In­ter­view with Mar­garet Casely-Hay­ford: Coven­try’s chan­cel­lor on black women at the Bar, and man­ag­ing a rap­per

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS -

Mar­garet Casely-Hay­ford stud­ied law at Somerville Col­lege, Ox­ford, and was called to the Bar in 1983. She was the first black wo­man to be made a part­ner at a City law firm in 1998 and was le­gal di­rec­tor for the John Lewis Part­ner­ship for nine years. She now ad­vises young en­trepreneurs, board mem­bers and or­gan­i­sa­tions on gov­er­nance. She was made chan­cel­lor of Coven­try Uni­ver­sity in July 2017

Where and when were you born?

Lon­don, Eng­land, on a cold Novem­ber dawn back in the mists of time.

How has this shaped who you are?

Grow­ing up when the Cold War was a dom­i­nant theme in­evitably caused some feel­ings of alien­ation and po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism to spill over into so many ar­eas of my life. In par­tic­u­lar, into mu­sic, prose and po­etry, all of which in­spired me. I was very po­lit­i­cal from a sur­pris­ingly young age. I was in­spired by Bob Dy­lan and Joan Baez at the age of nine, and I have been moved by mu­si­cal and prose ar­tic­u­la­tions of protest ever since. Ev­ery­thing from Shostakovich to Jack Ker­ouac and Johnny Rot­ten, and from Buf­falo Spring­field to Al­bert Ca­mus, Gil Scott-Heron, Arnold Wesker and Stor­mzy.

Your broth­ers are also high achiev­ers. What did you all learn from your par­ents?

All my three broth­ers are in­de­pen­dent, gen­tle­manly, quiet, cour­te­ous, cre­ative and re­silient! Joe owns his own busi­ness as a fash­ion de­signer. Peter was man­ag­ing ed­i­tor of the BBC’s Panorama pro­gramme be­fore start­ing a tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion com­pany, Twenty Twenty, with two other for­mer BBC di­rec­tors. Gus is an art his­to­rian and writes, lec­tures and broad­casts. Our par­ents, both in­tel­li­gent and dili­gent, recog­nised that ev­ery­one has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to so­ci­ety and un­doubt­edly in­stilled in us their fam­ily val­ues and their rev­er­ence for ed­u­ca­tion.

Have you had a eu­reka mo­ment?

Yes. Very early on I re­alised that boys had more free­dom and op­por­tu­nity than girls. As a re­sult I’ve been a fem­i­nist pretty much all my life. But never with a “hateall-men” agenda – it was more a con­stant ques­tion­ing of the ab­ject lack of op­por­tu­nity that ex­ists for so many in so­ci­ety. I have al­ways be­lieved that fem­i­nism is re­ally about equal­ity of op­por­tu­nity for all. I’m so pleased that Coven­try of­fers schol­ar­ships and bur­saries not only for women in STEM, but also for men in health­care sub­jects, par­tic­u­larly nurs­ing, where men make up only 10 per cent of stu­dents.

You have man­aged a rap artist. What do you en­joy about this role?

My rap­per Kelvyn Colt re­cently signed to Sony so I am now more in the role of men­tor, although I do still get in­volved with some mu­sic de­ci­sions. He was at uni­ver­sity with my daugh­ter and I was im­pressed by how bright and ar­tic­u­late he is. He was study­ing a com­bined law and busi­ness en­ter­prise de­gree and quickly un­der­stood he could pretty much man­age him­self and be able to dic­tate his own terms to a ma­jor la­bel when the time was right. I helped him with his early record­ings, pro­mo­tional videos and mar­ket­ing. It is some­thing I re­ally get a buzz from.

What keeps you awake at night?

Don­ald Trump.

What do you do for fun?

Lis­ten to mu­sic and play the cello – when I can squeeze in any prac­tice time; grow a prairie gar­den; yomp on Ex­moor with hus­band, daugh­ter and dog; or write.

What kind of un­der­grad­u­ate were you?

A very so­cia­ble one! I was al­ways out with friends or meet­ing new peo­ple. I’m very in­ter­ested in peo­ple and learn some­thing from ev­ery­one I meet. There is barely a per­son who is gen­uinely bor­ing if you take the trou­ble to get to know them.

If you were the univer­si­ties min­is­ter for a day, what pol­icy would you im­me­di­ately in­tro­duce to the sec­tor?

A mas­sive re­duc­tion in the in­ter­est

rate on loans. The govern­ment shouldn’t see it­self as a lender and seek to cre­ate a busi­ness for it­self, thereby mak­ing ed­u­ca­tion un­af­ford­able for the next gen­er­a­tion.

My ad­vice to any­one fac­ing any sort of neg­a­tiv­ity from oth­ers is al­ways to be­lieve in your­self

You were the lawyer for Chelsea FC for many years. Tell us about an in­ter­est­ing mo­ment at the club.

Stam­ford Bridge was the Premier League’s first ground with in­te­grated leisure fa­cil­i­ties – this has changed the na­ture of be­ing a spec­ta­tor. I ne­go­ti­ated the con­sents and led the pub­lic in­quiry team in the midst of a good deal of hos­til­ity from res­i­dents who didn’t know what to ex­pect. I re­mem­ber the late Alan Clark MP [MP for Kens­ing­ton and Chelsea in the lat­ter part of his ca­reer] stood up to op­pose the scheme – it soon be­came ev­i­dent that he hadn’t ever been to a game.

Is racism still an is­sue in Bri­tish so­ci­ety and the le­gal pro­fes­sion? Have you ex­pe­ri­enced it at any point in your ca­reer?

I’ve met peo­ple who clearly felt that a black per­son would never amount to any­thing and this made me more de­ter­mined to prove them wrong, and to fight for the rights of oth­ers who per­haps wouldn’t have had the abil­ity to counter that sort of op­po­si­tion. My ad­vice to any­one fac­ing any sort of neg­a­tiv­ity from oth­ers is al­ways to be­lieve in your­self. Never let those voices change who you think you are and what you can achieve, be­cause that be­lief is the most pow­er­ful thing any per­son can have.

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