The 15th Mulberry Bush Oxfordshire Lunch will be at Somerville College, Oxford on Tuesday 20th September. We are thrilled that our speakers this year are Prue Leith, the founder of Leith’s Cookery School, novelist and TV judge on Best British Menu, and Hannah Rothschild, the Chair of the National Gallery, film-maker, biographer and novelist – her novel The Improbability of Love was short-listed for the Bailey Women’s Prize for Fiction.
The first Mulberry Bush Oxfordshire Women of the Year Lunch took place at Wadham College in September 2002. The original idea was to have a “lunch with a difference” for women. Half the guests would be chosen as a mark of admiration for the way they had improved the lives of others. The other half would do the choosing — and pay for their nominee’s lunch and for their own.
The contribution to society made by our Women of the Year could be grand or modest. Those acknowledged could hitherto have been determinedly anonymous or already be famous. But the lunch has certainly been a great opportunity to honour an array of impressive and altruistic people from all walks of Oxfordshire life. There is no element of competition; it is purely a celebration of the contribution of many women.
This event has helped to air the extraordinary achievements of the Mulberry Bush and over the last fifteen years has in itself raised large funds for the school and through its wide audience has introduced major donors who have been fantastically generous.
Since it began in 2002, the event has become a sell-out. Seating is allotted at random, which makes for a wealth of fascinating encounters and conversations in a warm and lively atmosphere.
We have been lucky enough to have two distinguished speakers at every lunch. They have come from every profession. Academia, the arts, business, design, journalism, politics, the law, literature, opera, the police, the security services and the theatre have all been represented. In 2007 we were very honoured when Margaret Thatcher joined us at Somerville, her old college.
Past Lunch Speakers
2002 Wadham College Ruth, Baroness Deech and Patricia, Baroness Scotland
2003 Magdalen College Eliza, Baroness Manningham-Buller and Libby Purves
2004 St John’s College Niamh Cusack and Kate Figes
2005 Trinity College Wasfi Kani and Joanna Trollope
2006 Balliol College Maureen Lipman and Chief Constable Sara Thornton
2007 Somerville College Dame Fiona Caldicott and Cath Kidston
2008 Exeter College Frances Cairncross and Samantha Cameron
2009 Lady Margaret Hall Emma Bridgewater and Helene, Baroness Hayman
2010 Balliol College Nicola Horlick and Emma Soames
2011 Christ Church Angela Knight and Allison Pearson
2012 Wadham College Dame Catherine Wybourne and Emma Bridgewater
2013 Trinity College PD James and Cristina Odone
2014 Lady Margaret Hall Lucy Hughes-Hallett and Phyllida Law
2015 Balliol College Jane Garvey and Rachel Kelly