Meet our new Head Porter
Simon Durrant has recently joined Jesus College as our new Head Porter, taking on the top hat following Grahame Appleby's retirement. We spoke to Simon to find out more about him and his new role.
What you were doing before you took on this role?
I spent five and a half years as Porter and Deputy Head Porter just down the road at St Catharine’s College. Before entering the collegiate world I worked in nursing and social work in and around Cambridge for over twenty-five years. This included a number of years working on A&E and various wards at Addenbrookes Hospital. I also worked alongside families supporting children with learning disabilities, assisting them during their transition from child to adult services with the many challenges that presented. I developed many transferable skills I’ve found to be of use to a college community, the welfare of its members and first aid requirements.
From your experience of being a College Porter, how would explain the job to a group of five year olds?
To five years olds? I would say, “It’s all about helping young people when they first arrive at university, having worked very hard at school and listened well in class. A Porter is a friendly face who has all the answers to most of the questions young people at College are likely to ask when being away from their home for the first time. We look after their safety and do all we can to make sure they are happy at College, and sometimes we have to look after them if they are feeling poorly!”.
Being a Porter is a varied job, what is the most bizarre thing you’ve had to deal with?
Some bizarre moments – enjoying a cup of tea and a chat with Gandalf in the Lodge, ushering ducklings each summer through three Colleges to get them safely to the backs (much like Graduation Day) and dressing up as Santa every Christmas. There have been some very funny incidents over the years too – none of which I can probably share!
What do you think will be the biggest challenge being Head Porter at Jesus College, especially given the current pandemic?
The biggest challenge initially will be getting to know a new group of students, staff and Fellows - as well as the workings and traditions of a different Cambridge University College. Although there are many similarities between the Colleges, I am delighted to be joining Jesus. It's a College that is clearly dedicated to the safety and wellbeing of its entire community as we continue to respond to the challenges COVID-19 has presented, and prepare to welcome back and support our students.
What has been your favourite distraction in lockdown?
Lockdown has given me the opportunity to spend more time with my wife and two teenage daughters. The excitement has included Scrabble and cocktail evenings, many lengthy bike rides and lots of home baking. Thankfully, since the end of May some normality has returned to my life and I have been back on the River Cam sculling.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I row with one of the Cantabrigian Rowing Club Master’s crews and also enjoy sculling (yes, the shorter person can row too). I’ve always been a keen photographer and aerial cinematographer, particularly whilst on holiday. I also enjoy walking in the Lake District with my family every year, in the hope of one day completing all of Wainwright’s 214 walks.
Book or Movie?
Curry or Fish and Chips?
Mountains or Beach?
Beer or Wine?
Guinness and Jack Daniels
What are you looking forward to the most in your new job?
I am most looking forward to the challenge and privilege of leading such a great group of Porters, as we strive to provide an excellent service to all our students and College members. I’m also quite looking forward to wearing the Top Hat on Graduation Day!