To mark International Women’s Day, 8 March 2021, St Hugh’s held a virtual evening with celebrated actress and writer, and Honorary Fellow of St Hugh’s, Rebecca Front (English, 1982), which was attended by alumni, students, Fellows, staff and friends of the College.
Hosted by the Principal, the Rt Hon Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC, this was the first in a series of College events to celebrate 100 years of Oxford degrees for women.
English actress, writer and comedian Rebecca Front read English Language & Literature at St Hugh’s, matriculating in 1982, and it was the study of English during this time which Rebecca said gave her “the ability to get inside a text which is immensely valuable as an actor”. Rebecca became involved in comedy while studying at the College, and indeed her first comedy performances were at St Hugh’s itself, in a sketch show co-written with her brother Jeremy. She toured with the Oxford Theatre Group in 1984, becoming the first female President of the Oxford Revue and taking part in their ‘Stop the Weak’ tour.
During the evening Rebecca reflected on her time as St Hugh’s College where she said she had “the time of my life”; notwithstanding her abiding memory of the old-fashioned smell of cabbage wafting from the kitchens up to her room on the first floor, which boasted beautiful views of the gardens, but also fell victim to swarms of flies from a plant that grew outside her bedroom window! Dame Elish assured Rebecca that today those smells have been replaced by more exotic aromas of modern cuisine, and the offending plant has been removed.
Rebecca recounted growing up in a “house full of books” where both parents enjoyed literature, particularly her mother who specialised in English and drama, and who used to read Keats, Shelley and plays borrowed from the library to Rebecca, all of which sparked her interest in English and acting. Rebecca was also inspired by her father who was a natural entertainer and had the enviable talent of being able to make people laugh, which really appealed to her even at the tender age of seven.
As the evening progressed, Rebecca talked about her collaborations with Armando Iannucci OBE, in particular the TV series The Thick of It (2009-2012), where she plays Nicola Murray MP, saying it was “the most fun job to do”.
Rebecca and Dame Elish also discussed Rebecca’s work with several charities to raise awareness of mental health. She is a Patron of Anxiety UK and is also an ambassador for Together for Short Lives and the deaf-blind charity Sense.
Watch the full event: