Another year over, a new one begins!

So another year has been and gone! I thought as a recent graduate and newly appointed SCDO/ARA that it would be great to have a sum up of the year from a student perspective. I hope not only that this first blog will be interesting for you, but will also be a good reference for me in a years’ time when I’m old and have forgotten what student life is all about! I think it’s safe to say that Will Garrison did a fantastic job over the year and has really left some big boots to fill! I hope I can make you proud! Anyway, sob story over, onto the good stuff!

Since the last post in October the year has been none stop action, with the new Freshers really settling into college life quickly and becoming involved from the start. The first JCR meeting of the year saw 3 Freshers being elected for the positions of Tour Rep, Mole Master and Quizmaster. The enthusiasm and engagement of this new intake was a joy to see.

The Butler spirit didn’t stop there though! Nearly every formal this year has been filled within seconds of sign up being open; bar events have had great turnouts and numerous new sports and societies have been created! We now boast over 30 societies, from the good old GRAW to the new Nail Soc, it cannot be disputed that we are indeed a college that caters for all!

What makes Butler so special though (in my opinion anyway!) are the events that take place here. Below is a brief rundown of what has occurred over the year.

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Butler travelled to York for a weekend of sports at what hopefully will become an annual Varsity trip.

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This years Halloween formal was themed around the Mexican celebration of Day of the Dead, where many attendees utilised coloured face paints to jazz up the standard skull.

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The Lumiere festival was incredible once again, and Butler even got a snazzy lit up car at the bottom of the drive!

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Butler hit a time warp and went back to the Medieval period for the 2013 Winter Ball. The optional fancy dress was really taken to by members of the SCR. As well as being served Pies and large bits of bread to share dessert was accompanied by a shot of mead and the option of Ale was available to drink out of goblets! After meal entertainment included a Ceilidh which proved incredibly popular.

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Second term saw the return of Butlers Got Talent. As well as the more standard singing and dancing performances, this year also saw an eating contest, highly enjoyable to all those watching, not so much for those taking part!

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Performances were not over though as the Societies Showcase was only a few weeks after. There were a variety of societies involved including Chamber Choir, Barbershop, Dance Soc and Juggling Soc. All performances were incredible and hopefully next year will see an even bigger showcase of our talent!

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After exams Butler Day has a huge turnout! Mexican themed, the day included a Bucking Bronco, a mariachi band, a cocktail bar and loads of live music, with a headline act from H’Oasis!

Graduation was an emotional time for all involved, whether they were students or parents. And the graduation dinners were very popular and fantastically planned events! I feel so privileged to be able to stay in College another year and support a new set of students, the prospect of leaving and joining the big bad world is daunting and I wish everyone out there the best of luck! But whatever you do, wherever you are, Butler College will always be your home and be here for you! (Gosh could I make that sound any cornier?!)

I hope to update this blog about once every month so please do keep checking back if you would like to stay in touch with the developments that are happening here! And I hope I see some of your friendly faces at our upcoming reunions! As usual here are the Plugs for all the social media…

Facebook: Butler Alumni

Twitter: @butler_alumni

Or email if you want any more deets at matthew.armitage@durham.ac.uk

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Quick Turnaround

Almost four months have flown by since the Class of 2013 graduated from Durham Cathedral. Now 250 new students have just been matriculated into Butler, sharing the same experiences that you did in what may seem like a lifetime ago. It’s hard to ignore the often cyclic nature of Durham University, however for me personally this summer proved to be a real eye opener – arguably more so than my first and last week as a Butler student.

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At graduation everyone experienced a similar combination of mixed emotions especially the parents, grandparents and friends who came to support their loved ones. My graduation was similar to the first day I arrived, tipping it down with rain and with two proud parents eagerly looking out for me – not too much has changed in three years then! Yet I soon realised it is the time I spent at Butler which will prove more memorable for me. The friends I have made, the experiences we shared and all the people who have helped me being much more important than graduation day itself.

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Over the summer Durham has been a completely different place, but the community feel still exists even without students. One example of this was the Durham Miners’ Gala, which over 50,000 people attended to see speeches from Bob Crow and Ricky Tomlinson. True some people were just there to get drunk; however it still brought people from the north east together. At Butler the summer played host to over 200 pre-sessional students from around the world. While they were studying how to succeed in essays we learnt a lot about peoples’ different cultures an experience difficult to find during term time.

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Freshers’ Week 2013 was as hectic and exciting as ever. Balloons, inflatables, a silent disco, taster sessions, nights out and the wonderful frep team all contributing to an incredible week. Cast your minds back to how you felt on that very first day and compare it to how you felt on the last day in Durham. Get in touch and let us know your favourite memories! For me the most rewarding part was seeing the transformation from nervous individuals to a strong community looking out for one another, all in the space of just one week. A community that will continue to support each other well after its short stay at Butler.

So that has been my first few months working at Butler and it has been a whirlwind time. In true Butler fashion it remains wildly unpredictable what could happen in the rest of the year.

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Durham Days: Revisited

It’s Saturday 23rd February 2013, 9:12pm. We find ourselves at the top of the Hill, sheltering from the snow outdoors and gracing a busier-than-usual Butler Bar. As the crowd settle in their seats for the much-anticipated ‘Butler Live!’, those familiar to the haunt can’t help but shake a subconcious sense of unfamiliarity.

“Who are all those random people in the Bar?” – one unsuspecting fresher asks. Little does he know, these people are far from ‘random’…

Of course, by now we will have all worked out what’s going on here. Saturday 23rd February was, of course, the main day of Butler’s annual Durham Reunion Weekend – the one weekend of the year when we can all rewind the clock and pretend, for two days only, that we aren’t merely ‘random’ people from the ‘real world’.  The one weekend where we can, once again, have all those special people in one place at one time (and handily on the doorstep of insanely cheap alcohol and ready-made entertainment). The one weekend where we realise that, despite the fact that the transition to the outer-bubble was nowhere near as horrendous as we anticipated, nothing can, or will, ever come close to the experience of our days at Durham and Josephine Butler College.

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As I’ve mentioned before, it is unnerving – yet somehow reassuring – how Butler continues to tick along so smoothly, as if we’d never been there. Even at 9 long months since the departure of the Class of 2012, I can’t help but find it strange when our reminiscing about funny scenarios involving people from our year (and hell, there were a lot of them) is greeted by a chorus of ‘who?’ from the youngsters. Similarly, the latest news from College suddenly isn’t all that exciting to our graduate friends who, quite frankly, haven’t got the foggiest idea who we’re talking about. All of a sudden, it seems, you graduate and the Butler world which you always knew as one big, tight-knit community suddenly splits into two: the ‘then’ and the ‘now'; the past and the present. Of course, the Durham Reunion gave these two worlds the rare opportunity to collide.

So, what greeted those alumni who braved the snow to venture up to Butler? It would be too easy to answer that question with simply ‘the good old Butler’ – the same friendly, inclusive atmosphere, the old favourite events like Butler’s Got Talent, and the same faces around the pool table for hours upon end as have called that section of the Bar ‘home’ for the past two years. Instead though, it’s nice to focus on the small changes; the subtle but meaningful alterations that make each new year at Butler a little bit different to the previous.

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Firstly, 2012/2013 was the year that – to the horror of some of our returning alumni – the iconic, but slightly terrifying, papier-mache Mole above the Bar had a makeover. In it’s place now sits the more friendly-looking, Rayban-donning Mole Jnr. Of course, for every 2012 Frep that beams with pride as their revamped creature overlooks the Bar, there will, somewhere, be one of their predecessors mourning the loss of their beloved original creation. As sad as it may be to witness the demise of something so iconic, the renovation of the Mole provides a heart-warming reflection of the dynamic nature of Butler College; how things will always change with the times, yet the underlying Butler spirit remains solidly in the hearts of our students. I’m sure, in some shape or form, Butler Bar will be supervised by a giant mole for a very long time to come.

New forms of entertainment are also on the agenda up at Butler. No longer is Butler’s Got Talent simply reserved for repeat performances from our singers, bands and dancers – yes, you heard right – this year we had a baton-twirling fresher take to the stage! And lots of singers and dancers (I did say the changes were subtle). Pub sports have become even more popular than ever, drawing in ever-increasing numbers of spectators, with a vast proportion of the BGT audience largely distracted by the big Butler B v Butler C darts derby game that was going on in the corner. Butler C won, for those interested. If our alumni had paid a visit a fortnight earlier, they would have witnessed the incredibly popular inaugaral Butler Karaoke night, or ‘Open Mic Night but for people who can’t sing’, as it has been fondly described in hindsight. It seems the current batch of Butlerites are keen to take the stage in any way, shape or form!

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But, quite possibly, the largest change in the Butler lifestyle becomes evident at the end of the Saturday night, as the shutters close on Butler Bar and the Nightbus driver impatiently demands to know where we are going. Where does one go out on a Saturday night in Durham? The answer is immediately shortlisted to a choice of two, but as a group of alumni begin the ‘Klute v Studio’ debate, they are interrupted by shouts of ‘ACADEMY!’ from their second year friends. Yes, Academy. Because, friends, I am sad to say that Studio is no more. Studio Tuesday is a thing of the past, and when we tell people that ‘in our day’ we would quite happily visit Studes on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday AND Saturday in a single week, we are simply looked at like we should be in a mental asylum. Academy Saturdays and Loveshack Wednesdays are the places to be these days, Klute is the occasional venture out on a different night, and the only time it is (maybe) socially acceptable to visit Studio is the odd Monday, largely thanks to the persuasive powers of a few glasses of formal wine.

Perhaps similarly related to formal wine, and despite the oddity of being in a Durham club that is almost like an actual, proper nightclub, our alumni had a fantastic night out. Hyped up on nostalgia from the old Freshers Week photos that graced the walls of the Seminar Room during the Alumni Dinner, our Butler graduates partied on throughout the night as if they had never been away. Old dance moves were brought back to life, old friends were bumped into (quite literally) and new booths were fallen asleep in. For one weekend only, it was just like the good old days.

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Butler hits Manchester!

So, after weeks months of preparation, 3 restaurant switches, 97 bounced emails (you guys really need to make use of the Keep in Contact forms…) and hours of delayed trains, the Manchester Reunion was finally upon us this weekend, and it (hopefully!) didn’t disappoint!

On Saturday 1st December 2012, 25 of Butler’s finest exports descended upon the city of Manchester to enjoy a delightful 3 course meal the the Per Tutti Italian restaurant in Deansgate. With about a 50/50 split between 2011 and 2012 graduates, it was a lovely opportunity to catch up with some familar faces over some good food and a few glasses of wine. Everybody was in good spirits as they reminisced about Butler days and caught up on the latest goings-on in College. It was incredibly interesting to hear what our alumni are getting up to these days; some are travelling the world, working in Law, teaching the next generation, engineering high-end sports cars, accounting for world-renowned firms, and even getting accepted onto Masters courses in Australia! Of course, it was of no surprise to hear that everyone is doing so well – we all know Butler students are the best!

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Manchester itself was buzzing, with a huge Christmas market occupying virtually every street of the city, selling everything from hog roasts, German sausage, various types of beer and fudge, wooden ducks and winter woolies galore! The festive spirit really hits Manchester hard. As does the JB spirit it seems; Butler was well and truly taking over the city this weekend, as we discovered when we bumped into 3rd year Butlerite Sam Stuart in a coffee shop on the Sunday! Small world.

All in all, I’d like to that hope the Reunion succeeded in allowing our alumni to recapture some of that Butler magic, catch up with old friends and have a fantastic night away from the world of work and studying!

I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who made the effort to come along to the Reunion and made all the hard work worth it! I hope you had as great a time as I did, and it was so wonderful to catch up with everybody. I miss you all and hope to see you again soon, maybe at the February Reunion in Durham if not before! Sian x 

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Halloween: love it or hate it, there’s certainly no escaping it.

Halloween is really quite a funny celebration when you step back and take a look at it from afar. I can only imagine what a visitor from another planet would think if they chose to take a trip to Earth on the one day of the year where we all choose to dress as something vile/dead/terrifying, carve creepy faces out of vegetables that remain otherwise unloved for the remaining 364 days of the year, and go round knocking on doors asking for sweets, despite having spent our entire childhood being told never to take candy from strangers. Us humans are strange creatures sometimes.

It seems the North East is the perfect place to bask in the Halloween madness. Just a quick Google search brings up countless stories of paranormal activity and unusual goings-on; some indeed more questionable than others. I have to say, I don’t hold out much hope of bumping into the ‘Twisted Man’, who has apparently been spotted emerging, ‘twisted and bent over’ from a cellar on the North Bailey, dressed in a fine ruffled white shirt and smart black trousers. Neither do I rate my chances of encountering ‘the ghostly sounds of armies clashing weapons just as they were in 1346′ at the site of the Battle of Neville’s Cross -though, admittedly, that may be more down to my reluctance to very publicly walk three times around the shaft of the stone memorial cross before placing my ear to the ground (I might look a little bit weird).

Students at Castle College, however, should maybe be a little less sceptical. The general consensus amongst avid paranormal activity enthusiasts is that the Black Staircase in Durham Castle is by far the most haunted location in the city, with numerous reported sightings of a fleeting figure on the stairwell seemingly providing a chilling authenticity to the claims. Just who is keeping these students company remains a mystery though…

Durham Castle – creepier via Instagram?

Many believe the spirit to belong to the wife of one of the old Prince Bishops of Durham, who reputedly fell to her death on the stairwell from its uppermost heights. Another legend, however, tells of Frederick Copeman, one of the very first Durham University students in the 19th Century. The story goes that Frederick lived in the highest room in Durham Castle, at the top of the Black Staircase. When the results of the final exams were pinned to the noticeboards on Palace Green – first class at the top, second in the middle, third at the bottom, those who failed with names absent – Copeman was seen frantically scanning the results for his name only to find it wasn’t there. Returning to his room in despair, he was heard pacing the floor before eventually vacating his room and racing to the top of the cathedral tower, where he threw himself to his death. In a true FML moment for poor Freddie, it later emerged his name had been at the top of the first-class degree list, but had been obscured by the sheet pinned above. To this day, it is thought that his phantom footsteps can be heard pacing the floor up there in his old room…

Clearly, here at Butler, we shouldn’t be worried – we’re safe up at the top of that hill, in our own little haven of ghoul-free modernity, right? Well, apparently not.

You may or may not have already heard about the paranormal commotion that befell upon Butler College during the summer months. Such a commotion in fact, that it was genuinely suggested by a member of University staff that a Catholic priest should be called into the College to perform an exorcism. Yes, you did read that right. Such suggestions were the result of the mass hysteria that raged through the pre-sessional students during the summer break, after one student reported a sighting of a dark figure standing at the end of their bed during the night. Following this report, numerous other students claim to have also encountered the spectre. The recommendation for an exorcism came as the co-ordinators of the pre-sessional programme were inundated with visits from concerned students, fearful of just what lurks in their temporary halls of residence; some even driven to frantically calling their families at home in an utterly hysterical state.

You heard it here first.

Although the exorcism was a serious recommendation, the reasoning – “just to calm everyone down and put their minds at rest” – was a clear indicator of the scepticism in the air. Suggestions have been made that the figure was ‘probably just the cleaner’ and the subsequent sightings simply the result of an overactive imagination in light of the initial report. However, at this spooky time of year (and not wanting Castle to have all the fun), I do like to wonder: what if that student was actually right? What if there really issomething there? We do live next door to a crematorium after all…

 

Meanwhile, in Butler…

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Creepin’

Who needs the pre-sessional ghost when Monday 29th October 2012 saw Butler invaded by ghosts, ghouls and monsters aplenty?! The All Hallows Eve Formal brought vampires, Death Eaters, witches, goths and many, many more up the hill for a night of fun and thrills in Butler Bar (including a fantastic mash-up of Ghostbusters and Gangnam Style courtesy of resident DJ Tom Fraine); however, the Creepiest Costume of the Night award has to go to Mr Dave Lane for this terrifying get-up —————->

An impressive display of pumpkin carving talent has also been exhibited from Butler students in the past week!

We hope that, wherever you are and whatever you dressed as, you all enjoyed the Halloween period as much as we did! Now, 52 days until Christmas…

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And so it begins…

By Siân Daniel

The balloons are popped, the banners down, and yellow T-Shirts banished to the back of drawers all around Durham. An eery sense of normality fills the Bar and a marquee-shaped patch of oddly-coloured grass overrides the grounds outside it, whilst the distant scent of burnt Welfare toast slowly fades away from the JCR Corridor. Butler Freshers 2012/13 have officially landed.

There’s no doubt that this time of year takes us all back. When terms like ‘demoralising’, ‘dole’ and ‘debt’ are the first to crop up when asked to sum up the real world in a single word, it’s to some surprise that there isn’t a group of us old Butlerites out there somewhere, desperately putting their heart and soul into trying to develop a time machine that would transport them all back to their own Freshers’ Sunday. Oh to be eighteen again, gingerly passing under the red and yellow balloon arch and entering the realms of the unknown; blissfully unaware that the best years of our lives lay ahead.

Matriculation 2009 – oh what lay ahead.

But what is it that really makes Freshers’ week so special? From the outside, it would be easy to look at the pricey inflatables that lay virtually untouched throughout the daytimes, or the Bar falling deserted by 1.00am thanks to the University’s latest questionable regulations on opening hours, and question whether the week was a really success at all. We claim that Matriculation is special, but nobody ever looks particularly enthralled about it at that hour in the morning; it only takes a quick glance at the feigned smiles in your Matriculation photo for that to be glaringly obvious. And what’s a Freshers’ Week when the University only lets you go on two nights out all week, right? Hell, Studio wouldn’t even let us in for 50p on the Stroll this year. A recipe for disaster it would seem.

Of course, Freshers’ Week 2012 was not a disaster at all. The real reason why we all remember that week so fondly became well and truly apparent as the curtains were drawn on the Saturday night’s Jungle Party, the final event of this year’s Freshers’ calendar. As the new intake of Butlerites – interspersed with exhausted Freps and Proctors – formed circles and put their arms around each other to emotionally see out the night with a heartfelt rendition of Robbie’s ‘Angels’, it was clear that our work there was done. The Butler Spirit had grasped 250 new people into its tight clutches, in the space of just 7 short days*.

 * or very, very long days if you were a Frep, as I’m sure many of you can sympathise with…

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It’s moments like those which really put things into perspective; that realisation that no matter who comes and who goes, the Butler community lives on and thrives on regardless. Although it can be difficult to come to terms with the fact that Butler still ticks along like clockwork as if we’d all never been there, it’s comforting in a way to know that we had our time, and even though the ‘us’ of tomorrow are now having theirs, there will never be another you, or another me. There will be new sports; new societies; new favourite club nights; new drinks in the Bar (yes Rekorderlig); new rules; new T-Shirt designs; new events; and of course, new people.  The Butler Spirit lives on regardless. But there will never be another Butler Freshers 2009… or 2008, or 2007, or 2006.

And that’s what makes me think; maybe I wouldn’t go back after all. The Freshers’ Week we each experienced was tailor-made by every moment, every decision and every opportunity we created throughout those 7 days. There’s so much that could have been different if even the slightest thing had been altered: the embarrassing photos that there wouldn’t be to look back and laugh at if my flatmates didn’t each have a signature dance move that we all liked to copy; the people I wouldn’t have sat near in lectures if I hadn’t bumped into them and had the old ‘what’s your name? what’s your subject?’ conversation; the friends I wouldn’t have made if I hadn’t spent so long trying to cut my Stroll t-shirt into something more stylish and subsequently ended up near the back of the line chatting to them. The truth is: it would still have been amazing, but it just wouldn’t have been the same.

Butler Freshers 2009 – the same, but different.

Alumni Reunion: Manchester, Saturday 1st December 2012

Now seems the perfect time to remind everyone of this opportunity to reunite with the people that made your Butler experience so special. This year’s external Alumni Reunion will be held in Manchester on Saturday 1st December, at the Per Tutti Italian restaurant. Ticket prices will include a 3 course meal and drinks reception in our own private dining area, plus, of course, the priceless opportunity to fill a room with Butler Alumni, both old and new. Information and booking forms will be emailed out very soon, so keep an eye on your inboxes and keep that date free in your diaries. It would be incredible to see as many of you there as possible, re-engaging with that Butler Spirit. Comme Je Trouve.

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“eeeeeee…..”

By Siân Daniel

Just over one month ago, Josephine Butler College unleashed its latest group of keen graduates into the ‘real world’, eagerly anticipating the chance to find out what lies beyond our cosy Durham bubble.

For the Class of 2012, and all those before them, graduation formed the culmination of 3 -4 years of hard work (for most!), countless hours of revision, 3 weeks of gruelling final exams and 3 more of non-stop partying. One of the rare occasions, it seems, where the calm comes after the storm! Of course, 2012 was a special year for graduation ceremonies: the year in which the Chancellor’s baton was passed on from the much loved Bill Bryson to world-renowned opera star Sir Thomas Allen. So how would Sir Thomas compare?

Durham's new Chancellor: Sir Thomas Allen

Durham’s new Chancellor: Sir Thomas Allen

One thing’s for sure: Sir Thomas Allen loves Durham. His passion for the Land of the Prince Bishops was bursting at the seams as he spoke about his thrill at returning to the county that kick-started his career in the Arts. Indeed, it was Arthur Hutchings – a Professor from our very own Music department – who secured the seventeen-year-old Thomas Allen his audition for the Royal College of Music back in the 60s. His gratitude to Hutchings and the University was consistently evident throughout his speech; it is clear that Sir Thomas Allen does not intend to watch from the sidelines, later telling Palatinate that he is a “natural joiner-in” with intentions to involve himself in a vast range of extracurricular activities, particularly in the Arts.

The most warming part of Sir Thomas’s speech was his genuine belief that we, as Durham graduates, really do have the entire world at our feet. He spoke of past Durham Alumni – the likes of Nasser Hussain (former England cricket captain), Gabby Logan (gymnast & TV presenter) and Richard Adams (pioneer of Fair Trade) to name but a few – with an indisputable confidence that every single graduate sitting in that mighty Cathedral possesses the potential to make it as far, or further, in the future.

He also spoke, rather confusingly at first, of his love for the letter ‘E’. After sitting through the remainder of the ceremony pondering quite how a single letter could sum up our entire University experience, it all slowly became clear… As we exited the Cathedral, to be greeted by an overwhelming sense of emotion, achievement and anticipation, the roller-coaster journey we’d all experienced over the past few years could suddenly by encapsulated with a single, contented sigh of “eeeeee…” – exactly as Sir Thomas Allen described.

Butlerites at Graduation: June 2012

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Remember: graduation is not the end! Be sure to stay in touch with Butler College via Facebook (Butler Alumni), Twitter (@butler_alumni) and LinkedIn – and don’t forget the upcoming Reunion Picnic event to be held at St James’s Park in London on August 25th! Join the event here: Butler Alumni Picnic, LDN

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