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A special invitation for Castle alumni all over the world

Dr. J. Hugh Horton,

Vice-Provost and Executive Director, BISC

requests that you


Please join us for a Grand Celebration of 25 years of Teaching and Learning at The Bader International Study Centre, Herstmonceux Castle, East Sussex.

In 2019, we will celebrate 25 years since the BISC opened its doors to the first students. We are inviting Castle alumni from all over the world to join us for the Canada Day weekend, to raise a glass and commemorate the occasion with us. Our aim is to welcome back alumni from every year that the BISC has been in existence!

Formal invitations and registration details will follow in 2018, but in the meantime, we would be grateful if you would kindly indicate your interest in being added to the invitation list for this special event at your earliest convenience, since the majority of all future communications will be by email.

Please forward this message to your BISC contacts in your area to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to be on the invitation list.


Contact us:

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone: +44 (0)1323 834471

Post: Office of Advancement | Bader International Study Centre | Herstmonceux Castle, Hailsham, East Sussex, UK | BN27 1RN

It seems only fitting in an issue in which we start to think about 25 years of teaching and learning at the BISC, that we acknowledge the efforts of our stalwart Musicians in Residence, Diana Gilchrist and Shelley Katz. The pair have overseen musical programming at the Castle since the class of 1996/7, and now, still going strong in their 22nd year, they have recently received the exciting news that Bader Philanthropies has agreed to fund their research efforts for the next five years.

This is not only wonderful news for the couple, but for the Castle community as a whole, where music plays such an important role in the social lives of students and staff on campus. After so long at the helm however, The Castle Herald had to ask, (in the nicest possible way of course!) Why are you still here? When did this love-affair with Herstmonceux Castle begin and what has kept them coming back for more?

Shelley recalls that he first became aware of the Castle when he read an article on Alfred and Isabel Bader. The Baders’ vision of providing an extraordinary study-abroad opportunity, with emphasis placed on global citizenship, really struck a chord with him. The Baders’ values and commitment to offering enhanced opportunities to young Canadians compelled Shelley and Diana to contact the Baders and set up a meeting in London, over tea.

Soon after the initial meeting, Shelley and Diana found themselves on a tour of the Castle and grounds and in no real time at all, they had moved their young family to Herstmonceux Village and were holding their first Chamber Choir rehearsals. Diana remembers those early days extremely fondly, although as she puts it,

“There were so many unknowns in the beginning! There were no models in place at that time, so Shelley and I team-taught and plugged the holes where we saw them. We adapted to new roles as we went along. We began our association with the Castle as performers, then when we started inviting the public to the Castle for recitals, we became community liaisons, and then before we really knew it, we were both professors! The penny really only dropped that I was now a lecturer, some ten years ago, when former Academic Director David Bevan encouraged me to pursue a part-time PhD.”

Shelley adds, “We have always juggled roles, but in our hearts, we will always be performers first.”

The pair have actually never stopped performing, in the UK and abroad. Prior to joining the BISC, Shelley and Diana had performed in various opera houses in Germany – Shelley as a pianist and conductor and Diana as a soprano. Diana’s leading roles include Zerbinetta (Ariadne auf Naxos), Gilda (Rigoletto) and the title roles in The Merry Widow and The Cunning Vixen. As a performer, Shelley’s career has taken him around the world. He has performed in the Musikverein in Vienna, Rachmaninoff Hall in Moscow, and Suntory Hall in Tokyo. As a researcher, he is the Director of the Surrey University Symphonova Project and a visiting fellow at Wolfson College, Cambridge.

The Symphonova Project is a source of great pride for Shelley and there is no doubt that his work will benefit greatly from the Baders’ generous grant. There was also more good news recently when Dr. Hugh Horton approved plans to set up a Symphonova Lab in the Basement Offices in the Castle. There is an obvious synergy between the Symphonova Project and the BISC’s plans to offer both an Innovation Connector and First-Year Physics program in 2018/19, so the decision was not a difficult one. The Symphonova Lab will be accessible to the first students in May, with a view to having the program up and running full-time in September. Shelley’s immediate plans concern the recording and release of at least two Symphonova CDs to showcase his creation. He will also be involved in the recording of an updated version of the ‘Oil Thigh’ this March, with new arrangement by John Burge.

Meanwhile, Diana hopes to complete her PhD very soon and will use the grant to continue her work on researching and integrating exciting experiential learning opportunities into the curriculum. She has the final word, and it is fitting that she does so, as it perhaps sums up why the couple have stayed at the Castle for as long as they have, and made such a success of musical programming at the BISC.

“The choir is not just about singing. It is a communal activity in a safe space, where all abilities are welcome. It can sometimes be scary, but there’s a real sense of achievement when you face your fears and make music you can be proud of! My job keeps getting better and better, the more students I can help to feel that way.”

As part of a broader Space Study Review of facilities on campus, Bader Hall has become all the cosier for its residents thanks to the reimagining of two previously underutilised common spaces. Firstly, the C1 Common Room was completely emptied and redesigned at the end of 2017. Newly decorated, with brand-new floors, furniture and fixings, it is now the place to hang out after class. The space can not only comfortably seat approximately twenty students at any one time, but it also boasts facilities to suit a variety of the students’ needs.

For those who just want to relax, there are sofas and an internet-enabled wide-screen television, so that students can stream news and popular shows from home. For the Bookworms, there are comfy armchairs with focusable reading lights. Those in need of refreshments can make themselves drinks and snacks in the adjoining kitchenette, then retire to the coffee tables, or island sofa to chat. For students in need of a quick social media fix, or perhaps a last-minute tweak to an assignment, a Laptop Bar with handy desktop power sockets has been placed in one corner of the room. The entire space also features USB charging sockets throughout, to allow students to charge their mobile devices without having to sacrifice laptop power.

But what of the much-loved old sofas and armchairs that used to add so much colour to the old C1 Common Room?”, we hear your cry. Well, perhaps not, but there may at least be some of you who will be happy to learn that the comfiest of the old sofas were offered a reprieve from the removal van and relocated downstairs, to our second reimagined space – the new Cinema Room in the basement.

Where there was once just an empty space, a projector and Wi-Fi booster have been installed on the ceiling, and an HDMI port has been fitted to the wall, so that students can plug in and stream movies directly from their laptops onto the basement wall. The room also has a DVD/Blu-Ray player, black-out blinds, surround speakers and a sound bar, so our students have absolutely everything they need to host a top-notch movie night.

Whatever you may think of its eclectic collection of seating options, The Cinema Room is very popular with our students, and it will shock no-one to learn that since it opened, scarcely a week has gone by without at least one Harry Potter movie being shown! We suppose there is no accounting for taste, but The Castle Herald  has absolutely no doubt whatsoever that these new facilities will be a hit with BISC students for many years to come.

Please take a moment to browse the accompanying ‘before and after’ photos to see the transformation of our two new spaces for yourselves:

  • C1 - Before Shot

    The C1 you may remember...

  • C1 - Before Shot 2

    Time for a change!

  • C1 - Blank Canvas

    Our blank canvas

  • C1 - Floor Laying

    Engineered wood floors being installed

  • C1 - After Shot

    The New C1 Common Room

  • C1 - After Shot2

    Versatile seating options

  • C1 - After Shot3

    Island sofa and Laptop Bar

  • Cinema Shot 1

    The New Basement Cinema Room

  • Cinema Shot 2

    All set for movie night!


A reunion is a fantastic opportunity for you to relive your university experience; to reconnect with old classmates, faculty and staff, and reminisce about the good old days! In October last year, 27 Queen’s alumni from the class of 2006/2007 returned to Herstmonceux Castle to celebrate the passing of 10 years since they attended the Bader International Study Centre.

Organisers Kyle Gonyou and Heather Lennon were delighted that so many of their former classmates could make the trip back to the Castle to soak up the BISC community spirit and immerse themselves once again in the place they once called home.

“We had a very different experience than most Queen’s students. Instead of Frosh Week in Kingston, our orientation was in the Ballroom of Herstmonceux Castle! Instead of painting coveralls and getting tammed, we went out in Brighton and spent time at the Headless Drummer. While some may think that we missed out on those quintessential Frosher experiences, we believe we gained so much more - so much so that we felt compelled to organize a 10 year ‘Homecoming’ of our own at the BISC.”

Likeminded Castle alumni made their way from as far afield as British Columbia and Texas to meet up with their old friends for the weekend. Alumni were welcomed at a drinks reception held in the Ballroom where Dr. Christian Lloyd, the BISC’s Academic Director, outlined the BISC’s vision for the future, including plans to refurbish the old Physics Building into a state of the art laboratory facility. Deputy Academic Director Dr. Anna Taylor then spoke about the exciting academic programming that is taking place at the Castle, such as the new opportunities available for students in experiential learning, cross-cultural programming and study skills workshops. Guests also had the pleasure of hearing from Dr. Rachael Johnstone, who provided a fun comparison of her life as a student at the BISC and now in a professional capacity, as an assistant professor of politics. 

Over the course of the weekend, alumni took the time to visit Brighton for old time’s sake, wander the gardens and grounds of Herstmonceux Castle, have a drink in the Headless Drummer and see for themselves the positive changes that have been made at Bader Hall. The revamped C1 Common Room and Basement Cinema Room were a particular hit with guests! (Click here for more on this story).

Kyle and Heather said, “As we spent the weekend together reminiscing, we were reminded of how lucky we were to have our individual and shared experiences at the Bader International Study Centre and all of the opportunities that it has brought us in the succeeding 10 years. The current students were away on their Mid Term Trip, so as our weekend came to its end, we decided to leave short messages of advice for the first-years living in our old rooms in Bader Hall. We hope that they take full advantage of the opportunities during their time at Herstmonceux Castle!” 

Cha Gheill!


The Bader International Study Centre – Class of 2006-2007 Ten-Year Alumni Committee consisted of: Heather Lennon, Kyle Gonyou, Kiera Schrader-Balson, Angela Wright, and Diana Chang.

If this story has inspired you to return to the Castle, the BISC is delighted to announce that a grand celebration of 25 years of teaching and learning at Herstmonceux Castle is planned for the Canada Day weekend in 2019. Click here for more information and register your interest.

Bader International Study Centre
Herstmonceux Castle
Hailsham, East Sussex
United Kingdom, BN27 1RN
Phone: +44 1323 834444
Fax: +44 1323 834499
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Undergraduate Admission and Recruitment
Gordon Hall, 74 Union Street
Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario
Canada, K7L 3N6
Phone: (613) 533-2218
Fax: (613) 533-6810
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