Provost's Talks: Philip Selway Visits Oriel

  • Philip Selway at Oriel
    Radiohead's Philip Selway with Provost Neil Mendoza
  • Philip Selway at Oriel
    Radiohead's Philip Selway with MCR student Cristóbal Pérez Barra and Provost Neil Mendoza
12 March, 2020

On Sunday 1st of March, a special session of the Provost’s Talks series was held in the Provost’s Lodgings, when Philip Selway - drummer for Radiohead and also a singer-songwriter and film score composer – came to visit us here at Oriel. DPhil candidate Cristóbal Pérez Barra, who helped host the Q&A session, reports on the event.

We were delighted to welcome Philip Selway to Oriel early in March. Although he is based in the Oxford area, his appearance was arranged with months of anticipation, and also very eagerly awaited by members of College.

Philip arrived in a most friendly way, carrying his dinner jacket in a bag and most willing to greet the different students that had gathered to meet him. After introducing him to the Provost, we helped ourselves to refreshments and entered the Provost’s Dining Room, where the event took place. The Provost gave a short speech after which I proceeded to ask Philip about various matters: the reason behind Radiohead’s artistic and cultural endurance, the memories of his own university experience (he read English at Liverpool), the process of writing his brilliant – and extremely personal - album Familial (2010) and also his most recent record, the soundtrack for the film Let Me Go (2017). Members of College also inquired him about different aspects of his career, and he invariably delighted us with his extended and thoughtful remarks on music as an art form and a way of life, and also about creativity in general. Because of this varied interaction, the interview turned into an intimate and relaxed conversation between an outstanding local musician and the very engaged members of our community.

Although I am most certain the conversation could have lasted for much longer, after an hour or so the Provost announced we should move to the Chapel in order to attend Evensong. Philip seemed very interested and imbued with the spirit of the ceremony, and also paid close attention to the sermon, preached by The Venerable David Meara. After we left Chapel, Philip returned to the Provost’s Lodgings in order to change into his dinner jacket, and whilst there he also showed a keen interest in seeing part of College’s art collection. He greatly impressed the few of us that had gathered there by sharing his wide knowledge of artistic forms that are closely related to music - particularly film and dance - and by explaining how they interact with each other. After some refreshments, he joined the Provost, fellows of College and their guests at High Table, during which he kept delighting us with his kindness and engaging conversation. Finally, he went along with College fellows and their guests into the Senior Common Room, where he also took an interest in talking to current and former members of Oriel alike.

The very entertaining conversation in the SCR kept going until shortly before midnight, when he mentioned it was about time to take his leave. I accompanied him to the Lodge and, after thanking him on behalf of College once more for his extreme generosity, we said goodbye. As I saw his figure diminishing through Oriel Lane I could not help but feeling grateful for the wonderful time we'd had. After all, I had listened with interest to his brilliant music for the best part of the last twenty-five years in a city located on the other side of the world and twelve thousand kilometres away from Oxford, and we’d just had the fantastic opportunity of interacting with him in our friendly and welcoming community. Throughout his extended visit Philip showed the utmost kindness and friendliness to all the members of College he encountered. It truly was an exceptional evening, and I am sure I am not alone in saying that he will be most welcome when he visits us again. Then we will be able to say, one more time, Floreat Oriel!

Cristóbal Pérez Barra, DPhil candidate in English