« Desert Island Discs

Professor Louise Richardson

2016-05-31 | 🔗
Kirsty Young's castaway is the political scientist and Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University Professor Louise Richardson. She was born in Ireland, is one of seven children and has gone on to have an international career as an academic with a particular expertise in terrorism. She has been consulted by many politicians for her knowledge and insight. After many years as a Harvard Professor, she came to Britain to be the first female Vice-Chancellor of St. Andrews University. Since January 2016, she has been the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University and is the first woman to hold the post. Producer: Sarah Taylor.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hello, on Kirsty young. Thank you for downloading this part cast of desert island discs from BBC radio four four right reasons the music choices are shorter than in the radio broadcasts for more info? nation about the programme. Please visit bbc dotcom, dont uk slash radio, for by castaway this week is the political scientist professor Louise Richardson, two hundred and seventy second vice chancellor of oxford university. She is the first woman to hold the post. In fact she was the first in her big irish family, to even go to university and possibly the first person ever to pick the institution for a subsequent master's degree on the basis that she liked the look of the nearby beaches she
his california. She spent a number of views as a harvard professor and after nine eleven published the book. What terrorists want understanding the enemy containing the threat and governments around the globe have sought her advice on the political preoccupation of our age, just as well she's used to handling thorny subjects she's through its vice chancellor, has a time when universities are grappling with fundamental issues. From funding to free speech. She says we need to act
Those are students to ideas that make them uncomfortable, so they can think about why it is that they feel uncomfortable and what it is about. Those ideas that they object to so professor Louise Richardson, welcome to desert island discs, and you became vice chancellor, then, at the beginning of this year, and you were while it was a baptism of fire, wasn't that you were thrust into the position just as the hull cecil rhodes thing was properly kicking off. We should remind listeners that was about the statue at one of the colleges of this imperialist, Sir brits, who, in his time, had very racist views. Many people said the statue should go, it is no staying. Did it feel like a baptism of fire at the time? Well, I think it probably did that tan roads was just one aspect of that coming into a large, complex institution with which I wasn't terribly from
There was going to be a baptism of fire anyway, I didn't quite to expect to be in the long night, to the extent that I was over roads and similar issues. The most recent at national EU student serving says that sixty percent of students support the idea that people with potentially offensive views should be banned from british campuses banned from speaking at events. What on earth is it? Do you think that accounts for this great wave of key
ocean that is overcoming at university slept? The first point is, I couldn't disagree more with that view. I have to say I wonder about it. I think perhaps it might be partly attributed well to social media and the fact that students and young people generally today operate in an echo chamber of like minded people in social media, less exposed to country views. I think perhaps this generation has been more caused it by their parents than earlier generations too. I would say this isn't entirely a new phenomenon. When I was a student in the seventies there were chance of no free speech for fascists and so on. But my view, of course, is that university is exactly where you should hear these views and part of education is about hearing them and countering them countering them reasonably. So, as I mentioned, then there have been two hundred and seventy two vice chancellors at oxford university, and you are the first woman. How much do you think that matters? Oh, I think it matters
two young women and men, I think, is very important that girls have role models. This is the first time I've been at first woman. I was also the first woman at the university of Saint Andrews and there were lots of pitfalls there that I hadn't anticipated because of my gender and so on. I was prepared, I think this time, maybe will touch on a few of those throughout, for neither let's go to the music, please justin tell me about the first piece: what are we going to hear? Why fishes in this we're going to hear from St Andrews a cappella group, the other guys singing saint Andrew's girls? The other guys are this wonderful, a cappella group made up of St Andrews university students. Have they sang this song at my farewell party and their wonderful group of fun, loving boys, funny, talented, terrific?
again. These great friend of me is your body girl, lucent andrews girls from the other guys they listened entrance university acapulco group, so professor riches If your academic years of expertise is terrorism, you argue that the global war on terror, as it has been characterized broadly, was always doomed to fail. Why is that? Because Ultimately, I see terrorism is a political, not a military issue. Terrorist
are invariably at manned and our guns by their opponents and what their deliberately trying to do is to provoke governments into an overreaction. So by declaring war on terrorism, were elevating their stature were playing into their hands because they are, after all, in the case of say, our kind of motley group of extremists living under the. Sponsorship of one of the poorest governments on the planet and then the western world, the most powerful countries in the world, declare war on them that elevates their stature to agree as to which they could only dreamt if harrison could be solved militarily. It would have been solved its precisely because its ultimately a political issue rather than a military one which,
it's not to say that there is no role for at military force in countering terrorism, of course, so long as the force is exclusively used against the perpetrators of the violence and not the broader communities from which they come and howard will know when, when had won, a war against terrorism is victory. When there is no terrorist attack ever we're. Never going to achieve that, not in a free society, so we can never declare ourselves to one. So I see that kind of initiative to our opponents. I'm going to ask you a big question known its because so much of what you have written is tackling the big questions and, as I characterizing the preoccupations of governments and voters right now, what should governments in the west be doing right now that they're? Not? I think governments in the west need to ensure that the community's within their countries from which these groups are recruiting, do not feel any
nay it the best source of intelligence on the bad guys operating in our societies are the communities in which they operate. We need to ensure that we have the loyalty of those communities so that they will turn in the extreme is now. We should, of course, be investing in intelligence. I'm no pacifists. Intelligence is the best possible the weapon in our arsenal against terrorism. We need to be engaging them in cyberspace. We need to be engaging them in the battle of ideas, because I think the ideas that their touting are completely impossible to most people in the west, but we need to be engaging. Let's have some music movies richardson we're going to your second of the day. Tell me about this. Well, this is James. Go away at length, flute and the song is called brine It was march. This speaks to my irish heritage. Brian brew was a the last high king of ireland won a famous battle against the norsemen and in ten fourteen. So he, as yates, put it stilled our childhood play. He was great hero in art, but this particular piece,
is an absolutely beautiful piece. Bridegrooms march ST james, calling on the streets with the heart, is directed by marie civil police, your mom, was eighteen, just eighteen, when she married your dad's or richardson. What were your backgrounds?
my father was from Dublin. My mother was french, more country, Waterford grew up in the house that they still live in they met while he was on holidays and much more than seaside town in the south east coast. So my mother left school at sixteen and marriage at my father at eighty and she is somebody who in this generation does no end to what she might have achieved, but she, as stated home and re seven children and remain glamorous throughout and is an extraordinary capable person and to this day- and my father is a gentle caring man with wonderful sense of humor who's totally devoted to his large, Emily and we're all totally devoted to him. It was then, the leak fiftys when you were born what you're very very earliest memories of life at home. Well, I had an older brother, which dominated my early years. I suppose think perth is very significant. So with seven kids, everything has to be negotiated and that's a good life
Still, I was envious of of my brother, because ii have boy seem to have all the fun and have get all the respect and the assumptions that they would do interesting things were always they over? There is never any assumption that I do anything other than get married, but we were big, happy family. How early on, were you aware that how come it's like that for him? And it's like that for me? as a girl? A very early on? I was a real tomboy and I thought he got all the advantages and very early on, for example, I remember he got a new communion suit, like a mini version of a man's suit, and this just was the most profound injustice to my view, so much so that I went into my parents' wardrobe and borrowed it and put it on and walk downtown, which of course, was reported to my parents, with advice to take me to a doctor at what age were you when you did that that for three or four I fascinating? What do you make of that thread that that
the early was apparent in you. I was very lucky to have self confidence pretty much from the beginning, and that was a huge peace and I always felt that there is no easy way to explode the myth of mere superiority than having three brothers. I have three wonderful brothers, but the notion that there is anything that they could do that I couldn't was preposterous. Let's have some more music. This is occurrence comparative by the chieftains. That chieftains were one of the irish groups of my youth. he's a song. I love that makes me want to dance anytime. I I hear it. I grew up doing irish dancing so used to dance to this music and it's a wonderfully upbeat. Terrific song, caroline dinner in ancient blind irish poet,
That was the chieftains with them fast heart, pakistan, cannons concerted. Is it true that one of the nuns who taught you in your convent school had not just talk your mother, but it taught your grandmother, that's right. He has lost your saint Anthony. I was introduced her my first day chat to me that, much than on when the chatty sort
You said earlier that you know you will. Probably the expectation is that you will do what your mother had done. You'll be regaled girl growing up in kante. for the time that you weren't, what will you taught at the content? We burton Ironing and we'd start on men's handkerchiefs and at the end of the year, made it up to the colors of men's shirts and Robie. any girl who had a wrinkle in a man's sure and I remember saying, there's no way, I'm ever going to marry anyone who expects me to iron, his shirts did I say that out loud. Oh, I did say that out loud. Yes, I used to get in trouble. Quite of that, and of course I didn't marry man who expected me to iron his shirts, Tell me about the time when you are, I think by then you would have been about fourteen that was nineteen. Seventy two. It was a week or two after the bloody sunday killings and your mother, while she sort of barricaded you into your bedroom. Tell me what happened well, I was always very interested in history and politics than when northern ireland started to explode in the late nineteenth sixties. We all saw this
the continuation of irish history and british repression of the catholics. I would say at school, every day we assembled and set our prayers beneath a crucifix, and then a photograph of the seven men had been executed for signing the proclamation of independence and nineteen. Sixteen so we got a very biased view of irish history, which we took as gospel, a very republican view of irish history. and that was the view high health. So after bloody sunday I was completely incensed. I followed events in northern aren't very closely. I kept scrapbooks and then add the week after the bloody sunday. There was going to be big apiece march in dairy, and I decided I was going to go up in march in it, and I announced this to my parents, which is completely preposterous cause. I didn't have the means to get all the way up. There was the other
entered the country, but I set my mother. We had a cousin of my mother's had married somebody from Norway, so I thought maybe I could stay there, and I said this to my mother at that I want to. I was going to go and she said for the only only time. I've ever heard her use this wording in my life, and she said I forbid it. You will not go I've bit. If you have chosen to rise as a prominent academic that you would have joy, The IRA and a heart beat if they'd allowed you to, and I think that is a very brief thing to admit to actually put down on paper. it sounded mace and saying it, though, was true. I was describing this period after bloody sunday, which was a fairy free bout time in ireland. Yet, looking back on that now, I've tried to understand that and tried to think of it in the same context of other kids and how who didn't have the advantage
head of getting an education and questioning everything that I've been taught, how they hold onto these ideas and them and up joining toes groups. Let's have some more music. Tell me about you force. This is a wonderful musical. This particular song speaks to talented women and how they sometimes I up with men they probably shouldn't under under appreciated by and it's a song, might my two daughters, I've two very into and minded daughters, both of whom have wonderful singing voice is so they love singing the sun. How many. when would drive themselves created by arguing on many things. One last thought sweeney infrared who had ambition. How did I get?
Y all like a child the how many women from musical chairs, composed by tim, rice, benny, anderson and and away ass, the singers word Judy, Kuhn and philip cast off. So professor Louise Richardson, he went on to study at trinity college dublin, and this was a college that had been forbade by the catholic church of being attended by catholics. The catholic church banned catholics from attending to nineteen. Seventy and very few catholics there. When I was there, so as you have character, I sit in print than you were a catholic country girl, and you say I was very much out of my depth socially in this upper crust. Protestant campus that was tangible was
Well, yes, insofar as most of the others in my class knew one another they'd gone to the same handful of protestant schools, I didn't have a chip on my shoulder about it, but I was just very conscious of it. They have more disposable income than I did. they knew one another and were very comfortable around trinity, whereas it was all completely new to me all the unwritten rules and norms. I had to figure out a nineteen. Seventy five was, you know when you started university, it was a time of particularly bloody term. Well in the troubles that you know in uri and south are mine. Particular people were being killed. As you say, you are one of the very few catholics there in this protestant institution, or was there a challenge to you Was it did you feel a sense among the other students that you know you had to be answerable for the crimes of others? No, I didn't thought there was a republican club on campus, which invited me to join and didn't I didn't
I went along too many meetings and I had decided at that point that while I share their objectives, I didn't approve of violence as the means to achieve them. So I declined to join, but there was no particular pressure was off be friendly. We sat around arguing I used to go to meetings, but I drifted away from that into other causes lie can and to apartheid, and so on. By the time I got to change and certainly in the course of my time there when I learnt a different version of irish history, I was much less convinced and I think that's part of hot education. Does it robs you of your certitude so stout, and it certainly so down in my home view of the history of ireland and view of irish people so it was a gradual awakening. It was is, let's have some music tell me about your next then. Oh, this is a view. If song as a family. We love films, we watch a lot of firms, we joke. My husband buys a new projector every two years, and this is a beautiful film which speaks to
nostalgia about somebody leaving a small community, b and add going out to the big wide world, but it's all suggested as the particular theme song as one I associate with my husband, who are used to play it constantly in his car. The The
the the. that was the sea music films apparently so, composed by no more acone and performed by the only message. Hasty of room. So tell me, professor Louise Richardson, about this, sir. time when you were taking your history degree. As we know you got a scholarship,
the study you see, ally. I said in the introduction that you chosen it because of the the beaches. I mean I'm not half wrong on that. no you're, not at all. Actually I saw a an ad in the irish times for the rotary foundation, scholarship and I thought I'd apply. I thought this would give me experience competing with my castmates because it was a national competition, so I applied without ever imagining that I would win it and I wanted and m you could choose to daddy any subject. You like it in any university in the world's unite extorted and at the time we had an ancient inside, Wikipedia at home, and I went home to choose the five universities and I looked up the universities I knew harvard and yale according to the encyclopedia, they were men only which I haven't realized. Of course it was just that it was an ancient encyclopedia totally I have days totally out day and there was a photograph of this brand new campus in southern california, and I say, oh that sounds good near newport beach. So I put that on
less and rather a golden time to be that I much I me what are you most vivid memories of of california student life in the late seventies? I was quite enough I had a heavy irish accent. They thought I was very curious and I was being hosted by this group of local rotarians, who was an all male club and they saw it as their responsibility to look after me, so they were extraordinarily generous and early on. When somebody asked me what I thought of the place, I said, I couldn't believe her everybody seemed to drive around here, and he said you mean you, don't have a car. I said no and he said well, you can have one of mine and he took me to his house and I and I chose the one that looked like the most pockets, which turned out to be a nineteen. Fifty seven nash metropolitan, which he gave me, which I drew for the year and then back home. You graduated in dublin, and then you successfully applied to harvard
So here we are seeing you in this field have fatty, high flying academic trajectory that you were on by then I'm wondering what it felt like to leave you beginnings, because you very much were looking out to the big white world and very much leaving everything that emu knew everything that was dear to you in your family, in water. For behind it was the fact that I had such a secure upbringing that gave me the conference to feel I could travel anywhere and at home would always be there, and my family had lived in the same ass for many generations, as certainly I didn't want to be the arab, but I was certainly happy to leave it all behind. Let's have some more music. Louise richardson tell me about said what we're going to hear. Next year day well, this is job as at one of my Worst states with my husband was at a newport beach boat festival and we discovered we shared a love of joan baez and I hesitate to name the song cuz. I don't want it to appear hokey and anyway, but it's
to the expatriate going home and sing things that are so familiar, and yet you feel, less and less comfortable in them. When you go home
love his eyes. Tat made the green june vines and degree of whom you mentioned Louise, the june bias was: was it the first concept that you went to with you, the man who would become your husband? It was the first concert we met at
the brian friel play. We are really connected at a and a second play and amp. This was the first concert we went to by the time of the late eighties. Then you were booth. Building your flourishing careers he's a doctor, and it was then that your first daughter was born. You have three children, two girls and a boy. Your first daughter had very seed as health issues when she was born? But can you tell me about that? Well, the delivery went badly wrong and she was married act out of hospital in boston onto an experimental life support system in new york. I take my loss of innocence to that that was and is a difficult time, and even the word you see it an experimental nobody wants anything to do with their newborn child. To be experimental days or weeks that you had to wait and see what she had to have a simultaneous heart along bypass good. we didn't know, should make it
And we didn't know how much brain damage there would be if she did make it, but she did, and she is a healthy happy. Twenty six year old, she graduated from harvard university. He went on to have the more children, another girl and boy- and I have read that you balanced your harvard career and parenthood by the amount of work you had to do. Meant that you'd, you didn't sleep on a monday on a wednesday, did you literally not sleep on a monday in Wednesday, when not rather hold period but suddenly my first year as an academic, my lectures were on tuesday and thursday, and there was no way I could get a bad because that's em, I would write the lecture
during the night through the night and the goal was to get it done before the baby woke up and needed to be fed, so it wasn't throughout my career that would have just been for the first year. It was during your third pregnancy. You you were diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I had surgery which wasn't successful because the cancer had metastasized. So I had to decide what to do because I couldn't have. The treatment baby was in utero, so I had to decide whether to terminate the pregnancy or not, and it was a difficult decision, but I decided to write the dyson and postpone the treatment and waiting and have the baby, and my son is now a strapping twenty two year old, so that too has a happy ending I say you have this wonderful strapping. Twenty something son, and indeed you look in in in route. Health yourself is, is all well absolutely. I haven't had a diesel health sense. Let's have your next piece of music. Louise Richardson were can hear your seventh this,
is jumping to my life in america and your mouth was assassinated. My husband's at harvard they lived in the same house. He remembers them jamming as students. He is very generous to harvard comes back. If we've heard him play at many reunions, he lived in the same town as us. Her children went to the same nursery school and then just last summer, the palms I I heard him play all six bach cello suites, which was just extraordinary. So this is his and her cello suite number one for the
the the that was the tribute from boss jealous number one in G major played there by your ma, Louise
It should send you left your academic life in Boston, then in two thousand and nine to become vice chancellor of St Andrews university. As I understand it, your family remained in the states. How difficult was that? Yes, we didn't plan it that way. The plan was that in six months the whole family would in scotland, but Kira our eldest daughter had a place at harvard, so we knew she was going to stay. My son, rory came with me and started boarding school in scotland and Fiona. The middle daughter had six months left of secondary school had a place at St Andrews, so we thought she would come to St Andrews. She then got her. From harvard says she decided to stay and rory initially did not like scotland, it was a very rocky transition and he wants to go back to the states. So after six months, all three kids were in the states, so Tom decided he better stay. Rory has subsequently. move to scotland, here is now working in london and Tom commutes back and forth. So we're are classically met again.
Yes, that's quite a commute. Isn't one of the established parents have been vice chancellor, at St Andrews, So is this honorary membership of the boy mentioned golf clubs at the time that you began your vice chancellor ship, it was a male only club and goodness need to use a good scottish word. What a sushi there was about that, and it was a lot of stuff in the press at that. You couldn't be a member in the way that vice chancellors had before. How much did it bother you personally, it didn't bother me personally that I couldn't join these particular men and have lunch with them, but it bothered me that women who wanted to be members of the oldest and most with golf club in the world could not be. There was more coverage of the fact that you were by certain members of the world an ancient and marked by them. You know, there's a tie waving. Look at me when my golf club time you can't wear them it is that true. I would make
too much of that it was the individual members waving their time. Just these pure. I wait. Boys do sometimes the rules of changed now they have voted to admit women, so I see that as a result- and I am absolutely delighted you preside- know of course, over one of the world's most prestigious universities in its its internationally known and desired for the quality and the level of it's education. It's teaching! How certain do you think it is that a a girl like you from your background from a family that had never been to university, could make it to oxford know what would the chances be not not great? Well, I I think it's m. It shows the power of education to transform lives em. I am so committed to education, and it also shows the importance of ensuring that people have support and going through education. At most, my education was funded by winning scholarships, so I think it's so important that people who can afford to do help.
support students who need our help amid the real gulfs that needs to be bridged, it seems to me, is the attainment gap between rich and poor children long before they ever come to university. This is the real problem that so few poor kids have the qualifications necessary to compete successfully for the most competitive institutions. That's the real gov! We as this. I d, I think, need to worry about. You are at your hearts and intellectual and an academic, and yet here you are running this huge organization with the many demands that that must surely have. Where do you think? When do you stop? Well, I'm just For months into my job- and I do not yet have a hand la my schedule at all- and one of my difficulties at the moment is there's not nearly enough time for reflection. Will here's the thing on the island? The desert island you'll have plenty of time since what they actually might be quite welcome for you right now. Yes, a little time would be nice. I might go stir crazy with too much time on my own. Let's have you final piece of music, Louise Richardson. What are we going hear?
This is a familiar sound too many people, I'm sure conway concerned bring him home. I first heard this in the palace: turn london and eighty six. Eighty seven I paid four pounds to go around the back and up to the very top and calm wilkinson has just just most extraordinary voice. I've seen it many many times since rule her children. Many times when were travelling in the car, we all sing the song and it's such a moving, beautiful song and the way he can hit. Those notes, I think, is sublime.
His offer bring him home from the miserable sung by com wilkinson in the music was composed by claude Michel, Schoenberg, with linux, by herbert kretschmer. It's time, man Louise for music, give you the books, and goodness knows you spent your life surrounded by many many books. So what are you going to choose? I give you, of course the complete works of shakespeare and the bible to take with you. I think I would take the largest collection available of Seamus Heaney's poem.
I can read them over and over and over again bryce. Let's use, then we allow you luxury. What's that can be that? Was it tough call between champagne and chocolate is tackle. Ideally I'd like a phantom that could produce both. I had to go for one I go for champagne. Ok, we spoke a few that and cases in cases of the stuff and which track would be safe. I think cinema paradiso its use, professor Louise riches, and thank you very much for letting us here desert island disks.
Thank you. listening to a download from the bbc you'll find Information on the radio for website bbc. code on uk slash radio for
Transcript generated on 2022-06-19.