First it was the Olympics, with two Trinity women in STEM blazing a trail. Now it is the turn of recent graduates and current students to face a rather different kind of challenge: appearing on prime time television quiz shows including University Challenge, Brain of Britain and Mastermind.
Former TCSU President Ludvig Brekke will lead Trinity’s latest University Challenge team in a first round match against Durham University on 23 August. Ludvig, a recently graduated Law student, will be joined by Hatty Innes, who is studying Linguistics, Navonil Neogi, who is studying Maths, and alumnus Luke Kim, who studied Physics. Tune in to BBC2 to watch how they get on.
Earlier this summer former University Challenge contestant Lillian Crawford appeared on Brain of Britain, the BBC Radio 4 general knowledge contest. Lillian, a freelance writer, may qualify for the semi-final as the highest-scoring runner up. You can listen to Lillian in Heat 1. She said:
It was a very strange experience since there was no audience in the BBC Radio Theatre and everyone was seated two metres apart from each other – rather different to the camaraderie our team enjoyed on University Challenge in 2019!
Lillian has since taken part in Mastermind, which will be broadcast in the autumn. Why put yourself in the hot seat though? Competing in national radio or television quiz shows is high pressure agrees Lillian, but she says it is good for her.
I have always suffered with anxiety and have found doing quiz shows helps to improve my confidence and public speaking. It’s also an excellent opportunity to refine my knowledge and test it in a fun and competitive atmosphere. Admittedly I prefer the more academic Quizbowl format I played at university with the Quiz Society (of which I was President), and with that there aren’t microphones and cameras everywhere!
There are other benefits too, she says.
While they test what one knows, they also introduce participants to new facts and subjects. As a freelance writer, with articles ranging from an analysis of the legacy of Sylvia Plath for BBC Culture to film reviews for Little White Lies and Sight & Sound, it’s certainly important to have a breadth of knowledge. It’s about broadening one’s mind and being open to new culture and experience which, in turn, breeds empathy. Which is as vital in work as it is in life.
Ludvig agrees that taking part in quiz shows can feel very pressured but…
It is difficult to convey just how much the pressure of appearing on UC is offset by the fact that you participate as part of a team. Knowing that you have the unconditional support of three College friends sitting on either side of you gives you the confidence necessary to both appear on the show and to buzz in answers even when you suspect they may not be correct.
Before appearing on the show I was unprepared for just how much it would feel like a team sport; cooperation, focus and (mental) endurance being just as important as they are in a game of football or cricket. Sometimes you may slip up – individually or as a team – but your mistakes only serve as motivation for being better going forward.
And the team has forged a unique bond, says Ludvig.
Luke, Navonil and Hatty are three of the humblest, loveliest, most intelligent people I have met, and sitting alongside them, getting to showcase both our knowledge and our ignorance on such an iconic show, has been a pleasure and a privilege.
In some ways he and Luke have it easier than other team members.
Coming from Norway, I have been fortunate to participate on the show safe in the knowledge that no one at home will watch me fail to spot a Munch or claim that Atlantis appears in the Bible. Meanwhile, Navonil and Hatty must be prepared to face the wrath of an old teacher or some distant cousin who may say ‘Didn’t you know John the Baptist’s father was Zechariah?’ In that sense, they are certainly braver than Luke (who is originally from Seoul) and I for taking part.
As keen quiz show watchers at Trinity will know, the College has a long history of participating in University Challenge. Captain of Trinity’s 2020 University Challenge team, Joseph Webber, advised Ludvig, who says this support and that of the ITV production crew has been invaluable.
Best of luck Lillian, Ludvig, Hatty, Navonil and Luke!