Sarah Chadwick

  College: Collingwood College
  Subject: Combined Arts        
  Class of: 1987
  Location: Chicago, USA

Your Durham Inspiration

Do you remember why you first chose to study at Durham?
Durham’s academic reputation was a big pull. However, when I went for my interview I was quickly introduced to Durham’s social life. It’s hard to imagine this happening now, but days of social events were quickly put in front of me by the students I met on my 2-day visit, so I ‘phoned my parents and school from the payphone in Collingwood and said, “I’ve been invited to stay longer.” It was the longest interview in history. It was 6 days.

What work or moment were you were most proud of at Durham?
I was incredibly proud to be awarded a Psychology prize at the end of my first year when I had switched from Politics to Psychology part way through the year.

What are your fondest memories from your time here?
One of my sons went to Hatfield. As we crawled in traffic on the A690 past Gilesgate, there was the same banner hanging from the pedestrian bridge, “You should have gone to Hilde Bede instead” and in that moment time collapsed and I was reeled back to my time at Durham. I have so many fond memories: walking from Collingwood into town daily and looking at the Cathedral, living in Nevilledale Terrace in my third year and seeing it from a different angle. Lots of great memories are punctuated by views of the cathedral.

How has Durham inspired you to get to where you are today?
I still see a lot of Durham friends, and courtesy of my son have a bunch more and they all inspire me. They are vibrant, exciting, interesting people and their enthusiasm and cheerleading for my recent book was the biggest endorsement I could ask for when it was work in progress. I always felt having the weight of Durham behind me, I could stare anyone in the eye and be equal.

What have you been up to since you left Durham?
So much! Which is why Combined Arts (General Arts as was) was the right degree for me. It gave me a window onto so many perspectives. I have worked in advertising, teaching and latterly as a writer. I am also a mother. I currently live in Chicago.

What are you doing that is most meaningful to you now?
Researching and writing “The Sweetness of Venus. A History of the Clitoris” and running the feminist Instagram page, @its.personalgirls feels like a coming together of the disparate aspects of my life. I am also discovering that I can be funny and witnessing how this can provide momentum to issues that I feel passionate about, like sex equality, is incredibly rewarding. What could be better than empowering people to both challenge the status quo and have more laughter.

Is there anything from Durham that has stayed with you and still inspires you now?
As you’ve gathered, a good view always grounds me and the sense of history that you get from living in Durham for three years has been formative. It was Durham friends that introduced me to my agent, my editor went to Durham, I have a book club with Durham friends, they are my children’s god parents and the people I ‘phone the most. And yes, the academic rigour. Also thank you Durham for your virtual access to online resources for alumni. One of my fantasies is being stuck in a library.

Tell us about your latest news or developments.
My book, “The Sweetness of Venus. A History of the Clitoris” was published recently. For millennia scientists thought women were inside out versions of men and anxiety about female sexuality generated ludicrous ideas and perpetuated inaccurate information about this taboo body part. The book is in stores in North America but on Amazon everywhere. At the moment I’m promoting it, and loving doing interviews and speaking events but I have a second proposal germinating that I am excited about. I am also fascinated by the opportunities provided by social media for creativity, targeting and engagement.

Personal interests Reading (non-fiction and fiction), travel, spending time with family and friends, live music, art galleries, walking.

Pass It On

What would be your top piece of advice for current students and/or recent graduates?
Don’t wait to step into yourself. If not you, then who?

Is there anything that you know now that you wish you’d known when graduating?
No one’s watching. Ask for help and invest in yourself. You can do this.

Related links

Any published work?
“The Sweetness of Venus. A History of the Clitoris.”

Website or blog link?
Instagram @its.personalgirls Twitter @itspersonalgirl

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