benjy, Marta, Matthew, Rajan, and Rory.

We are all so happy that you have joined us at Connaught. It’s been an absolute pleasure to meet so many of you in the last few days and weeks. I hope we've made your time here so far comfortable, friendly, and relaxed. I hope you’ve been able to connect with lots of people at our social events and in our lovely Hall bar. And I hope that this year will give you many opportunities to forge some great friendships and happy memories that you will treasure for a lifetime.

Our life journeys so far have been incredibly diverse and different from one another, yet right now we’ve all been brought together here, to this Hall, to this community. I want our home here at Connaught to be a hotspot in central London for inclusivity, celebration, friendship, and respect. That’s where I want the next year of our shared life journey to take us. Everyone here is welcome on that journey. But I hope that you won’t just come along for the ride; I want you to be an active participant in making it happen. But how? I hear you ask…

Well, you could get yourself elected to the Hall Association. The Association has its own budget to run the Hall bar and organise many of the social events in Hall. It’s fantastic experience for developing your teamworking, organisational, and communication skills – and it looks great on your CV! That election is happening next week. Talk to me about it tonight.

The Association will also be running a facilities forum and a cultural forum this year. The facilities forum is a way for you to help us improve the physical environment of the Hall as well as services like catering and cleaning; and the cultural forum will help us to celebrate lots of international events together throughout the year. You can contribute to these without having to be elected. Look out for details next month – and again, talk to me about them tonight if you’re interested in these.

Of course, there will be countless other ways to make contributions to the community life of our Hall this year. One of the most important is just to show up and bring your own self to the events and activities that will be going on – and that’s something we can all do!

Now, it’s natural that the year ahead will throw up some challenges for us. Maybe it already has.

Change is stressful for everyone. And you’ve just changed your address, your social group, your place of study, and your whole support network of family and friends. That’s not easy – for anyone. So the fact you’re here right now deserves some real recognition.

But if any of those stresses and challenges get out of control, or if they feel too big or overwhelming, please know that it’s absolutely ok to reach out and ask for help. If there’s a problem, let us know about it. If you’re worried, upset, afraid, or unhappy, talk to us. If you have a question, ask us. That’s what we’re here for. You don’t have to face anything alone.

I’d like to share an idea that might help when you’re facing stresses challenges, and change, especially where there is a risk of conflict or misunderstanding. It might seem a strange idea to as you’re beginning this whole new chapter of learning and knowledge. But bear with me. And this is it:

“Sometimes, not knowing is better than knowing.”

I’m not the first person to have this idea! The Greek philosopher Epictetus wrote:

“It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.”

And from Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki:

“In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind, there are few.”

Let me tell you a story. Picture the scene at Heathrow and Hannah was waiting for her plane. It was delayed. So she thought, “Ok, I’ll get a packet of cookies and a book, and just sit quietly until we’re allowed to board. What else can I do?”

She went to the shop, then to the boarding gate, and put her opened bag of expensive, luxury cookies on the little table between her seat and the one next to it, and she settled into the first chapter of her book. A man came and sat next to her. And before long, she noticed that he took a cookie from the bag. She watched in stunned disbelief as he munched noisily first through one cookie, then another, and another.

Hannah was – err, not best pleased – but she didn’t know how to challenge him, so she sat getting more and more angry, and eating cookies as fast as she could so she might at least get to enjoy half of them. And, well, it really took the biscuit when the rude little man ate… wait for it… the last cookie!

Hannah was by now furious with him, and almost as angry at herself for not standing up to him. I mean, they were expensive cookies! What an awful man! “I bet he steals his own children’s pocket money!” she thought. “He mustn’t have any friends!” “Can you imagine what a horrible work colleague he must be?” She pretty much created a whole life story about the thief, based solely on her observation that he’d eaten her cookies.

But finally, the flight started boarding. She reached into her bag to pull out her boarding pass and what fell out of her bag but… her expensive, luxury cookies. The ones she had been eating whilst reading her book and hating on the man next to her – belonged to the man the whole time!

So what went wrong here?

Hannah was very attached to her cookies and to her view that the man was stealing from her. Because she felt so certain of this mistaken belief, she wasn’t open to understanding the truth. In her mind, the only possibility was that the man was eating her cookies. And that delusion filled her with anger and resentment, and meant that she felt horrible for the whole time she was waiting for her plane.

Has it ever happened to you, that you had a great long argument with someone, where you were fiercely stating one set of facts, and the other person just as fiercely stating a different, contradictory set of facts? One of you – or maybe even both of you – were wrong. But of course, during the conflict, you both thought you were right. Otherwise you wouldn’t bother having the argument.

In fact, any time we find ourselves disagreeing with someone, or experiencing conflict with someone, by definition there must be at least two different ways of looking at that situation. Of course, we like to believe that our own way of seeing things and our own way of living is the right way. So we invest a lot of emotional energy, and even a sense of our own identity, in promoting and defending our way, all the time missing out on opportunities to understand – to really understand – the opinions and experiences of others. In this way, we are constantly limiting our own horizons. 

Just like Hannah, we can all become very attached to our own beliefs and opinions. And just like Hannah, sometimes we are the one has made up a complete story about another person… that is totally wrong!

How many people here in Hall have you already labelled as “library guy”, or “mean girl”, or “that guy who’s always getting wasted”? And imagined a whole personality for them based on that one bit of information – that could be wrong anyway?

But there’s another side to this, as well.

It becomes exhausting when we feel like we always have to know what to do, what to say, how to behave, or how to approach every obstacle. We can feel under so much pressure to somehow get it right all the time. Yet the truth is, many times, we don’t know what’s best or what’s right – and yet we spend so much energy trying to convince … ourselves and others that we’ve got it all together – that we’re very grown up and we’ve got it all worked out – and that we know what we’re doing! Wouldn’t it be so much easier if sometimes we could just say, “I don’t know”… opening the way, perhaps, for someone else to teach us?

So can we all, today, commit maybe: To softening the edges what we think we know – just a little bit? To saying “I don’t know” – just a little more often? Especially when we sense feelings like anger, hurt, fear, or disconnection? To being just a little more open to the possibility that our view might sometimes be wrong? That the stories we’ve told ourselves are really just stories? And to allow ourselves just a little more warm and genuine curiosity - about the world around us, and the people we share it with – in the hope that we might one day see things and people as they really are?

I’m going to finish with one final quote and then a toast. The attribution of this quote is uncertain, though it’s most commonly ascribed to Mark Twain:

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Connaught this year is going to be a welcoming, supportive, and friendly home for us all here. And perhaps – just perhaps – living in this community, our hearts and minds will be opened to new people, new experiences, and new ways of seeing.

So let’s raise our glasses… To community, to curiosity, and to Connaught!

Monday, 5 June 2017

When the Warden is away

I am away on leave from Monday 5th June until Wednesday 14th June 2017, and will not be able to reply to email or social media messages between those dates.

I will aim to catch up with correspondence received whilst I am away no later than Monday 19th June.

But you don't necessarily have to wait until then for a reply! Read below to see if your query could be dealt with by someone else sooner.

If you need a landlord or tenancy reference:

For all very urgent or emergency problems:
  • Go to reception or phone 020 7756 8200 and ask to speak with the duty manager (during office hours, normally 9 till 5, Monday to Friday) or the duty senior member (evenings, nights and weekends).
  • In very serious cases, Hall staff can contact me for guidance 24 hours a day, and can also call on the help of a warden from another hall of residence if a senior presence is urgently required on site.

If you want to meet with me after I return:

For suggestions about the Hall or facilities (including catering):

  • Email Your message will automatically be forwarded to me, the Hall Manager, catering management team, and facilities senior member.

For noise complaints:

  • Visit If you follow the instructions there, either the duty senior member or the senior member living on your floor will be able to help you while the Warden is away.

To request an exception to the rules about guests (e.g. extra overnight guests, or extra nights):

If you need a landlord reference, bank letter, or proof of address:

For queries about accommodation fees / deposits:

For queries about your accommodation contract / swapping rooms / leaving early / applying for admission or re-admission:

For queries about senior member recruitment:

For anything else:
  • Many queries can be answered by reading guidance that we've already published. So remember to check:
  1. the Hall Handbook;
  2. our "How can we help you?" poster; and
  3. answers to frequently-asked questions.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Christmas dinner speech 9th December 2016

Ladies and gentlemen, good evening! I hope you have enjoyed our Christmas dinner so far and that, after I have finished speaking, you will join in singing some Christmas songs with us. Don’t worry – we’ll get the wordsup on the projector! 

Of course, it couldn't happen without a lot of really hard work from our catering team, so let's say a big thank you to them...  And I think another big round of applause is well deserved by your Residents’ Club Committee, who have invested so much time and effort into organising tonight... 

Ten weeks ago, in my welcome speech, I stood before you all and asked you to try and meet this year’s challenges with kindness and compassion for yourself and for others. Throughout this term, I’ve had the chance to see so many of you live up to that hope on a daily basis. And the result, here in our home, is that you have built a strong and supportive community for one another.  That is something to reflect on, to be proud of, as this year draws to a close. And I hope we will see-in the New Year with a similar abundance of friendship and kindness. For if this festive season means anything to us, it must be about celebrating the peace and joy that we can find in our shared humanity. 

So if you're travelling for the holidays, I wish you safe journeys – and look forward to seeing you back in January. And wherever you will be, I wish you a Christmas and New Year full of love, happiness, and good health. 

Now please raise your glass for a toast... To a very merry Christmas!


Thursday, 13 October 2016

Fire practice 12th October 2016

Thank you to all Connaught Hall residents for a very good fire drill yesterday. It was an orderly evacuation, in good time, and we didn't find any covered smoke detectors. 

It's the first time in many years that I haven't had to conduct a string of disciplinary hearings after the fire drill because of covered smoke detectors, so I'm really happy with the drill yesterday!

Friday, 30 September 2016

Important communication about alcohol and drug use

Dear resident

Recreational drugs – including new psychoactive substances and herbal or “legal highs” – and/or excessive use of alcohol can pose a serious and immediate risk to otherwise fit and well students. And of course there is also a good body of evidence showing the longer-term physical and mental health risks of regular use. So we are writing to remind you about the help that is available to safeguard you from alcohol- and drug-related harm.

Whilst the possession or use of illegal drugs is a disciplinary offence, our primary concern will always be for your safety and wellbeing. If you genuinely seek our help because you are worried about your use of alcohol or drugs, we will approach your concerns confidentially and non-judgmentally. We will seek to provide you with the support you need. If you are willing to accept professional help, in most cases we will not pursue disciplinary action. 

Similarly, if you are concerned about a friend's use of alcohol or drugs in the hall, you can tell us in confidence, without fear that you will get your friend in trouble. Telling us your concerns about a friend's use of alcohol or drugs could be the thing that saves his or her life. Please don't stand by and do nothing. 

Most importantly, if you or a friend become unwell after taking drugs, please get medical help (call 999 for an ambulance) and inform the front-desk reception immediately. In a medical emergency our concern is always to ensure that the paramedics and doctors treating you know exactly what has happened and why, so please tell us the whole story. Your health and wellbeing always come first.

So if you are concerned about any matter relating to alcohol or drug use in hall – your own or someone else's – make an appointment to speak in confidence with the Warden in your Hall.

English law places some requirements on us that mean we must use the disciplinary procedure in certain circumstances. These are:

1.       If there is any evidence that a resident is supplying drugs to others, causing a breach of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
2.       If smoking drugs such as cannabis inside the Hall is causing a breach of the Health Act 2010.
3.       If the use of drugs in the Hall causes risk to the safety of other residents, staff, or the public, in breach of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 or the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.

We will also use the disciplinary procedure if we find evidence of illegal drug use in your room but neither you nor a friend has come forward seeking help. It is too late to ask for our help after we have found evidence of drug use.

Links to sites providing information on alcohol and drug use disorder are provided below, with contact details for counselling and support services. Whilst we do wish to provide direct support these hopefully provide alternative avenues if you feel unable to contact anyone in hall. Whether through Hall staff or alternative support provision, please do seek professional help and gain an understanding of the risks you face.

Yours faithfully

Andrew Howarth
Acting Head of Residential Accommodation

Adrian Clark
Warden, Connaught Hall

Alice Coote-Cowling
Hall Manager, College & Connaught Halls

Help with alcohol use concerns 

Sensible drinking tips & help with alcohol problems

Drink Smarter
Sensible drinking tips & help with alcohol problems

Camden Alcohol Service
Individual and group counselling sessions and advice on alcohol related problems

Foundation 66
Individual sessions with people under 23 who have concerns about alcohol use

Help with drug use concerns 

Vital Information Pack
Lots of information about drugs, including what first aid you should give if a friend gets unwell after using drugs

Drugs recognition & emergency first aid
This leaflet will help you if you're worried about a friend who might be using drugs, and show you how to help them in an emergency

Talk to Frank
The National Drugs Helpline – 0300 123 6600 – Text 82111

London Friend Antidote
The UK’s only LGB&T run and targeted drug and alcohol support service

South Camden Drugs Team
Individual and group sessions to help with alcohol and drugs issues

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Welcome speech 27 September 2016

Hello everyone! I hope you're enjoying this evening. If we haven’t already met, I’m Adrian, your Warden. And I have just a few brief things to say tonight. 

First, to everyone, let me extend a very big, warm welcome to the Hall.I hope we've made your first days or weeks here comfortable, friendly, and relaxed. And I hope you’ve been able to connect with plenty of people at our social events and in our lovely Hall bar. 

I can already see a close and supportive community forming between us all this year. Living at Connaught will give you the opportunity to forge great friendships and happy memories that I hope you will carry with you for a lifetime.

All of us on the team are so happy that you have joined us at Connaught. I speak for all the staff when I say that it’s been an absolute pleasure to meet so many of you in the last few weeks. 

It’s natural that the year ahead will throw up challenges. Maybe it already has. Sometimes, it will be stressful. Some days, you won’t feel like university is the best time of your life.
If you do find yourself feeling like that, please know that it’s ok to reach out and talk about how you’re feeling. Remember that the staff, senior members, and I are here to help you. If there’s a problem, let us know about it. If you’re feeling worried, upset, afraid, or unhappy, talk to us. If you have a question, ask us.  

Each year, I try to include just one piece of advice in my welcome speech. Last year, I spoke about the importance of asking questions. This year, I want to highlight just how important kindness is.

Does anybody know who Saint Basil the Great was? ... Well, Saint Basil the Great really was a great guy. As well as writing much of the Eastern Christian liturgy, in Greece, he is the equivalent of Santa Claus, visiting children’s homes on 1st January and leaving them gifts. Back in the fourth century, Saint Basil wrote:

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.

That was 1700 years ago, but now, there is good scientific evidence that being kind makes us happier. There seem to be specific neural pathways in our brain that are only activated when we show kindness to others. Research is showing us that kindness, compassion, giving, and volunteering are at least as beneficial for the person doing as for the person receiving.

I have another quote for you, this time from the 1980s: 

Life’s a bitch, and then you die.

None of us had a choice about being born, nor into what kind of life circumstances we were born into. Life is hard. And we all have a terrible prognosis – in fact, the worst prognosis: we’re all going to die. If we’re lucky, we’ll get old before we die, experiencing years of wrinkles and aching joints. So every one of us is facing inevitable existential catastrophe. Remembering this can help us to cultivate forgiveness and compassion – both towards others and towards ourselves.

Of course that guy shouted at you for no apparent reason: he’s dealing the best way he can with the reality of a tough existence. He doesn’t need your anger: he needs your compassion. Obviously that woman didn’t hold the door open for you: she’s preoccupied with just getting through the day. She doesn’t need your anger: she needs your compassion.

Being kind to others, though, is relatively easy. It can be a lot harder to be kind towards ourselves. We already said that mistakes are inevitable in other people. Well, guess what? It’s inevitable that we will make our mistakes, too.And it’s so important that we learn how to forgive ourselves and be kind to ourselves when we fall short of our own expectations. So, if things don’t always work out how you wanted, try to give yourself a break: allow forgiveness for yourself, have some self-compassion instead of punishing yourself, and move on.

Finally, let me tell you about some of the many opportunities to get involved in the life of the Hall this year. 

Think about standing for election to the Residents Club Committee. The Committee runs the Hall bar, organises most of the social events in Hall, and gets a budget of £7000 a year, plus any profits made from the bar. Being on the committee, you'll get to know nearly everyone in Hall and have a great time doing it. And it’s really good experience for your CV of working in a team. I will publish details this week about how to stand for election, and we'll be voting on Monday 10th October. 

If you want to help us improve the Hall itself, come to our facilities forums. We'll be advertising the first of those next month. Speak with Rajan about the facilities forums.

And if you want to enrich the cultural environment in which we live, think about getting involved with the multicultural students’ forum, which aims to bring the whole Hall together in celebration of festivals from all around the world. We’ll be starting off the multicultural calendar with Diwali next month. Speak with Daniel about getting involved in that.

These are just some of the ways to get involved this year. Make sure you stay up to date via the Hall Facebook group. Read the newsletters we send you, and look out for all the events posted on our notice boards.

Ok. I said I would be brief. So let me finish with a toast.Connaught this year is going to be a welcoming, supportive, and friendly home for us all here. So let’s raise our glasses…  To kindness, new beginnings, and new friends!

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Connaught Hall 2017-2018 official Facebook group

The only official Facebook group for residents living at Connaught Hall for the 2017-2018 academic year:

The group is open only to Connaught Hall residents for 2017-2017 and selected staff. We expect all users of the group to adhere to our Facebook group community guidelines: 

Use the official Facebook group for getting to know other residents, asking questions, or sharing your own events that others might want to join in. The Hall staff and the elected students on the Residents' Club Committee will post important information and social events here as well, so you can stay up to date with what's happening at Connaught Hall.

PLEASE NOTE: We very strongly advise that it's best not to contact us about official queries or problems via Facebook or other social media, as this can lead to delays in our response. See note below for more information about this.

As your Warden, I have a very clear policy about Facebook friend requests. In summary, I will always accept friend requests from residents if you want to add me, but I will never send an add request to a resident. Full details here: