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Durham University

Van Mildert College

Enriching cultural diversity and distinction


Bechstein Piano Restoration

Van Mildert College is one of the few colleges to boast a state of the art recording studio and music suite. Created in 2006 as a joint initiative with the Music Department, Van Mildert College students can produce professional CDs with first class instruments like the Bechstein Grand Piano, that are of recording level quality.

The Bechstein, which we believe has been with Van Mildert College since its foundation in 1965, has however been in need of substantial repair and refurbishment for some time. Its refurbishment therefore became one of the Trust's initial objectives. The Trust was extremely fortunate to receive a substantial donation towards the refurbishment from an alunmus and so work could start straight away.

After various estimates were received, The Tyneside Piano Company was chosen for the task. The Bechstein was taken away in July 2009 so that work could begin. The piano has undergone a complete repair and restoration programme that has included a brand new refinish in black satin. The original walnut coating was in too bad a condition to retouch so a black satin finish was applied and looks superb!

A special recital to celebrate the achievements of the Trust and as a thank you to Mr Graham Barker, who made the realisation of the project possible through an extremely generous donation, took place in October 2010. Mr Graham Barker and several other Mildertians entertained the audience with their impressive talents!

The Trust would also like to thanks alumni and friends of Van Mildert College who also made donations to this project.


Acquisition of Fine Art

Van Mildert College acquired four stunning batiks by the renowned artist, Thetis Blacker and has a further nine paintings on long loan from the Blacker Estate. All the batiks are currently hanging in the Ann Dobson Hall.

Blacker's works hang in a number of cathedrals across the UK and also in the Royal Chapel, Windsor. Durham University has an extensive and widely dispersed collection of her works


Sporting provision: Van Mildert College Boat Club

VMBC has one of the largest membership sizes of any club in Van Mildert College and also any Durham Boat College Club and yet was one of two out of the thirteen colleges that train and compete regularly on the River Wear not to own a coxed Eight-man racing boat. The VMBC have coped as well as possible by borrowing or hiring boats from other clubs, but this has been costly and has obviously put them at a disadvantage when racing.

Nevertheless, VMBC is one of the most successful Boat Clubs among the Durham Colleges in the discipline of Eights. Last year the VM women's 1st VIII and the VM Men's 1st and 2nd VIII competed in the prestigious Head of the River Race in London and all finished with all time best performances: the Men's 2nd VIII was placed as fastest Novice Durham College crew and the Women's 1st and Men's 1st VIII both narrowly missed the fastest Durham College crew.

The VMBC applied for funding for a Janousek 8+ and eight Concept 2 oars - a boat with proven hardiness and performance. The Trust agreed to contribute £15K towards the cost of the boat with the VMBC able to raise the remainder needed themselves.

The Boat was finally delivered and the Boat Club decided to name it 'Trust in Mildert' in honour of the major contribution made from the Trust. A naming ceremony took place on Sunday, 30 January 2011 which was attended by two Trustees and several members of VMBC. As Master and Chair of the VMC Board of Trustees, Professor Patrick O'Meara was there to officially name the boat and to toast with champagne the future success of the VMBC in its splendid new acquisition. John Harris, Captain of Boats, expressed the excitement and gratitude of the VMBC on this very happy occasion in its history. The Trustees present were delighted to hear John predict a 20-year life-span for the new Eight.

The Men's VIII first race in the new boat took place on Saturday 27 November where they won their category and secured the title of Fastest College crew!