WEIRD and wonderful items were on display at the Ashmolean Museum to launch celebrations of Oxford Brookes University’s 150th birthday.

Hundreds of people came to see the work from different departments of the university and learn about its history – while academics who have benefited from its support sang its praises.

And those gathered were keen to stress that the university has a history of welcoming new ideas – and is not living in the shadow of its more famous city neighbour.

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Jack Standing Blackmore and Amy Enticknapp dress in Victorian clothes


Hannah Marsh has been curating an archive of the university’s past.

Speaking at the event, she said: “This is a chance to come back to the Ashmolean. It’s a really important place for Brookes. It’s where it all started, as an art lesson in a single room next door in the Taylorian Institute.

“It’s a really nice opportunity to match up to where we are now.”

She added: “The university’s roots are very local, and tonight is about celebrating that Oxford connection which is so strong in the city.”

Dr James Broughton is part of a team behind bamboo bicycles at the event. The team is using alternative materials to plastic and metal in bike construction.

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Corrina Connor plays her cello

On Friday evening, onlookers saw the bikes in action as the team cycled 150km on stationary bikes to mark the 150 years of Oxford Brookes University.

He said: “Tonight is just demonstrating that we’re looking at alternative ways of making structures.”

Dr Broughton, head of the joining technology research centre and a reader in mechanical engineering, credits his work to the university.

“Brookes has been critical,” he said. “I’ve been there for nearly 14 years and it’s developed my research and my career.”

Artie the Robothespian – a robot that can perform and interact with users – was surrounded by curious visitors all evening.

Dr Nigel Crook, the university’s head of computing and communication technologies department, uses the robot.

He said: “We’re looking at developing new ways for humans and robots to interact.

“Oxford Brookes as an institution has been great for us. Financially, it has been important – it has done so much. It believed in our vision and has allowed us to follow our dream.

“In other places, we would have to do it in a way fitted in with what was already going on. Brookes was totally open to new ideas.”

Former students were also invited to the evening.

Toliesel is a five-piece rock band made up of Oxford Brookes University alumni.

Singer Jack Olchawski said: “Our origins can be traced to Brookes. We started writing songs in the Richard Hamilton building.

“It’s part of who we are. This is a city with tons of history, and it’s nice to be part of another chapter.”

Tom Jowett, the band’s guitarist, added: “Brookes is seen as living in the shadow of a much older university. But 150 years is a big deal and this is really the university forging its own identity.”