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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:


We can help you most efficiently and effectively at Connaught hall if you contact us using our published email addresses:

We aim to reply to all emails within 3 working days of receipt, but we are usually much quicker than this.
If you try to contact us using Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, iMessage, or other media, we don't always see your message right away and this can cause very significant delays to our response (in some cases, where Facebook Messenger has put messages into the "filtered messages" folder, they have only been seen months after the message was sent!).
Our "How can we help you" poster is displayed prominently around the Hall and tells you the best way to contact us for pretty much any kind of query or problem: 

There's more information about how to contact the Warden - and specifically how to arrange an appointment to meet - here:

Finally, please may we reiterate that it's best not to contact us about official queries or problems via Facebook or other social media, as this can lead to a delay in us responding to you.

As always, get in contact if you need any help or guidance. We depend on your feedback to help us get things right for you.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Sleep better

[Reposted from our Tumblr:]

Do you sometimes find it hard to get as much sleep as you’d like? Most of us do from time to time; but for some of us, not sleeping enough is a major cause of stress and dissatisfaction with life. 
Not sleeping is really bad for you. When you don’t get enough sleep, neurotoxins can build up in your brain; you can be at risk for obesity, diabetes, depression, and heart disease; you may develop false memories; and your performance at skilled tasks can be impaired as much as if you were drunk.
For all the reasons above, it’s recommended that adults should sleep between 7 and 9 hours per night.

This time of year brings special sleep challenges: for exam stress and sleeplessness can go hand-in-hand for some people. These two things are the most common welfare-type problems that residents ask for help with. So we’ve put together some tips to help you sleep better. A future post will look at exam stress and some ways to help you cope with it.
It might not be practical for you to use all of these tips all the time, but if you can incorporate some of them into your routine some of the time, you should see your sleep improve!

Use ear plugs

Whilst ear plugs aren’t 100% effective at blocking out all noise, they can help reduce the likelihood that you’ll be woken up by occasional bumps, bangs, and traffic noise during the night. These ones are very good and quite comfortable:

Avoid caffeine in the evening

Don’t eat or drink anything containing caffeine for at least six hours before bed time. That includes things like coffee, tea, chocolate, and cola as well as energy drinks like Red Bull. If you must have an after-dinner coffee, make it a decaf.

Don’t drink alcohol close to bedtime

A nightcap might initially make you feel drowsy and help you nod off. But alcohol's sleep-inducing properties are only temporary and could actually end up having the opposite effect later on. Too much alcohol results in lighter, more fragmented sleep that'll leave you feeling less-than-refreshed in the morning.

Turn off computers and touchscreen devices at least an hour before bed...

... And it’s better if you can make that 2 or 3 hours.
Computer screens, tablets, and smartphones emit a lot of blue light. Blue light tells your brain it’s daytime and stimulates the production of hormones that prevent you from falling asleep. So if you like to read at night, read from a book or an e-reader that doesn’t have an illuminated screen.

Keep a regular sleep routine

Your internal body clock regulates your sleep-wake cycle. But it only works if you keep your bedtime and wake-up time consistent. If you keep changing the times you sleep, it’s like being permanently jet-lagged (but without the pleasure of actually travelling anywhere nice). 
Keeping a regular sleep routine also includes avoiding daytime naps if possible. It’s best if you can fit all your sleep into one period at night.

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Whilst it’s not a new thing (mindfulness practices have been around for thousands of years in the Buddhist and other eastern traditions), in the last 30 years science and medicine have proven the efficacy of mindfulness in helping people deal with many difficulties, including sleeplessness, depression, anxiety, and even chronic pain problems.
Here are some tips for using mindfulness to beat insomnia:

Do some exercise - outdoors if you can

If you don’t move around enough during the day, you can’t expect your body to feel tired at night. But there’s another advantage to getting yourself outside. Sunlight is important for regulating your body clock (indoor lighting isn’t bright enough to have the same effect). The best time to get some sunlight exposure is early in the day, and definitely before lunchtime.
It’s best to avoid exercise within about four hours of bedtime. That’s because exercise raises your body temperature, and it’s easier to drift off to sleep if you’re cool.

Don’t watch the clock

If you’re struggling to go to sleep, watching the minutes tick by can just make you get more stressed about not sleeping. So turn your alarm clock facing away your bed.  

If you still can’t sleep, get up

Lying in bed stressing about not sleeping definitely doesn’t help. So if you are not able to fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed. Read a book under a dim light. Then try going back to bed after 20 minutes of reading. But don’t be tempted to do any work or to use your phone / tablet / computer! 

Further reading

We put together some links to more guidance about improving your sleep.
Get better sleep: 5 powerful new tips from research - Barking up the Wrong Tree
How to sleep better (pdf) - Mental Health Foundation -
Seven tips for falling asleep using mindfulness - Mindful Magazine
How to Get Some Rest When Stress Is Keeping You Up at Night - LifeHacker
Why Insomnia Happens and What You Can Do to Get Better Sleep - LifeHacker -
Confessions of a recovering insomniac - Mindful Magazine