I’m Claire Mokrauer-Madden, and I’m the CCW Graduate School Administrator. I edit the Graduate School blog, add content to the Graduate School website, administer the CCW Research Mentoring Scheme and set appointments in Malcolm Quinn’s diary. Soon I will also start as editorial assistant for the forthcoming peer-reviewed journal, Theatre & Performance Design (Routledge). Though this grouping of roles is ostensibly eclectic, the unifying theme is that most parts of my job keep me in touch with the Graduate School environment. This isn’t the Research Excellence Framework definition of environment, meaning data on research doctoral degrees awarded and research income. My work with the Graduate School environment is far more literal. How are staff and students using the Graduate School? How is the Graduate School using the third floor of E block at Chelsea as our base? How do people get involved in the Graduate School?
Last spring, one of our staff members, who also works at the V&A, commented that at the museum they get together for tea and cake mornings on the first Wednesday of the month, and would something like this be possible in the Graduate School? Many of the CCW research staff members work disparately, and this seemed like an interesting proposition for creating a low key staff contact point. I thought this was a great idea, not only to bring staff together, but, rather selfishly, I like to bake pie with fruit fillings, reminiscent of my American upbringing. Call me an opportunist, but this seemed like a great occasion to get to bake and then share, so that I don’t eat an entire pie myself (which I am well capable of). We have now been having pie days at the beginning of most months since last summer, and we treat it like a pot-lucks. Bakers and taste testers alike are welcomed.
Pie days (so-called by me, but there are usually cakes, muffins, brownies or flapjacks there) also have a home-grown element to them. When the Graduate School moved into the third floor of E block, the previous residents had left four potted plants on the terraces (and a mysterious cupboard full of used ink cartridges). Having never kept a plant alive in my life, I was unsure what to do with the watering can that one of our Professors left on my desk one morning. After a quick war of words (I left it in the prof office with the poem on it, ‘Roses are red, Violets are blue, Especially When, You water them’; he put it back on my desk, having written on the other side, ‘Claire’s Watering Can’) I cracked and watered the parched plants. Since then, people have added to the garden, growing mint, chillies, sage, lavender, thyme, tomatoes, spring onions, a plant that I can never remember the name of with inedible orange berries and geraniums. Beds made out of old stationery baskets have been seeded with bee-attracting wild flowers. With so many edible elements of the garden, staff and students in the Graduate School are encouraged to use the things that grow here. As a result, most of our pie days have had mint tea from the garden.
And finally, one of the most recent discoveries made in the Graduate School is that we have a lot of great table tennis players here. From March to April this year, I organised a tournament of Graduate School staff and students to win prints by Paul Coldwell and Stephen Farthing. The competition was impressively intense. Playing venues included the Triangle Space and BG02 above the canteen at Chelsea, which accommodated not only the games, but also the photographer, the bookie, the pie and the epic poem about the last four players standing in the tournament. Research into the best lighting for a table tennis tournament and who the strong players in the Graduate School are is unlikely to be submitted into REF 2020, but table tennis is our new environment to develop relationships.
The blogging, the website, the mentoring, the diary and the journal are the things that fill the majority of my time in the Graduate School. The pie, the garden and the table tennis make up so much of the Graduate School environment I see around me.