Academics congratulate “brilliant first-class” Oscar-nominated alumna

Oscar-nominated University of Exeter alumna Vanessa Kirby was a “genuinely brilliant first-class student”, her lecturers have said.

Academics who taught the Crown and Mission Impossible star congratulated her on being recognised by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for her role in Pieces of a Woman. The film tells the tale of a women struggling with the emotional impact of a heart-breaking home birth.

Vanessa studied English before embarking on her acting career.

She is well known for her role as Princess Margaret in Peter Morgan's Netflix series The Crown, for which she won the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Television Series in 2018.

Dr Paul Williams, who taught Vanessa, said: ''We're delighted to see Vanessa Kirby's performance in Pieces of a Woman recognised in the Best Actress shortlist for the 2021 Academy Awards. Vanessa was a keen student of contemporary drama during her time in the Department of English and Film at Exeter and hopefully what she learnt has proven useful during her acting career.”

English alumna wins distinguished literary prize

University of Exeter alumna Ruth Gilligan (PhD English, 2014) has won the 2021 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize for her book The Butchers. This annual prize of £10,000 is awarded for a distinguished work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, evoking the spirit of a place.

The Butchers is a literary thriller set in the Irish borderlands during the 1996 BSE crisis, which forms the backdrop for an unsettling but compelling story of family, love, tradition and darkness. It is Ruth’s fifth novel.

Responding to the announcement Ruth said: “I am just elated – and still totally shocked – to have won the 2021 RSL Ondaatje Prize. I am a sucker for books with a strong sense of place, so I have long been a huge fan of the Prize, but after a year of isolation and confinement, it feels more pertinent than ever to be celebrating the transportive power of reading.”

The Ondaatje Prize is an annual literary award given by the Royal Society of Literature and bears the name of its benefactor Sir Christopher Ondaatje, who is also a significant and long-time supporter of the University of Exeter.

Study abroad experiences help alumnus publish new book series

Richard Lyntton (Russian with German, 1989) spent a year in Moscow in 1987/88, a period that included the Reagan - Gorbachev summit in the city.

He has since written a series of books the first of which, North Korea Deception, is a thriller based on memories of his time in Russia.

After Exeter, Richard served as a Captain and tank commander in the British Army in the first Gulf War; European Community Task Force Humanitarian Liaison in Russia; UNHCR Liaison Officer (when he was abducted by warring factions), and United Nations Military Observer (during heavy shelling and NATO airstrikes) in Sarajevo, Bosnia; and was a United Nations Television producer in former Yugoslavia.

He is also a professional film and television actor based in the USA.

Here Richard talks about his experiences studying in Russia as part of his degree, and how it helped him in his subsequent careers.

Drama alumnus Andrew Horton talks about his latest role as Brandon Sampson in the Netflix superhero blockbuster, Jupiter's Legacy.

Alumnus pens book about life in Russia

Craig Ashton (German and Russian, 2005) has published a book in Russian about his experiences living and working in St Petersburg since graduation.

Craig works as a language coach and translator, as well as occasionally acting for Russian TV programmes. Recently he’s also added author to his CV, with a collection of his blog posts being turned into a popular book Excuse Me, I’m a Foreigner.

Craig says: “I studied Russian as well as German at university because I’d always been interested in Russian history and literature, and I also thought that Russian wasn’t such a common language to learn so it might give me a bit of an advantage when it came to work.

Excuse Me, I’m a Foreigner has got quite a bit of media attention and very positive reviews since launch.

Craig says: “The reaction to the book has been amazing. I have had people sending me photos and videos of themselves and family reading it and somebody actually thanked me for writing it.