50 Years of Women: Alice Butler

Alice Butler, one of John’s recent SJCR presidents, was kind enough to be interviewed and give us an insight into her time in Durham. Alice reveals many things from her best memories of college life, to what she learnt from her role as SJCR president and even a secret about college! 

When were you at John’s? How did you come to study/work at St John’s?  

I studied at St John’s between 2018 and 2021, and was President of the St John’s Common Room 2021-22. When I applied to Durham, I put John’s as my first choice of college because I found the freshers video on YouTube and thought it was the funniest and the friendliest. 

What was your involvement with college?  

From my first involvement in the slightly chaotic freshers play, Family Circles, in 2018 I fell in love with Bailey Theatre Company. I loved getting involved with the company and was Co-President in 2020 (although alas we didn’t do much that year due to COVID).  Other than BTC, I did my stint at novice rowing (which was extremely short-lived) as well as working on the bar. I also got involved with the SJCR as soon as I could, serving for a year as Academic Affairs and Students Union Liaison Officer, and then being elected President in 2021.  

Tell us a bit about St John’s and the atmosphere in college at the time you were there 

Although ‘my time’ at St John’s was relatively recent, I believe the college is constantly evolving and changing. I found that during my time John’s was bustling and there was lots going on, relations with Cranmer Hall were always pleasant, although in my experience there is never a year that we don’t set out to try and improve cross-common room relations. In particular, events that stood out to me during this time were Pancake Day celebrations and John’s Pride – two events which started during my time at the college and I hope will continue into the future. Although the COVID pandemic hit during my second year, John’s weathered the storm. I think there were many people during that time who made a huge effort to adapt and overcome the struggles we were facing as students in college and without whom we would not have made it through so well to the other side.  

Tell us a bit about you, your career and your life?  

I haven’t been away from Johns for that long – and I still find myself returning often – but when I left in Summer 2022 I decided to pursue a career in something creative. I currently work as a videographer for CGP books in the South Lakes. It is a community that reminds me so much of Johns: small, quirky but very hard working and proud of what they achieve. I am so far really enjoying myself and I am putting the TikTok and Instagram skills I developed as SJCR President to good use! 

How did your time at John’s contribute to these aspects of your life?  

I think the community at John’s and the opportunities presented to me allowed me to stretch myself and thrive both academically and creatively. I learned so much about myself and what I enjoyed through theatre and my involvement in the common room. I also think that the people I met taught me so much about the world and made me the person I am today. 

What did you get out of your role as SJCR president?  

I really enjoyed my role as SJCR president because I learnt so much about John’s I previously hadn’t known and gained huge respect for those who keep the college going behind the scenes. I really enjoyed working closely with students and college staff to learn more about how we could best support Johnians in the recovery of COVID. It was a great feeling putting on those first few events after the pandemic and seeing the community slowly begin to recover. I also learnt a lot about insurance, budgeting and fire safety! However, perhaps the best thing I got out of it was a deep connection to the college I hope will last the rest of my life. 

Please could you share a favourite memory of your time at John’s with us?  

This is so difficult! How can I pick just one to share!? I think perhaps one of my favourite memories is helping to organise the JMS/BTC musical Joseph and his Amazing Technicolored Dreamcoat in 2022. It was an amazing show to be a part of – they even let me play the drums! 

What would your advice be to current John’s students or those thinking of applying to Johns either at undergraduate or postgraduate level?  

For those of you still at John’s: don’t let the days pass you by. Study hard, but do pause and look up once in a while and appreciate the time you have at John’s. It’ll always be there to welcome you back but those days when John’s is yours are unbeatable. Also – get involved! There is so much going on from sports, to theatre, to student politics. It’s never too late to give back to college by getting involved in what’s going on.  

For those of you thinking of applying: The best decision I ever made was choosing John’s; when I put it on my UCAS form I wasn’t choosing a halls of accommodation but a life-long family. John’s is an environment where you will be encouraged to thrive and stretch yourself academically but also personally through extra-curricular actives. If you want somewhere to get the most out of your university experience whilst being surrounded by wonderful people then John’s the place for you. (Plus it’s on the Bailey so it’s in a stunning location too – what’s not to love!?) 

Do you have any secrets about John’s?      

There is almost certainly a ghost who haunts the Garth lift…  

Also the view from on top of the presidential flat roof is astounding (sorry!) 

In just 50 years, the women of John’s have made a lasting impact on our community. What is your hope, both as a woman and a Johnian, for the next 50 years of women in the College?  

In my time at John’s I was inspired by fantastic women who did incredible things for the college such as catering and cleaning staff, support staff, college officers, student leaders and volunteers and also my own personal friends. I’m sure John’s will continue to be a place where women are supported and encouraged to thrive in all aspects of their lives. We are reminded in the news far too often that the world is still not always a safe environment for us which is why it is really imperative that the college continues to welcome and champion the voices of everyone who identifies as female for the next 50 years to come and more. 

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