Celebrating 50 years of friendship


July 7th, 2023

Last weekend saw a group of alumni, their families, and one former staff member descend on University Park for their annual summer picnic – a tradition that has now entered its 50th year. 

Like many students, Lynnie Porter née Beer (Chemistry), Dave Porter (Physics), Trish Parker née Stuart (Social Sciences) and Len Steed (Law) decided to celebrate the end of their second-year exams with a picnic. Along with eight other university friends they drove out to Sherwood Forest and spent the afternoon eating, drinking and singing the Robin Hood theme tune at bemused passersby.  

The year was 1974 and they’ve repeated the tradition every year since, taking up residency at a rotating roster of popular Nottingham venues, eventually settling on the Millennium Gardens, which has become their more recent home.  

We’re sitting in Hallward Café on the eve of their 50th picnic, joined by former staff member Gail Steed née Daniels who befriended the group while working as Assistant Bursar at Derby Hall. 

“We used to say to each other, ‘Can you imagine doing this in 10 years? We might be married. We might even have children and mortgages!’” laughs Lynnie. “Now the kids are grown up, and we have grandchildren. But we keep coming back every year.”  

Indeed, it seems there’s barely a Nottingham venue that has been spared their chaotic games of rolling pin rounders and intergenerational football. Wollaton Park, Colwick Country Park and Highfields Park have all played host to the legendary picnics, which have become the lynchpin of their weekend celebrations, attracting attendees from far flung locations such as Canada and Australia, and allowing them to reconnect with friends they had temporarily misplaced. 

While many Nottingham venues have played host to their reunions over the years, there seems to be one that holds a particularly special place in their hearts. Len recalls first meeting Dave in Derby Hall during freshers’ week in 1972 as they bonded over 14p pints and a mutual love of basketball. He’d go on to meet his future wife Gail here, too. 

The group discuss fond memories of watching Live Aid 1985 with their children in Derby Hall during one of their reunions, and even returning for the hall’s 50th anniversary in 2013. 

I ask them what life was like at the University of Nottingham in the ‘70s and they paint a colourful picture of Wednesday night discos, experimental mixed sex halls, wining and dining with Swedish tennis superstar Björn Borg, and waiting in line for their weekly phone calls with parents using the communal telephones. Not to mention, of course, the traditional UoN pastime of standing in a carpark in the freezing cold at 3am during a fire drill.   

Dave fondly recalls the now legendary inaugural concert of Paul McCartney’s Wings. “They charged 50p a ticket and all proceeds went to the SU. They knew six songs and they played them each three times!” he laughs as he recounts the excitement that spread around campus like wildfire when the band’s van first pulled up outside of Portland Building. 

There are memories abound, but what’s kept them coming back all these years to make new ones? “Well, we rather like the place!” grins Dave. His wife Lynnie elaborates, “Everyone loved their three years in Nottingham and lifelong friendships have come together as result.”  

When I ask her if they all regress to their student selves when they’re together, she laughs and replies, “We never stopped feeling like students. As soon as we set foot back on campus, it’s like we’re right back there again in the ‘70s.” 

Tags: , , ,

One Comment

July 14th, 2023 at 1:54 am

Janet Greenfield nee Fowler

Love the article. I was there for many of the picnics through to the early 80s but then moved to Australia so distance and work makes it difficult. Made it to the 2016 event though and will aim for some future ones. Made my best and most enduring friendships at uni. Many of them are more like family.

Leave a Reply

Other

Research Discovery Internships Programme: call for supervisors and interns

The Research Discovery Internships Programme (2024-2025) call for supervisors and interns has opened. The programme is designed […]

Experts wanted for East Midlands Climate Ambassadors hub hosted by Nottingham’s two universities

Expert volunteers are being sought to join the East Midlands hub of the government’s national climate […]