The Feast: What is it All About?
Girton’s College ‘Feast’ commemorates the first admission of women to degrees by the University of Cambridge in 1948, marking the achievement, after eighty long years, of Girton’s foundational aim. However, the feast is only partly a tribute to our path-breaking role as the UK’s first residential institution for the higher education of women. It is also a celebration of the fact that today’s final year students – men and women alike, from increasingly diverse backgrounds within and beyond the UK – will be eligible to graduate. In solidarity, nevertheless, with those of our predecessors who were denied full admission to the University, gowns are not worn for this occasion.
The first Feast occurred on 18 May 1948. The College flag was in full flight as it has been on every occasion since. It will fly this year too, even though the Feast will, for the first time ever, be in June and not in May.
In 1948, so the College Archives say, our founder Emily Davies’ portrait looked out – over tables glistening with white damask, strewn with sprigs of laurel, set with sparkling glass and cutlery, and laden with bowls of fresh flowers – as the ‘cheerful feasters’ made their way into the dining hall. This year, all being well, we will make for a giant marquee instead, leaving Emily’s portrait behind but keeping the spirit of Girton firmly in our midst.