Trevelyan College Left Society’s ‘Funeral for Accessible Education’ went ahead last night in an attempt to “put pressure on the University to agree to a two year freeze in College fees, and to commit to a full consultation of the student body when agreeing College costs.”
The procession began at 5pm on Palace Green, shrouded in a dull-orange glow as a result of the lit lanterns held by members of the march. The atmosphere seemed almost a pathetic fallacy, with rain and mist making the already bitter day appear more sombre.
A solemn mood overtook many members of the procession, with some holding dying or wilting flowers to be placed on the coffin—representing the death of affordable and accessible education.
The event was led by a ‘grim reaper’, which added to the evening’s solemnity.
Richard Lowdon, the President of Trevelyan College Left Society, was delighted with the gathering, stating: “We wanted to tap into the feeling that all of Durham has. That this is big. That this noticeable. That we are angry.”
Lowdon was undoubtedly pleased about the number of attendees, with around two hundred students mourning, uniting in their furore against the “disproportionate” raising of accommodation fees. The majority of students could be seen wearing their gowns, which was seen to represent the future death of potential scholarship.
Daisy Pullman, an undergraduate at St Chad’s College, argued that the raise in College accommodation fees is “so unfair” and would prevent other people from getting the “Durham experience.”
Her attitude appears to be representative of most present at the demonstration. Students expressed their disdain through artistic means, with one sign reading: “Do not pity the death, Harry, pity the living, and above all those who live without accessible education.—Albus Dumbledore.”
The procession moved through the streets of Durham before congregating outside the Bill Bryson Library. It is worth noting that the University elected to close their own staff offices early, in some way anticipating the demonstration’s extensive reach.
Eulogies included a tearful farewell using all of the College mottos and an almost battle-like speech stating: “Our friend, accessible education […] has been taken from us [and] brutally murdered.” These were heard to great effect, and drew the attendance of many others who were not involved in the initial procession.
The event concluded with the lowering of the coffin, with dead flowers placed on the lid, as a sign of both desperation and determination. Further speeches were made, with anyone who had prepared items invited to share them by the celebrant. The item has been covered throughout national press, but seems to have had little effect on the university so far with no final, official, response being submitted to students.
Jasmine Simms, Secretary of the Trevelyan College Left Society, praised the demonstration on the group’s Facebook page: “Today was crucial in mobilising the student body on this issue, and we can’t imagine how it could have gone better.”
Photographs: Grace Tseng, Charlotte Warmington